By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Patriarchal Authoritarianism? The Rule of the Phallus? Phallocentrism? Phallogocentrism? Any of these would suffice as a title for this piece.
When in-laws are looking for favours from a woman, they call her “our wife”. When they want to tackle her, they ask her to go to her father’s people.
When her people want favours from her, they call her “our daughter”, “our sister”, “our mother”. But when they want to deal with her maliciously, they ask her to go to her in-laws, that she has no stake in her father’s house. This is both repugnant to the principle of natural justice and the world’s major religions. It has no basis in law and in fact.
It is more disheartening that women, indeed mothers, are the root of spreading these base sentiments about fellow women.
Women have often been at the receiving end of patriarchal manipulations, but their situation is more compounded in Nigeria where chauvinists tend to be more emotional than logical.
When on Tuesday pictures emerged of Kogi-born politician, Barr. Natasha Hadiza Akpoti and her fiance, the Alema of Warri Kingdom, High Chief Emmanuel Oritsejolomi Uduaghan, there have been mixed reactions concerning their planned March 5 traditional marriage.
While many wished them well, the immediate concern of those who would rather have women subjugated was that the former Senatorial and Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party SDP in Kogi state would no longer be able to vie for any elective position in Kogi on the grounds of her marriage to the Warri high chief.
The viral post reads; “Having wedded, late Stella Obasanjo became an Ogun woman, Grace Bent became an Adamawa woman, H/E Rashidat became a Kogi Woman and infact 1st Lady.
H/E Betty Anyanwu an Igbo woman from Imo State became an Ondo woman & 1st lady of Ondo.
“So if you are leaving Kogi as a lady, and marrying a Delta State man, congratulations. Who knows, you may become 1st Lady or a Senator in Delta State sometime soon.
“Marriage is sweet, Citizenship by marriage is great. May your marriage reach night! Ameen”.
This is the kind of irrational thinking that fuels political gendercide, especially in relation to women participation in politics.
What is equally disturbing is the fact that when in 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari sent 84 ambassadorial nominees to the Senate for confirmation, out of the 10 women on that list, four were challenged on the grounds of state of origin by marriage.
For the nominee from Kogi state, many of those who are suddenly advocating that a woman can only represent her in-laws in politics were the same people who kicked against the appointment of Mrs Regina Ocheni as the Ambassadorial nominee for the state.
Some persons had written to the Senate President, questioning Regina’s appointment on the basis that she is from Cross River state and is only married to an indigene of Kogi, Dr Stephen Ocheni, a former Minister of State for Labour and Employment who replaced the late Barr. James Ocholi SAN in Buhari’s first term.
Interestingly, just as there are many examples of the Senator Grace Bents of this world who stood for elections in their husband’s states, there are equally more examples of others who, though married, are still representing their original states in the scheme of things.
A few examples would suffice.
1. Senator Binta Masi Garba is from Adamawa state. She was married to an Igbo man. She won election in Kaduna state to the House of Representatives on two occasions.
She went back to her home state, Adamawa and again won election to the House of Representatives. Thereafter, she was elected to the Senate, still in Adamawa.
She never went to her husband’s place in the East to vie for election.
2. Dr (Mrs) Marian Ali is from Delta State (South South). She is the wife of a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Col. Ahmadu Ali (retd), an Igala, from Kogi state (North Central).
Mrs Ali was a PDP Senatorial candidate for Delta North. She didn’t have to come to Kogi to contest.
She sought for the ticket of the APC for the Senatorial District in the 2019 general election.
3. Senator Stella Odua used to be known as Senator Stella Odua Ogiemwonyi. She is from Anambra state but was formerly married to Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi from Edo state and a former Minister of State for Works under President Goodluck Jonathan.
Between 2011 and 2014, President Jonathan appointed her Minister of Aviation (representing Anambra state), not her then husband’s state, Edo.
In 2015, she was elected to the Nigerian Senate and was re-elected for a second term in the Senate in 2019. She represented Anambra North Senatorial District on both occasions, not Edo.
4. Under President Obasanjo, Chief Tony Anenih was appointed a minister from Edo state. Under President Jonathan, Chief Anenih’s then wife, Iyom Josephine Anenih was appointed a minister from Anambra, her home state.
5. Senator Daisy Danjuma is the wife of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma who is from Taraba state.
Mrs Danjuma is the sister to the current Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire from Edo state. So, Mrs Danjuma is from Edo state while her husband is from Taraba state.
Mrs Danjuma was the senator who represented Edo South Senatorial District of Edo State at the Nigerian Senate from 2003 to 2007. She recontested in 2011 as well but was unsuccessful. She didn’t have to go to her husband’s Taraba state to contest.
The Electoral Act does not even frown at the subject matter.
In May 2019, the House of Representatives passed a bill to enable married Nigerian women to choose their state of origin. The bill gives married women the option of choosing the indigeneship of either their father or husband.
The bill is to “amend the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc) Act, 2010, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, Cap F7 to give married women the option of indigeneship and for related matters”.
The amended section 2 provides that “a married woman shall have the option to lay claim to her State or Local Government of origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character formulae at the National level or State as the case may be”.
Most importantly, the 1999 constitution does not bar married women from contesting elections in their home states.
Specifically, Sections 65(2) and 106 of the constitution which focus on qualification into federal and state legislative seats respectively does not have such encumbrance.
Section 65(2) reads; “A person shall be qualified for election under this subsection if:
(a) He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent;
(b) Is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.
However, cognizant of the fact that we are in a “Phalluscentric” society where ‘the rule of the phallus’ holds sway, the Nigerian Senate has recently taken steps to expand the provisions of that section to directly include the subject matter.
One of the Constitution Alteration Bills at the Senate is titled “A Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to enable women be identified as indigenes of a State by virtue of Marriage when running for Office and for related matters” which is sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege.
Like I said, no law bars women married to men from other states, from standing for elections in their home states. These legislative attempts are just to give further spine to extant laws on the matter.
Let’s encourage our women to greater heights. Pulling them down is detrimental to society’s future. They are the path to the future.
If after this some people are still fixated on their malignant position on the law, the best approach for them would be to approach the courts to settle this matter.
Omeiza Ajayi is an Abuja-based Journalist