By Emmanuel Aziken
It is perhaps reflective of Senator David Mark’s capacities that no Senate President before him was able to manage as many women as he now has in his chamber.
It is also arguable if any Senate President has pleased women as Senator Mark has done.

The nine women Senators presently serving in the Senate is more than double the quartet who served in the Wabara and Nnamani Senates between 2003 and 2007.
Before then the first Senate of the fourth republic was blessed with the trio of Senators Khairat Gwadabe, Florence Ita-Giwa and Stella Omu.

Senator Franca Afegbua from the defunct Bendel State had in 1983 sought to position herself as the country’s first female Senator upon her election to represent the Bendel North senatorial district in the 1983 elections.

However, the first female Senator and member of the upper legislative body of any Nigerian parliament was actually the legendary Ibo politician and female activist, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo.

It is not known the kind of reception that Mrs. Ekpo received in her time when she joined the male dominated Senate in the first republic, but Ms Afegbua’s advent in 1983 was a shocker to women sensibilities. There was no female toilet when Princess Afegbua came to the Senate in October 1983.

Such sensibilities are, however, of little significance in the fourth republic as the women have advanced beyound the quest for female conveniences to the demand for prime positions in the chamber.

The strides of the women have not always been pleasing to their male colleagues as it has sometimes provoked the wrath of their male colleagues. Senator Iyabo Anisulowo who in her time was chairman of the Senate committee on States and Local government Affairs was reportedly slapped by her deputy, Senator Isa Mohammed over the administration of the committee’s affairs.

Senator Mukthar Aruwa who was a member of the Senate between 1999 and 2007 in his second term felt insulted and refused to take up the position of vice-chairman of the Senate committee on Women Affairs when he was transferred from being vice-chairman of the Senate committee on Culture and Tourism in September 2005.

The ill-treatment of women was perhaps most illustrated by the jugular treatment the Anyim Senate vented on Senator Florence Ita-Giwa at the peak of the face off between the Anyim Senate and the Obasanjo administration.

The nine Senators presently serving in the Senate include Senators Joy Emodi (PDP, Anambra North), Gbemi Saraki (PDP, Kwara Central), Zainab Kure (PDP, Niger), Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (PDP, Ogun Central), Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), and Patricia Akwashiki (ANPP, Nasarawa)

The others are Grace Bent (PDP, Adamawa South), Nkechi Nwaogu and Eme Ufot Ekaette (PDP, Akwa Ibom South).

Before now the Senate was blessed with the quartet of Senators Emodi, Saraki, Iyabo Anisulowo and Daisy Danjuma between 2003 and 2007.

All four female Senators were conferred with the chairmanship of Senate committees when Senator Ken Nnamani reshuffled Senate committees in 2005. One tale has it that after Nnamani became Senate President the female Senators organized a dinner for him and after sampling the best cuisines the women offered him that evening, that the new Senate President promised that he would make every one of them committee chairmen!

Suggestions that the women were only productive in their culinary tendencies were to be dismissed by their political exploits in their committee assignments. One of them, Senator Emodi was particularly challenged with the duty of redeeming the image of the Senate committee on Education after the iniquitous bribery scandal centered around the former committee chairman and some of his members collapsed the Wabara leadership.

Her sterling legacy of uprightness perhaps helped in her retention in that position in the Mark Senate.

Senator Emodi’s political prowess was further conveyed in 2007 when she became the first Senator in the fourth republic from the politically traumatized Anambra State to win re-election.

Virtually all the other female Senators in the Mark Senate are also pulling their weights among their male colleagues as committee chairmen.

The only two female Senators who do not chair committee positions, Senators Anyanwu and Akwashiki, are themselves no pushovers.

Senator Anyanwu who is vice-chairman of the Senate committee on Defence showed her grace when she hosted a US Congressional delegation in the absence of her committee chairman, doing so with a regal panache that would have easily melted the hearts of the most hardened skeptics of female political empowerment.

That Senator David Mark has been able to manage the women in the Senate chamber without much controversy is a worthy demonstration of the discipline he has brought to bear in the affairs of the sixth Senate.

The Senate was this week fully engaged in the yearly ritual of budget defence hearings.

The only plenary session of the week was on Thursday during which the Senate adopted variations to the 2009 budget and received a letter from President Umaru Yar‘Adua replacing Mr. Ise-Idehen of the Edo State House of Assembly as that State’s nominee to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board.


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