At no time in the history of Nigeria has there been this high level of female participation in politicking for elective office. In the outgoing republic, only 9 women were in the Senate, while the House of Representatives had 32.
Now, it is a different story. Women are rolling up their sleeves to play rough in Nigeria’s politics. Today, there 5 female governorship candidates, 88 women are contesting for senatorial seats, 218 women are vying for seats in the House of Representatives and 493 for the state houses of assembly.
The days of tokenism are over; women are no longer content to be by-standers while the country’s fate is decided, executed and plundered. They want to play a role in charting a new direction for the country. With more women in office, it is believed that Nigeria will be all the better for it. They will come with focus, determination and a motherly instinct to stand for and by the good of the country.
Judging by the contributions of the eight fore-runners for the Senate – who did not go there as bench warmers like many of their male counterparts, these women have proven to be truly amazons. From bills and motions sponsored to committee activities and contributions to debate, the female Senators have not been weighed down by the fact that they are operating in a male-dominated Senate; which is a testament to why five out of these six women, who are seeking another term in the Senate, are Chairmen of Senate standing committees.
Their active role in Senate proceedings has demonstrated to keen watchers of the National Assembly that the much sought after 35 percent affirmative action for women is after all possible and apt. And when it finally comes, women won’t be riding on the back of sentiments, but hard work to get more female representation in political offices across the land.
And having done so well for themselves as legislators and most importantly for their respective constituents, it is most justifiable that six of the female senators have gotten the nod of their people to again represent them at the Senate after the April elections. They have proven their mettle so it is not in doubt that other women who have stepped forward to vie for political office would shine the same beacon.
As if echoing the minds of women in Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan held a novel dinner party for all female political office contenders here in Lagos. She was reported to have asked them, more or less, to go and make women proud. She then gave financial support to all the women. It has never been done and we commend Mrs. Jonathan’s initiative.
As you read this, the National Assembly elections have been held and we know that Oluremi Tinubu and Grace Bent will have to pack their bags to Abuja, having won their respective senatorial seats. Next week, the governorship election holds. We wait with baited breath the election of the first female governor in Nigeria! What victory if Pauline Tallen would beat the incumbent in Plateau State.
Today, we profile some of the most visible, style savvy women in politics that we have aptly called ‘Glamazons’ in politics. Not only are they serious politicians, they have also combined the stress of being in politics with looking good as well. The combination of brawn and beauty is ever appealing, but sometimes deceptive to the advantage of a glamazon. This is because, more often, people are so focused on her appearance they miss her intellectual entrance, and before they can exhale, she would have delivered a punch.
While we wish all our female glamazons success at the polls, we profile today some of the experienced, but stylish female politicians vying for political office. As we clench our fists in support of our glam politicians, we say, Viva la vista!
ALL THE FEMALE GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATES
All the female governorship candidates and deputies Mrs. Pauline Tallen, Deputy to Gov. Jonah Jang of Plateau State. She is considered a woman of many parts, who knows her onions too well especially in politics. This is evident in the number of achievements that are recorded in her favour.
Graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Jos in 1982, she realized that her hometown would never be able to emerge and advance unless there were more permanent educational facilities in place. Tallen went into politics to realize this dream. She was deeply into this campaign when the military government took over power. Luckily for her, the new regime viewed her as an asset and appointed her a commissioner overseeing the Ministry of Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture, a position she held until she was redeployed to the Ministry of Health as a commissioner one year later. She served in this position from 1995 until 1999.
Tallen moved further into politics by becoming a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Inauguration Committee in 1999. In June of the same year, she was appointed to the position of the Minister of State for Science and Technology. Tallen was the first female to ever hold the post.
The history of Kwara cannot be complete without her name being mentioned. At least, for struggling to succeed her brother, who is the outgoing governor. She is Gbemisola Ruqqayat Saraki, daughter of the strong man of Kwara politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, a Second Republic Senate Leader and also a younger sister to the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Bukola Saraki.
Gbemi, as she is fondly called by her admirers, attended the Cheltenham Ladies’ College , England and University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. She did her mandatory national service at the Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry, Lagos, after which she worked for the Societe Generale Bank ( Nigeria ) as Head of Money Markets and later as Head of Domiciliary Accounts. She was also the Executive Director of Ashmount Insurance Brokers, Lagos, between 1994 and1999.
