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Opinions of Saturday, 5 December 2020

Columnist: Nnedinso Ogaziechi

Do women lose their womanliness in the political space?

The world, including Nigerians, have been praising the election of Vice-President-elect of America, Kamala Harris as a great milestone for women in politics. Significant as that is, Africa and other countries have produced female Presidents, Prime Ministers and other types of heads of governments before the United States and the United Kingdom. So, economic and technological powers of the world are trailing in terms of women in politics and that is not even going back to the African Amazons era and the Queens that colonial masters met and discouraged their acceptance and powerful positions for their own politico-economic expediences.

Burundi blazed the trail with the first woman Prime Minister, Sylvie Kiningi. Liberia followed with President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson. Joyce Banda from Malawi became the President of Malawi from 2012-2014. The first female Prime Minister in the World was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka in 1960. She was democratically elected before the famed British Female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Whether the narrative is skewed in a certain form or the other, women around the world have held and are still holding different but equally significant political positions. Angela Merkel is holding forte in one of the strongest European economies. Women are leaders in New Zealand, Finland, Iceland, South Korea etc.

While the debate about gender parity in Nigerian politics rages, the RoundTable Conversation had a chat with Wilson Ideva, a Chartered accountant and Managing Director of First Guarantee Pension Ltd. He describes himself as a non-partisan Nigerian but very interested in good governance seeing the value of that to the growth of global economies. To him, Nigerians must think seriously about good and functional leaderships from the ward to the highest levels.

He believes that women are more dedicated when it comes to leadership and personal leadership skills should be paramount. Gender to him does not imbue anyone with skills. He believes that strong and ambitious women do not want to fail in any assignment as they go all out to prove their worth and capacity. Leadership is not just occupying space, it is very demanding and it demands the very best of skills and willingness to serve the people who are the reason for governments.

Decision making is about polished skills and competence and has nothing to do with gender. A Biden has nominated a lot of women to key cabinet positions because they are in a system that recognizes competence as key. As usual, the nominated people, varied as they would all be thoroughly screened by the Senate of the United States. Here then is the difference between Nigerian politics and the rest of the world. The screening processes are normally very thorough as experts in various fields would ask all the necessary questions to make sure the nominees have earned their positions.

On the contrary, Wilson says, successive Nigerian Presidents usually just send the nominees to the Senate without portfolio and the Senate perfunctorily just asks some questions seem to fulfil all righteousness. In some bizarre cases, no questions are even asked as some nominees often tagged ‘friends of the house’ because they held certain political offices in the past are told to ‘bow-and-go’. This has had a very devastating effect on the economy as it seems that competence is not often a priority to the Senators whose core legislative duty is maintaining checks and balances on the executive.

He believes that gender questions should not even be an issue in leadership, the right human must get the job. Margaret Thatcher was a very popular British Prime Minister and the former Chief Executive Officer of Pepsico, one of the world’s best brands, Indra Nooyi achieved tremendous success for the company. The position has nothing to do with gender. At the level of leadership, personal issues and interests must not come in. Women have led many corporations and often show more honesty than men. This is not saying women are saints but experiences have shown that women are more transparent in leadership due to their nurture and nature.

There must be equity and the leadership emergence processes are faulty currently even when processes ought to lead to get the best. The idea of percentages for women in leadership like the Beijing 35% to him is flawed. Let there be fairness and equity so that the best individuals can emerge. Wilson believes that an inclusive leadership process is always better than one that excludes and he believes that the Nigerian political space can be sanitized if every one of the elite gets back to their roots to re-orientate the people who have been deceived for long by some selfish politicians who use exclusion to their advantage.

When a country is serious about leadership, gender should not be the issue because education in this century has enabled more women to be more educated and as such their leadership capacity cannot be questioned based on their gender alone. Nigeria will certainly be in a better position with more inclusiveness based on capacity and readiness to serve.

Lade Bunuola, a veteran journalist and former Managing Director of The Guardian believes on the other hand that the problem of the world today is the fact that women have left their traditional roles to seek leadership. Women are not supposed to be in public office. They lose their womanliness when they leave their roles as advisers and nurturers to men. Women originally were made to guide the men from afar to be better leaders and not to exhaust themselves leading.

He quotes the famous statement by the wife of one of France’s most successful leaders, Charles de Gaulle that she rules the home while he leads the country. Humans are no longer living the ways they are supposed to live. I know it sounds strange but we have to go back to the basics. Women are supposed to receive guidance and pass on to men. Men are supposed to take decisions and then carry out the duties of governance. When women get involved in public service, they lose those abilities to be advisors to men and that is why the world is upside down. Biden by the appointment of those women he has nominated is making a very grave mistake.

The women do damage to their nature when they get involved in politics. Women must rule over men who rule over the world. When women realize that the capacity of leading men from the home, the sky will be their limit. Men are strong but women are powerful and power is greater than strength.

Women are already powerful home leaders and should not get involved in public affairs. However, it is not for lack of capacity but it is about their role in life. Looked at dispassionately, women have the power, while men have the strength in ways that women can influence men to be better leaders rather than seeking to usurp the roles of men.

He believes that throughout history, women have been known to have power over men in ways that the men do not fail to obey. Men listen to the women in their lives, either as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters or girlfriends and often get them to act in ways that they might not ordinarily. Men often do not say no to women and it is not a weakness but just the way they were created ab initio.

Once women get their own leadership roles over men right, men will no longer fumble. Let’s even take a simple example, the women are the ones corporate organizations send out for marketing because they have the power of persuasion and that is not in a negative sense. It is usually difficult for a man to say know in instances where a woman is trying to tell them about good produce or service. This is because nature has made it that women are more intuitively honest and the men trust them a lot.

The mere presence of a woman makes a lot of difference. Imagine how intuitive mothers are at home. Sometimes they can sense when a child in another country is ill even when the man is with the child physically. It is because the woman has been imbued by nature to be that leader in ways a man cannot access. He believes that women are better off without venturing into politics.

The RoundTable conversation found these two men almost on a parallel line in their convictions about women’s role in politics and leadership in public service. However, the global existential realities can be weighed on both sides of the coin. What is important to note is that every man or woman, child or adult depend on the overall contributions of everyone at home and in the public service to live and flourish fully as a complete human being.

The home is as important as the public. In essence, we have to work out the best ways to maximize the human capacity. It does not matter the tags and positions that are tagged. The capacity of the human spirit to regenerate ideas that propel growth and optimal functionality must be what drives human interactions. An exclusion of either gender at both ends can only spell chaos.

What Nigeria needs is a profound acknowledgement of the problems at hand, despair and nonchalance cannot be a productive option. The leadership emotion process in the country must be built in ways that engender development in those countries that we see as models even if imperfect in their systemic organizations. No system is perfect including the hitherto beacon of democracy, the US as recent events have shown but the human capacity to grow and re-adapt is endless. We must make conscious efforts to rejig our electoral processes.

The dialogue continues …

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