Woman to Women

February 9, 2023

Are women better leaders?

Are women better leaders?

What’s happening in Rwanda, Kenya?

By Ebele Orakpo

Women more productive, less corrupt…Mr. Peter Obi, LP presidential candidate 

Women have empathy, very brilliant and can multitask. …….Barrister Efe Anaughe

There have been calls from various quarters for women to be given more space in leadership and decision-making positions if Nigeria must move forward. According to the proponents, women are better managers of resources and homes hence, they are called Odozi aku (wealth managers). They are mothers, wives, housekeepers and home makers so if given the opportunity, they can build up Nigeria and make it an envy of other nations, as well as manage judiciously, her abundant human and material resources .There had also been talks of 35% affirmation for women which the different political parties have not been able to meet.

Unfortunately, only a few women are found in the political space . Many would not so much as touch politics with the proverbial pole because they see it as a dirty and dangerous game. Some of those who ventured into the murky waters of Nigerian politics got badly burnt; some are licking their wounds and others not so lucky to be alive to tell their story. Various reasons have been adduced as to why women are not particularly drawn to politics even though they are touted to be better leaders than men. It is said that if you must dine with the devil, use a long spoon but some women believe it is better not to dine with the devil at all because it doesn’t matter how long the spoon is, you can still get hurt.

Some of these reasons are intimidation by the men , paucity of funds to prosecute the campaigns as politics is capital-intensive, ideology/stereotyping (women are to be seen and not heard as President Buhari said, their place is in the kitchen and the ‘other room’), religious beliefs, corruption etc.

Apart from the above, the average Nigerian man believes that women are inferior,  weak , fragile, too emotional and so cannot make good leaders. 

African society, being patriarchal in nature, some men see it as abomination to be ‘ruled’ by women. But history has shown that in critical situations, women had been called upon as mothers, to rescue nations. In the Holy Bible, a woman, Deborah, had to lead Israel at a very dangerous time in the life of the nation. Judges 5: 6-7, says: ”In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, and in the days of Jael, people avoided the main roads, and travelers stayed on winding pathways

7 There were few people left in the villages of Israel until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel.”

This is the situation in Nigeria today and the men seem to have failed so some people are of the opinion that we should try the women.

In this report, Vanguard spoke with some experts on why they think women should be given a chance, experience in the political field and what must be done to encourage more women to get into the field.

Excerpts:

Sharing her experience in the political space, the Senatorial candidate for Anambra North under the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Anazonwu-Akerele said it was a baptism of fire for her.

Baptism of fire

”This is my second attempt; the first time was under PDP for Federal House of Representatives. I had my baptism of fire there. I learnt that there is more to this; god-fatherism was very prominent then and I was a bit naïve. I was out-maneuvered by political maneuverings. Although I fell, I got up again. I went to court and that really broke my financial purse because I was doing it on my own with a few kind sponsors. We need change! I was quite disappointed in what I saw in my the PDP. My few friends in the ruling party, APC, pulled me in, encouraged me and gave me jobs that brought me  up. I am a quiet player because I don’t need to be loud. Your antecedents should speak for you. I moved to APC in 2017 with no intention of running for office, but when this time came, I was approached by very powerful people in APC, pleading with me to run. I said no, because I had no money ;I had told myself that I will not spend money ever again on politics but they promised to back me up. They supported me and all was going well and then I was slammed with a court case by someone who claimed I didn’t win the election, meanwhile I won, INEC reported I was the winner, my name was on the list. I was invited as all the other candidates and fully recognised. This is very prominent in Anambra. Anambra can blatantly tell you  that you are not having an election even while the election is ongoing because they have gone ahead and done some underhanded things to discredit you. That was what happened and they won at the Federal High Court. My opponent is now going around saying he is the candidate but my name is still on the manifesto. I have gone to Court of Appeal.

I believe that a decision would be made soon and either way, I have fought a good fight and I’ll continue fighting.

