Professor Uche Azikiwe, the wife of late nationalist and first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, is a lecturer and former Dean, Faculty of Education, University Nigeria, Nsukka.
She said that Nigerian women have not been fairly treated in the nation’s political spectrum and advocated for a law that will mandate parties to field women as running mates to presidential and governorship candidates; where they are not the standard bearers.
About 20 years into this democratic dispensation; how would you say the Nigerian woman has fared?
You know by our culture, African culture, Nigerian culture, women are to be seen and not to be heard. The culture of our forefathers is transferred to everything in life in Nigeria and also the same thing in politics. So, most often women are not allowed to participate fully the way they should.
It is true that in politics nobody can give you position, power just to dash you, you must strive for it, you must work for it; but knowing the background of women, I think we should be given a bit of what we call affirmative action even in politics. I know that affirmative action came up because the entire world found out that if you say level playing ground; men and women come; the men have gone very far in politics, they are far ahead of the women and it wouldn’t be easy for us to catch up overnight. So, even in politics, we should be given that affirmative action; is it in the allocation of positions, appointment by those who are in power like the present person is saying 40 percent to the women and youth, something like that; it will go a long way to help our women. Nobody will deny the fact that women are good managers because of what we do at home, how we manage the home is the same thing we will do over there in politics.
Talking about good management; how would you assess the performance of those women that have held positions of authority in the past?
Why don’t we also ask men that have been participating why do we have a problem now? Men have been in charge and in control of politics all these years but we still have problems. So, I don’t always like comparing how the few women that have come into politics have performed; have we compared the men? If they have performed very well we wouldn’t be having all these problems now. They are in majority; men are in the majority in politics in Nigeria. So, let’s stop comparing women; nobody is perfect.
Men and women, we are not perfect, we are human beings by creation and we are imperfect human beings. So, to come always trying to compare the performance of the few women that have come in, is not fair. I don’t like that comparison. You see that the number was very low in 1999, we have women in the Senate but after the regime, the number of women in the National Assembly reduced, even now, and they are fewer than when we started in 1999.
So, the position of women to me in Nigerian politics is not very, very comfortable; we have to do something about it.
What do you suggest we do about it?
Let there be a law in the constitution; let every party include in their constitution, those positions that will be given to women and not just this women leader thing. Another thing I want to tell my fellow women is that we should stop accepting women leader position only – that is the only positions they gave women in parties. Why can’t a woman be a national vice chairman, why can’t a woman be made assistant secretary? We have a woman that is Head of Civil Service of the federation now. So, I feel that women will also help sometimes in reducing our rating and positions in society. If they have any position in the party let them share it fairly between men and women. I know if I ask that a woman should be the chairman of a party, they will say that I am a joker, but beyond that, let’s just have women in other strong positions in the party.
A woman can be the spokesperson of the party because we have good women journalists that can do that. For instance, political parties have picked their standard bearers; those candidates should pick women as their running mates. Let there be in the party constitution that if a man is a presidential candidate, the running mate should be a woman. What is wrong in that when we have women as Prime Ministers in London, in Germany and president in other countries? So, what is wrong in a woman to be made a vice president or the deputy governor? Some states have been putting that in a place like in Enugu and some other states; it will help our women to come up politically. It will be a good idea if it is there even in the National Assembly so that if a man is the President of the Senate, let a woman be the Deputy President of the Senate and the same thing in the House of Representatives. We will see a drastic change in governance in Nigeria if this type of arrangement is made. But they will say you don’t beg for positions, you go for it. We know but the playing ground is not level for us to come up.
In the past, some women had mustered the courage to contest for various political positions but were not supported by the women; could it be that the womenfolk is against fellow women being in positions?
That is an issue we have to discuss too. You know, in politics you campaign, you have your programme, your party too. If a woman is a presidential candidate of a party that nobody knows within an area; how would you expect women to go and vote for such a candidate? It is not possible. Let’s be fair, there are many men that are presidential candidates, men don’t vote for such candidates that you don’t know their parties, you don’t know whether the party exists or not, so that is the issue. When it comes to politics if someone like Oby Ezekwesili is in PDP or APC, who says that women wouldn’t vote for her? Women will vote for her if APC or PDP agrees to elect her as their presidential candidate. So, the situation is that those women that come up haven’t been prepared.
We have over 180 million people in Nigeria and you have to be part of the system for us to say that other women should support you.
What is your take on the abduction and killing of girls and women in Nigeria especially in the North-East?
It hurts me whenever I read about girls and women being abducted, being kidnapped and so on and so forth; it hurts because, in Igbo land, I will say that women are the home. I don’t know why they shouldn’t provide security for women and girls; most of them don’t go to school and education is the basis for anyone to take off in anything one wants to do in life. So, the government should provide protection to every Nigerian whether in the north or south, west or east and especially women because we are vulnerable to these kidnappings; we are weak and most of us cannot listen to radio or television to hear some of the ways to protect ourselves when we are traveling. It is the duty of the government to provide security for the citizenry, and women especially; we have to take special care of them.