An argument can be made that the Muhammadu Buhari presidency has been more favorable to “elderly Northern men” than any other subset in Nigeria. The youth, many parts of the South, and Nigerian women all have legitimate complaints to make about the lack of inclusiveness in the administration.
Women have a right – more than most – to decry their place in the administration. Below is a list of six times the Buhari government has just been really, really bad for Nigerian women.
1.Remember that time Buhari refused to shake the hands of the women in his cabinet:
In November 2016, several months after inauguration, when Pres. Muhammadu Buhari finally decided to swear-in ministers, Nigerians were shocked to see the newly appointed male cabinet ministers move to receive a congratulatory handshake from the president, while the women curtsied and stepped aside.
A female PR expert, Mrs. Nkechi Ali-Balogun, put the situation in context at the time: “It portrayed the female ministers as inferior in the eyes of the general public. If Hillary Clinton is to visit Nigeria today, will our president refuse to shake hands with her in the name of religion?”
2. Remember the composition of Buhari’s cabinet:
Under former Pres. Goodluck Jonathan, the percentage of women in the cabinet was 33%. In the present Buhari cabinet, that number is down to 14%. Only five ministers are women, down from six when ministers were first appointed, due to the resignation of former environment minister, Amina Mohammed.
The figures are even more depressing when one considers that President Buhari promised in his campaigns to implement the national gender policy, which commits to affirmative action and requires that women fill 35% of appointed positions in the government.
3. Remember that time he responded to his wife, Aisha, in the worst way possible:
In an interview granted by wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, in late 2016, she said she may not go out to campaign for her husband’s second term if certain things do not change in his administration.
In far away Germany, standing beside that country’s female leader, Angela Merkel, Pres. Buhari fired back at his wife in a shocking way.
“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to,” he said. “But she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”
The presidency later released a statement saying Buhari’s unacceptable comment was just “banter.”
My friends, can’t a leader get a sense of humour any more? Mr President laughed before that statement was made,” said a presidency spokesman Garba Shehu.
”He was obviously throwing a banter. Politics sometimes should be spiced with humour. Those of us close to him know there is never a dull moment with him.”
4. Remember that time when he failed to show empathy to the grieving parents of the Chibok girls:
In January 2016, a visit by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group and the Chibok parents (mostly women) to the presidential villa left a sour taste following the treatment received by the group.
Both Pres. Buhari and the Minister of women affairs, Aisha Alhassan, spoke dismissively to the visitors, prompting a leader of the BBOG movement, Obiageli Ezekwesili, to say this at some point: “Madam Minister you have been very unfair. I do not understand how you can be chiding parents and advocacy on a day like this.”
Buhari refused to meet the parents, one of whom fainted during the long wait. The president sent a delegation to meet the parents, but the visitors insisted that they had to meet the president.
Buhari eventually met with the parents and here’s how The Scoop reported the story at the time:
Sounding very much like his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, President Buhari made it clear that he felt the group was not being fair to his government. “The unfortunate incident happened before this government came into being,” he said at a point. “God knows I have done my best and I will continue to do my best.” Buhari did not take photos with the group, he did not try to console the grieving parents, and after about 40 minutes in which he spoke angrily in English and Hausa, he thanked them for “coming to see me” and left the hall.
5. Remember how YouWin! Programme for women, GWIN and Digital Girls Club were all discontinued:
Under Jonathan, the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) program was launched with an edition dedicated entirely to women. Under this program, young entrepreneurs and women were given grants, technical support and guidance through mentors for their businesses.
The mono-gender program for women was discontinued and even the repackaged YouWinConnect! launched by the current minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, has been described by some of the beneficiaries as a scam.
The Girls and Women Initiative in Nigeria (GWIN) program, a federal government initiative to empower women and girls have also been discontinued. As former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said at the time, the project was important because “when girls and women are economically empowered, infant mortality declines, agricultural productivity rises, population growth is moderated, cycles of poverty are broken and economies expand and grow.” The program is now no more.
Also abandoned by the current administration was the Digital Girls Club program which was initiated to stimulate the interest of secondary school age girls in Information and Communication Technology.
6. Remember how Buhari approved the policy to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy:
This is perhaps the most shocking yet. Under Goodluck Jonathan, women were admitted into the elite course for the first time ever and they did well. In that first batch, three out of the 20 women won medals. Two of the female cadets beat their male counterparts to win placement at the United States Military Academy in West Point.
Now, the program is due to be scrapped allegedly due to complaints by some conservative Muslim leaders who feel a woman should not lead men in the military. Once again women are being given the rough end in order to pander to some men.
According to a general who spoke to The Punch newspaper, “It is only the Regular Combatant Commission that can give an officer the opportunity to aspire to head any of the services or rise to become the Chief of Defence Staff, while the others have limited career path. If the military is able to scrap this programme, women will never be able to head any of the arms of the Nigerian military.”