A Win for Northern Women in Politics
Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, born 11 August 1971, also known as Aisha Binani, is a Nigerian senator of the All Progressives Congress (APC) representing Adamawa Central senatorial district in the 9th Assembly.
She was formerly a member of the House of Representatives representing Yola North/Yola South/Girei federal constituency as a member of the People's Democratic Party in the 7th Assembly (2011–2015).
On May 27th 2022, Aisha Binani emerged winner of the All Progressive Congress governorship primaries in Adamawa state. She polled 430 votes to defeat her closest rival, Nuhu Ribadu, who got 288 votes. A former governor, Umaru Bindow, scored 103 votes to reach the third position in the election. Abdulrazak Namdas got 94 votes while Safari Theman scored 21, and Umar Mustapha got 39.
Aisha Binani became the first female governorship aspirant to win a primary election to represent a significant political party in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
A small win for Northern Women
Binani's victory in the primaries is a win for all northern women particularly because of the lack of representation of Arewa women in the Nigerian parliament and executive. It is also a win for female politicians from the north who have been fighting for a seat in Nigerian politics.
Women in Nigeria have struggled to get representation in government, and the margin is even lower for Northern Nigerian women. From Natasha Akpoti of Kogi state to Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Aisha Binani has joined the small number of women close to becoming the first female governor in Northern Nigeria.
In 2018, Natasha Akpoti spoke to Channels news about an attack on her made by thugs loyal to the political party, All Progressive Congress(APC).
She made the allegation in a video shortly after the incident, which occurred ironically at the venue of the peace meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). She was visibly shaken and broke down in tears as she recounted her experience.
"On my way to participate in the INEC’s organised political stakeholders meeting … I was attacked and harassed by the APC thugs,” She said. “There were lots of policemen; there were over 500 men from the security agencies in different uniforms. I saw some young men in mufti. They are thugs … the first attack was a verbal assault with a man calling me a prostitute.”
Ms Akpoti claimed that there were security personnel who witnessed the event, and none of them stopped the hoodlums when the incident took place, adding that she was booed and walked out of the venue.
In a swift reaction to the allegation, the APC dismissed her claims, tagging it a “gallery show of falsehood.”
Natasha Akpoti's experience is not the first time a woman in Nigeria has faced challenges and hostility when she aspires to a political office.
In Nigeria's history, whenever women even manage to hold the political office of Governor or Speaker of the house of representatives, they are either impeached or acting capacities for the male governors. There have been no female governors in the history of Nigeria's democracy.
The only women who have come close to holding the governor's seat are Virginia Etiaba of Anambra state and Aisha Jummai Alhassan. Virginia Etiaba was acting governor for Peter Obi after he was impeached. She handed power over to him after an appeal court annulled the impeachment.
Aisha Jummai Alhassan(Mamman Taraba) is the only woman from Northern Nigeria to have come as close as she did to becoming governor. She was the gubernatorial candidate of APC in Taraba State for the 2015 general elections. She was defeated in the election re-run held on 25 April 2015. Still, on 7 November 2015, a tribunal removed Taraba Governor Darius Ishaku. It declared her the winner of the 11 April 2015 poll, later reversed by the Appeal and Supreme Courts of Nigeria.
Northern Nigeria's female representation in politics is worse off compared to other regions of the country. From 1999 to 2015, Nigeria has had seven national Assembly seats, and out of these seven seats, there have been 436 members of the house Senate. Out of these 436 members, only 8 Women were from Northern Nigeria.
If only about 4 per cent of women from northern Nigeria are represented in the Nigerian parliament, how are the needs of Arewa women brought forward and defended? What causes this gap in representation in the first place?
In 1999, there were only three women out of the 109 members representing. In 2003, the number increased to 4. In 2007, the number increased to 8. However, there was a decrease from 8 women members in 2007 to 7 in 2011, 6.4 per cent and 8 in 2015, compared to the population of women from Northern Nigeria which is a fraction of 99 million women (total population of women in Nigeria as of 2015).
Representing women from the North in the senate and house of representatives is a far cry from where we should be as a country. It stirs up the question of representation affecting the region's development and the empowerment of women from that region.
Aisha becoming APC's Governorship candidate in the 2023 general elections brings hope, although little that the gap could be closed soon. But even if she became the first female governor, she would possibly be in charge of a state whose Parliament has less than a fraction of its population of women being represented.
Cultural norms and extremist beliefs, as well as poverty and disenfranchisement of many northern women, could be behind the gap in representation of northern women in Nigerian politics. Sensitisation and promotion of education and the duties of citizens could increase the number of women who partake in partisan politics, thus increasing the chances of women voting into parliament and executive positions in government.