Can the expansion of Buhari’s cabinet be all female?

by Alexander O. Onukwue


President Muhammadu Buhari wants to expand the Federal Executive Council and it was worth enquiring what the gender representation would be.

Of the 36 Ministers chosen by President Buhari in November 2015, only 6 were females, now reduced to 5 with the appointment of Amina Mohammed as United Nations Deputy Secretary-General earlier in the year.

Kemi Adeosun, as Finance Minister, has regularly been in the eye of the storm, sharing the blistering fury of critics of the economy with Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank. Another one of Buhari’s female Ministers, Aisha Alhassan, made headlines in September when her allegiance to Atiku Abubakar, who is expected to challenge Buhari for the Presidency come 2019, became public. Buhari declined to fire her, perhaps for the merit of her rehabilitation programme with the returned Chibok girls.

A six out of thirty-six representation of females in the Ministerial pool is below the affirmative action standard of 35% which has now been passed by the Senate as one of the new amendments to the 1999 Constitution. Cultural factors still account for the lower numbers of women occupying high public offices in Nigeria, but empirical evidence shows that women have not performed any worse than men when given the opportunity to serve.

The most recent testament are the praises being directed the way of Dr Jumoke Oduwole, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Industry, Trade and Investment, on Nigeria’s improved rankings on the World Bank’s Doing Business report for 2018. Ms Oduwole’s role in leading the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat has reportedly created a more favourable environment for business.

Nigeria has a long way to go in imitating countries like New Zealand where the three arms of Government are now headed, for the first time ever, by women. No Nigerian woman has won an executive position in Nigeria; it remains a tough nut to crack even for former Senators and members of the House of Representatives. But political capital is a function of exposure and the existence of a level playing field based on merit. On the basis of merit, it should not be difficult for the President to find credible women in the mould of Dr Oduwole and the newly nominated deputy CBN Governor, Aisha Ahmad.

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