By Jide Ajani
A new book, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Champion for Women, transforming Nigeria
with women in key positions, is set to be launched at a dinner this week. The work is a narrative about the paradigm shift engaged by President Goodluck Jonathan which seeks to ensure more participation of women in governance. The work also celebrates the successes recorded by the amazons in the Jonathan administration.
23rd out of 188 countries!
That is a good result.
And you can only appreciate what he has done when you peruse the statistics. At least here Nigeria is not being talked about regarding poverty index or mortality rate but about countries where women play an inclusive role in governance. And of 188 countries profiled, Nigeria came 23rd in terms of mobilizing and appointing women into positions in government.
Perhaps, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may have read about the inherent transformational power of women hence his decision to make a pledge that once elected, he would ensure an “improvement in the lives, welfare and opportunities of Nigeria’s women and empower them politically and economically”. With patience, the President selected some accomplished women to be part of his team.
Indeed, however, with a wife, Dame Patience, that is both strong-willed and whose tenacity spiced with native intelligence can be infectious, the President may have been left with no option than to engage a paradigm shift for the inclusion of more women in his government.
Therefore, the coffee-table book, GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, CHAMPION FOR WOMEN, is a narrative which at once appreciates the vision of President Jonathan as well as puts in cogent and verifiable form, the exploits of the women he appointed into the present administration.
That there are 14 female ministers in an Executive Committee of the Federation, EXCOF, of 46 members, is unprecedented.
GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, CHAMPION FOR WOMEN, transforming Nigeria with women in key positions, is a 321page book that would be launched, barring any last minute change of plans, on Wednesday in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
19 contributors’ support is acknowledged for this work which was published Sisley Limited, in association with Ancorapoint and Rimson Associates. The contributors are international journalists to management consultants.
The foreword to the book is written by Diezani Allison-Madueke. Vice President Namadi Sambo wrote the preface. The epilogue is taken care of by Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and former Senate President.
The gloss print is excellent and the cover design enjoys the aesthetics of being gold-rimmed.
There are 320 photograph displays, one world map and two illustrations.
The book has five chapters: The first chapter catalogues the style of President Jonathan and the number of firsts for women in the Navy (Nigeria’s first female Rear Admiral, Itunu Hotonu, is showcased); the first female Air Force pilot (Blessing Liman); and the first set of combatant cadets of Nigeria’s Defence Academy. The second chapter looks at the pace-setting role of Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan. The third focuses on “President Jonathan’s vision for women and the global context”; while the fourth lists and profiles “President Jonathan’s leading women” – all the 14 female ministers in his cabinet are also interviewed on the activities of their ministries. The fifth chapter is about “A President championing women in diplomacy – a profile on Nigeria’s top women diplomats.
The leading women in the administration are Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, GCON – Chief Justice of Nigeria; Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, CFR – Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance; Diezani Alison-Madueke (Mrs.), CON – Minister of Petroleum Resources; Mrs. Omobola Johnson – Minister of Communication Technology; Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafa – Minister of Environment; Hajia Zainab Maina, MFR – Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development; Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe – Minister of Water Resources; Princess Stella Oduah, OON – Minister of Aviation; and Lady Amal Pepple, CFR – Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
Others are Professor (Mrs.) Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, OON – Minister of Education; Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide – Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Hajia Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi – Minister of State for Power; Erelu (Dr.) Olusola Obada – Minister of State for Defence; and Professor (Mrs.) Viola Onwuliri – Minister of State (1) for Foreign Affairs
The women in diplomacy are Prof. Joy Ogwu, Ambassador/Perm. Rep. of Nigeria to the UN; Mrs. Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser to the UN Sec Gen on Post-2015 Development Planning; Hajia Salamatu Hussaini Seleiman, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security; and Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdulahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs
The book also showcases Nigeria’s women ambassadors and high commissioners. There are 11 of them.
There are also seven female special advisers to the president.
But the book is not all about the faces of the women – though there is more than enough photo splash to suggest the contrary.
