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Woman who could become Nigeria’s first elected female governor

Lagos, Nigeria – Last May, Nigeria’s ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) announced Aishatu “Binani” Dahir as the winner of the gubernatorial primary election for northeastern Adamawa state.

The 51-year-old politician also made history on Saturday by becoming the first female elected governor of Africa’s largest democracy.

Dahir could be announced for gubernatorial election as early as Sunday afternoon if he can defeat 13 other opponents, including incumbent Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, who is seeking re-election under the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). have a nature

Getting tickets was no easy task.

In the primaries, Dahir fended off competition from male politicians, including former anti-corruption director and former presidential aspirant Nouf Rivadhoo and the state’s last governor, Jibrilah Bindou. Months after the primary election, a superior court reversed the ruling after a state court vacated the results for tort.

The election presents another challenge for Dahir, who has been a Senator since 2019 and previously served one term in the House. But experts say it could bring about change in conservative societies.

Fakriya Hashim, a former Fellow of the African Leadership Center and convener of the Arewa Meh Tu movement, told Al Jazeera, “Women from ultra-conservative areas have no idea where to run for their positions, etc. A lot of people think they don’t,” he said. “They instead apply her inability to lead men to prayer to her supposed inability to lead society in her reign.”

Religious scholars have publicly preached against her candidacy. Her deadly 13-year rebellion by Boko Haram, which outlawed education in the West and kidnapped women and children, continues across the region.

But her supporters, especially the rural working class and women, are unfazed. For years, she has been extensively involved in charity work across the state to help low-income families, residents said.

“This is a path that Aishatu set out long ago,” Yasmin Buba, a girls’ advocate in Yola, Adamawa’s capital, told Al Jazeera. “Other politics accessing communities through stakeholders Unlike home, Aishatu interacts directly with people.”

Data shows Nigerian women are largely underrepresented in Nigerian politics [Credit: Al Jazeera]

base construction

The APC’s guideline that two out of five delegates from each constituency, the lowest tier of Nigeria’s electoral structure, must be women, favored Dahir in the gubernatorial primary. She was already popular with women across the state, and many of the delegates sympathized with her ambitions.

It also helped that Abuja was helping. She was reportedly endorsed for the presidency as well as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, her PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 and her 2023 elections.

Yet Dahir has built a formidable political machine for more than two decades. Many say that if her voter turnout is high, she can lead her to victory. A businesswoman and engineer by training, she took an active part in politics after returning from her studies in England.

Over the past decade, her reputation has skyrocketed.

In 2011, she ran for the House of Representatives under the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), representing the Yola North/Yola South/Giray federal constituency. Four years later, in 2015, she moved to the All Progressive Party Congress after Muhammadu Buhari defeated then-Goodluck Jonathan to become president.

There, Dahir lost a bid to become a senator and was eventually elected in 2019 as one of Adamawa’s three senators, the only woman from the North in that election cycle.

She pledged to harness the country’s agricultural capacity to address poverty and inequality. She also established her position as an advocate for women’s right to education and the right to vote and stand for office.

“During the campaign, what I told the women was that if they voted for Binani, they would be doing a favor for their children,” Dahir said in an interview. told them: “If you have a daughter, you are doing her a favor by voting for me. You will do that favor to your sisters and to some extent your mother.” .

“I give priority to the issues of women and young people, especially girls,” she added.

To counteract Dahir’s attraction among the women who form a large part of her political base, Fintilli chose a female running mate.

Women’s representation in politics

Nigeria once had a female governor, but she was never elected.In November 2006, Virginia Etiaba became governor of Anambra. peter obi Impeached. In February 2007, she renounced her seat as a court order nullified his removal.

Dahir’s ascension to the big stage comes at a time when women’s representation in Nigerian politics is dwindling. The number of women in Congress has declined consistently since 2011. In the March 2023 ballot, this figure was further reduced from 21 of her 423 confirmed seats to her 15 seats.

Errol Nkelewem, a researcher in gender and social movements at Johns Hopkins University, said it’s because other African countries are increasing women’s representation in politics.

“The truth is that women were able to have such opportunities because of the laws that mandated quotas for them,” she said.

Last year, the Nigerian parliament was denied Five gender bills calling for equality for women. This includes an affirmative action quota for women in the legislature, male-dominated members of Congress, and religious and cultural reasons.

Irene Pogoson, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, said, “Generally, women leaders tend to be marginalized because a range of social contradictions impede their political progress. .

Sociocultural norms and a hostile political environment combine to prevent women from reaching the top of politics, analysts say.

But so is the law.

In 2015, former cabinet minister Aisha Al-Hassan nearly became Nigeria’s first elected female governor after a court overturned elections in Taraba, also in the northeast.

“Men’s Club”

Dahir’s footprint in her community is noteworthy, but commentators note that she sponsored fewer than 10 bills in her 12 years in Congress, and none directly concerned women.

“Like most Nigerian politicians, they don’t do an ideological battle of ideas on which to base their politics. I think Binani is no different. and understands how to play out Nigerian politics,” Hasim said.

Still, analysts point to her journey so far as a symbol of much-needed color and inclusion in Nigeria’s otherwise dark politics. We don’t know, but the broad cross-partisan appeal Dahill has acquired could mark the beginning of a new era, they say.

Pogoson told Al Jazeera, “We shouldn’t underestimate the power that comes from seeing another woman in a leadership position like this.” Because it helps widen the pool,” he said.

“If Aishatu wins, women will start to realize that these substantial positions aren’t just men’s clubs,” said Nkeleuwem.

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