Nigerian politics is hell for the Nigerian woman.
Every Nigerian lady who has taken the plunge into the murky waters of partisan politics has very sordid tales to tell.
A good number of women have tried to walk tall alongside the men but the stories of how they end up getting frustrated have not been told.
Now it is incumbent on me to reveal the sad stories of these lady politicians of Nigeria.
The epic story of Hon. Habiba Sabo Gabarin, a two-time member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, deserves to be told and heard by all Nigerians and beyond.
As the only female member and an outspoken Muslim woman in a Sharia state, Hon. Gabarin faced much onslaught from the chauvinistic men.
For instance, her male colleagues would rather call her “Hajiya” instead of “Honorable”.
Of course she sternly warned them to “stop calling me Hajiya… I was elected just like every single man in this House of Assembly. Therefore I am Hon. Habiba Sabo Gabarin.”
She stresses that “men have to accept women first as partners in politics and then learn to respect them.”
The then Speaker of the Bauchi House of Assembly once said to her: “You are still a woman and women are under the armpit of men!”
She took the matter up with the redoubtable Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) WRAPA which compelled its lawyer to “demand an immediate unqualified apology from the Hon. Speaker to Hon. Habiba Sabo and all Nigerian women within the next seven clear days.”
A key player in Kaduna State politics, Hon. Florence Aya, narrated her experiences thus: “When politics came under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) the women themselves came to me and said I should vie for political position, that they were going to support me because I had done so well for them in their groups, co-operative groups. They wanted to support me because they knew I would do a lot for them. So, in fact, the first form that was sold for that SDP nomination, it was the women that put their money together and bought it for me, yes. So I went into the election and I won to the State Assembly.”
In the 1999 return to civil rule election she won election into the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primaries in 2003 she was schemed out through the use of the vexatious indigene-versus-settler issue.
Hear her: “A consciousness gained ground to the effect that since the Yoruba were being represented by Yoruba, the Tiv by Tiv, the people of Kagoro should also be represented by a Kagoroan who they can talk to in Kagoro language when they came to Abuja!”
In Plateau State, Dr. Ngo Yop Hannatu Chollom who was once schemed out of the PDP primaries to the Senate said: “I know my people prefer me to be there than any of the men but, you know, I do not have the kind of money the men have.”
Hajiya Azumi Bebeji was married at a tender age and locked up in purdah. She dutifully gave birth to her children and eventually, through sheer force of personality, freed herself from purdah.
She then educated herself and became a strong voice for women. She got elected into the House of Reps but has since been cast aside.
Hajiya Fati Abubakar was on her way to winning the Adamawa Senatorial seat when the powers-that-be brought in Professor Jibril Aminu and insisted that the seat be given to him.
Fati Abubakar was later compensated with a posting as the Nigerian Ambassador to Botswana.
Mrs. Margret Icheen entered the history books as the first female Speaker of a House of Assembly in Nigeria when she headed the Benue State Assembly from 1999.
She had to resign from the seat when she noticed the corruption that the state government was not willing to tackle.
Barrister Nkoyo Toyo shook up the politics of Cross River State when she challenged the voodoo primaries of the PDP and insisted that it must be redone.
The exercise had to be redone, but the godfathers still made sure that she did not get the nod.
The erudite Nkoyo explained it all this way: “One of the first lessons you learn in politics is that there are gatekeepers. And there are people who hold the centre stage in every political arena; and then many actors. Some actors are more important than the other actors. And think of coming into a space which other people have created, you have to then start thinking about how to enter that space. It’s difficult to enter without their leave, so I had to do this basic thing of trying to get them to allow me in.”
Lady Ime Udom, a consummate politician in Akwa Ibom State whom the traditional ruler described as “a full-fledged man” handily thrashed the then state attorney-general in the PDP primaries but the victory was shamelessly awarded to the loser!
The eminent songstress Onyeka Onwenu fought hard to become chairman of Ideato North Local Government in Imo State.
The Elegant Stallion had to survive the diabolical threat to her life when her car caught fire under her seat!
Let me stop here for now…