Female Aspirants: A Mixed Bag In South South

IF one is talking of 35 percent affirmation for women in politics in Nigeria, many South South states, especially Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Edo, are not the place. The PDP, for instance, has no woman as candidate in its National Assembly, Governorship and Deputy Governorship list for upcoming elections in Akwa Ibom, which, since its creation on September 23, 1987, has been governed by nine men-governors, three of whom were democratically elected.

Akwa Ibom

THE only woman listed among the 24 aspirants for the 2015 governorship race under the PDP umbrella is Senator Helen Esuene, who was eventually schemed out with 23 others. But, going by the final list of aspirants as published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on January 27, she is now the governorship flag bearer of Labour Party (LP).    

   However, there are 14 governorship candidates in the state with the senator as the only woman, while there are five women seeking to be deputy governors. The deputy governorship candidates include, Mrs.Joy Edem (PPN), Mrs. Imo Ekpo (Independent Democrat), Mrs. Blessing Edeh (APGA), Mrs. Maria Isong (PPA), and Mrs. Ubong James of the Democratic peoples Party (DPP).

   Only Senator Esuene has made significant and visible impact for the governorship race as she is poised to give the men a run for their money. 

   A group of 22 aggrieved governorship aspirants from Akwa Ibom, recently returned from Abuja where they made fruitless effort to compel the PDP headquarters to redress its controversial primaries, in which Emmanuel was declared winner.

Senator Esuene, no doubt, has bright chances of emerging the first female governor in Nigeria, but the powers that be in the state have already thrown their weight behind Emmanuel. Besides, the stupendous financial muscle of Umana and his Uyo popularity could work against Esuene’s bright chances; even as Bishop Akpan’s significant push in the AP is becoming a major factor.

   On why many of the men are supporting Esueme for 2015, the Deputy Director General of the Senator Esuene Campaign Organisation, Mr. Bassey Essien, said, “We chose Senator Esuene because she represents everything good about a woman. She is an aunty every proud person would love to have. We chose her for the Senate and she has not disappointed us. She symbolises peace and progress.

    Esuene, who has promised to create wealth and generate massive employment, resigned from the Civil Service in 1986 as director, and started her private business with total employment capacity of over 500 staff. She was Minister of Health and later Minister of Environment.”

CROSS RIVER

IN Cross River State, the story is not different, given the position of women in the ruling PDP, where only one woman — Dr Rose Okoh from the Northern senatorial zone — is in the race for the Senate. Okoh had won the primaries from her sick bed, a situation the PDP men folk felt was manipulated in her favour.

      The story line goes the same in the Labour Party (LP) that has a woman and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mrs. Nella Andem Ewa-Rabanna, as its deputy governorship aspirant.

  Indeed, The PDP and other political parties have not addressed the issue of 35 percent allocation of positions for women and it is believed that under a free and fair election, the women would play a determining role. Women were certainly skewed out of their party arrangement even when they showed strong participation.

    The candidates in the governorship race are Senator Ben Ayade of the PDP, Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo of the LP, and Mr. Odey Ochicha of the APC. Before now, the emergence of the PDP candidate in any position for election in the state was as good as winning the poll, but it would appear that the story is now different.  

Deprived PDP members now in LP and APC will prove a point. The Efik and women factor may have an added advantage for APC and LP as the Efiks had accused the PDP of scheming them out of their own arrangement for 2015. It is expected that the influence of Nella, an Efik will play a strong role for the LP, as the ethic group constitutes significant part of the population in the South Senatorial district.

   A legal practitioner, Chief Utum Eteng, said, “it has been argued by political pundits that the Ugbo/Nella pair is a big plus to the people by reason of the following: Outgoing Governor Imoke had, before now, tacitly presented Ntufam Ugbo to his in-house members as the right man with cognate administrative experience for the job; after about 16 years, a Cross River State women from Boki nation will be the State’s first lady; after more than 25 years, the Cross River State women would have one of their own, Nella Andem Ewa (SAN) as deputy governor, the rich Efik nation shall have one of their very best, a tested and trusted Nella, as deputy governor. It is pertinent to remark that, apart from her appointment as the Attorney General and commissioner for Justice in Cross River State, Nella Ewa (SAN) is the first female lawyer in cross River State to be admitted into the prestigious Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) club, an equivalent of the Queens Counsel (QC) in the UK. 