Not giving up

Said Anazonwu-Akerele: “ I just need to make my mark in the community by bringing advancement to the community. I have risen to quite a high level in the Maritime Sector. I am an expert in Maritime advocacy, why can’t I go to Anambra North where we have a port and do something with that port that will benefit Anambrarians especially Anambra North? Why can’t I bring the knowledge I gained at this level to my grassroots? Why can’t I empower women in the fishing industry? I help them a lot but I am incapacitated because I don’t have the empowerment. Women need freezer buses, ovens and a cooperative to be able to export their fish. There are so many areas, but this is my own area. Traders don’t need to bring containers by road, they can come by barges. This is something I can facilitate if I am in the position of power. We have a port and we can arrange for barges to bring their goods from Warri or Lagos. Instead of one container per trailer, you can have 14-15 containers per barge. These are the things I can do and I have been itching to go.”

Why few women are into politics

The respondents blamed the low number of women in politics, especially in Nigeria, on the patriarchal nature of the society as well as capital-intensive nature of politics although countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia are changing the narrative. Imagine buying nomination forms for president as high as N100m; Governorship N50m; Senate N20m, House of Reps N10m; State Assembly N2m!

With a minimum wage of N30,000, which, by the way, many states have not complied with, the cost of nomination forms alone can pay thousands of Nigerian workers. APC’s N100m presidential form can pay the salaries of over 3,300 workers.

Dr. Lionel Vonfrederick Rawlins, former US Marine, President/Chairman, Governing Council, Institute of Criminal Justice and Criminology Administration and Assistant Vice-President, Safety and Security Operations, American University of Nigeria, said it depends on where in the world the woman lives.

“In developed nations, women have already sunk their teeth into the political arena. However, in developing nations, the ‘old political guard’ comprised of men, are not that willing to absorb women into their political ranks as equals and colleagues. Rwanda is a rare exception.

 “Stereotypes of the past that just will not go away. Because men have been leaders all of our lives, the traits associated with leadership are often thought of as masculine and if this is so, women have no role in leadership positions since it is not part of their biological make-up. Many also tend to think of men as assertive and in charge, while women are seen as emotional, sweet, and darling.”

For Barrister Efe Anaughe, President/Executive Director of Warien Rose Foundation: “Nigeria is a patriarchal society so most men feel very entitled. The first thing they tell you is ‘I am a man.’ How does ‘I am a man’ translate to intelligence, experience and knowledge? We must look beyond putting women in boxes, believing that because she is a woman, she cannot perform and her place is in the kitchen and ‘the other room.’ Because she is a woman, she has nothing to say.”

Speaking further, Akerele said: “Remember the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill pushed by Senator Biodun Olujimi was turned down blatantly. This is a very patriarchal society.”

All-inclusive law in Rwanda

East Africa seems to be changing the narrative. First was Rwanda and now Kenya which elected seven female governors, three female senators and 26 female MPs.

In Kenya’s South-West city of Nakuru, in the latest elections, female candidates took up eight important positions – governorship, Senate and House of Reps. Speaking after she was announced as the Senator-elect, Senator Tabitha Karanja, CEO of Keroche Breweries Ltd, Kenya’s second largest brewery said: “Now sit and watch and see what women can do in office.” 

 Hopefully, Nigeria, the largest black nation on earth, will take her rightful place in the comity of nations by electing credible candidates in the  2023 general election.

Rwanda, the East African country ravaged by a civil war (1990-1994) and genocidal war (April 7 to July 15, 1994), has today become the jewel of East Africa, nay, Africa!

 Interestingly, Rwanda, which experienced the worst genocide in recent history and was brought to its knees, is one of the countries being looked up to now in terms of rapid development. Many have attributed this rapid development to the high number of women in leadership positions in the country. The Rwandan parliament is made up of about 62% women, with global average being 26.4%.

Dr.  Rawlins believes that Rwanda was able to achieve that because “they passed legislation to ensure an appropriate amount of female representation in their parliament; that is why we have the success today. If they did not pass it in parliament, women still would have been underrepresented. No other developing nation has such a record for women. That is why I said Rwanda is a special case.”

Perhaps, it was a case of drastic times calling for drastic measures so although Rwanda may be a patriarchal society but they needed healing as quickly as possible and who is in the best position to do that than  mothers?

Corroborating what Rawlins said, Anazonwu-Akerele said: “In Rwanda, there is an actual law that makes sure that women are included. It is an inclusive law. It makes sure that there is enough space left exclusively for women; that is why it is working. Luckily, people follow the law. As unlawful as you think Nigeria is, once it is embedded in the constitution or it is passed as a law, people will follow it. In Rwanda, I’m sure the men resent it but once it was the law, they had to obey. Also, the war weakened the position of men.”

