I met the Iyalaje of the State of Osun State recently at a high powered conference on transformative leadership for women. She was the soul of the meeting in parts. She spoke more in Yoruba language and continually eulogised the governor of the state and praised his achievements at every opportunity. She spoke glowingly about how the women were mobilised in the face of ‘intimidation’ from the opposing party.
The Iyalaje spoke, and masterfully too, about her strategy of galvanising votes from the women and how the media, especially radio, were used to mobilise support for the incumbent governor, who consequently won the gubernatorial race.
Her account is not an isolated case. Women market leaders are pivotal in mobilising community people for political purposes in the different states of Nigeria. They are the politician’s prime tool in effectively reaching community people.
At another workshop on gender reporting, a story was told of a community woman ‘kingmaker’ in western Nigeria, less popular compared to the late Chief Lamidi Adedibu but influential and powerful nevertheless. The report had it that she was the ‘go to’ person if you needed to be heard, seen or endorsed as a politician but she was yet to make a queen of any woman in politics
It is generally agreed that women are keenly involved in planning political rallies. Images of ebullience and enthusiasm displayed by these women are evident in TV broadcasts. But are women satisfied with this role? Are women politicians content with the backstage roles of planning the aso-ebi and catering at these events? Why are many women in politics stuck in backstage and supporting roles?
It is worrisome that fewer women are finding their ways into elective positions in political parties. It is time women started thinking about deeper visions, better succession strategies, mentoring and more visibility at the higher echelons of political party leaderships.