Distinguished Sen. Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani) has carved out a political niche for herself not only in Adamawa State and Northern Nigeria alone but in the country as a whole. From all indications, Sen. Binani is on the verge of setting an unprecedented record in the political history of Nigeria as going to be the first woman to become a ‘full-fledged’ executive governor of a state. In what can be considered a rare political feat especially for a woman politician, Binani, has surmounted the insurmountable and defeated five other male contestants in keenly contested gubernatorial primary elections of the APC in Adamawa State. Other contestants were a former governor, past and serving law makers, and a former EFFC chairman.
If eventually Binani becomes the executive governor of her state, she is not going to be the first to occupy that office historically because there was Virginia Ngozi Etiaba, who is considered to be the first female governor in Nigeria’s history. She became the Governor of Anambra State for three months when Peter Obi was impeached and later transferred back her powers to him when an appeal court nullified the impeachment. Etiaba became a governor by accident rather than by design and that informs my using the word ‘full-fledged’ for Binani’s struggles. Another woman who got close to the exalted office of being a governor in Nigeria was the former deputy governor of Lagos State, Madam Kofoworola Buknor Akerele under Bola Ahmed Tinubu; she had enjoyed the acting capacity as the governor of the state at one time or the other whenever the governor was out of the country.
The political antecedents of Sen. Binani could be traced back to a humble beginning as a member of House of Representatives representing Yola-North, Yola-South and Girei federal constituency under the PDP from 2011-2015; a distinguished senator of the federal republic of Nigeria in the 9th assembly representing the central senatorial zone of Adamawa state under the APC from 2019 to date; and currently the gubernatorial flag bearer of the APC in Adamawa State. Her steady rise to political stardom did not come to many political pundits as a surprise because she has touched the lives of many electorates in her domain and constituency more than most other politicians in the state. One fascinating thing about Sen. Binani that endeared her to the electorate and distinguishes her from the other politicians is fulfilling some of her campaign promises even when she loses election. When she contested as a senator in 2015 under the PDM and did not win, she went ahead to fulfil some of her campaign promises; a glaring example was, donating 18-seater buses each to the Women Fellowship of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, the Nigerian Muslim Council, and the Ministry of Women Affairs, all in the state capital. It is on record that, in all the 76 wards in her senatorial district there was no single ward that did not benefit from her multiple projects ranging from electricity supply – provision of 33 KVA transformers in places of dire need, solar street lighting points; provision of potable drinking water through solar-powered and motorized boreholes; provision of agricultural inputs and equipment – rice milling machines, irrigation water pumps, fertilizers, improved seeds, herbicides and pesticides; youth and women empowerment – skills acquisition training and distribution of starter kit items like sewing machine, laptop computers, grinding machines, and cash support. In 2021, Binani flagged off the distribution of instructional materials to 86 schools across her senatorial district. The items distributed include: 59 laser Jet printers, 59 Desktop computers,66 Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), 66 Generator sets, 270 White boards, 510 students customized tough plastic tables and chairs, 176 tables for teachers, and 157 tables for Head Teachers, among other things.
Prior to the APC gubernatorial primary elections, there were insinuations and campaign of calumny against the candidature of Sen. Binani and the culprit was her gender; being a woman, it is un-Islamic for her to be a leader where there are men. A video clip supporting that school of thought has recently gone viral on the social media purported to be produced by an Imam. I watched the video clip daily for over a week not because I liked it but because I expected to see a rejoinder either for or against the video from renowned Islamic scholars but have not yet seen any. I concluded that, it could be a dicey issue and therefore a no go area.
Gallivanting in my frustration of not finding an answer to the jigsaw puzzle posed by the video clip, a question just came to my mind, is our own version of Islam practiced in Nigeria or specifically in northern Nigeria different from what is being practiced in other parts of the world? By extension, is Nigeria more Islamic than Pakistan? Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the world’s fifth most populous country, with a population of almost 242 million, and has the world’s second-largest Muslim (96.2%) population. Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan for two times (1988 to 1990 and 1993 to 1996). She was the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority country. For the two terms Bhutto has served, we have not heard of any condemnation coming from her people based on her gender as their leader, after all they voted her into office. And mind you, Pakistan has one of the most radical Islamic scholars in the world.
Back to mother Africa, on 17 March 2021, John Magufuli, the President of Tanzania died of complications from COVID-19 infection. Two days later, on 19 March 2021, Samia Suluhu Hassan his Vice President, a practicing Muslim from the Zanzibar region was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president and the first woman to hold the top job in East African country. Suluhu Hassan will complete Magufuli’s second five-year term in office, which began in 2020 after he won general elections. The Muslim population in Tanzania is over 30% and they have renowned and respected Islamic scholars, especially, from the Zanzibar region but none of them condemned the ascension of their daughter to the exalted office of a President, but rather they trooped to Dar es Salaam, congratulated her and prayed to Allah to guide and protect her in the discharge of her onerous duties to the people of Tanzania.
One other obstacle on Binani’s political trajectory as observed by some political pundits was party affiliation. Atiku, an aspiring PDP presidential candidate will not like to lose his home state to an opposition party, but there is little or nothing he can do. He will be too busy campaigning all over the country and will have little or no time for interference in state matters; similarly, Binani will be doing same in her own state to consolidate her political gains and actualize her dreams. Atiku, as a president-elect cannot have more influence than a sitting president who will naturally support a member of his party and by extension his Fulani kinswoman. I have never considered the issue of party affiliation or rather belonging to one party as a big deal in Nigerian politics. Cross carpeting from one party to another is a common phenomenon in Nigerian politics and does not attract any punishment.
If Atiku eventually becomes the President of Nigeria and Binani the Governor of Adamawa State, cross carpeting, if need be can be done within a twinkle of an eye. Dave Umahi, the Governor of Ebonyi State was rated as one of the best performing governors in Nigeria; he became a governor under the platform of the PDP but later decamped to the APC; there are many other similar instances.
As a scientist, I like seeing breakthroughs and I will be happy to see my beloved state producing the first female governor in Nigeria.
Hasuruna Amos is a Consultant Agronomist and the Executive Director AGESTi