 ”Many people admire Rwanda today but very few people are aware that the very sensitive positions in Rwanda are held by women. Women pay attention to details. Men want to get the job done, they are so much in a hurry, they don’t even go over the nitty gritty but a woman would notice all of the little things.” said Anaughe.

Nigerian women, dynamic

Said Anazonwu-Akerele: “Nigerian women are extremely dynamic right down to the grassroots. In my campaign tours, it is the women that show interest. A lot of them actually want to identify with you and not for their stomach. There is apathy in men but they also feel threatened by women. Anambra State for example, is a very tough terrain because Anambra women are very, very dynamic, very tough. I don’t know why we are like that but we are. It is not that we are rebellious, no! We want to work with our men  side by side. As a married woman, I will not push myself in front of my husband but I will not allow him to deny me my rights and privileges; we are brought up like that. That is why Anambra North especially, has had more women candidates for senatorial seats than anywhere else and that, I think, is because the Anambra North women especially, have that spunk in them.”

Women, better leaders?

Asked if they think women make better leaders, the respondents differ in their responses.

 Mr. Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate and former governor of Anambra State, while fielding questions from a participant at a Town Hall meeting organised by Channels TV recently, promised to engage more women in government if elected as president  because according to him, women are more productive and less corrupt than  men.

Citing the example of Anambra State, he said most of the appointive positions in his government as governor were occupied by women and that contributed to the success of his tenure.

“I… women are more productive in Nigeria than men any day any time. I worked with them when I was in the banking industry, they saved the bank. When they believe in anything, they go for it.

“I wish our men will do the same thing. And they (women) are less corrupt; they are easily satisfied with little. Men will just go on and on forgetting that it is public money they are taking. I am very sorry about that, men. I am one of you but I have to say the truth of what I observed,” Obi said.

 Said Anazonwu-Akerele:”No, I don’t believe women make better leaders. I think leadership is in the individual. It’s only that women have the multi-task talent inbuilt to be able to resolve issues better than men sometimes but there are some issues women can’t resolve better than men so I am not in that school of ‘women make better leaders.’ I have always believed that a woman should be the neck, a man should be the head. I don’t want to be superior to a man, nor should a man be superior to me but he is the one I will follow.” 

She said although  Queen Elizabeth was the Queen of England but everything about her life and decisions was by the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband and “only when push came to shove that she exercised her authority as the queen but she never ever disputed the decisions of her husband. We should stop this ‘I am going to be the leader,’ you make the men resent and intimidate you. 

“We will be happy to have a woman president,  but it will not be easy for a woman to be president in a patriarchal society, it will be a long time before this place changes so let’s be realistic. I would not say a woman makes a better leader, a woman has skills; she can multitask, but in a collective way, we have the skills to make good leaders but men also have skills to make good leaders so not better but good.”

On his part, Rawlins said that women’s desire to get into the political arena and decision-making positions has always been obstructed by the so-called ‘glass ceiling.’

“A woman’s ability to access decision-making positions has always been obstructed by the “glass ceiling” but if the glass ceiling were to be removed, more women would be able to access these positions, and would be able to do as great a job in making critical decisions as any man could. I support more women being included in decision-making roles in the country.

I teach a course at AUN on Security and Development and I continually stress that gender equality is an important development goal for the country because women’s economic participation provides growth and stability for Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Data shows an almost even split between men and women in Nigeria; they have as much knowledge, skills and abilities as men, which translates to a robust national and global economy. Not having women in decision-making positions is tantamount to not exploiting the natural leadership skills of women, and ignoring their emotional intelligence.”

Women, support women

On how to get more women into elective and appointive offices despite the intimidation and violence, Anaughe urged women to support fellow women. ”Let’s just give women a chance, let’s see the difference.” She called on women to support women with money. “If you don’t know how to go about it, come to Warien Rose Foundation, we know those we can push. We do background checks on them to be sure they are doing the right thing.”

