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HomeWorldNigeria`s first female presidential candidate done with `cheerleading`

Nigeria`s first female presidential candidate done with `cheerleading`

The two main candidates for the governorship of Nigeria`s Lagos state took to the stage, making a flurry of promises to the all-female audience at the select Cosmopolitan Women`s Club.

The men even pledged a 35 percent quota of women in the state government and initiatives on girls` education.

But when Remi Sonaiya — the first woman running for president in Nigeria`s history — took the floor she did so to a round of applause that lasted several minutes.

“We have done enough of cheerleading,” she told some of Nigeria`s most influential businesswomen and company executives at the meeting on women`s participation in politics.

“Women cannot keep on being cheerleaders in this country.”

There may be many women at the head of businesses in Africa`s most populous nation and leading economy but as in the rest of the continent, politics remains for the most part a man`s world.

Sonaiya is hoping to change all that, following the example of presidents such as Liberia`s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf or Malawi`s Joyce Banda, to break through the glass ceiling to high office.

In reality, she has no chance of beating the two main candidates — President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari — but she has brought, for reformers, a welcomed fresh voice to the campaign.

According to a 2012 report from the British Council, just nine percent of candidates at the last Nigerian general election in 2011 were women.

The situation has hardly improved this year, with a presidential and parliamentary vote scheduled for March 28 followed by governorship and state assembly polls two weeks later.

“They (the men) set the rules,” said Ebere Ifendu, who runs the non-governmental organisation Women in Politics Forum in the capital Abuja.

“They made us understand that one, politics is dirty; two, politics is not for women; three, they brought out the violent nature of politics.

“Those were the things they put before us and women became sceptical. They became afraid and didn`t believe they will be able to participate.”

She and her party KOWA decided to prove that it was possible to campaign without a wealthy “godfather” or a private jet in a country where male politicians spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on huge public rallies and gifts for supporters.

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