To say the Nigerian political scene is male-dominated would be a mischievous understatement.
After 56 years (and counting) of independence, no woman has come within grabbing distance of the three highest positions in the land.
Around the world, women are pushing the discourse about gender equality by taking leadership positions in their governments.
In Europe, Angela Merkel has won her fourth successive term as Germany’s Chancellor. In June, Ana Brnabic became Serbia‘s first female, openly-gay prime minister.
These are interesting times for women and after getting more than our fair share of testosterone-driven shouting matches, here are 5 women who should consider adding some feminine sauce to the elections in 2019.
(1) Oby Ezekwesili: If there is one Nigerian woman who can successfully contest for office in 2019 on the strength of her reputation, her name is Obiageli Ezekwesili.
During and after stints in public office, as Minister of Solid Minerals and later, of Education, the Anambra-born accountant has remained popular in the eyes of most Nigerians.
Her dedication to humanitarian causes, most notably, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is evidence of her continued struggle for the rights of the average Nigerian. She has equally endeared herself to a politically-conscious youth demographic with candid, often scathing commentary on the ruling administration.
If she does decide to run in 2019, these young people will prove her most important power base.
(2) Remi Shonaiya: Mrs Shonaiya was the only female contestant in the 2015 presidential elections, a fact that many dismissed with derision.
The Professor of French and Linguistics is admittedly green in Nigerian politics. With her KOWAparty and the absence of any grassroots work, hers was little more than a protest candidacy.
However, her presence in the race spurred a necessary conversation about the presence or lack thereof, of women in Nigerian politics. 2019 is another opportunity to step up to the plate if for nothing, to continue the conversations she inspired.
(3) Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala: In the last few years, the former World Bank Managing Director has become synonymous with Nigerian money, yet she is one of the few who has not been stained by the blackness of that currency and the deals that are made with it.
Despite years of public service, NOI has never come across as a politician, preferring to remain in the background as she builds financial frameworks and oversees processes.
Still, an Okonjo-Iweala candidacy would be interesting for the same reason that we want re-structuring; our problems would probably still get the best of us but no-one ever died from trying a better option.
(4) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is Nigeria, and best-selling or not, authors don’t run for office against politicians. Yet, the prospect of Chimamanda running for office is an enticing proposition, because she has become more than just a novelist or a writer.
In an age where feminism is a catch-phrase and a definitive cultural movement, the 40-year old has transcended pages in books to become an icon of the struggle for gender equality.
Her commentary on the Nigerian Civil War and the clamour for Biafra also offers a new, more personal perspective on the most definitive period in Nigeria’s history.
If Chimamanda’s name was to appear anywhere near a ballot box, it would inspire an entire generation of young women to take action and decide their own fates.
(5) Kemi Adeosun: Very few people knew Kemi Adeosun before the National Assembly’s screening of prospective ministers in 2015.
Fast forward by two years and she’s become the face you see when Nigeria’s finances become the prevalent topic, a role that is as important as it is defined by pressure and criticism.
The Minister of Finance has faced these in some measure, but she has managed to remain on top of most situations, including the Foreign exchange crisis.
Her willingness to communicate is one of the many reasons why the University of East Londonalumnus is also a favourite among younger people.
In a landscape where technocrats have little to show or say beyond suspicious degrees, her skill and sophistication will be more than welcome.