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Affirmative Action and the danger of mediocrity

By Morenike Taire
LAST Saturday’s Action Congress meeting was successful on many accounts, not least of all in terms of correcting prevalent perceptions about the relationship between the governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and his predecessor, the Ashiwaju.
A scion of one of the Opposition parties I had met a day before had told me categorically and in no uncertain terms that the centre could not hold anymore in that relationship and things would fall apart pretty soon, as the originally Nigerian saying goes.

He, and all the others, has not been able to put a finger on what exactly are the issues causing dissonance between the governor and his mentor. Not that it matters, except for political purposes.

Opposition parties clearly hope discordant tunes would translate to a fissure within the ACs consolidation, and probably eventual disintegration, with the result that States such as Lagos and Edo might be grabbed out of AC hands. This, in spite of two clear reasons for the unlikeliness of such an outcome.

One is the perception by Lagosians of BRF being the messiah they have been waiting for, and the approval of Fashola has translated unwittingly into an acceptance of his party.

The second is that AC is acquiring more and more of PDP’s resilience characteristics by the moment: the thirst for power before any other consideration. Period.

It is not a new rumour either but one that has been making the rounds for months. Yet, it must have helped that the Saturday Convention had the two not only sitting side by side but sharing jokes and anecdotes to the pleasure of all. It was the chance, and they grabbed it, to finally prove in the public domain that all was well (?)

But by far the most remarkable affair of the day was the motion championed by the women caucus for a constitutional alteration for affirmative action representation within the action congress.

If that sort of request could have been considered audacious, to say the least, in some other political parties, it was not the case in this instance. The decision to use affirmative action was almost unanimously accepted by the party’s rank and file, making the Action Congress the only known party in which Affirmative Action was agreed to unanimously.

This, on its own, does not exactly say much. The implication, however, is that a party to which a perception of gender sensitivity is important will more likely serve the cause of women than one which is not. Such a party, it is reasonable to conclude, will sooner or later use affirmative action in its nominations, thereby assuring a balance of representation of the two genders for nominations into elective offices.

It is reasonable also to expect that the Action Congress would produce the first female gubernatorial or presidential/vice presidential nominations. This will put a smile on the faces of those who believe women to be better and more efficient managers, who are much less tolerant of corruption than men are.

While it is a good gesture from a party dominated by men (like every party is), there is, as even IBB knows, a time and place for everything. Affirmative Action, like Federal Character, was useful in an era past. Once upon a time, when fathers hesitated to send their female children to school and it was difficult to find women who, if they were qualified, were willing to take certain male dominated positions, it made perfect sense to compulsorily include women in different unusual spheres.

These days, there are few spheres, except, perhaps, for the  military, in which women cannot be found whose expertise levels are  as high or even higher than those of  men.

From  another perspective, corruption and incompetence are no longer the preserve of men, but are practiced  these days as much by women. The gender differences, mostly biologically endowed, will always be there.

There have been attempts to tamper with gender roles, with biotechnology making it possible for  embryos to thrive outside of its mother’s body with the possibility of a male human carrying an implanted baby to term with the aid of hormonal implants and injections and of course a caesarian section.

If this is far fetched, women who are ill or are just more interested in taming the so called biological clock can have their eggs frozen in time until such a time as they might wish to use them.

It is also possible, now, for a woman to tamper with her system in order to have triplets rather than go through the pains of pregnancy and parturition three times over, if they wanted three children.

More feasible is the idea- one that has become really popular with the Scandinavians and a few countries in Western Europe- of allowing men to take time off their work who want to participate in physical child care. If gender roles can be swapped, why can’t work roles?

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