Since the return of democracy in 1999, women have persistently cried marginalization when it comes to clinching electoral offices but many of them have remained undeterred, endlessly making moves to win important positions. There are indications that many of them have rolled up their sleeves ahead of 2019.
Despite the fact that they constitute large number of voters, Nigerian women have not yet broken the jinx to produce a governor through the ballot box. The highest office they could grab is that of deputy governor after riding on the backs of men as attested to in some few states at present.
Similarly, only seven out of the 109 senators serving in the 8th National Assembly are women. There is no single woman in many state assemblies and this is amidst clamour by various groups on the need to widen the door for them to have their way during contests. Many political parties give forms for free to women to encourage them vie for various positions, including that of the president and governors but this never translate to electoral victory.
However, with few months to party primaries, some women have defied the odds and thrown their veil into the ring once again.
Dr Salma Anas Kolo
A former Commissioner of Health in Borno State, Dr Kolo is vying for the Borno South Senatorial District under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), meaning she may likely slug it out with Senator Ali Ndume, a former Majority Leaders of the Senate.
Dr Salma was the Commissioner of Health in the first tenure of Governor Kashim Shettima between 2011 and 2015. The medical doctor who hails from Biu Local Government Area, based on her contacts with the international community, was said to have performed creditably well during her commissionership by facilitating the establishment of a sound healthcare delivery system to enhance the performance of the sector in a democratic mode of governance.
Dr Kolo seems battle ready to change the political arrangement of the state where the Biu axis of southern zone always produces the deputy governor, leaving the senatorial seat for Gwoza axis, but only time could determine if she be able to change the matrix.
In Gombe, the member representing Kaltungo/Shongom Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Hajiya Fatima Binta Bello, is said to be eying the Gombe South Senatorial seat under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Born in 1970, Binta attended Women Teachers College (WTC), Bajoga and obtained Teachers Grade II Certificate in 1988. She graduated from the University of Maiduguri in 2010 where she read Public Administration.
She worked as a civil servant for many years before venturing into politics. Binta served as Commissioner of Women Affairs during the administration of former Governor Muhammad Danjuma Goje.
In 2011, she was elected to represent Kaltungo/Shongom Federal Constituency of Gombe State under the platform of the PDP, becoming the first female to be elected for that position in the state.
Binta’s strength in the event she contests is her cordial relationship with the people of her constituency, which she frequently visited and had empowered thousands of them through various programmes.
For instance, despite the APC ‘tsunami,’ she was re-elected in 2015, thereby becoming the only surviving member of the PDP in the 7th Assembly in the North-East to return. She was made the Deputy Minority Whip and the only female principal officer.
She is the current Chairman of Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) and is said to be eyeing the Benue North East Senatorial District presently occupied by Senator Barnabas Gemade.
Orubibi graduated from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) with a degree in Economics and holds a Master Degree in Business Administration from the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, after which she ventured into her taxation career. She is a Tax expert who has put in many years at the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) where she held forte as a senior manager before her appointment to serve the Benue government nearly three years ago.
The woman, who many described as a “go getter” and “no lily livered,” has changed the face of taxation in Benue State with her well-thought idea of “small-small” method of paying taxes for low income earners such as artisans and traders among others.
Her chances for the senate are likely to be bright, given her philanthropic disposition to people, especially those from her Kwande Local Government Area of state.
However, dissenting opinions hold that Mimi who is married to a man from Rivers State might have her ambition frustrated because of an alleged Tiv tradition that she now belongs to her husband’s linage and could vie for such position from where he came from.
Senator Gbemisola Saraki
She is a former senator from Kwara Central Senatorial District, who contested for the governorship post in 2011. It was however gathered that she was told from the beginning not to waste her time because people of Ilorin Emirate will not consider a woman become governor on the grounds that they regard whoever is the state governor as religious leader.
Now that Senator Gbemisola, a younger sister to Senate President Bukola, has decamped to APC, some political analysts said she might be eyeing the governorship position again.
Senator Rose Oko
Apart from Senator Rose Oko who represents Cross River North Senatorial District, no other woman has yet shown serious interest at either challenging her or aspiring for the remaining two districts although few other men have shown desire to replace her. Oko had said at a recent event, “I want to return to the Senate to consolidate on the representation I have done so far.”
