In spite of special concessions by the political parties to aid female aspirants, only few women will contest for the office of governor in this year’s elections in Anambra State. Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, examines the issues that made it difficult for more women to vie for the office
As the primary elections for most of the political parties in this year’s governorship election in Anambra State draws near, it has become clear that only very few women will ultimately contest for the governor’s seat.
The Nation checks during the week show that in spite of the concessions by the major political parties to aid female aspirants, not many have shown interest to contest for the plum seat.
In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which today has about 16 governorship aspirants already screened and cleared for the June 6, 2021 primary election, only three female aspirants are widely known. They include Uche Ekwunife, Ekwochi Genevieve and Chidi Onyemelukwe.
As at the time of filing this report, it is not yet clear if any serious female aspirant will actually contest for the ticket of the other leading political parties like the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC), the Young Progressive Party (YPP) and the Labour Party (LP).
Reports so far show that even if a few other female aspirants emerged in any of the other parties to join the female aspirants that are set to contest for PDP’s ticket, the overall number of female aspirants for the forthcoming party primaries in Anambra State is poised to be so few that some observers have expressed concern over their chances. They contended that if care is not taken, the actual governorship election may not feature any female aspirant.
“The way the campaigns are going, it is possible no female aspirant will get party ticket for the governorship election. In most of the leading political parties in the state, with the exception of the PDP, we are yet to see serious female aspirants with convincing structure. If we judge with these signs, it may not be wrong to anticipate that most of the political parties will eventually field male candidates,” says Dr. Donatus Onyema, a political commentator.
Parties’ efforts to aid female aspirants
In their efforts to encourage active participation of women in governance and politics, most of the leading political parties in the state reportedly set out special concessions for their female members.
For example, the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced that it would charge aspirants who will be seeking the party’s ticket for the November 2021 Anambra Governorship Election the sum of N22.5m for expression of interest and nomination forms.
In a statement signed by the party’s Director of Organisation, Al-Mustapha Medaner, the party said the expression of interest form costs N2.5 million while the nomination form costs N20 million.
According to the statement, female aspirants and physically challenged aspirants are to pay 50 percent of the prescribed fees for the position.
Also, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which fixed June 23 for the party’s governorship primaries in the state, said in a statement that its Expression of Interest forms will cost N2 million, with Nomination forms priced at N20 million.
It also stated that female aspirants and aspirants living with disabilities will be granted 50 percent discount of the amount.
These special concessions notwithstanding, most of the female politicians expected to contest for their parties’ tickets are yet to show commitment.
Reacting the apathy earlier, Mr. Nnamdi Nwagwu, the State Publicity of the PDP, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the party operates a gender-friendly policy where nomination fee is free for any aspiring woman. “I really don’t know why women are not showing interest. They don’t pay nomination fee, the only thing any aspiring woman pays for is the Registration of Interest Form which costs N10, 000 only.
It’s an official policy. “So, our party encourages women to contest because gender is no longer a barrier in politics. What a man can do, woman can equally do,” he said. The APC Chairman in the state, Chief Basil Ejidike was also quoted as revealing that his party has been discussing with the women hoping they will show interest before the party primary.
“The APC encourages women to participate in any level of election. While their male counterparts pay millions to purchase nomination form, it is totally free for the women.
“I am discussing with a number of our women and we believe that they will still show interest before the primary, either as governorship aspirants or running mates,” Ejidike said.
But Mrs. Ugo Uzoma told The Nation during the week that the challenge women face in politics in Nigeria goes beyond financial constraint. “Most of our women are discouraged more by electoral violence, unhealthy political environment, inferiority complex and the general attitude of male politicians most of who do not play by the rules.”
In spite of these challenges, it is on record that some women, though comparatively few, are considered serious contenders of their parties’ ticket. Chief among them are:
Senator Uche Ekwunife, is perhaps the most visible female aspirant in the forthcoming party primaries.
An experienced grassroots politician, Ekwunife was elected as a representative in 2007 for Anambra’s Anaocha/Njikoka/ Dunukofia Constituency. She was one of the 11 women elected in 2007 who were re-elected in 2011 when the lower house was nearly 95 percent male.
In 2015, she was elected to the Nigerian Senate as a member of the 8th National Assembly.
She also won the 2019 senatorial elections representing Anambra Central Senatorial District. Considered as a very strong politician, political analysts said she is one of the leading governorship aspirants today in Anambra.
Another female aspirant in PDP is Mrs. Chidi Onyemelukwe, daughter of deceased Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s former Vice-President (1979 – 1983).
She is not a newcomer in Anambra politics. Mrs Onyemelukwe was the running mate to the PDP’s governorship candidate, Oseloka Obaze, at the 2017 governorship election in Anambra State.
Confirming her preparedness recently, she told party faithful in Nnewi: “I am prepared, I have the exposure. I have the requisite street and administrative experience to drive this broad vision of restoring Anambra to the right path to greatness.
“Four years ago, in 2017, I was considered suitable to co-fly the ticket of our great party, having met the requisite educational training, exposure and experience in government at the national and state levels.
“My sole motive is to provide selfless service of good governance to Anambra people while upholding the tenets of the founding fathers of our party, God being my helper.”
It remains to be seen how far the stakeholders will support her vision.
Another female PDP member who has been linked to the governorship ticket is Mrs Ekwochi Genevieve.