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Opinions of Friday, 18 July 2008

Columnist: Dokurugu, Adam

Hajia Alima Mahama would not Represent Muslim Women as Veep

The choice of a Running Mate is perhaps the most important decision a Presidential Candidate gets to make before the sward of office is handed over to him. Under normal circumstances, one should refrain from interfering with such privilege, lest we run the risk of playing Presidential Nominees.

While this is the case, one is tempted to weigh in on the ongoing debates over the choice of Running Mate for NPP Presidential Nominee, because of the symbolism that some commentators are claiming it would carry, if Hajia Alima is nominated.

In principle, and as a northerner, I have always believed that regardless of whatever people say about the creeping perception of the Vice Presidential ticket as a preserve of people from the north, and that some how it amounts to tokenism, I am prepared to resist that point of view. I think that considering the yawning gap between the north and the south of Ghana, everything possible must be done to make people in the north feel a part of the system. In my view, there is no better point to start than a place on the presidential ticket. If that is called tokenism in some people books, so be it. In other words if nominating competent, intelligent and capable individuals to share a presidential ticket, and by so doing creating national cohesion is tokenism, I am prepared to settle for that kind of tokenism.

What we have to resist however, is the attempt by people who neither understand the culture of the north, nor the values of the Islamic faith to impose on us their own understanding, or in this case, misunderstanding of what the religion of Islam says about women in leadership.

I understand the need for feminist to canvass support for Hajjia Alima Mahama. I have a lot of respect for her personal achievements, her intelligence, eloquence and smartness. On the basis of competence alone, I think she is more than qualified to be anything in Ghana, including President of the Republic. To be honest, I would have no difficulty if her advocates were just promoting her qualities as an intelligent woman who has broken the rigid barriers of the debilitating northern poverty and all to become who she is.

My concern however, is their attempt to portray her as a candidate who would serve as a good role model for Muslim girls from the north. The fact is she would not be a role model for any Muslim in the north. And nothing FOMWAG or Ursula Owusu says would make it otherwise.

It is OK for Muslim academics like Dr. Rabiatu Armah and others in FOMWAG to be seen to be supporting one of their kind. Of course, no one expects them to say what they really know is the truth when there is a microphone to their mouth and camera rolling in front of them. But in their own closets they know that Hajia Alima is not the kind of Muslim Woman that any Muslim wants as a role Model for their daughters. I would doubt it very much if any woman in FOMWAG would want their daughters to be unmarried Hajias at the age fifty. Not only that, to go on radio and tell the whole world that she is “single but attached”, in common parlance (I have a boyfriend). Certainly I don’t want that kind of role model for my daughter, even if that is the qualification for Vice President in some people’s eyes.

As a Muslim I would be very proud that the first woman to occupy the second highest office of the land, a heart beat away from the Presidency, is a Muslim. Regrettably, I would much rather have any other person than a Muslim woman who does not represent the basics of Muslim ideals, which ideals seem to be serving her so well in her political career.

I am tired of swivel-chair-ridden gender advocates trying to tell Muslims what we should think about our own community. I am tired of having to conform to other people’s wishes, lest I be branded a backward person. I am tired of people who know next to nothing about the north telling me that Hajia Alima would be a good role model for the girls who run to Accra for “Kayayo”. The problem of girls coming for “Kayayo” is not going to be solved unless there are pragmatic solutions to create agro-based jobs in the North, even if you make Hajia Alima Mahama the President. No body sends role models to the market and there is no meal in the north that is made of inspiration. The only inspiration our people need is education, wealth creation and jobs. Anything else is well, non….!

Let the debate continue.

Adam Dokurugu

Choggu Tamale, N/R

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