In terms of presentation and content, it is rich in the successes recorded by women in the Jonathan administration.
Of particular emphasis are the ministers of finance and petroleum resources, both of whom appear to have been choicer in terms of affinity to Mr. President.
As for Dame Patience, the madam at the top, she appears to be in wonderful company with the women in this administration who sop and dot all over her. She plays the mother figure.
GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, CHAMPION FOR WOMEN also has intellectual verve as it puts in context the need for the mobilization of women in government. Just as the women, too, in their interviews, demonstrate a very appreciable level of intellect and performance on the job.
Though it is not all about effusion of accolades as the book sometimes appear to embark on a needless voyage in self-glorification, the accomplishment of being ranked 23rd in the world as a country that lays much store by women is worth celebrating; all thanks to Jonathan.
Yet considered: “As long as we are celebrating a woman vice chancellor because she is the first or a woman chief judge because she is the first, then we have not arrived. We look forward to the time when we will have many women in such positions and we will be celebrating so many of them” were the words of Professor Grace Alele Williams, OON, in 1985.
Supporting that claim with a clarion call for inclusiveness is no other than Dame Patience Jonathan: “There is no doubt that in order to change Nigeria into one of the world’s greatest economies by 2020, the women of Nigeria must be mobilized”.
President Jonathan’s response to that was swift: “Today, in comparison to men, women are under-represented in governments around the world. However, women are increasingly being elected to head National and Sub-National governments. More than 20 countries currently have a woman as the Head of State/Government, and the global participation of women in national parliaments is just about 20%. A number of countries are exploring measures that may increase women’s participation in government at all levels, from local to national. I am pleased that Nigeria is one of those countries.
“In 2011, when I campaigned for the Presidency of our beloved nation, Nigeria, I made a very important promise to our people. I vowed to appoint women to top positions in my government. This was in a bid to promote gender equality within our governance and create a platform for women’s effective participation, even in elective offices. Upon taking office, I immediately began the task of fulfilling my pledge by appointing 13 women to strategic ministerial roles within my administration, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as well as other United Nations offices. Also, our Commissioners at the African Union (AU) and at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are both women. Furthermore, I decided that female cadets should be admitted as regular combatants to the Nigerian Defence Academy for the first time, so that Nigeria’s Armed Forces can have the full benefit of women’s participation across all ranks, in the years to come. I also appointed women among my Special Advisers and appointed the highest number of female Ambassadors/ High Commissioners in our country’s history.
“I hope to leave a legacy of proud and prosperous citizens where everyone is treated equally and women are able to reach their full potential in all aspects of human development”.
The extent of the research effort that went into the production of this compendium is best captured by some of the narrative contained therein viz:
“In1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to extend the right to vote to all adult women. Australia followed a year later, and was the first country to grant women the right not only to vote, but also to run for public office. Finland was the first European country to grant voting rights to women in 1904, and in 1907 it became the first country in the world to have democratically elected female members of parliament.
“Most Western nations adopted women’s voting rights after World War I, with Germany and Great Britain, for example, granting that right in 1918 and the United States in 1920, while women in France had to wait until 1944; Switzerland proved to be a real latecomer, only granting women the right to vote in 1971.
“Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was the first African nation to allow women to vote, in 1919, albeit with a caveat: a husband’s financial status decided whether or not his wife was allowed to vote. “In 1954, women in the eastern regions of Nigeria were allowed to vote, and one year later, the western region followed – as long as the women were taxpayers.
“In 1931, Ceylon (known as Sri Lanka from 1972) became the first Asian country to grant voting rights to women, and to do so without any restrictions – economic, social or racial – other than age. Less than thirty years later, Sri Lanka became the first nation to have a democratically elected female head of government in Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who took office as Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1960.
“Today, women hold political office in some of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, Angela Merkel became Chancellor of Germany in 2005, Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State of the United States in 1997, she was followed by Condoleezza Rice, in 2005 and Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009.
