OrderPaperToday – The ministerial screening for 43 cabinet nominees may have come and gone but the ripples of the exercise have continued to resonate in public discourse. Many have continued to comment on the take-a-bow privilege extended to over half of the nominees and which excluded them effectively from a rigorous question-and-answer session expected of the screening.
The privilege is understandable and has come to be somewhat accepted when given to former (or serving) members of the national assembly nominated as ministers. But making it an excuse to preclude former members of state assemblies, former governors and ministers from screening did not go down well with many Nigerians.
More so, when the senate justified the controversial principle on grounds of gender. 22 nominees were given special treatment on grounds of gender and legislative background. There are only seven women of 43 minister-designates.
They are: Sadiya Umar Faruk (Zamfara), Pauline Tallen (Plateau), Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), Ramatu Tijani (Kogi), Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed (Kaduna), Mariam Katagum (Bauchi) and Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra).
While screening the first female nominee, Ikeazu, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, set the trend by announcing to his colleagues thus: “In the spirit of gender sensitivity, we will ask her to take a bow and go.” The nominee did take and left the chamber as directed. But that set the talking points for many on social media who questioned the privilege, especially given that Ikeazor, incumbent Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), is believed to be competent and cerebral. Not a few felt her exclusion from questions denied the nation an opportunity for a productive intellectual exchange.
In a thread ran by OrderPaperNG during the screening, Twitter users expressed extreme disgust at the gesture granted to Sharon in particular.
@seyitomas1 tweeted: ” ‘In the spirit of gender sensitivity….’? This woman is
more competent than Buhari yet she had to be blown a kiss again? This country has no iota of respect for women and their capabilities!”
@Tommynsin: “Does this mean that she doesn’t have the ability to pass with interrogation because she’s a woman?”
@Babypeng_ : “Not ‘in the spirit of’ her achievement and success in her previous appointment? That’s sexist to say the least.”
@Gboukzi: “She should have insisted on getting screened properly, or at least the usual way. This is patronising on several levels smh.”
@Ij26b: “Lol… she’s more competent than 90% of the nominees and all they can talk about is “gender sensitivity”.
But rising to the defence of the senate, its spokesman, Sen. Adedayo Adeyeye (APC, Ekiti) said the privilege was given to all females because of the small number of female nominees.
He said: “Also we decided that because of the small number of women nominees and because we are very gender sensitive that the President of the Senate kept reiterating, we wanted to give all the women privileges. We don’t want to be accused of not being sensitive to women issues.
“So, we extended that privilege of bow and go to the women nominees when you add that figure together it appears that there is a huge number of people we have asked to bow and go.”
But prominent voices and gender advocates are not impressed with the explanations offered by the senate. Co-convener of the #BigBackOurGirls group, Aisha Yesufu in a telephone conversation with OrderPaperNG described the gesture as “insulting, condescending and patronising”.
Yesufu said: “Basically, what the National Assembly did by telling the women to take a bow and leave is not only patronising, it is actually condescending. It means they do not put women in the same pedestal that they put the men.
“It is the kind of mentality where someone is patronising, he looks them at a level of inferiority and feels they should give them what they want. Women are not asking for that in Nigeria. We are as equal as any other person. And for them to tell the women to take a bow just because of their gender, it is an insult to every woman.”
According to her, Nigerian women are intelligent and capable enough to undergo screening alongside their male counterparts.
She said: “They are capable of answering questions and anyone of them that if have been found wanting, they should leave. It is not about gender. We are sick and tired of being patronised. Women are ready, capable, intelligent and they should be judged on those basis.
“Things like that actually annoy me because I feel there is a lot that we can do. I tell my women folk, stop waiting to be given, it is time for us to take over this mantle of leadership.”
For Idayat Hassan, Director of Centre for Democracy and Development, the gesture is rather “chauvinistic” than “gender friendly”.
Hassan said in an interview with OrderPaperNG for this story: “In my opinion, it is not being gender friendly. These are women who know their onions, they are well established and can answer any questions. That is not being gender friendly. It is more chauvinistic than being gender friendly.”