Can Nigeria

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The advent of democracy in Nigeria has come with numerous dividends; key amongst these is the benefit of freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech and even freedom to dream. In the dark

By Olakunle Olayinka

days of the military rule there were certain dreams which could not even be entertained let alone actualised. The formations of political parties were closely monitored and dare I say overly regulated by the powers that be. The emergence of candidates was (and possibly still remains) a delicate issue. We all still remember vividly the June 12 elections, subsequent result annulment and the entire drama that followed. Thank God for democracy! Though not yet the perfect democracy we yearn for, it is still laudable that we have witnessed 15 uninterrupted years of democracy with President Jonathan (the man without shoes who is now president) obviously going to seek re-election come 2015.

At state level; there are several examples of how democracy has enabled the somewhat ‘everyday Joe’, aspire to political leadership {Governor} and achieve that ambition on the platform of democracy. From the likes of Babatunde Raji Fashola, {Lagos} Adams Oshiomole, {Edo} Godswill Akpabio, {Akwa Ibom} Rochas Okorocha, {Imo} Sule Lamido, {Jigawa} Rauf Aregbesola, {Osun} the list continues to grow.

These names and many more may have struggled to attain elected leadership positions with our past systems in the eras long gone (hopefully never to return). The crop of aspirants continues to improve daily at several levels – even though it must be said, there is still great room for improvement – showing that the Nigerian democracy continues to solidify its existence and is potentially here to stay.

Each passing moment of our nation’s democracy continues to present with it an opportunity to create history, an opportunity for change, an opportunity to show Nigerians and the world at large that our nation has gradually begun to move past sentimental politics and is gradually approaching a crescendo of ‘result oriented’ politics; where tribe, gender, age and background matter least when weighed against competency. Several permutations and combinations have begun for the upcoming elections in February, 2015. However, permit me to focus today on an issue that could potentially define our nation’s history and showcase the commitment of our various parties to actualizing the cause of true democracy; our women.

As preparations continue in earnest for the upcoming elections next year February, several contenders continue to emerge on various fronts. At this point it has become seemingly impossible to ignore the increase in female contenders particularly for governorship posts. This is yet another benefit of democracy – the freedom to dream – which must be applauded.

The question however beckons; which state would produce Nigeria’s first elected female governor? It has to be said that it is a bit disappointing, that after over fifty years of independence Nigeria is yet to produce its first female elected governor not to talk of president; despite the existence of democracy in the last fifteen years.

The achievement of this major milestone will go a long way in further enshrining and securing the foundations of our nation’s democracy; not necessarily because the nation desires female leaders but because we have competent candidates who continue to remain disadvantaged solely because of the gender factor – I speak as a man here – Let us review the profiles of some of our likely history makers: Senator Helen Esuene, is a sitting Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Akwa Ibom South and is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She has served in various ministerial capacities under different administrations as; Minister of State for Health (2005 – 2006), Minster of Environment (2006 – 2007), Minister of Environment and Housing (2007). She has made very clear her intentions to replace Godswill Akpabio as the next Governor of Akwa Ibom and hopes to bring change to the state.

Dr. Ngozi Olejeme is a Nigerian philanthropist, entrepreneur, politician and administrator. Dr. Olejeme presently sits as the chair- man of the board of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Subsidy Reinvestment Program (SURE P) and Trust Fund Pensions PLC. She is also a member of several other corporate boards. Dr. Olejeme is strongly being touted as the successor to the out-going Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and has been backed by a great proportion of Delta indigenes at home and abroad. She is vying for the post of Delta Governorship position on the platform of the PDP and appears to be garnering supporters in droves daily. She appears a very strong candidate for the post by all indications and cannot be taken lightly by other contenders.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa: A known media doyen who had worked with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Abike Dabiri-Erewa has advanced her political career greatly in recent years. She is a sitting member of the House of Representatives, representing Ikorodu constituency in Lagos State and is presently serving her third term as a House member. She was formerly the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity and is presently, Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs and has won several local as well as international awards for her effectiveness in this role. Described while being presented with the Diaspora Bridge builders Award in Washington recently, “as a virtuous, respected, trustworthy, courteous woman with strong values, demonstrated ability to achieve results and a woman worthy of emulation”. She is very well known for her commitment to justice and is also strongly being touted as a possible successor to Governor Fashola on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). All eyes are particularly on Lagos, to set the pace as it has always done. Though Abike Dabiri Erewa has not formerly declared her intention to run she had told a group of young Nigerians, who had a social media interactive session with her. “I don’t doubt my capacity and capability. Sometimes people say to me, you are very good but you are a woman. There are still challenges for women in politics in Nigeria but we must not be discouraged. Consultations are ongoing; ultimately ‘it will be my party, APC’s decision”

Senator Nkechi Nwaogwu is a sitting Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Abia State at the National Assembly on the platform of the PDP. An ersthwhile professional, Senator Nwaogwu was an astute banker before venturing into the murky waters of Nigerian politics where she has excelled greatly. She has served as chairman of various committees making visible change and impacting on the society. She is presently chairman of the Upper House Committee on Banking. She is by no means a stranger to blazing the trail; having been the first woman to win a seat from Abia state both at the House and subsequently the Senate. In her words “if my party would support me, I will run for the post of governorship. It is my aspiration, my desire”. She hopes to succeed Governor Theodore Orji on the platform of the PDP.

The profiles of the above contenders are by no exhaustive. There are possibly more female contenders vying for governorship positions but the four listed above appear to be at the forefront in the race to becoming Nigeria’s first elected female governor. Their credentials and experience are top notch, their political relevance and clout are reasonably strong. There is however only one challenge; they are from a disadvantaged gender in this part of planet earth. It is however notable that despite the numerous parties in the country only two parties (PDP and APC) present possible hope to these seeming ‘outliers’ in the complex political equations of their various states. The great question thus beckons; who will create history by providing Nigeria with her first female elected governor? Lagos, Abia, Delta, or Akwa- Ibom? Both the PDP and APC claim to be progressives, change originators, parties with foresight and dynamism with a goal of actualizing a better Nigeria. They both claim in their founding ethos to be parties which are liberal; with a vision to creating a level playing field for all aspirants. Party primaries are just around the comer with the heat cooking in the kitchen of the various parties. Consultations, dealings, and all the usual politicking are in high gear. We can only hope that whether man, woman, old or young our political parties would present candidates with a credible pedigree with the capacity and wherewithal to implement positive change. Who will make history with Nigeria’s first elected female governor? APC or PDP? Only time will tell.

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