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As Benue women demand gender power shift

As the build up to the 2015 general election gathers momentum, the issue of power shift based on geo-political zone and gender have become strong…

As the build up to the 2015 general election gathers momentum, the issue of power shift based on geo-political zone and gender have become strong issues in Benue State.
While women from the North-east senatorial district of the state are demanding for power shift based on gender to enable a woman become governor, their counterparts in the South senatorial district are calling for the next governor of the state to come from the zone.
The latter group of women, under the umbrella of Mothers of Zone C, in their quest to ensure the enthronement of an Idoma as the next governor of the state, took their agitation to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
On the other hand, the Tiv women, under the auspices of Wives of Seven Local Governments Chairmen in Zone A senatorial district of the state, have argued on the need for political gladiators to begin to believe in the ability of a female governor to make the desired change in Benue.
The women said they have rejected the “weak and inferior” labels placed on them by society and as such would not step down in the forthcoming election  as they are prepared to rise up to the challenge of confronting the men.
However, the women of the North-west senatorial district of the state are yet to come out with a stand apparently because it is generally believed among the Tiv people that the area should be supported to produce the next governor.
Richard Nyitse, of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) while commenting on the issue, expressed confidence that the women can achieve their aim if they are truly united but said it would however be really difficult.
But in the thinking of a university lecturer and executive director of Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative, Elizabeth Jeiyol, it is very possible to achieve the women’s dream in the coming  election.
Jeiyol believes that, “there is hope in the candidature of women in 2015. With all the advocacy and sensitisation that we have been doing, it is possible for women at this time to break the jinx.
Mrs. Susan Adoba, who spoke on behalf of the Idoma women at a recent visit to the state chairman of the PDP, said it would only be logical for power to rotate to Zone C in the forthcoming election because the zone is yet to produce a governor in the state.
Wives of the seven council chairmen in Zone A recently took their resolve a notch higher, saying they are set to mobilise support for Mrs. Roseline Ada Chenge, so far the only female guber aspirant in the state.
The chairperson of Kwande local government council, Mrs. Priscilla Bem,  who led the delegation on a visit to the guber hopeful in Makurdi, opined that a woman should be given the privilege to administer the state in the forthcoming election as governance had long been a men’s affair since the creation of the state.
“We are here to ask her to contest next year’s election so that women’s position would not continue to be vacant. It’s been a men’s affair all the while but now we want a woman to govern the state and Ada Chenge is the right person to do so,” she said.
 Mrs. Bem  said women in Zone A have mapped out strategies at the grassroots in a bid to prevail on  PDP delegates to the November primary election to vote Chenge as the party’s flag bearer and subsequently aid her victory to the government house in Makurdi.
Chenge in her response thanked the women for believing in her dream and promised that with their support, she will not relent in her effort to clinch the party’s ticket for the coming polls.
“The women have spoken their mind. They believe in me. I’m overwhelmed by the show of solidarity. It’s challenging to compete with men but I have all my life been in a male dominated world. In 2006, we were 22 aspirants and I was the only female.
“I’m deeply touched to stay in the race. For now, we are still consulting. I’m looking for unity for industrialised Benue with local government as a focal point. There will be atmosphere of peace if I become a governor,” she remarked.
Consequently, political watchers have opined that it would be a big mistake to consider the women’s move as a child’s play.
“If you put these two women groups together, you surely deduce that they are getting somewhere and I don’t think any right thinking politician should dismiss their move with a wave of hand. The whole idea is for them to achieve either a female or an Idoma governor.
“Take for instance; Mrs. Chenge is an Idoma by birth and married to a Tiv. If the Zone C fails to clinch the governorship seat, it is possible for Chenge to emerge the first female governor of the state if you take her growing popularity into consideration,” James Vandekiya opined.
A former lawmaker in the state, Austin Awodi, however  disputed the fact that the women would get anywhere with their agitation using the concept of an Idoma governor rather than dialogue with the Tiv people.
“They have already failed. The concept of an Idoma governor does not arise. We must sit with our Tiv brothers to get it,” he insisted.
In a similar vein, an Idoma senatorial aspirant, Chief Mike Onoja has posited that if a highly detribalized Idoma person whom the Tiv people can trust shows up for the governorship position in 2015, he may win the race regardless of gender.
“It would be difficult but not impossible to have an Idoma governor in the forthcoming political dispensation. An Idoma man can emerge if he is highly detribalized such that the Tiv people can trust him,” Onoja said.
 Meanwhile, as Nyitse has put it sarcastically, there are many rivers to cross for the women to realise their ‘big’ dream because, “a traditional ruler would not bow down to a female governor and what becomes the fate of the office of the First Lady?”
Nevertheless, the days ahead would unfold the joker up the women’s sleeve. Will they eventually cave into the intrigues of politics when the lions of the game begin to roar or would they develop the political stamina to withstand the heat? Can they indeed break the jinx?

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