Over the past one year of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, a number of women have shot into prominence, most of them because of the positions they occupy. Incidentally, some of the women have found themselves at the end of sharp criticisms from the populace especially in view of their past actions over which aspersions have been cast on them.
In line with his campaign promises and the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party, President Goodluck Jonathan made sure almost 35 percent of the appointments to the Federal Executive Cabinet went to women.
Since their appointment as Ministers and Special Advisers, some of the women have been in the news while some others have been at the background.
One of the women believed to be capable of influencing the President’s decision is his wife, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan. From being a teacher, a bank’s Marketing Manager and later a civil servant, Mrs. Jonathan has climbed the rungs of the ladder with her husband who served as Deputy Governor and later Governor of Bayelsa State before becoming the Vice President. As Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Jonathan is a woman those in the political class have learnt to respect. Being in her good books is one of the feats politicians in some quarters strive to achieve.
Not a few Nigerians were surprised when the First Lady was recently sworn in as a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State. That she was even nominated as a Permanent Secretary during the tenure of Governor Seriake Dickson lends credence to the fact that she is a woman many strive to please. It is believed in some places that the Bayelsa State Governor was only showing gratitude to the President, considering the way and manner he emerged as his party’s governorship candidate.
An indication that the First Lady can never be wrong first played itself out two years ago when the First Lady took the microphone and openly rebuked the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi over a planned demolition exercise in the First Lady’s hometown. The Governor’s attempt to explain was rebuffed as Mrs. Jonathan said “you must listen to me”. After some complaints, some governmental agencies were asked to investigate. That was the end of the matter.
A more recent proof that as the First Lady, Mrs. Jonathan knows how to get what she wants was the land tussle involving her and Mrs. Yar’ Adua. The C of O of a land that had earlier been allocated to a Non-Governmental organisation linked to the former first lady was revoked and another one issued in favour of another organization that has links to Mrs. Jonathan, an indication that Mrs. Jonathan has people who are willing to do her bidding.
One other powerful woman is Diezani Allison-Madueke for whom Nigerians using various social media have coined the acronym “DAM”. Those describing her as the most powerful woman in Nigeria may not be wrong; she oversees Nigeria’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources which is responsible for most of the country’s wealth.
Her journey to power started with her appointment as the Minister for Transport in 2007. She moved to Mines and Power the following year and with the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the President, Mrs. Madueke became Nigeria’s first female Minister for Petroleum Resources.
Many see Mrs. Madueke as one of Nigeria’s most controversial ministers in recent times but unlike most ministers who are either redeployed or changed outright, Mrs. Allison-Madueke has retained her position.
She is not new to controversy though, in between December 26 and 31, 2007, she allegedly paid about 30.9 billion to contractors as Transport Minister. She was probed by the Senate and after having denied any wrongdoing, the matter fizzled out. Again in 2008, the Senate recommended that the Minister should be prosecuted for paying N1.2 billion naira into the private account of a toll company without due process and in breach of concession agreement. Till date however, the matter has not been mentioned in any court of law.
In spite of calls for her removal before, during and after the fuel subsidy removal crisis, Mrs. Madueke has continued to be one of the key members of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. To also cap it up, she hails from the same state as the President and she is believed to be one of those who dictate who gets what in Nigeria’s oil sector.
Not a few people believed that the return of Mrs Okonjo Iweala to Nigeria’s Federal Executive Cabinet would automatically mean better things for the country’s economy. Those who haboured that feeling based it on the fact that in her time as Finance Minister during Chief Obasanjo’s years as President, she led the Nigerian team that negotiated for a debt relief with the Paris Club, a group of creditors.
She is one of the women tagged as the most powerful in the federal executive. Iweala doubles as Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy. She was one of those criticised for the fuel subsidy removal embarked on by the Government in January.
Surprisingly, under her watch as the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, the money being paid as subsidy became much more than what was allocated for the purpose. Nigeria’s debt burden has increased, and she has the budget implementation issue to cope with, leading to insinuations that she might have lost her magic.
For the Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, the springboard to power was the Goodluck Jonathan campaign organization in which she served as the Director of Administration and Finance. No one argues the fact that the Akii-Ozizor princess has the ears of the country’s first couple. Before her appointment, her husband, Chris Ogiemwonyi had served as a federal minister and she has the rare privilege of being appointed when her husband was removed.
She too has her own fair share of the controversy; her petroleum company was listed among the companies that fleeced the Federal Government of fuel subsidy funds.
Another person with a penchant for courting scandals is Dr. Maryam Ali, wife of former PDP National Chairman, Ahmadu Ali. She currently serves as the President’s Special Assistant on Intergovernmental Affairs. Mrs Ali surprised many when she threw caution to the winds during the last Senatorial primaries in Edo, her home state as she tried to prevent the shadow elections from holding, not minding that the event was being broadcast live on national television.
Not long after, she found herself in the news for yet another wrong reason; she personally assaulted officials who had gone to mark her fence for demolition and even went to the office of their superior officer to cause further trouble.
Her son, Mamman was one of those arraigned for the fuel subsidy scam while she has also opted to stand as surety for a Sierra Leonean involved in the alleged scam.
While the issue of fuel subsidy and the bribery allegation that trailed it were the major topics being discussed across the country, the issue of the reinstatement of Aruma Oteh, the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission became the most commonly discussed issue.
Those who had thought with the suspension, Oteh was as good as gone are now having a rethink and even the staff that carried placards to protest her reinstatement have since cooled down for fear that heads might roll.
In spite of the harrowing probe sessions, nothing was found against the SEC Director General, thus making her recall look like a “go and sin no more” movie plot. Incidentally, the women are all united by one fact, most of their actions are unchecked and their errors get overlooked.