By Morenike Taire
Once, gender activists in civil society circles succeeded in making a fact out of the theory that held that women are naturally more honest than men. In extension, the fairer sex is postulated to be more nurturing, considerate, humble than their male counterparts, in addition to being better managers and great multitaskers.
The challenge from these quarters has been- and to a large extent, still is- give women the chance to be in positions of power and everything will naturally fall into place in society. For Bose, a Nigerian based in the UK, “I always knew that was not true”.
She recalls trying to buy her WAEC forms more than a decade ago and the tellers at the bank that took the payments were hoarding the forms for an extra fee, which she had been reluctant to pay. I had specifically targeted a woman, thinking she would never stoop so low as to do what her male colleagues were doing, openly demanding a bribe. She was worse. At least the men were ‘nice’ about it”.
Proverbial can of worms
Nigeria was shocked when, two years ago, Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi opened the proverbial can of worms which had been operations within some of the nation’s most respected banks with international reputations.
At the very heart of the whole show was Cecilia Ibru, a woman who had been feted as a veritable role model to other women. Though she ran a family business, she was hailed for her toughness and tough business mind, and had raked in award after award for being a female achiever. The level of corrupt activities going on under her guidance, when it was exposed, was shocking to say the least.
The firing of the EFCC’s (The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s) erstwhile Lady Boss, Farida Waziri had sent a shock wave down the spine of those who had doubted the seriousness of the Jonathan administration in the anti-corruption war, particularly considering her survival of previous, more heated times.
It had, in addition, driven the nail into the coffin of the theory of women being less tolerant than men of corruption. Women have not had much of a chance to prove their mettle in the politics of Nigeria in particular and in Africa in General, but there are too many cases of corruption for comfort, where women have served, even in civilian administrations.
The more prominent cases are of Mrs. Patricia Etteh, still of the National Assembly and Mrs. Grange and Oshomo, formerly of the Health and Housing ministries respectively.
Women, perhaps, might be shooting themselves in the foot in using arguments of nature to support their quest for equality. If it is our ‘nature’ to be ‘nurturers’ and multitaskers, why are we then so unhappy to sit in the homestead, change diapers and happily wait for out ‘hunter-gatherers’ to show up with the day’s catch so we can merrily turn it into a stew?
If men are naturally endowed to take decisions, why are we not happy to have them forever sit at the top of the board or in the government houses? If the urge to scatter their seed, as it were, is natural in men, why do we get cross when men cheat?
On the other side of the coin, if women- who, by the way, raise men- are so naturally organized and honest, why is there an upsurge in the number of area boys, Boko Harams and other dishonest entities?
Writing in her book Women, Feminism and Biology, Linda Birke submits, “Gender differentiation does not have to mean gender division in the hierarchical sense in which we now understand it… looking at gender this way allows that we can admit to our biological being , while seeing that as embedded in complex, interactive processes.”.
And how better to describe the nation, Nigeria, than complex?
Not known for never mincing words, US secretary of State and former Senator Hilary Clinton had, upon her visit to the country a couple of years ago, been quoted as saying the EFCC had “fallen off” under Waziri. Despite being a strong gender activist on the side, Mrs. Clinton’s views and the expression of them had not been interfered with by her gender sentiments.
Clearly, a big part of the job of a government official anywhere is to uphold the credibility of their office and that of the administration they work for. Here at home Femi Falana, top legal practitioner and human rights activist has openly supported the removal of Mrs. Farida, saying it has been too long in coming, if anything.
Dr Sandra Williams, a psychologist, says it’s simply a question of power, and that gender has little to do with morality. “It’s a question of power”, she explains. Women are forced to serve in the domestic setting because that is the societal expectation. The moment they get into a position of freedom, there is no difference between women and men except that women, by virtue of where they are coming for, tend to have a chip on their shoulder”.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley has called on all Nigerians to join the Inited States in observing 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, commencing November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ending December 10 with International Human Rights Day.
“These 16 Days remind us that gender-based violence is not solely a “women’s issue.” It is an affront to human rights and dignity, and its brutality destroys our economies and communities”.
In his submission, he stresses that Violence against Women affects everyone, including boys and men: “We must stand up to the impunity that leaves perpetrators unaccountable for their crimes. We must redress the low status of women and girls around the world that renders them undervalued and vulnerable. And we must include men and boys in this discussion on how to change attitudes and help our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters”.
In her press statement on the the same occasion, US secretary of State Hilary Clinton avers. “Prevention, protection and prosecution are essential to combating this violence. But we must add a fourth “P” as well – Priority.
Empowering women and girls is already a priority of the United States, but we need more countries to step up and take on this challenge. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence is an opportunity to renew the commitment to free women and girls from the nightmare of violence, because the future safety and security of our world depends on it”.
The contest cases that have followed this year’s elections have failed to drag on as they had in the past, or to produce much drama as they had. The resolutions have been too simple, and the genuineness of the judiciary has been called into question on more than one occasion, particularly since Bank Boss Cecilia Ibru turned out to be the only one docked and prosecuted so far.
It is not an exclusively Nigerian phenomenon. In Liberia, the election of Nobel Laureate and incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been opposed by her opponent, and high level rigging has been alleged. The way it is now, across the continent south of the Sahara, elections have lost their credibility.
The perception is that factors internal and external, other than the will of the electorate, are responsible for who occupies elective positions in Africa. These factors include- though are not limited to- money, thuggery and outside economic interests.
Fortunately, it is only just perception.
Achebe and Soyinka, Activism by Pen?
There really was nothing that strange about the turning down, by legendary prose writer Chinua Achebe, of the national honour he was offered a fortnight ago. Accepting it would have been the surprise.
It was not the first he would be turning down the doubtful honour, and he would not be the first of his stature in the international literary world to do so.
His long time contemporary and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is even more famous for turning down government recognition.
This year’s eventful rounds of national honours have inspired even more disdain from the Nigerian public than usual.
While being more of the same, it has been more insensitive than usual, with people taking credit for a nation in which poverty and insecurity have dug their heels in and refused to budge.
Awards everywhere are largely political and he who plays the piper dictates the tune; but where the piper insists on playing unmelodious tunes, he ought not to be angry when the more discerning of his audience refuse to dance.
Soyinka and Achebe, from two different ends of Nigeria, are making a bigger statement by their refusal than even with their almighty pen.