   In Cross River South Senatorial, the incumbents, Senator Bassey Otu and Nkoyo Toyo, despite their ‘street popularity,’ were denied PDP tickets in a primary that was said to be a kangaroo arrangement. 

This action is said not to have gone down well with the Efiks who felt their daughter with just one term in the House of Representatives was supposed to have gone for a second term.

   The women are not happy and may likely give their votes to where they feel protected irrespective of party affiliation.

Edo State: Only Four Women In The Race

THE two major political parties in Edo State, the APC and the PDP of all the elective seats in the state and National Assembly are fielding only four female candidates. Of the four, three (lawyers) are running on the PDP platform. They are: Bisi Idaomi as the party’s candidate for the State House of Assembly in Akoko-Edo Constituency II, Uyi Ogbemudia for Oredo West Constituency and Omosede Igbinedion, who is vying for the Ovia Federal Constituency. 

    APC has one female candidate in the person of Elizabeth Ativie, representing the Uhunmwonde Constituency, is seeking a second term in the State Assembly.

      Ativie remained the most experienced of the four, and has “very bright chances” of returning to the House. She will slug it out with Murphy Imasuen of the PDP. She was there in 2007on the PDP platform, but was removed by the court before the end of her tenure. She later defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) under which platform she returned to the House in 2011. 

   Ativie has been the only female member since 2007 and has the leadership of the party and the communities around that area behind her.

  She lamented the reduction in the number of women seeking elective position, which she attributed to women politicians allowing themselves to be schemed out by their male counterparts.

   In a chat with journalists few days ago on the number of women contesting elective offices, she said:  “Female representation in elective position has even reduced. From the statistics that we were given when we went for a conference in December at Abuja, it has reduced by 30 percent and there are many causes; the political parties have refused to open up space for women. The parties’ leaders have named those who are going to be governors in 2019 without involving the women.

  “Secondly, even the women are not helping the matter. The men who are contesting elections in 2019 have started reaching out. They have started synergising.  The women will come out at the last-minute and, once they’re denied the ticket, they will go and sleep. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be consistent. You have to be visible. I cannot go to the electorate and say ‘give me this position because I am a woman.’ I can only canvass for a position because I have the capacity to deliver the dividends of democracy. I’ll fight to get what I desire. That I am a woman is an added advantage. It should not be the primary reason that I think I should be there. Women must be focused,” she said.

      For Uyi, the daughter of Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, a two-time governor of the old Midwest and Bendel State (now Edo and Delta states),  it is believed that she would bank strongly on his father’s popularity and very high standing among the Binis for her to win the seat. She, however, has a strong opponent in Chris Okaeben of the APC. The current Speaker of the House of Assembly, Uyi Igbe is from the same constituency and he is currently contesting for the House of Representatives.

   Analysts believe that Igbe, who is very popular combining with Okaeben a former commissioner, could be a hard nut for Ogbemudia.

   Bisi Idaomi could spring some surprises. She is from the ward with the highest voting population in her Constituency, the people of which are reputed to have always voted in one direction. However, this time around, the incumbent member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Peter Appatason, is from the same ward and of the opposition APC, while Idaomi is of the PDP. And the APC has its candidate as Emmanuel Agbaje from Ososo, a fast-growing and popular young politician.

    However, Idaomi told The Guardian that she stands a good chance of winning the election. 

  “I have been in the system for over ten years now. I am from a political family and we are known to deliver. Being the only woman in Edo North and in the local government, the women want to send a woman there; it is their turn, and they are yearning for women empowerment and effective representation. I can introduce community development programmes,” she said.

   For Omosede Igbinedion, daughter of the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, many believe she could win, due to her father’s influence; she is vying to represent the Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. The APC in the area is already grappling with crisis, as incumbent Nosakhare Osahon and Charity Amayanvbo are both claiming to be the candidate of the party.

   Igbinedion, however, said her decision to go into politics was personal and not from her father and that she is ready to slug it out. “The journey to clinch the party ticket was not easy, but I am able to go through and now looking forward to the general elections when PDP will definitely be occupying the seat of the Federal House of Representatives for Ovia Federal Constituency.

   “I am looking forward to the general elections and I know I have supporters across all political parties. I have a lot of support, and people from other political parties are willing to come and key into my election. That, to me, is something I could not probably buy with money. I have just been favoured because I am blessed with God’s favour.” 

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