By Josephine Agbonkhese & Chris Onuoha
THE Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Jummai Alhassan’s (aka Mama Taraba) declaration of her intention to support ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar even if President Muhammadu Buhari seeks re-election in 2019, in a now viral video captured last week, has since generated mixed reactions.
While some see it as an unparalleled show of disloyalty; coming from an employee to her boss (President Buhari), others define it as a show of courage and fearlessness. It is interesting to note, however, that every politician contacted strongly declined to comment.
Yes, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a merger comprising different parties and as such, various people with different political backgrounds, beliefs and god-fathers and players therein have a right to their allegiance, at least like Abubakar said in his reaction. But coming from one of the scantily few women fortunate enough to find a place in a dispensation in which womenfolk have suffered their biggest political slide ever; both in terms of elective and appointive gains, Alhassan’s declaration raises dusts about the nature of women vis-a-vis men as politicians and whether she will be shown the way out of Buhari’s cabinet. Particularly since there are talks of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.
Disloyalty not peculiar to women: “Disloyalty is not peculiar to women; it is a general thing. Alhassan is talking about political alignment and that is not peculiar to women in any way. We shouldn’t allow the narrative be used by opportunists to justify the relegation of women politically against their rights. This is a personal issue which men also get involved in too, from time to time. Her own case should therefore not be made a gender issue,” Lanre Suraj, a public affairs analyst told Woman’s Own.
Against insinuations that Alhassan is a fifth columnist, Elisha Attai, Founding President, African Women in Leadership Organization, AWLO, dismissed her remarks as any form of show of disloyalty to the principal to whom she owes her portfolio.
“She has a political antecedent like anyone else and Atiku happens to be part of that history. I think in Nigeria, we know how to take things out of proportion. She is a minister and still functioning. I don’t see it as disloyalty to the government that appointed her to be a minister.
I may not know where the whole matter emanated from but the truth is that we have to reason alongside her consideration if it is not politically motivated.
“Everybody in this government is trying their best to make sure Nigeria moves forward as they have barely two years to end their tenure. Come to think of it, Alhassan is a mother – a woman – and as you know, women are very compassionate. She might be considering the health of the president. She is actually looking at the man as not being strong enough.
The task, burden of leadership
“Buhari is a good and principled man and he is someone we have come to believe especially when you are talking about the fight against corruption in this country. But you know, leadership is not easy. You have to be fit both physically, spiritually, mentally and psychologically to function well. If you are leading a country like Nigeria, you should be really strong. It could have been the pressure of the executive work load that landed him in that condition. She may have meant well for him, considering his health status,” Attai said.
Belief in administration, resignation vs sack
Ethically, no one should be content to maintain an engagement in an administration he or she doesn’t believe in. For instance, a lot of the men and women in societies like the United States of America who felt they did not believe in the current Donald Trump administration, have at different points ‘honourably’ resigned their portfolios without blemish, even when they had a chance to still stay put and enjoy all the perks that come with serving in the corridors of power.
Thus, to analysts, it’s mind-boggling that a lawyer, former court registrar, and senator, would openly loathe her principal while clinging to her ministerial seat in the Buhari administration. It is, therefore, unsurprising to hear resounding calls for the urgent sack of the Women Affairs Minister even when she has repeatedly touted her immunity to any sort of fear regarding her being sacked.
Whether Alhassan will survive this though, only time will tell, as investigations so far reveal that Buhari may not be showing her the way out for this singular act.
According to a Presidency source, Buhari knew Senator Alhassan as a die-hard Atiku loyalist before appointing her as a minister. The source said: “Buhari is not going to sack or dismiss her. The attitude in the Presidency is to let her go on her own if she has 100 per cent loyalty for Abubakar.
Question begging for answers
This is not the first time the minister has attacked the President and his administration. Aisha’s loyalty to Atiku is not new to the government. She has been with him all along as well as during the presidential primaries. She won’t be sacked or dropped because she will now make noise as if an injustice has been meted out to her.”
Why Buhari would know from the onset of Alhassan’s non-allegiance and still decide to have her in his cabinet, remains a question begging for answers considering the fact that logically, such might be inimical to the growth of any government. However, in the face of recent events, perhaps voting with her feet if indeed she neither believes in the person nor policies of President Buhari, might be more honourable for Mama Taraba and beneficial to national growth and development.