By Richard Elesho
The hype that attended the general election may have simmered in most parts of the country. Not in Adamawa and Kebbi States, where the March 18, Governorship polls have been declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. No winner emerged in the first round of ballots in both states, due to the margins of victory being too tiny and inferior compared to the number of pending votes.
In Adamawa, the ghost of the poll, therefore, hangs like a genie. Although, 15 political parties contested in the March 18 election, it was a two-horse race between the All Progressives Congress, APC and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Indeed, the APC candidate, Senator Aishatu Ahmed aka Benami is giving second term-seeking, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP, a hot chase for his incumbency.
Of the state’s 859,964 accredited voters, 390,275 voted for Binani, while Fintiri scored 421524, a difference of about 30,000 ballots. In addition, the runner-up has 8 out of 21 Local Governments in the kitty, while the Governor has 13. As the race was too close to call, the electoral umpire is to announce a new date for the runoff between the leading candidates.
No breathing space for women
In an industry dominated by male actors and regions with swaying religious sentiments, Benani’s outing has attracted wild excitement from her admirers. The Engineer turned politician inched close to becoming Nigeria’s first elected female Chief Executive of a state. Her’s is a striking replay of the feats of another woman Aisha Alhassan, the late amazon of Taraba politics.
Since the country’s return to democracy more than two decades ago, specifically in May 1999, no woman has been elected Governor. Let alone President or Vice President. Not more than seventeen have been elected as Deputy Governors at different times and places. Just two of them are from the north. Of the lot, only Virginia Atiaba who deputised for then Anambra Governor, Peter Obi, briefly stepped into her boss’s shoes when the latter was impeached in 2006/07.
The female gender has faired slightly better in the legislature. The high point of their record was the three-month stint of Patricia Olubunmi Eteh as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007.
Under the current Republic, not less than 50 women have been elected into the National Assembly. Three of the 101 concluded Senate seats in the 2023 polls, were won by women. Even though eight are pending, this is a sharp decline from the current eight Senators of the 9th Senate.
Similarly, 13 women are among the 327 people thus far elected into the House of Representatives. Certainly an improvement on the 11 elected in 2019. Some 33 seats are inconclusive. Many women have also booked spaces in the various Houses of Assembly across the 36 states.
Tales from Gongola: As it was in Taraba, so it is in Adamawa:
This data notwithstanding, not a few people rate Benami as the heroine of the 2023 elections. Her sterling performance is a study in political typology. Her antitype, Aisha Jumai Alhassan, popularly known as Mama Taraba also got very close to clinching the number one seat in her state. That was in 2015.
Born in September 1959, Jumai trained as a lawyer and recorded many firsts in her profession. For instance, she was the first female Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in her State. She was also the first woman to be appointed Secretary Federal Capital Territory, FCT Judicial Council and later Chief Registrar of the High Court of the FCT.
On retirement, she went into business and politics. In 2011, she defeated incumbent Senator Manzo Anthony for the Taraba North PDP ticket. She went on to defeat former Governor Jolly Nyame of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the general election. She was one of four PDP women Senators of that Assembly and was mentioned in the permutations for the Senate Presidency. Her best was yet to come.
Following a successful Senatorial experience, laced with remarkable charitable interventions, Jumai threw her wig into the ring for the gubernatorial contest in 2015. She ran on the platform of the newly formed APC. She narrowly lost the election in a run-off, to Darius Ishaku of the PDP.
However, in November 2015, she got very close to her dream when an election tribunal nullified Ishaku’s victory, declaring her the duly elected Governor. That judgement was later reversed by the Court of Appeal. She promptly served as Minister of Women Affairs in President Muhammodu Buhari’s cabinet.
Jumai resigned from her federal appointment due to political differences and decamped to United Democratic Party, UDP after she was screened out by the ruling APC from contesting the Governorship Seat. She was unanimously declared UDP candidate for March 2019 Taraba gubernatorial election, when the previous candidate stepped down for her. She later announced her defection back to PDP after the governorship election, which was won again by Ishaku. She passed on in 2021.
An inquisitive mind will at once discover the trajectories of the two women drip with similarities. One story reads like a replica of the other, to the extent that many people mistake the two personalities for one. A quick Eagle-eyed perusal:
The north is well known for its chauvinistic tendencies against the girl child. Yet, both women braced the odds as professionals. One trained as a lawyer. The other is an Electrical Engineer. Both also imbibed business and embraced politics as a calling.
Perhaps, the thickest factor that characterised their politics, is each person’s devotion to philanthropy. Jumai metamorphosed into Mama Taraba for her charitable deeds. Ditto, Binani became Mama Adamawa for her politics of human kindness.
Born in August 1971, Binami was a two-term member of the House of Representatives. She is a Senator, just as her forerunner was. The two stars launched out for the Governorship from their Senate seats.
Despite the nearly one-decade difference in the time of their political activities, they both contended with and subdued powerful forces. For instance, Jumai contended with two former Governors, Nyame and Ishaku. Binami also contended with former Governor Jibrila Bindow and one-time presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu for the APC Governorship ticket. She is currently lucked in the horns against Fintiri.
Furthermore, each started her political career as a member of the PDP, before defecting to the APC to ventilate her Governorship ambition. That is not all.
The first thing that strikes an enquirer is the semblance in their first names. Whereas, Jumai answered Aisha, Benami’s first name Aishatu, is thought of as its eponymic derivative. More so, both belong to the Islamic religion.
It is instructive that they both trace their roots to the same state. Taraba and Adamawa came into being in 1991, when the old Gongola State was bifurcated down the middle, by former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
It is a pleasant coincidence that more than three decades after it was decreed into oblivion, Gongola points the way to women’s inclusion in Nigerian politics. Despite the famed generosity to women in the south, their northern counterparts are conquering new grounds, over time. The north may well hold the hope for Nigeria’s first female Governor, if not President.
Remember the exploits of Sarah Jubril, the educationist from Kwara State, who has contested presidential elections a record four times?
Did I hear echoes of the Beijing conference’s affirmative action?