“In Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi became the Continents first and second democratically elected female Presidents in 2005 and 2012, respectively.
“While these are rather impressive individual examples of women wielding political power, the percentage of women in political office tells a rather different story. There are only two (very different) nations in the world with an almost equal gender distribution in parliament – Rwanda and Andorra. In Finland, a historical champion of gender equality, only 42.5% of the parliament’s members are female, and although governed by a woman, only 32.9% of the members of Germany’s lower house of parliament (Bundestag) are women. Only 22.3% of MPs in the UK’s House of Commons are female, in the United States only 17% of the members of Congress are women, in Zimbabwe only 15%, in Sri Lanka – which started the trend in Asia – only 6%. And in Nigeria, the combined statistics of female parliamentarians in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, that constitute the National Assembly, show that only 7% of members are female.
“In short, statistics show that while women participate in politics, they don’t do so in equal numbers to men.
“The international average of women in elected office is only 20%. In other words, politics is still overwhelmingly a man’s world.
“Nigeria is a positive exception: President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s appointments at Executive level have historically increased the percentage of women in office, from 10% to above 30%, well above the international average.
“The growing number of women involved in politics is certainly heartening, yet a look behind the statistics reveals the troublesome reasons why fewer women than men hold office, illustrating the amount of work that lies ahead of women, on the road to achieving true gender equality.
In a 2008 study exploring why there were fewer active female politicians than men in the United States, Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox came up with some answers that were perhaps not entirely unexpected:
“We link this persistent gender gap in political ambition to several factors. Women are less likely than men to be willing to endure the rigours of a political campaign. They are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. They are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family obligations with a political career. They are less likely than men to think they are “qualified” to run for office. And they are less likely than men to perceive a fair political environment.
“In other words, there are fewer women in office than men, not necessarily because women are less successful candidates, but rather because fewer women even consider running for office.
This was true in the 2011 Nigerian elections as well, where only 9% of candidates were female. Lawless and Fox argue that in order for women to simply run for office, they have to overcome several hurdles not encountered by men.
“Chief among the obstacles women face are the lack of economic independence, the economy of care, and a gender gap (perceived or real) in overall education and political expertise, as well as the attitudes of political gatekeepers.
“Running for political office costs money, and women, far more than men, are economically dependent on others such as their husbands, fathers or brothers. In short, most women don’t have the economic basis to even consider a political career. In addition, women have far more trouble reconciling the demands of a political career with those of their home and family life, given the fact that the responsibilities of caring for family and children traditionally lie with the woman. “This is the economy of care, which impacts social attitudes across the globe and creates a very real obstacle to a woman’s political ambitions. It is the mind-set that praises a man as a good provider when he focuses on his career, but scolds a woman for being a bad wife and mother if she does the same. In general, society still believes that a woman’s role is to provide care for the home and children, ensuring the welfare of the next generation. Clearly, this is a vitally important role, yet unless this role brings with it real status or power, women will continue to remain on the margins of society.
“The often religiously sanctioned attitude that women should care for the house and home, keeps young women and girls, in many cultures, from getting an education that would qualify them for a job that could offer economic independence. Yet both education and economic independence are necessary to seek and win political office, which in turn is necessary to be in a position to effect societal change. This is a vicious circle, which needs to be broken.
“Over 100 years after women were first allowed to vote and run for office, there is still plenty of work ahead. Role models such as those provided in this book are a step in the right direction. Girls across Nigeria will grow up seeing women at work in their government, and dream of following in their footsteps when they grow up. Real societal and political change effected by these women must come next, creating gender equality in education and the workplace, so that more and more of those girls have a chance to make their dream a reality”.
The launch of this work is expected to be hosted by President Jonathan.
Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf and Malawian President Joyce Banda (the two female presidents in Africa) as well as former Ghanaian President John Kufuor will grace the occasion. The book reviewer would be Dr. Doyin Abiola.
GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, CHAMPION FOR WOMEN enjoys the not so common privilege of a book that serves both decorative and intellectual purposes.