As Bianca raises her hand to be counted as a contestant in the forthcoming senatorial election, cockroaches have escaped from the cupboard.
Election periods have a tendency to ignite controversies. In jostling for party tickets and votes, politicians apply every trick in the book. They unravel hidden cockroaches in the cupboards of opponents in a bid to put them in bad light. Whatever mud can be dug up will be dredged up to plaster on the opponent and thus gain political advantage. Sometimes, such mudslinging works in the opposite direction. One of the most popular pre-election controversies now rocking Anambra State is the struggle for the ticket of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for Anambra South senatorial zone in the upcoming general election. The struggle is so fierce that it seems as though the party is sure to carry the day in that zone, which is why the contestants are hell-bent on getting the party’s nod for the contest. The great thing about election in Anambra is that the contest is fierce but never violent. In a state with the largest concentration of millionaires in the nation, the people are too rich and comfortable to engage in violence. Three aspirants, to my knowledge, have thrown their hat in the ring for the party’s ticket. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, Nicholas Ukachukwu and Bianca Ojukwu now battle for the party’s ticket. But it seems the struggle is a straight fight between Bianca Ojukwu and Ifeanyi Ubah. All three aspirants have all it takes to stand election and represent the zone. Ubah etched his name indelibly in the political annals of the state when he took Anambra State by storm as the Labour party candidate in a previous gubernatorial election. His impact was far-reaching, though he could not uproot APGA, the party on which he now wants to stand deletions. Defection by politicians no longer makes news given that such moves have become the norm in place of the aberration it ought to be. Ubah now seeks political shelter among his ex-wife political foes. As late Nnamdi Azikiwe said, these are no permanent enemies or friends in politics, there are only permanent interests.
But Ubah’s interest has collided with Bianca’s own. Bianca, lawyer and former beauty queen, is widow of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was indisputably the most popular Igbo man during his lifetime. His was and, in fact, still is, the face of APGA, which is why his widow, Bianca, rides on the passionate love the people have for her late husband. When I arrived the Forest Close, Enugu, residence of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu in November 2011, to conduct an interview, which turned out to be the last he granted any newspaper before his dismiss, I came face-to-face with a woman who demonstrated unbridled love for her husband. She told me she stayed home that day to ensure that “Ikemba did not put himself in trouble with his answers to your question.” Ikemba did not like it, storming out of the room at a point. It took the same Bianca to bring him back to continue the interview. She did not interfere until the interview ended, only pleading that I expunge some “volatile comments” in the chat, for which I extracted an interview from her on that same trip, the point being that Bianca was protective of her husband. It was on that trip she told me her husband had three children who were older than her and that she was the only woman Ojukwu ever took to church for a proper joining in marriage. I got an inkling from her response to my questions that crises might be simmering in the family.
As Bianca raises her hand to be counted as a contestant in the forthcoming senatorial election, cockroaches have escaped from the cupboard. Ikemba’s children have turned their back on her, insisting that she would not get their backing. I have read reports that Ojukwu’s children point her to Enugu, her home state, that she cannot represent Anambra South in the Senate. That comment, which I have read severally without it being refuted by those alleged to have made it, prompted this intervention. Such a comment is an embodiment of retardation and arrogant display of patriarchy. The comment may be targeted at scoring a political point but it is the kind of utterance the late Chief Ojo Maduekwe would describe as “idiotic.” How can it be said that a woman cannot contest elections in her matrimonial area? First, it is unlawful and the height of oppression against women. The law is that even if Bianca is a white American or British citizen married to Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, she has a right to contest election in Anambra State. This Bianca saga also comes as the negative baggage of a patriarchal society where men are kings. Women always hold the short end of the stick in Nigerian politics and Bianca’s ordeal is a clear example.
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Anambra happens to be the birthplace of hugely talented writer Chimamanda Adichie, who makes no apologies about being a feminist and insists that marriage is a union of two equal people. I know that she is married to a medical practitioner who, I understand, hails from Cross River State or around there. We hardly hear or know about him because she stands on her own recognition. Perhaps the same reason is why people like singer and actor Onyeka Onwenu guard their families jealousy. I understand she is married to someone from the southwestern part of Nigeria. These women have stood their ground, made fame and yet remained faithful to their marriage without falling to the rather suppressive tendencies of patriarchy. We cannot continue to run with one leg in our refusal to unleash the potential of our womenfolk and hope to run far. The excessively patriarchal society only operates on half capacity because the innate potentialities of the other half is bottled in the overriding suppression of patriarchy.
All three contestants, as I have noted before now, have the capacity to represent Anambra South. They have the requisite experience and exposure to fly the flag, but to discriminate against anyone on account of sex, as is the case with Bianca, is a sign of retardation. The Ojukwu children and her opponents should look for other political points against her. The matter of her home state must not come into the picture because it is both illegal and retrogressive. The highly cerebral formal minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, hails from Delta State but is married to a man from Abia State, yet President Obasanjo appointed her minister to represent Abia in his cabinet in compliance with constitutional provision. It is indeed scandalous that in the 21st century people from a state as enlightened as to give the nation the irrepressible Prof. Dora Akunyili of blessed memory would stoop this low. We must stop this rather bizarre discrimination against woman.