By Nafisat Bello
“Someone has to break the glass ceiling. And once it is broken, everybody else comes clamouring up behind”
That was vintage Helen Clark, one of the iconic women of the 21st century who have inspired many others across the world to aim high and cement their positions in the scheme of things. She was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand, the second woman to hold the position and the 5th longest in the country’s history. She was also a one-time Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
She has been one of the drivers of the inspiring grass-to-grace stories of the past few decades, rising from a poor girl who was raised on a farm to the peak of her political career. She served in various cabinet positions before she was elected first as Deputy Prime Minister and later, Prime Minister, where she made her mark in ways that women all over the world were, and are still, proud of her.
By simple definition, the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ represents a systematic, mostly unofficial, sometimes unacknowledged, hindrance or hindrances put in the way of women and which stop them from advancing in their chosen careers and politics.
The phrase was coined by celebrated management consultant, Marilyn Loden, over 40 years ago. And since then, the world’s consciousness has been focused on the plight of women especially the ambitious ones who have a lot to offer the society but are never given a chance to contribute their quota to governance and professional areas. The activism of people like Loden provoked the United Nations and its affiliates into coming up with the 35 percent affirmative action and other initiatives meant to widen the political space for women.
Who will Break the Glass Ceiling in Nigeria?
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the wave of women’s demand for quality representation in politics and governance has hit Nigeria.
Despite recent incidents that merely scratched the surface, the 2022 International Women’s Day themed, “Break the Bias” was dealt a painful blow as lawmakers in the National Assembly voted against all four bills for greater representation of women in politics and other sectors of the society.
And it is quite unfortunate that for centuries, the country has never had a female President, Vice President or Governor. The highest elective position a woman has attained in Nigeria is that of Deputy Governor
The only woman who ever crossed that lane was Dame Virginia Etiaba who was Deputy Governor of Anambra state and later became Governor when her Principal, Peter Obi, was impeached. She held the office for only three months as Obi was reinstated by the courts.
Aishatu Binani to the Rescue
But something that will change the fate of Nigerian women in politics forever is about happening in the northeastern part of the country, with the emergence of the Senator representing Adamawa Central, Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, popularly known as Aishatu Binani, as the state Gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Binani is not only one of the seven female senators in the 9th Assembly, she also has the distinction of being the only female senator from the whole of Northern Nigeria. Now, based on the results of the primary election conducted in May this year, she is the only woman holding the Gubernatorial ticket of any major political party anywhere in the country ahead of next year’s elections.
She was declared winner of the APC Adamawa governorship primary after polling 430 votes to defeat her closest contestant, Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who got 288 votes.
Other powerful men she defeated include the immediate past governor of the state, Muhammadu Jibrilla Bindow, who got 103 votes and Abdurrazaq Namdas, a member of the House of Representatives, who polled 94 votes.
Her victory against all odds caused massive and instant excitement in the gender community in the country. Her emergence as the APC flagbearer which no one saw coming is seen as a watershed, and the closest a Nigerian woman has ever gotten to in their bid to finally shatter this glass ceiling that has held them down for decades.
It was therefore an excited Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady, who, shortly after Binani’s victory, issued a statement to celebrate the rise of another amazon from her darling state of Adamawa. She described her victory as a source of encouragement and hope for many Nigerian women. While pledging to support her to win the election in February next year, the First Lady urged Binani to be resilient and determined as the task to overcome the glass ceiling in Nigeria is a huge one.
While she has become a household name across the country since her historic emergence as the APC candidate for Adamawa state, Binani is not new on the big stage at all. She has come a long way and she has paid her dues in business, wealth creation, women and youth empowerment, politics and governance.
Before winning election to represent Adamawa Central in the current National Assembly, she had represented Yola North/Yola South/Girei constituency in the Green Chamber during the 7th Assembly, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Born on the 11th of August 1971, Binani went through elementary education in Nigeria before travelling to the UK where she obtained a Higher National Diploma in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southampton.
A businesswoman of repute, Binani has various reputable and successful companies to her name such as Binani Nigeria Ltd., Binwa Press Limited, Triangular Communications Ltd., Golden Crescent Nigeria Ltd., Infinity Telecoms Ltd, Quest Ventures etc.
In Adamawa state, her philanthropic endeavours are so massive that the indigenes and residents see her as the unofficial ‘government’ of the state. Her generous gestures include sinking of boreholes, provision of scholarship for indigent students, provision of ICT facilities for schools, paying of medical bills, development of local health care services, economic empowerment programmes etc. In the course of representing the people of Adamawa Central in the National Assembly, she is on record to have empowered a total of 1,667 young people through various skill acquisition initiatives.
The award-winning amazon who hods the title of ‘Gimbiyar Adamawa’ (The Princess of Adamawa) has both legislative experience and pedigree in turning nothing to something from the way and manner she built her businesses from scratch to multi-million ventures. The people of Adamawa state are yearning for her leadership on the basis of her demonstrated capacity for good governance, her milk of human kindness, motherly instincts and problem-solving skills, all of which have been obvious all through her adult life.
From all indications, Binani carries the hope of the Nigerian women to finally overcome the much-talked-about glass ceiling.