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Kwara women in politics and battle for 2027 guber poll

The increasing number of women in politics and gender equality in the Kwara State Executive Council seems to be changing the state’s political dynamics ahead of 2027 election. This development has sparked speculation that the conservative state may be gravitating towards the first female governor in Nigeria, ODUN EDWARD reports.
Women’s participation in politics is gaining momentum worldwide,and Kwara State is not an exception going by the pro-gender policies of the governor, AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq, since his assumption of office six years ago.

The governor believes that giving ample opportunities to women in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the year 2030.
As the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), AbdulRazaq is showing his colleagues the way forward by opening their eyes to the underlining prowess of females in boosting the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any society.
At present, Abdulrazaq’s cabinet is made up of 50 per cent women, making him the first governor to achieve the feat of gender equal participation in governance.
However, data still show that women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making in Nigeria and achieving gender parity in political life is far off.

According to Nigeria’s National Gender Policy, the average proportion of women in Nigeria elected and appointed to political positions is 6.7 per cent. This is much less than the global average of 22.5 per cent, the regional average for Africa of 23.4 per cent and the West Africa average of 15 per cent.
Recall that in 2021, Governor AbdulRazaq gave assent to the gender inclusion bill in Kwara State, making it possible for the state to have at least 35 per cent women appointees in his cabinet and other classes of political appointments. He noted that the brave step was aimed at solidifying his position even after the expiration of his tenure of office, in the year 2027.
The composition of his cabinet not only surpasses the resolution of the Beijing Conference, but also sees women holding critical ministries considered the exclusive preserve of men in the state.
However, some political actors in the state are already linking the gesture of the governor on gender equal participation in politics to the possibility of having a female governor in the 57 year old state in 2027. 
They are predicating their arguments on the increasing visibility of women in Kwara politics and the performance of some women in the cabinet holding critical ministries.  
They are: Afolashade Kemi (Ministry of Social Development), Damilola Yusuf (Ministry of Business Innovation and Technology), Dr Amina El-Imam (Ministry of Health), Hawau Nuru (Ministry of Finance) and Oloruntoyosi Adebayo Thomas (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development).

Others are: Olaitan Bureimoh (Ministry of Women Affairs), Mary Arinde, (Ministry of Tertiary Education) Bola Olukoju (Ministry of Communication) and Sa’adatu Modibo Kawu (Ministry of Education.
However, there are two issues that may work against the Amazons who are covertly eyeing the highest political office in the state. First is the issue of religion where some conservative Muslim faithful believe that it is sacrilegious for a female to lead in that high political capacity. The second factor is the alleged unwillingness of their male counterparts to give women veritable platforms and spaces to realise their ambition of governing the state.
The first attempt by a female in the modern political history of Kwara State to contest for governorship was 14 years ago, when Senator Rukayat Gbemisola Saraki slugged it out with Abdulfattah Ahmed in an election.

Ahmed enjoyed the support of the then incumbent governor, Dr Bukola Saraki, who did not support her biological sister to succeed him on moral grounds and fears of religious fanatics that kicked against women contesting for governorship in the state. It was an epic political battle that many will not forget in a hurry.

But would there be a replica of the resurgence of the Gbemisola Saraki versus Ahmed political contest in Kwara State in 2027? Will Gbemisola herself lead the struggle or will she simply throw her weight behind any formidable female politician to have a shot at the governorship?
Already, some political leaders in the state are gearing up for any eventuality ahead of 2027 as many of them shared the view that the governor could be having a political ace in one of the women showing some quality leadership traits under his tutelage.
Besides, they opined that it would be difficult for a female governor to ditch her political godfather unlike her male counterpart. They often site the instances of political face-off between Rivers State governor, Sim Fubara and his erstwhile political godfather and Minister of FCT, Abuja, Nyesom Wike, as well as the crisis between Kaduna State governor, Uba Sani and Nasir El-Rufai.
But the most crucial question is whether AbdulRazaq is indeed nursing the ambition of a female governor succeeding him or not?

The state chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Sunday Fagbemi, told The Guardian in Ilorin that the state could be getting closer to the emergence of a female governor”, adding that, “it could even come much earlier than envisaged”.
For Fagbemi, “nothing is impossible if God has a hand in it. Kwara State under our amiable governor is a liberal one. He had since paved the way for the emergence of female governors through gender affirmation some few years ago. Check the list of his political appointments, you will understand better. Besides, more men are at present routing for female leadership as well. But the women need to organise themselves and be prepared for the daunting task ahead. Women are capable. They have shown this in varying political capacities.
“But they need to tell us that they are ready to take over the baton. They must be prepared. Whenever they are ready, the populace will also be ready to support them. If late Dr Olusola Saraki could play it up in his political career, then any politician nursing the same ambition can follow suit. If anyone is talking about religion as an inhibiting factor, don’t we have female senators doing well in their own rights? Things are changing fast all over the world. We have female presidents around the world, especially, outside Africa,” he said.
Lending his voice to the political development, a former commissioner in the state and an ex-spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tunji Morounfoye, disclosed that more women politicians abound in the state to lead it to its Eldorado.

He mentioned some female politicians across political divides that have the capacity to govern the state and harness its potentials for economic advancement. According to him, an Ilorin born business administration scholar, Dr Bilikisu Oniyangi, has the pedigree to lead the state as governor. She was a former State Organising Secretary of the PDP before tendering her resignation.
He added, “Dr Aisha Ahman Pategi is another woman that can conveniently govern Kwara State. She was a former commissioner in the state. I will not forget the legal icon, Dr Biola Adimula, she is cool and intelligent. These people have what it takes to direct our dear state.
“Senator Gbemisola Saraki can’t be shoved aside. Don’t forget former Commissioner for Health, Mrs Ayinke Saka. The woman is very capable but for her age now. I have worked with all of these people and I can attest to their proficiency.”
Speaking on the religious impediment to the quest of women to govern the state, he said, “The bitter truth about having a female governor in Kwara State is that it will come upon us one day when the time comes. Please, I am not speaking for anybody. I am simply expressing my personal views. In American history, nobody could have thought of the emergence of a black president, but we had Barack Obama. He spent the maximum eight years as the president of the most powerful country in the world. In Kwara, we could have a female as the Deputy Governor. I don’t pray for it, but what if the governor is incapacitated? Constitutionally, the power will automatically shift to the deputy governor.”

A female politician, who pleaded for anonymity, told The Guardian that the greatest hurdle against the emergence of female politicians as governor are males either as co-politicians or husbands.
She said, “Although the governor stands out, he walks the talk at all times, other male politicians only use lip service to support us. They don’t want to let go of power from one gender to another. Again, our husbands can’t often tolerate us each time we need to keep late nights due to political meetings and the likes. All these attitudes must change if we must get to the very top politically,” she said.
A female teacher of Political Science at the University of Ilorin, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “Nobody will willingly concede power to women. They are the ones to fight for it by organising themselves very well. They need strategies and a good bargaining system, otherwise, they will continue to play second fiddle to their male counterparts.
“The game is on and the players are at the mercy of the referee. Let us hope that they play according to the rules while the referee to blow in accordance with the regulations. These may be the needed elixir for the emergence of a female governor in Kwara State either in the year 2027 or in the nearest future.”
But the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, said he was amused at the development, “according to the thinking of the press and some politicians, which may or not tally with the mindset of the governor.”

  • Guardian Nigeria

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