For the women folk in Nigeria and beyond, it would have been a moment to relish forever if Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed had won the governorship election in Adamawa state on March 18. She would have made history as the first elected female governor in the country. Her early lead in the polls elicited breathless anticipation from thousands of women all over the world, among them Catriona Laing British Ambassador to Nigeria who promptly sent a congratulatory message via her Twitter handle to Aishatu Dahiru. It turned out to be premature, which the Envoy has since deleted. Declared inconclusive by INEC, THEWILL wonders if Binani will be an almost in her quest to become governor of her natal state. Michael Jimoh reports…
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the title Her Excellency would have had a different meaning, different from the honorary appellation prefixing the names of redundant spouses of governors and presidents. For Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, the title would have been for real, a well-earned designation if she’d won the governorship election in Adamawa state on March 18. The title would have sat on her pretty well like the shawls she used to drape her shoulders with as part of her accessories.
One of the most popular female politicians in the north who’d been a member of the House of Representatives and now senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Aishatu Dahiru aka Binani contested under the banner of All Progressives Congress against the sitting governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Peoples Democratic Party. So far, the incumbent is leading with 421, 524 votes to the APC candidate’s 390, 275. The final result will be announced after the rescheduled poll on Thursday, March 30.
If Binani wins, then her political career would have shown brighter, putting her plum among the few female political heavyweights in the north. From being a member of the House of Representatives, she made it to the Senate where she was chairman of the House Committee on SDGs. Making it to the State House in Yola will only confirm her steady rise in the ladder of Adamawa politics.
Binani’s rise to political stardom is reminiscent of another female politician (who is also a Fulani) in the north Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan popularly known as Madam Taraba who was also a senator representing Taraba north senatorial district. Though she contested and lost as a governor in Taraba, Jummai was appointed Minister of Women’s Affairs in PMB’s government from 2015 until her resignation three years later.
By the time of her death in 2021 at 61, Madam Taraba had become undoubtedly one of the most influential female politicians in the entire north with a growing number of admirers of both sexes. Binani boasts the same following now, especially politically. In 2011, she trounced her opponents to represent Yola north, south and Girei federal constituency as a member of the House of Representatives. In 2015, she decamped to the All Progressives Congress and then contested for the senate in 2019, easily defeating Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako candidate of the ADC and son of a former governor of the state.
On her chances of winning the governorship election in Adamawa, a commentator wrote recently that Binani is “the definition of a relentless fighter,” starting from her “party’s primaries to the day of the governorship election.”
Binani proved how relentless she was during the APC primaries. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was one of the aspirants and he was most favoured to win. But Aishatu Dahiru defeated him hands down, thus smoothening her way to the governorship race of March 18.
For some other political observers, Binani’s ascending political career in Adamawa is more because of her closeness to wife of the president Aisha Buhari than her political acuity. Both of them are cousins from the same family in Adamawa. Both were born in the same year (1971) share the same name and have been more or less sisters with a sense of closeness that has cemented their relationship as time lengthened.
According to one credible source, Buhari initially had his eyes on Aishatu Dahiru as second wife after divorcing Safinatu in 1989. Elders in her family, the same source continued, persuaded the general to marry Aisha her namesake and senior cousin who is now First Lady.
Thus did Buhari and Aisha become husband and wife and thus did Aisha’s younger cousin, Aishatu narrowly miss being spouse of the man who would then become president of Nigeria. Of course, it goes without saying that if PMB had settled for his first choice, Aishatu would have been First Lady instead of the current one.
As for the current inconclusive election in Adamawa state, the same source opined that it is “turning into a fight between the First Lady and Fintiri, the incumbent. They want INEC to announce her by fire by force but doing that will lead to crisis in the state.”
It is possible INEC postponed the election in the hope of averting a crisis in Adamawa. It is also possible that, for the contending parties, there would be a lot of behind-the-scenes manouevres and deal making. If Binani emerges the governor, then life would no longer be the same for the woman who will become the number one citizen of a state in Nigeria.
For starters, The Chief Imam of Central Mosque Yola would have been hard put to oversee, manage the sitting arrangement in the mosque he presides over if Binani becomes governor. Like some Muslim governors in the north during festive periods like Ramadan, she would have had to go to worship in a mosque, her ADC in tow with two or so commissioners. Where would she and her retinue sit, in front with male worshippers or with the women behind?
It is true that while she was Prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto had her place in front with the men during worship. Would the Imams in Nigeria have made the same arrangement for Binani?
What’s more, as governor, she would have exercised her executive privilege of firing traditional rulers if need be. In a state with a predominantly male-dominated Muslim population, what are the chances that Binani would make it as governor or even survive her tenure? For someone who narrowly missed being First Lady, will she also miss being Her Excellency this time?
These are questions begging for answers.
And answers won’t come until after the concluding election on March 30 in a state with the inspiring motto “Land of beauty, sunshine and hospitality.”