Political career: Ms. Saraki as product of her father’s influence in Kwara politics, joined the political world in 1999, and was elected a member of the Federal House of Representatives, where she spent a term. In 2003, she opted for the upper chamber of the National Assembly, contested and won the Senate seat for Kwara central, where she now serves her second term. While in the House of Representatives, Ms. Saraki was in the House Committees on Aviation; Foreign; Habitat; Legislative Budget and Research Office; Navy; Privatization; Special Duties; and Transport. She is currently Senate Committee Chairman on Marine Transport and also serves as a member in the Senate Committees on Commerce, Rules and Business, Police Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Aviation.
In September 19, 2010, her father, Dr. Saraki formally endorsed her, to contest the governorship in 2011. He claimed to have endorsed her take-over from her brother because she was the people’s preferred and that Gbemi’s desire to contest the gubernatorial seat was borne out of the will of the people of the state to sustain the developmental projects Dr Bukola Saraki.
In Cross Rivers State, out of 20 candidates certified by INEC, only one, Mrs. Stella Eno, is female. Contesting on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), not much is known about Mrs. Eno, except that she was a deputy governorship candidate in 2007 on the platform of African Democratic Congress. She was alleged to have been handpicked before the primaries were held.
The woman whose name is fast becoming a household name is Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola’s running mate, Joke Adefulure. She is the daughter of the famous Awori leader in Lagos-West, Alhaji Jimoh Kareem Laka Orelope Adefulure attended the Salvation Army Primary School, Agege. Her secondary education was at Lagos Metropolitan College , Yaba and St. Joseph Secondary School, Agege, where she graduated in 1978. She proceeded to Lagos State University, where she also graduated with a diploma in Social Work. She is presently the Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Ms Adefulure is said to have been in active politics for close to three decades now. She was a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly between 1991 and 1993. Also from 2003 and 2007, she was the electoral commissioner in the Lagos State Independent National Electoral Commission (LASIEC). The former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, upon assumption of office in 1999, appointed her as Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. A post she held through-out his administration. Her excellent performance made way for her retention by the administration of Gov. Fashola (SAN). It also gave her the nickname Iya Alaanu (merciful mother) by her admirers. Adefulure’s manifesto for Lagosians is enshrined in her party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) manifesto for the state. This include, ”security of lives and property, job creation, agriculture and integrated rural development, education, health, electricity, transport, small-scale business, housing and urban development, mining and petro-chemical industry, iron and steel development, Niger Delta”.
DR VIOLET ONWULIRI
The new female deputy governor nominee is Dr Viola Onwuliri, a professor of Medical Biochemistry and the wife of the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Prof Celestine Onwuliri.
Mrs. Onwuliri, received her B.Sc. Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Nigeria Nsukka(UNN), her M.Sc. (Applied Organic Chemistry) and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Jos, Nigeria. She is a Regional Representative in the African Region. She was a professor, Department of Biochemistry and former Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Jos, Plateau State. And she is currently of the Department of Biochemistry at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
Recently, she was honoured by the Plateau State Government with “the Distinguished Woman on the Plateau Gold Award for her contributions to Plateau State, Nigeria and humanity” and by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with an “award of excellence” as “Mother of Nigerian Students.”
Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, recently nominated Mrs. Onwuliri as his running mate in the forth coming April gubernatorial elections, dumping his present deputy, Mrs. Ada Okwuonu. In his address, at the formal presentation of his deputy, Ohakim described her as “a special brand for a special purpose.”
Nkechi Nwaogu (PDP, Abia Central) Heading the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions is Senator Nkechi Nwoagu, PDP, Abia Central. Senator Nwoagu is also a member of other Senate standing Committees including the Constitution Review Committee which recently succeeded in amending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Senator Nkechi has carried out her duties with great aplomb and successes that has left many followers of the Senate in awe.
Her Committee has perform the duties of over sighting agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC and a host of others creditably. Her most notable contribution in this dispensation is sponsoring a bill that gave birth to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, with the primary mandate to buy off toxic bank asset thereby creating stability in the Nigerian banking sector.
Outside the legislature, Senator Nwaogu is very much alive in her constituency. She has attracted many MDG projects to her constituency. Presently, she has built and constructed Six Classroom block and motorised water borehole in each of the six council areas in her constituency.
