Centenary and the Nigerian woman

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By Chijoke James

The neo-colonial influences, political upheavals, economic brouhaha, military maladministration, and the civil war have all been found in Nigeria’s encyclopaedia in the past one hundred years.

When these negative scenarios go head-to-head with the positive sides of this country, it is obvious that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The climax is the sustained democratic rule.

The political development of Nigerian women has not been tremendous. Colonial policies denied them franchise. Facts show that it was only during the 1950s that three women were appointed into the House of Chiefs.

Following the mass exodus of able-bodied men to wage labour, the burden of feeding the nation fell squarely on women.

Around 1965, just 6.9 per cent of the salaried workforce were women; by 1970, 8.7 per cent of the staff in the Federal Civil Service were women. In 1980, women’s ratio went up to 12.6 per cent. Not quite long ago, women were not allowed to obtain bail for suspects. The statutory provisions still do not favour women in many respects, including divorce and inheritance.

The Second Republic saw better prospects for Nigerian women. A few Nigerian women won elections into the House of Representatives. Also there were only two women appointed federal ministers.

In the contemporary, the achievements of Nigerian women have risen meteorically.

Nigeria’s image globally was also set aglow in November 2001 when Agbani Darego became the first native Sub-Saharan African to claim the Miss World title. The same success story follows Chimamanda Adichie in the literary world.

Until the Obasanjo administration from 1999 to 2007, Nigeria’s economy was headed for cul-de-sac. He brought in the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a World Bank economic guru and a host of others.

The National Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, before the appointment of Dora Akunyili as the director general by the same Obasanjo administration, was a shadow of itself.

Against this backdrop, the theme of Nigeria’s centenary celebrations, which is ‘100 Years of the Nigerian Woman’, seems a well-thought-out concept to honour who honour is due. The centenary planners, headed by Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, should be applauded for the incorporation the Nigerian woman as a major activity in the celebrations.

It also vindicates President Jonathan’s belief in the Nigerian woman as the whirligig upon which this country has achieved a lot.

It is expected that the two-day conference, holding at Eko Hotel and Suite, Lagos, between 18 and 19 April, 2013, will be used to celebrate the milestones and achievements of Nigerian women. It will also serve as the avenue to produce the framework of the Nigerian Country Report on Women.

The objectives of the celebrations include: to reinforce the role of women in nation-building, reiterate pre-existing calls for action in gender equality and women’s rights, display through exhibition documentaries and presentations the contributions of women in arts, sciences, corporate Nigeria, small business, leadership and development.

Others are to: salute outstanding women, provide a window in the Nigerian centenary calendar for actualising activities dedicated to women and women activities, and advocate for legislation to support girl-child education.

Nigeria’s First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan will declare the event open while the chairperson is Justice Mariam Aloma Murktar, chief justice of Nigeria. The speakers include Prof. Funke Adebayo, professor of history and strategic studies, University of Lagos; Chief Mrs Toyin Olakunri, former president, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; Mrs Priscilla Kuye, former president, Nigerian Bar Association; Prof. Aigbemi Spiff of the Office of the First Lady, and Mrs Josephine Anenih, former minister of women affairs.

The second session will be chaired by Ms Ama Pepple, minister of lands, housing and urban development, while the lead speaker is Prof. Olabisi Aina, dean, faculty of social sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The panellists include Hajiya Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, Economic Community of West African State, ECOWAS, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security; Dr (Mrs) Doyin Abiola, Former MD, Concord Newspapers and Mrs Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode, CEO, Murtala Mohammed Foundation.

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