Just few days to the official handover of the Goodluck Administration to the Buhari Administration, I can’t help but still imagine if we had a woman take up this position. I know this sounds like a dream from which I’m yet to wake up – to some people it will take more than a miracle for this to happen.
The question on my mind is: What were the odds against her? Unfortunately politics in Nigeria is driven by Godfatherism with political parties like PDP and APC at the front burner of the race. In a society like ours, motivated by sentiments, I guess the likes of KOWA don’t even stand a chance. Sentiments like this only stifle people from participating in politics and limits political parties of diverse interests from springing up. “What political office has she held?” I heard a lot of people ask. It is disappointing that the vast majority of Nigerians even the so called elites are fascinated by mere official titles rather than track records. In a truly democratic society, the likes of GEJ should not have been nominated for a second term because despite having been deputy governor, governor, vice president, acting president and president; the scoreboard says he had little or nothing to show for it; except for the hordes of PDP fanatics, ethnic jingoists and those whose daily bread depends implicitly on the PDP government.
All through her educational and professional life, the professor of linguistics has excelled receiving many international grants and fellowships including the French Government Grant for Advanced Researchers and the German Alexander Von Humboldt Research Fellowship. The Nigerian electioneering system is however known for its hostility towards academics and its most fatal victim is Pat Utomi. The respected professor of Political Economy, who had two unsuccessful shots at presidency, had worked for the Shehu Shagari Government by providing consultancy on Public Policy and later as a Special Assistant. Over the years, he remained nationally prominent and must have fancied his chances in 2007 when he ran against the late Musa Yaradua. In his first and second attempt at running for presidency, he ranked 9th and 18th position respectively.
It still saddens me even more that at this point in time, we still judge the effectiveness of a presidential candidate by gender. I believe that Nigeria still has a long way to go if we continue to play the gender card. I‘m still yet to see how the millennium development goals will be fully implemented if we still judge women’s leadership capabilities based on our cultural bias. Angela Merkel broke through the ranks of male dominated German politics when she was elected president in 2005, leading the Christian Democrats back to power and becoming the first political icon from eastern Germany after reunification and clinched a third four year term last December, making her the longest serving EU Head of state. Under her Germany continues to be the $17.5 trillion fiscal power house and she is #1 on the Forbe’s ranking of the world’s 100 most powerful women. Liberia recently celebrated eight years leadership by Africa’s first female president; Ellen Sir leaf-Johnson, a Nobel laureate, is an icon since her days of fighting to stop corruption in Liberia. Today her Forbes ranking is the 70th position and she is ramping up efforts to bring foreign investments to her impoverished country.
I believe If Liberia can do it, then it’s time for Nigeria to arise and give our female counterparts a chance, we are tired of playing “Vice and Deputy” all the time. Mrs. Sonaiya in her congratulatory message to the president elected encouraged him to rise up to the challenge and live up to the promises of his campaign. She said her participation in politics will encourage more women to come into politics and fill a void that still exists. In her post-election statement, she said as a society we tend to celebrate the people who represent the ills that we complain of and this has to change.
But ahead of 2019, Nigerians need a change in orientation that seeks out candidates based on of their leadership potentials and not popularity, so that promising but relatively unpopular people like Sonaiyas can have a chance. I believe this is the next step forward for our democracy. **Cheers**