2023: Governor Wike’s Presidency offers the brightest prospect for women empowerment

Gov. Nyesome Wike

By Mallam Ahmed Farouk

As is expected of the moment, political actors with interest in the presidency are falling over themselves to obtain the support of important stakeholders within their respective political parties and the country, in general, to make it onto the ballot as flagbearers and ultimately the villa as the successor to the uninspiring President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

In the specific case of the PDP, certain candidates are making their case to the women bloc of the party, using what they consider as previous achievements and credentials as the basis for their promise that their Presidential ambition, if supported to become a reality, would see women enjoy unprecedented elevation and opportunities.

A notable example is that of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who in a recent meeting with the PDP National Woman Leader, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe, reeled out a rehearsed record of his women empowerment efforts dating back to his time as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Couching his speech with understandable flattery and self back-patting, he emphasized his commitment to attain the 35% affirmative action although, by self-admission, he fell way short in many instances. Also in an attempt to claim credit, he attributed the political savvy of women elected to the 7th Assembly to his own benevolence, perhaps letting slip a common criticism leveled against men in politics who glory-hunt despite contributing little to the outcome.

Further undercutting Aminu Tambuwal’s women-friendly posturing is the fact that his purported has not translated to the election of a woman as a federal representative of the state, and its state leadership, down to the local council administration, has an overwhelming male dominance that doesn’t reflect the gender balance of the state.

His clutching of the 35% inclusion benchmark, which he also failed to meet across different initiatives and government apparatus within his direct control, could also mean that he intends to do ‘just enough’ to promote a feel-good factor and have ‘content’ to present in similar such meetings. But women have since gone past settling for ‘just enough’ acts of tokenism that does little to break the glass ceiling and deliver on the desired equitable representation in politics and governance.

Their ambition is much larger, and rightly so, than Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s narrow focus on merely meeting the benchmark, something he still clearly struggles with. This realization leaves no doubt that if the PDP women want the best deal from the list of realistic candidates likely to fly the party’s flag to the Aso Rock, they then must look down south, specifically to Rivers State where Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has proven himself a credible and outstanding HeForShe champion.

In Nigeria today, Rivers State holds the exclusive honor of being the only state with adequate representation in all levels of government. Not only are women supported to clinch dedicated seats in the local councils as councilors, thus participating in the administration of communities, including the formation of local laws, to dismantle discriminatory practices and systems, this commendable achievement is followed by an even greater display of commitment to women empowerment.

All the Vice Chairmen across the Local Government Areas in Rivers State are women. Furthermore, women are represented in the state House of Assembly, just as they maintain a sizable and significant presence in the state cabinet as serving Commissioners.

The President of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal is a woman; and at the federal level, Rivers State has women representation in both legislative chambers – the Senate and House of Representatives.

Importantly too, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is deputized by a woman, a significant and telling achievement that directly reinforces the Governor’s determination to mainstream women leadership and the elimination of repressive bias.

No other state in Nigeria, certainly not Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s Sokoto, can boast of these sterling achievements in the cause of advancing women and nudging society onto the path of breaking the bias against women.

Governor Wike’s deliberate efforts have entrenched and normalized women’s leadership in Rivers State, consequently opening the doors of opportunities to millions of women across different sectors, and providing a useful example to others of what is possible with a focused and good-spirited leadership.

There is no doubt that he would do the same nationally if helped to emerge as Nigeria’s next President. Women empowerment forms an important plank of his goal to ‘ReNEW Nigeria’ and his track record increases confidence that he would follow through on his promises.

The PDP National Woman leader has expressed readiness to advertise the party’s achievements in promoting the cause of women empowerment. That is a good thing. She will have her hands full in Rivers State where real stories and evidence of success abound in that regard. Governor Wike has delivered for women and is willing to do more. One good turn deserves another.

Mallam Ahmed Farouk sent in this piece from Katsina State.

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