When I heard that Ethiopia had elected their first female President, I rushed to the internet, scurrying through my newsfeed in search of what she had achieved and her previous political experience. As you can imagine, my enthusiasm was not really about Ethiopia, (even though they are a great country and all), it was the fact that another woman has taken her seat of power, that the man-crowded world of politics had given the stage to a woman, and then, that it was happening right here in Africa, a continent so popular for its long and convoluted relationship with patriarchy.
The Irony of it
Nigeria and Africa have a rich history of women who have occupied the centre stage with confidence and purpose. These women have been at the back scene, playing strategic roles in the social engineering of their respective societies. Whether you think of Amina, the warrior queen of Zaria or Yaa Asantewa, the great Ashanti queen. Of course, there was Moremi, the Yoruba princess. Her sense of duty and leadership pushed her to surrender to the enemy camp. And there was also the Aba women who revolted against the colonial masters as a result against poor business policies and taxes.
These matriarchs, even though they were never called President or Governor, still shaped the affairs of their time. They had a voice, they had an agenda, and they had results.
So, as another election season looms over Nigeria, I wonder how many young Nigerians are thinking about a different kind of result? I wonder if as a people, we have gotten to a place where we can interrogate stereotypes and definitions that have long stripped women off political ambitions.
Why not now?
I admit that building a nation is not as easy or blind as chanting girl power and voting for the first woman who shows interest. However, it must begin with paying the right kind of attention, giving an equal share of scrutiny to every political candidate and reminding ourselves that women have long been carrying the mantle of leadership.
We need to begin to seriously consider the participation of women in politics because more female participation reflects a strengthened democracy. After all, the very notion of democracy is to galvanise the popular opinion of the majority of the people. What then is the point if the majority is dominated by a single gender?
We need women because as much as we love Nigeria, the country is quite a mess. And men have mostly dominated the political conversations. It may be time to tilt the scale a little.
There’s also the fact that women are just as qualified and arguably a little more experienced than their male counterparts. And I say this with all the love in my heart for men. But with their impulsive sense of empathy, women may just as well be better candidates for leading an inclusive administration.
And the, because history shows that women are capable. Whether through their strategic contribution in the wake of the Rwandan genocide or Sierra Leonean crisis. Women showed up and lived up to their cause and purpose.
So again, I ask…why not now?
Who says we can’t rewrite history through the change we allow to happen in our generation? And most importantly, who says Nigeria is not ready for a female president?