Block vote: “Lobbying and advocacy work wonders unless you want to go out and carry placards and fight like the suffragettes did before women could vote. Now we can vote so women can use block vote to send a message. Out of 1,000 votes, 700 are from women. If all those 700 say ‘let us see your manifesto, what you are going to do for women before we give you our vote,’ it will work wonders but some women will go behind and betray you. I tell such women they are cutting their nose to spite their face. Come together, then you can have the power of negotiation. When it comes to election, they are ready to do what you want. Unfortunately, within the women themselves, they will start looking for favour from the men and their personal gain overrides the general interest,” Anazonwu-Akerele lamented.

In a chat with Vanguard’s Woman’s Own, former President, International Women Society, IWS, Mrs. Nkoli Obi-Ogbolu, said that “Nigerian women should use their numbers as bargaining chips for progressive inclusion in the political landscape. It should be an all or nothing negotiation. No sexual harassment and intimidation should be tolerated. It’s time for full manifestations of gender equity and parity. No messing around with women’s emotions anymore.” She said that women should ask for 40% participation in key roles. “No sexist roles like Woman Leader, Minister of Women Affairs among others. Heads of key ministries and parastatals, key diplomatic roles as Ambassadors and High Commissioners to influential countries,” she said.

Woman Leader position, an insult

“I find it very insulting. Women should reject that post. Do we have Man leader? Not too long ago, when one of the political parties was trying to get a woman leader, a man came out. That’s to tell you that even in that area, they believe the women can’t rule themselves. 

“Nigerians are tired of handouts; they give people N500 to mortgage their lives for four years. Prices are astronomically high, nothing is working, no good roads, no light, people are paying for services not rendered. We are like children without parents, looking for who will help us. These leaders will stand before God and give account of their stewardship. This is a clarion call to all politicians; remember you won’t live forever. What will be your legacy? ” Anaughe asked.

Women can bring much needed change

The respondents believe that women can change things. ”Women bring another dimension of talent to the boardroom, to leadership, to the workforce, and to the economy,” Rawlins said, adding: “When women are involved in decision-making, it produces creativity, de-escalates conflict, shows diversity, shows an acceptance of gender equity, gives the perception of a forward-thinking workforce, and reduces inter-personal conflicts. Women in politics bring more consideration to creating better outcomes for women and girls, and also to issues that directly improve the lives of men and boys.”

 Anaughe agrees with Rawlins saying that he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. “Women have been frightened, intimidated, harassed, abused, undermined, threatened and all these have made them feel inadequate. Many people are not aware that Nigerian Labour Act has not been overhauled since 2004. They say the NASS is on it; they have been looking into it since 2005. Section 54 – 58 talks about a woman being entitled to go for maternity leave and if she has worked up to six months in that company, she can take up to half her salary as long as she has the required document from the doctor. If an employer defaults by not allowing her to go on leave, the penalty is N200 or three months imprisonment if the matter goes to court.

“According to Nigerian law, certain categories of women are exempted from night work but most women are not allowed to work at night. A lot of women today are working at night, evenings and overnight. What is the fine for the employer? N100! Nobody is saying anything about it because the legislators are more interested in their wardrobe allowance. That is why some foreign companies come in and take advantage of our women because they feel that nobody can do anything. If you even take the matter to court, they don’t need to go to the court, they will give the fine to their driver to go and deliver. That is the law. Like I always say, lawyers don’t make laws, legislators do so we need more women in the NASS.”

Way forward

Advocacy/Lobbying: A popular Igbo adage says that Ile oma ka ejuna ji aga n’ogwu (A snail uses its good ‘slimy’ tongue to walk on thorns. Meaning that a person’s goodwill helps him navigate tough times. Also, the tongue is able to dwell peacefully among the 32 teeth through diplomacy. So Mrs. Anazonwu-Akerele believes that women can achieve all they want through knowledge, advocacy and diplomacy and not confrontation. “We need to improve on advocacy. He who has knowledge has power. Second, we need to cajole the NASS to bring women up a bit and pass a law to that effect. We don’t have to come aggressively, it’s also the way women approach the issue so there’s got to be a balance. Men are very territorial, they protect what is their own so we need to break the barrier with a lot of wisdom and caution, not confrontation,” she cautioned.

Education/Law: However, Rawlins believes that the key is education/law. “To get more women interested in politics in developing nations, we must first educate our girls and then implement laws that will make it easy for women to participate in the electoral process, as is done in Rwanda. Other ways include creating voluntary organizations, lobbying, fund-raising, and getting involved in activities that allow women to play a critical role in the political theater.”