SENATOR CHRIS ANYANWU, APGA, Imo North
Even though the erudite Journalist, Senator Christy Anyanwu lost out in the Peoples Democratic Parties, PDP, National Assembly primaries in her zone, she is nonetheless one of the most brilliant and outstanding female Senators in this dispensation. Senator Anyanwu who chairs the Senate Committee on Science and Technology has been endorsed by the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, to run for the Senate in 2011.
She is an active member of many standing committees in the Senate such as Women and Youth, Millennium Development Goals, States and Local Government, Environment, Defence and Army and Health. Senator Anyanwu has sponsored and co-sponsored several Bills and seven motions in her first term at the Senate. The bills are Occupational Health and Safety and a bill to Criminalise and Punish Discrimination and Segregation against Nigerians.
SENATOR ZAINAB KURE, PDP, Niger North Senator Kure,
A former first lady in Niger state is a leading light among female Senators in the sixth Senate. She is the Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. She also belongs to other standing Committee that includes, Capital Markets, Agriculture, Information and Media, Women and Foreign Affairs.
Her legislative contributions is immense most especially as she pride herself is one of the few Senators whose focus is to ensure that Nigerian youths are empowered, politically, economically and socially.
Bills to her credits includes the National Grazing Reserves(establishment& development) Bill,2008, the National Poverty Eradication Commission (establishment, etc) Bill,2008(SB.186); the National Commission for the Eradication of Child Destitution in Nigeria; the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYEPADEC) Bill; the Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences in Nigeria Bill; the Chartered Institute of Capital Market Registrars Bill to Regulate and Control the Practice of Share Registration; Public Records & Information Bill; and the protection of personal privacy Bill.
SENATOR IYABO OBASANJO-BELLO, Ogun Central Senator
Obasanjo- Bello who is another female Senator that got her re_election bid back on track through the court is a chief campaigner for better health for Nigerians. She heads the Senate Committee on Health and a member of several other Senate standing Committees.
Senator Obasanjo Bello has sponsored and co-sponsored many bills notably bills seeking to improve the health sector. One of such bill is the National Health Bill, 2008 and the tobacco control bill which has been passed by the Senate.
PATRICIA N. AKWASHIKI, PDP, Nasarawa North
Although she came to the sixth Senate via the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), but now a member of the PDP, Senator Akwashiki popularly called the Gimbia of the Senate is not one to be out done when it comes to legislative businesses.
Senator Akwashiki who is one of the most punctual Senators in this dispensation is an active participant in Senate proceedings and Committee works. Her commitment to work is the reason why she is today a member of many standing committees of the Senate.
She is in the Committee on States and Local Government, Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Communications, Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions as well as Women and Youth. Besides co-sponsoring other bills and motion, Senator Akwashiki was the brain behind the bill that sought to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau.
GRACE BENT, PDP, Adamawa South.
Senator Grace Bent who has gotten her re-election bid on track through the court heads the Senate Committee on Environment. Senator Bent known for her flamboyancy both is speech and attire remain one of the most outstanding female Senators in the sixth Senate.
Her voice can always be heard in the Senate most especially when it come to the issues of environment and women liberation. As an apostle of climate change and clean environment, Senator Bent through her Committee has made several tangible contributions geared at making the Nigerian environment safer and cleaner. She has also sponsored and co-sponsored several bills and motion which aimed at liberating women and the vulnerable groups.
Bent is well known in her Adamawa South Senatorial District, through her constituency works and attraction of project for the development of her zone.
Mrs Oluremi Tinubu was born on September 21st 1960 as the twelfth child of Chief and Mrs. John Ikusebiala (Odugbesan) of Ogun State. She had her secondary education at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School Ijebu-Ode. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education (Biology) from University of Ife, now known as the Obafemi Awolowo University as well as a National Certificate of Education in Botany and Zoology from the Adeyemi College of Education. Her interests lie in the promotion of the rights and dignity of the poor, disadvantaged and most vulnerable members of the society. One of her major achievements as First Lady of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007 was the establishment of New Era Foundation, a non- governmental organisation which is geared towards voluntary social service through programmes that are geared towards youth and women development. As a senator representing Lagos Central District, she has promised she will focus on implementing policies that will promote the dignity of the poorest, most vulnerable and deprived persons in her constituency and the federation.