Lagos, Nigeria – Last May, Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) introduced Aishatu “Binani” Dahiru because the winner of the governorship major within the northeastern state of Adamawa, making her the one feminine flagbearer of any mainstream social gathering within the governorship and state meeting elections.
The 51-year-old politician might additionally make historical past as the primary elected feminine governor in Africa’s largest democracy on Saturday, when solely 24 of the 416 candidates vying for workplace are girls.
Dahiru may very well be introduced governor-elect as early as Sunday afternoon if she will be able to defeat 13 different opponents, together with the incumbent Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, who’s looking for re-election underneath the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Getting the ticket was no small feat.
In the primaries, Dahiru fended off competitors from male political veterans together with former anti-corruption chief and ex-presidential aspirant Nuhu Ribadu and Jibrilla Bindow, the quick previous governor of the state. Months after the first, a state courtroom nullified the end result on account of irregularities earlier than the next courtroom later quashed the judgement.
The election correct presents a special problem for Dahiru, a serving senator since 2019 and beforehand, a one-term member of the House of Representatives. But pundits say it might usher in change in what stays a conservative society.
“Coming from an ultraconservative region, many assume that a woman has no place running for the office she is,” Fakhrriyyah Hashim, a former fellow of the Africa Leadership Centre and convener of the Arewa MeToo motion, informed Al Jazeera. “They appropriate instead her inability to lead men in prayer to her supposed inability to lead a society in governance.”
Religious students have overtly preached towards her candidacy. Across the area, a lethal 13-year rebellion by Boko Haram, which outlaws Western training and has kidnapped girls and kids, continues.
But her supporters, particularly the agricultural working class and girls, stay unfazed. Residents say for years, she has been extensively concerned in philanthropic efforts throughout the state, serving to low-income households.
“This is the path Aishatu has laid out a long time ago,” Yasmin Buba, an advocate for women in Yola, the Adamawa capital, informed Al Jazeera. “Unlike other politicians who get to the communities through stakeholders, Aishatu interfaces with the people directly.”
Building a base
The APC’s pointers that two of each 5 delegates elected from every ward, the bottom tier of the electoral construction in Nigeria, should be girls, labored in Dahiru’s favour through the governorship primaries. Already in style with girls throughout the state, most of the delegates recognized together with her ambition.
It additionally helped that Abuja gave its assist. She was reportedly backed by the presidency in addition to by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate within the 2019 and 2023 elections.
Still, Dahiru has constructed a formidable political equipment over 20 years that many say might spur her to victory if there may be excessive voter turnout. A businesswoman and educated engineer, she grew to become energetic in politics after getting back from her research within the United Kingdom.
Over the final decade, her popularity has skyrocketed.
In 2011, she ran for election into the House of Representatives underneath the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) to signify the Yola North/Yola South/Girei federal constituency. Four years later, she moved to the All Progressives Congress in 2015 after Muhammadu Buhari defeated then-incumbent Goodluck Jonathan to turn into president.
There, Dahiru misplaced her bid to get into the Senate earlier than lastly being elected in 2019 as one in all Adamawa’s three senators and the one feminine from the North in that electoral cycle.
She has promised to harness the agricultural capability of the state in addressing poverty and inequality. She has additionally introduced herself as a defender of ladies’s rights to training and the correct to vote and run for workplace.
“During my campaigns what I told those women was that if they voted for Binani, they would be doing their children a favour,” Dahiru mentioned in a single interview. “I told them that: “If you have a daughter, you will be doing her a favour by voting for me; you will be doing that favour to a sister and to some extent your mother.”
“I will give the issue of women and youths, and especially the girl child, preferential treatment,” she added.
To counter Dahiru’s enchantment amongst girls who type a big a part of her political base, Fintiri picked a feminine operating mate.
Female illustration in politics
Nigeria has had a feminine governor as soon as, however she was not elected. In November 2006, Virginia Etiaba grew to become governor of Anambra when the incumbent Peter Obi was impeached. She relinquished the seat in February 2007 when a courtroom order nullified his elimination.
Dahiru’s ascension to the massive stage comes as feminine illustration in Nigerian politics is declining. The variety of girls in federal parliament has constantly dropped since 2011. In the March 2023 vote, the determine dropped farther from 21 of the confirmed 423 seats, to 15.
This comes as different African international locations are growing girls’s illustration in politics, mentioned Elor Nkereuwem, researcher of gender and social actions on the John Hopkins University.
“The truth is women have been able to gain those opportunities because of legislation that has mandated quotas for women,” she mentioned.
Last yr, Nigeria’s parliament rejected 5 gender payments looking for equality for girls, together with affirmative motion quotas for girls in legislature, with members of the male-dominated parliament citing non secular and cultural causes.
“Generally, women leaders tend to be relegated to the periphery because an array of societal contradictions hinders their political journey,” Irene Pogoson, professor of political science on the University of Ibadan, mentioned.
Analysts say a mix of sociocultural norms and a hostile political surroundings has stored girls from occupying high political roles.
But the regulation has, too.
In 2015, former cupboard minister Aisha Alhassan almost grew to become Nigeria’s first elected feminine governor after a tribunal overturned the election in close by Taraba, additionally within the northeast, just for the next courtroom to reverse the choice.
An ‘exclusive men’s membership’
And whereas Dahiru’s footprint in her communities is noticeable, critics level out that she sponsored fewer than 10 payments – none of them immediately about girls – in 12 years in parliament.
“Like most Nigerian politicians, they do not play the ideological battle of ideas that politics is built on. I believe the same is true for Binani. What she does better than most is sell herself and she understands how to play Nigerian politics,” Hashim mentioned.
Still, analysts level out that her journey thus far is symbolic of much-needed color and inclusion in Nigeria’s in any other case murky politics. Whether historical past can be made stays to be seen, however the broad, cross-party enchantment Dahiru has garnered may very well be the start of a brand new period, they are saying.
“We should not underestimate the power seeing another woman in such leadership position engenders- because, as role models, they can help broaden the pool of women who can imagine themselves in similar leadership positions,” Pogoson informed Al Jazeera.
“If Aishatu wins, women will start seeing that these substantive positions are not an exclusive men’s club,” Nkereuwem mentioned.