Last week, this page celebrated the surge of our womenfolk in the electoral fortunes of Adamawa State. As the political party primaries closed a few days ago, it had become clear that Adamawa State would, come what may, have either a lady governor or a deputy governor next year. Suffice it to say that no other state would entrain to that pedestal. I also mentioned some of the other firsts the womenfolk in Adamawa State had attained in these political dispensations. They had lady senators and members of the House of Representatives. But I failed to acknowledge their first lady senator, Grace Folashade Bent.
My ABU colleague in the early 1970s, Dale Emmanuel Bagaiya, was the first to draw my attention. He wrote: ‘I read your column today titled Adamawa Blazing the Trail and wish to call your attention to apparently one missing detail. Wasn’t Senator Bent elected in 2007, as the first female senator from Adamawa State?’ Another reader, Matawalle Haruna Adamu, Kwankwashe village, Suleija, also queried: You forgot to mention Senator Bent is also from the same state. Aminu Sani and others asked in a similar vein besides a rash of calls on the same matter.
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Admittedly, it is an unpardonable slip because Senator Bent was the first lady to break through the electoral glass ceiling at that level in Adamawa State. Her feat was unique at that time. Firstly, she was the first lady to run and win to represent Adamawa State as a senator in the 6th National Assembly of 2007-2011. Secondly, Grace Folashade Bent became an indigene of the state through the grace of marriage to Jackson Bent, an indigene of Adamawa State. She was born in Ilesha, Osun State, and after the marriage found herself so socialised into the fabric of her adopted community that when she declared her candidacy to represent the Adamawa-South senatorial district, her folks rallied around her to make her aspiration a success.
The 6th National Assembly will go down as one of the most outstanding outings for the womenfolk in the north. Besides the successful foray of Grace Bent, two other ladies broke through the glass ceiling in their states to represent them in the Senate of the 6th Assembly. From Nasarawa State came Patricia Naomi Akwashiki, a banker, who went forth to represent the Nasarawa-north district, and Zainab Abdullahi Kure, a civil servant was elected to represent the Niger-south district. Already, Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki had been in the Senate, representing Kwara-central district since the 5th national assembly. A total of four lady senators from the north was a gallant gesture from a part of the country that had been the butt of criticism as deeply conservative.
However, we must admit that it has been an uphill trek for lady politicians from the north to arrive at this level. There were many heroic failed attempts in the not-too-distant past. I recall the valiant attempt by Kolo Kingibe in 1992 to represent my Borno-central senatorial district in the 3rd Republic elections. Even though Kolo was the wife of Babagana Kingibe, who was then the national chairman of the leading political party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and its vice-presidential candidate, her doughty effort did not meet with success. She was defeated by, at that time, a little-known Ali Modu Sherriff, who went on to build a solid political career on that pedestal. He returned to represent the same district in the 4th Republic and went on to become the state governor for two terms and remains a factor in the national political arena today.
Many ladies would relate their horror stories in their quest to come to relevance in the political arena, particularly in the north where cultural barriers militate against such ambition. At the beginning of the 4th Republic, there was only one lady senator from the north, Khairat Abdulrazaq Gwadabe, who represented FCT in the Senate from 1999 to 2003. Currently, A’ishatu Dahiru-Ahmed representing Adamawa-Central is the lone Senator from the entire 19 states in the north. These are dismal statistics, to say the least. From my perspective, the political parties must be seen to be up and doing some gender leveling up. We must flesh up statistics with real numbers, say, allocating one senatorial seat per state to ladies and carry it down the line to the councilor level. Dismissing over half of our population to political redundancy is not the right way to tackle our developmental problems. All hands are needed on deck.
Re-opening of Abuja Millennium Park
Daily Trust on Saturday was the first to raise a concern in late June over the continued closure of the park for the past two years. I also chipped my bit, a few days later, on this page, stressing the fact that the continued closure denied many citizens in the Maitama and Wuse 2 Districts a distinct place for walking exercises in the early mornings and late evenings.
It is heartening that the FCT minister listened and opened the park a few days ago. To underline the importance of the occasion to the city he was in the park in person and even used the opportunity to thank the construction company Salini, who built the park in 2004, for meticulously maintaining it during the length of the closure.
It was a grand gesture by the FCT minister. He deserves all thanks.