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So, there will be no female governor for Adamawa after all

Last week, a gavel crushed a dream in Adamawa when Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Yola nullified the All Progressives Congress…

Last week, a gavel crushed a dream in Adamawa when Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Yola nullified the All Progressives Congress primaries for the gubernatorial elections. 

With a swing of his gavel, Justice Anka Hulk-smashed the dream of Senator Aisha Dahiru Binani to be the first elected female governor in Nigeria. Before that, it seemed fated she would earn that title after a handful of women have tried and failed. She had won the May 26 primaries beating former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu (who scurried to the court to demand the voiding of that primary and the conduct of a new one) and a former governor, Jibrilla Bindow, wADAMAWAith a comfortable majority. 

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Justice Anka, however, decided that the evidence of over-voting in the primaries, was proven “beyond reasonable” doubt and therefore nullified the elections and denied the request for a fresh primary. That would mean the ruling party will have no horse in the race for governorship in Adamawa in the general elections next year. 

This is a Muhammad Ali-sized blow for the APC, but an even bigger blow for the women’s movement in Nigeria. Perhaps, more than any other woman that has run for governor before, Binani stood a very good chance of winning. With the backing of federal might, which as we saw was put to insidious use in a place like Kogi-State for instance, and the mass popularity she enjoys in the state, the odds seem to be in her favour. She just needed to overcome the obstacle that is Atiku Abubakar and the local PDP incumbency. 

No wonder then that the court’s decision has had some feminists and women generally ripping off their headscarves, figuratively speaking, and proclaiming that Binani’s only crime is not rigging the elections but being a woman. It is a knee-jerk reaction of course but not one unworthy of consideration.  

There is no denying that there will be those who will oppose Binani based on her gender, as much as there would be those who would want her to win for the same reason. It would be naïve not to anticipate that. But in a political contest, it is natural that one will face opposition on the basis of everything and anything from gender, tribe, religion and even the way one smiles or speaks or what one chooses to be silent about.  

What will be even more naïve would be to argue her case is based on gender. If she were to contest and win the election, she would not be the governor of women in Adamawa State, but the Executive Governor of Adamawa State. It is possible that the resistance to her candidacy is motivated by her gender but the court did not decide the case on her gender but the evidence presented to it. And that is what her campaign will have to disprove when they appeal the case, as they have promised to do already. 

She was accused of flooding the venue with ineligible delegates that swelled the votes in her favour. She did beat her opponents in the primaries with considerable majorities. 

Winning that election set her on a clear path to government house, perhaps even a clearer one than her namesake, the late Hajiya Aisha Jummai Alhassan alias Mama Taraba who came within an inch of winning the governorship elections in neighbouring Taraba State. She forced a re-run in the 2015 elections, which her rival Darius Isiaku was declared to have won. She went to court and was declared the winner. But Gov. Darius did not take that and fled to the Supreme Court where his election was upheld.  

If she had lived to this day, before her rather shocking demise in 2021, I believe she would have thrown her veil in the ring to be governor again.  

No one will deny that Mama Taraba had cojones. She was bold to contest that election in the first place and bold enough to quit Buhari’s government as the minister of women’s affairs out of loyalty to her principal, Atiku Abubakar. 

Because of historical inequities, one has to admire the boldness of the women who put themselves in this arena. And I suppose most people have been surprised that the women who have gone all out for these elective positions are from the north, which has been branded as a patriarchal haven. Besides these two, one could add Dame Paulen Tallen to the list. 

In 2011, Tallen challenged the incumbent Jonah Jang for governor in Plateau State, pushed the race to the wire and came close to being the first female governor in Nigeria, after being the first female deputy governor in the north. 

While Tallen, Aisha Alhassan and Aisha Binani have had their eyes set on rather modest aspirations, one woman has always had hers on the biggest office.  

Sarah Jubril first ran for president in 1992. She tried again in 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2011. In each contest, she lost in the primaries, except in 2003, when she defected from the PDP to participate in the general elections as the candidate of the Progressive Action Congress. Many though will remember Jubril as the candidate who infamously scored one vote, presumably hers, at the 2011 PDP primaries. She was however compensated with the position of Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values. 

It is tough to be a woman running for political office. This is true not just of Nigeria but globally. The US has had democracy for over 200 years and only once did a woman come close to being president. Somehow, the Americans preferred to have a Trump than a Hilary even if she won the popular vote. It was cruel. 

There have been female presidents elsewhere. The likes of Argentina’s Isabel Peron married her way to power, became the first lady and vice president of the country to her husband, Juan Peron and succeeded him as president in 1974. She was one of the first republican presidents in the world. 

A mere four years later, Margaret Thatcher rose to power in the UK and held office as Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990. Thatcher was nicknamed Iron Lady, because it takes mettle to hold an office like that, and because she was, well, a tough nail. 

But before all these women, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon, today’s Sri Lanka, had the distinction of being the first woman to be elected president of a country. She paved the way for the likes of Indira Gandhi of India and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. 

Senator Binani, female or otherwise, will not be the first candidate to be evicted from elections, kicking and screaming. Her case cannot be as bad as that of Mukhtar Idris of Zamfara who was declared winner of the 2019 elections by INEC only for his party to be disqualified for not conducting a valid primary. The seat eventually went to the candidate who came second in the general elections.  

At least, there is time enough for Senator Binani to try to overturn this ruling at the Supreme Court ahead of the general elections.  

It would be a nice box to tick off because no society will progress if half its population is not contributing to its growth. But gender, religion or party aside, people just want good governance. Whoever is coming to power should do so and be seen to do so through due process regardless of what demographic they come from. It will be sad if Senator Binani comes to office as governor off the back of a rigged primary. It will also be tragic, to a monumental proportion, if she is deprived through a miscarriage of justice, or on the grounds of her gender, expressly or otherwise. I am glad she is taking this to the appeal court where I hope closer scrutiny of the evidence will decide if the people will have their governor, or a cheating politician will be shown up for electoral fraud. 


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