Oko was reported to have won the last senatorial election while she was critically ill and on sick bed. Her influence, connection and resources had done all the campaign and jostling which enabled her to emerge for the first time as the female senator from that zone. She replaced Professor Ben Ayade who left to become the state governor. Oko is the second female Senator from the state, the first being Florence Ita-Giwa.
Pastor Margaret Inusa
She may not exactly be categorised as a prominent woman in the political circle but has earned a name among young Christians in Plateau State. With the recent pronouncement by Governor Simon Bako Lalong to re-contest his seat and many politicians expressing interest within the PDP, Pastor Margaret remains the only female aspirant to express interest in the number one seat under the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
She is a senior Pastor at Glorious Life International Church, a relationship councillor and a radio talk show host in Jos. Many say she is a mixed breed of Taraba and Plateau but that is not enough to stop the woman who is said to have tremendous influence on youths in Plateau State. Though she has no political experience, she is known to have worked with several non-governmental organizations to help empower youths.
Those close to Pastor Margaret attest to her excellent leadership qualities and she is said to have mentored a number of young people. She has often claimed of not being born with a silver spoon neither does she come from a prominent political class. She is quoted to have said to a local publisher that, “I have trekked and traded on the street like many others and have driven the process of success to this point. I may not be a long standing and renowned politician but I am the lady Trump that has come to rescue the state if given the opportunity.”
Pastor Margaret may face strong challenges coming against strong political contenders but she is certainly not one to be tossed aside.
Senator Patricia Naomi Akwashiki
She is the only women that have declared interest to contest for the governorship position in Nasarawa State.
Akwashiki is the first women that contested and won the seat of House of Representative from Nasarawa State who represented Akwanga/Wamba/Nasarawa Eggon Federal Constituency from 2003 to 2007. She later decamped from the then ruling PDP to the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and contested and won election into the Senate and become the first female Senator from the state. Akwashiki is also the first female to be appointed as minister from the state by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
She is currently contesting for the governorship ticket under the PDP and the party had already zoned the governorship position to northern part of the state where she comes from.
However, her chances of becoming the first female governor in Nasarawa is very slim because of the forces that might work against her interest within the PDP.
Although Akwashiki command a lot of grassroots support within and outside the party in the state with her billboards placed in strategic positions, she is now facing a tough battle with other aspirants especially her predecessor and incumbent Senator, Philip Aruwa Gyunka, who comes from the same zone with her and is said to be backed by former and present house of assembly members from the party as well as some critical stakeholders.
In Lagos, not many women politicians are known to be aspiring for governorship or senatorial positions. The few active or known women politicians are largely operating within the APC with the Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule and the Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, Senator Oluremi Tinubu leading the way.
Also, the PDP which is regarded as the second largest political party in the state also has a female member of the House of Representatives, Rita Oduchi Orji.
The former first lady of the state and two-term Senator, Remi is married to the former Lagos State Governor and the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu. Based on her status, Remi is seen as an underground power broker in the state. Some months earlier, a kite was flown that Remi would be contesting as Governor of the state. While that noise had gone down, what appears to be in the offing is the possibility of her returning to the Senate for a third term. If that happens, she would be setting a new precedence as the first Senator in Lagos State to achieve that.
Binta Masi Garba
Binta Masi Garba, former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa State was the first female chairperson of a political party in the country. She was elected Senator for the Adamawa North Senatorial District in 2015 under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a bid to actualize her reelection in 2019, Binta has stepped up consultations within and outside her constituency while bringing herself closer to the grassroots through economic empowerment initiative for rural women.
Her 50th birthday celebrated few weeks ago in Yola, it attracted prominent national figures including Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Secretary to Federal Government, Boss Mustapha and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, sending a signal about her strong connection at the highest level.
Aisha Dahiru Ahmed
Popularly known as “Binani”, Aisha Ahmed defeated her male opponents in 2011 general elections to emerge as Member representing Yola North/Yola South/Girei Federal Constituency in Adamawa State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
After serving a term of four years, Aisha decided to vie for Adamawa Central Senatorial District amid crisis that rocked her party in 2015 over alleged imposition of Nuhu Ribadu as governorship candidate.
Despite her popularity, she lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Abdulaziz Nyako, a development many attributed to the Buhari factor, the bandwagon effect that helped many of the APC candidates to win against stronger candidates.
She has since joined the ruling APC and is bracing for senatorial ticket in 2019 with brighter chances.
On the whole, female politicians in Nigeria never had a smooth ride, but the tides are changing and 2019 might just be the turning point.