Nigerian Women in Politics – When Is It Okay to Play the Gender Card?
A story at ThisDayLiveDotCom headlined the ‘Agony of a Woman in Politics’ caught my attention this morning about Zainab Adeniji’s experience in Nigerian politics. After reading the story several times I’m still unsure how it has anything to do with women in politics except for being the story of a woman in politics. Unless of course there is more that wasn’t reported or she just didn’t say.
The experience Adeniji recounted had nothing to do with gender. So she was asked to pay off the local PDP chair. So was her male counterpart and he did. So she used private funds, all rookie politicians have to. Her experience is typical of Nigerian politicians and politics. Corruption is not gender exclusive or selective. Her claims that men disregard women are nothing new and do not relate to her experience. Unless, like I said already, there is something more to tell.
Quite honestly I was expecting something more salacious than she dished when she said “they warned me not to go to the press.” She didn’t tell me anything new about party politics or Naija. She’s not even the first to tell about payoffs by candidates at the local and state level. We know payoffs go on all the way up to the national primaries.
It seemed to me like she is just a bitter politician crying over sour grapes that now wants to court our sympathy because she is a woman even while she admits she’s not the only one the party treated badly. The reporter tells us she is a widow, her husband was murdered, her children are grown up, and she now needs a permanent healing rest (why does that sound like death?). So what?
Adeniji uprooted herself from her life as a global consulting mental health nurse and came to Nigeria looking for a job without first ascertaining if there were jobs in her sector. There is no demand for drug addict heath care services yet. We’re not so rich yet that we are willing to spend too much good money on drug addicts lady.
Like many repats I guess she thought she could come and ‘create jobs’. Their idea of creating jobs seems to be lobbying ministers and functionaries, who they bedazzle with flash presentations and fancy language, for unsustainable ‘projects’ and ‘schemes’ costing millions that sound good on paper but have little if any chance of rooting in the local market place. I wouldn’t trust Adeniji with my vote.
So the PDP has screwed her over. I sympathize with her as a person and not in this case as I woman. Then again not too much. She invested in a risky business. She lost. So did a whole lot of others men and women. But I take exception to the suggestion that because she is a woman, a mother and a widow whose husband was murdered she deserves special treatment.
That’s not the kind of level playing field Nigerian women in politics need; it just reinforces old gender stereotypes and fuels the Gender Wars. And the Nigerian women’s movement needs to pay attention. We can’t let men, women or the media misuse, abuse or devalue women and gender politics like this.