There seems to be a deep sense entitlement amongst most men when it comes to political leadership. Sometimes they hold on to culture, at other times they allude to religion. These two ‘reference’ points undoubtedly seem to have become the albatross of most male politicians especially in Africa.
Ironically, the idea of mono governance in Africa was introduced by the colonial governments. Africa always had practiced complimentary and not competitive leadership with well-defined roles. There were queens, regents, priestesses and women leaders at the very many socio-cultural levels. But the colonial governments found it politically and economically expedient to perpetrate their system on Africa and African men continued after independence.
The burden of leadership has been too heavy on the male gender but they do not seem to realize that. The global poverty index of course shows clearly the impact of the lack of gender equity in leadership and governance especially in Nigeria that is now the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria with a paltry 6.9% female presence in parliament as against Rwanda’s 61.1% confirms the disparity in development.
It is therefore very commendable that some organizations in the South East have started yielding to excellence and the patriotic spirit in women leaders. The apex socio-cultural group, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and Nzuko Umunna, another socio-cultural group recently elected some truly cerebral and accomplished women into their executive in what has been described as an exhilarating paradigm shift in the region.
The Roundtable Conversation sat with Senator Chris Anyanwu, interestingly the first female Senator from Imo State. She is veteran journalist, Publisher of The Sunday Magazine (TSM), former Commissioner for information, Youth, Sports, Culture and Social Welfare in Imo state and founder of Hot F.M Radio Abuja. She was recently appointed the President of Nzuko Umunna by the Board of Trustees.
Senator Chris says even though the leadership of Nzuko Umunna came to her as a surprise she is ready to take that mantle of leadership in furtherance of her passion to collaborate with many other like-minded individuals to contribute in bridge-building in trans generational and gender inclusive ways. As someone who was deliberate in her decision to join politics she had in the past said, “I felt I could do more than observe and moan the things that were not going right…with my years of reporting government, politics, social issues, oil and diplomacy, I had come to understand governance issues well”. So with this conviction, she went into politics prepared to always contribute and comes to the leadership of Nzuko Umunna as one with a hunger for development of a region that is not where it ought to be socio-politically and economically.
To her, leadership has no gender. What ought to matter should be the intellectual capacity, patriotic zeal and commitment to lead especially in a century that has seen the emergence of well educated, vibrant and intellectually savvy young people ready to challenge the status quo. She hopes to work towards bridge-building which will bring out the best in the people in ways that the welfare of the larger society would be the focus.
Her membership of the organization for almost six years has given her the insight into the commitment of most of the members on a non-partisan basis. With her experiences as a public servant and a politician she hopes that she is in a good stead to continue to make a difference in the area of leadership. She appreciates the fact that her little contributions resonates with group enough to further challenge her with the present position.
She feels honoured to be chosen to lead a group of young and old brilliant minds across genders with the requisite education, capacity and patriotic ideals making the leadership task somewhat easier. These are people ready to work for development irrespective of their political leanings knowing that the welfare of the people has no political face.
She is excited that most of the members just want to contribute to development in ways that politicians in their set egoistic ways might consider impracticable. Leadership to the Senator must be about capacity and not about gender. It is a known fact that women are contributing their bit in all sectors of the economy and succeeding at them so there must be a re-orientation that would propel a real paradigm shift that would lead to the harnessing the best ideas.
We have to re-energize the leadership emergence processes that can throw up leaders that can improve the lives of our people. We have to get a grip of our political culture in ways that we can deliver to our people. There must be a refocusing on what really matters in leadership – the people because they are the grass those surfers when politicians lead divisively across party lines for selfish reasons.
She looks forward to an era when politicians can set aside their ego and realize that the world has changed and will continue to change. The idea of feeling that any one politician or groups of politicians have a monopoly of ideas creates chasm. We all must work towards a little bit of synergy amongst our different groups and units. Those with good ideas and exposure must work together to right the wrongs in the system.
There are miles to go in terms of gender parity in the political space. Men often do not realize that women are not being carried along and there are very brilliant women with leadership potentials .We have to endeavor to bring that to their attention. We must galvanize to bring people with the skills and exposure in different areas of endeavor for functional leaderships. Leadership is much more than just wielding power, it is also about using your influence for the good of the people.
We must as a people begin to set standards for future elections. We must stop accepting political ambushes where people just jump out to grab political offices with no history of engaging in any way with the people. We must dig into peopl’s history, you must have been engaging with the people so they can appropriately evaluate you and your capacity. You must engage with layers and layers of people at student union level, labour, town unions, professional associations etc. We must begin to demand for credibility and integrity. We don’t want monsters or mediocre people chastising our people when they hide just to jump out few months to elections. Most times incompetent people seeking leadership hide under snobbery.
No one should split society along gender lines if we must progress. Each human should just do their best in whatever field they choose. For me, I was only reminded about my gender when a became a candidate for the senatorial election. In my professional career, my gender was never an issue but in politics, some men often do not look beyond gender even when they are less qualified. The gap must be closed with a lot of communication and understanding.
We must redirect our leadership emergence processes in ways that we must sanitize the electoral processes. We must give our people good choices from party primaries instead of what exists now. There must be a valid process of leadership selection. Mentorship of the younger ones must happen through interactive relationship across age groups.
Dr. Selina Ugwoke-Adibua was a former Honourable Commissioner at the Enugu State Judicial Services Commission and a former governorship aspirant .She is a scientist, lecturer/researcher, publisher, philanthropist and gender rights activist. She recently emerged as one of the women elected into leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo the apex Socio-cultural organization as Vice-President General. Another woman, Beatrice Eze was elected National Treasurer making them the only two women in an executive of fifteen.
The RoundTable wanted to find out how a seemingly ‘male-only’ organization like the Ohaneze Ndigbo suddenly elected a woman as a Vice-President General. We wanted to find out whether it was just a politically expedient tokenism to the women. She debunked the perception that the group is a male exclusive. She explained that there has always been a female wing of Ohaneze but most of the past presidents of the organization never encouraged gender inclusiveness because the elective positions were always zoned to states and the onus was on the leadership to nominate across genders. Again not many women have shown serious interest by attending meeting consistently.
She said she has been very active in the organization since 1983.Even though there is a general perception that the organization is a male group. She said that she was with Senator Joy Emordi and at some point they started campaigning for more women to join to the ‘Ime Obi’ , the final decision making body of Ohaneze. They are made up of prominent leaders in their fields. All past political leaders, Vice chancellors, past Igwes, former governos and captains of industry.
So there was a decision to make women honorary Ime Obi members to recruit more women for the Women Wing. Being a member for so long was my way of staying to contribute to development. I want more women to stay put to grow the organization.
Being consistent brought me to the new position. Ironically, most of the male members were my school mates in the University and I see them as mates rather than merely men in leadership I believe we must all work together to develop our society.
I believe we all can identify and persuade the good people with leadership qualities to join any group or political party to contribute because in our environment, the competent people do not join political struggles so we must as a people identify them and encourage them to lead.
I believe that belonging to Ohaneze, is part of participatory democracy. The battle for unity and development is not an individual thing it is a team work. We want to marry the wisdom of age with vibrancy of the youths. There should not be divisions or any ego problems. We are all working toward the same goal which is good leadership that can guarantee development.
Now that these two groups have set the ball rolling, we watch the core political parties to see how inclusive they can be as we work towards 2023 elections.
The dialogue continues…
Written by Nnedinso Ogaziechi