|Model in Benue colours|
The Benue woman despite her hash socioeconomic environment has struggled to remain above the political waters of our country. In the just concluded party primaries across the state, the female aspirants suffered a very pathetic casualty. I am worried about the outcome because never has there been vigorous sensitisation, consultations (both at the state and national level), training and participation the way it was in the build-up to 2018 party primaries.
In the past, we have had fewer women giving it a shot at the political contest, most times been successful. They were celebrated and indeed respected for attempting to succeed in a male-dominated environment successfully. The lack of impetus was attributed as the reason why few women were in active politics as aspirants. The story was different in 2018 as a good and impressive number of young talented and experienced women came out and offered to serve in various political offices, predominantly the legislative, to my greatest dismay 99% of them didn’t make it beyond party primaries a deep probe into this revealed that the party stakeholders call the shots here. This is my humble attempt to x-ray the issues and call for “A Benue Women Political Summit”. Lack of MentorsWe have had women who have occupied various political positions in the past, fortunately, most are still active politically today. After our dear mother – Chief Mrs Elizabeth Ivase played her role as a minister in the 1st republic of Nigeria; a long silence was broken by Chief Mrs Keziah Agundu of Ushongu who was the first female elected local government chairman in Benue State under the platform of SDP. She is the best chairman the council ever had based on information at my disposal. In 1999, the Benue state house of assembly gave West Africa a shock by electing a woman speaker to pilot the affairs of the state legislative arm. She is no other person but Chief Mrs Margaret Icheen who represented Kwande Benue state constituency but was however not reelected.In 2003, our amiable Funmi Aondona Dabo-Fiase was elected to represent the good people of Jerchira federal constituency. She attempted the second time and was not reelected. Then in 2007, Hon Mrs Christiana Allaga was elected to represent Gwer East/Gwer West federal constituency, she gave it a shot the second time and was reelected. Within this period, our dear Hon Ngunan Adingi who had to go to the courts to retrieve her stolen mandate to represent the people of Buruku at the Benue house of assembly. She alongside Hon Mrs Agaigbe is currently the only female parliamentarians in the Benue state house of assembly. After all this experience gathered at the floors of various legislative chambers, our dear women leaders either retire to their comfort zones without ensuring that they impact, groom or tutor the younger women. Systematically, one will expect that these platforms are very conducive for mentorship and building a generation of young women politicians. Perhaps I may be wrong, if I am, why won’t they also use their platforms to tell the young women what their frustrations are, where their fingers were burnt and what to expect? This is a wakeup call to past elected women, you can’t do it alone given our cultural barriers. A deliberate synergy is the only possible option here.
Fear, Low Self Esteem, Lack of Self AwarenessThe Benue woman is culturally domesticated, even when she is sent to school, she is indoctrinated to feel that she is been prepared to add value to her husband and his family. This theory conveniently locks out the community, state and nation from her constant developmental thoughts; she seldom looks at the political environment as a place in need of her capacity and expertise. Unfortunately, this creates an obvious vacuum. When approached to participate in active politics, there are a number of excuses borne out of FEAR, what will people say? That I’m untenable so I want to be like a man, I am now a feminist, I am a prostitute, I want to get cheap popularity etc. Occasionally, after consistent persistence, we start giving excuses about family and children. We prefer to watch aloof and criticize other women who have dammed all the stereotypes, insults, bullying and offered themselves pushed by the passion to serve and love for their communities and state. I call it looking beyond your home. Only a woman who has a low self-esteem brings down another, only a woman who is unaware of her own God-given talents is insecure and jealous of another. Who are the stakeholders? Are they not former political offices holders and their serving counterparts? Don’t we have women in the college of people whom I’m made to understand decide who gets the tickets of the various political parties? Do they deliberately and consciously make a case for the female aspirants? If there are no women at all, don’t these stakeholders have wives and sisters?
Poverty and godfatherismMoney politics is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into our political system. This is the egg that fertilised vote buying, bore mediocrity in leadership and consequently underdevelopment and acute poverty. Benue Women have no doubt the economic muscles to buy delegates as their male counterparts, they believe in their talents and ability to deliver. They are extremely hard working yet less appreciated by the male and even the female folks. Against all odds, the compete for shoulder-to-shoulder with the men despite their meagre resources. It is unfortunate that party delegates still approach their congresses in search of the highest bidder for their votes not taking into cognisance the quality of leadership such an aspirant will offer them in the next three years as the fourth year is usually for politicking and embezzlement. Aside this most often ill-gotten money been thrown around to sway the already hungry and gullible delegates, another strong denominator is the godfather who does not look beyond his legion of sycophants, loyalist and relations to impose in leadership positions as stooges; if it must be a female then, she will be their wives or concubines. No woman finds it convenient to be patronised by a godfather if she knows her capacity and is sure of her competence. Women are the most trusted people in politics because when they are for you, they go all out and when they are not for you, don’t waste your time. The Benue woman has been relegated to the dancers at political functions and at most party women leaders in today’s dispensation.
ConclusionI will not end this without a charge to the Benue woman to look beyond her family, see another woman as a brick to build a bigger world for our children, build rather than pull down. For me, this is a wakeup call – I don’t know about you.
I’m proud of you and many more.Chief Elizabeth IvaseChief Iyantu IfeneChief Kezeiah AgunduChief Margaret Icheen Hon Aondona Fumi Daboh-Fiase Hon Ada MarkHon Christiana AlagahHon Ngunan Adingi Hon Mary Agyiagbe Engr Ada ChangeHon Chief Mrs Elizabeth Shuluwa Hon Dr Zipporah Azege Hon Mnena Ikondo- Ikpa Hon Kennita Kpadoo Ikyegh Hon Mary Yisa Hon Luciana Doolumun Jande Hon. Mrs GeverHon Member Adigyo
Written by Irene Awunah