By Josephine Agbonkhese & Anino Aganbi
IT is about the best time to be a woman, so much so that the menfolk across the globe are positively green with envy. So much honour and intervention have been conferred on the fair gender that it almost seems unfair.
Still, there is much ground to be broken, and broken it will be, because others have done it; and done so at a time when it was virtually unthinkable to be different.
The disruption caused by the digital world in this information age has brought about an unprecedented level of awareness of the dire need for social change, especially as it relates to contemporary times and not only women but the society at large.
We choose this period – the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, to celebrate a tiny but representative group of women who have broken social boundaries and opened the door to others by their boldness, simplicity and consistency.
Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan
EXCEPT for the sudden turn of events, Nigeria would currently be having in the Taraba State House her first-ever elected female governor in person of Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, popularly known as Mama Taraba.
Yes, politics in Nigeria has always been dominated by men until a few years ago when women began to dare the terrain but there’s no denying the fact that Al-Hassan took it to a whole new level when in the 2015 elections, she contested for the governorship seat in Taraba State under the All Progressive Congress, APC, scaled through party primaries where many women complain of being cowed to dump their political ambition; and ran an energetic election campaign where others decry ‘money politics’. She also successfully garnered Christian support despite herself being Muslim.
Her efforts will forever inspire female politicians to doggedly aspire to become governors and perhaps president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on mainstream political platforms, in subsequent elections.
Previously a Senator representing Taraba North constituency of Taraba State, Al-Hassan is currently Minister for Women Affairs. A lawyer by training, she was the first female to be appointed Taraba State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, among many other firsts.
AT a time when the Quick Service Restaurant, QSR, industry was solely the preserve of foreign investors like the United Africa Company of Nigeria, UAC, which first brought the concept into Nigeria in the 1960s when it set up Mr. Bigg’s, Kehinde Kamsom saw a gap. She particularly noticed the approach to the QSR business didn’t quite reflect the Nigerian society.
Thus, in 1994, Kamson started Sweet Sensation, a QSR business, from a tiny guard house in Ilupeju, Lagos, after 10 years of running a small local food business.
Her approach to the business has been to combine local and international menus while constantly creating new recipes.In fact, Sweet Sensations is known for being the first outlet to feature local cuisine on the menu.
The business has since grown to become one of the most successful chain of QSR businesses in Nigeria with dozens of outlets across the country and thousands of employees.
While Kamson might be easily seen today as an outstanding female business leader, she wouldn’t matter much today if she wasn’t daring enough to delve into the QSR terrain while her contemporaries stuck to local food joint operation. Lady Kamson, with her sheer boldness, has since inspired other food businesses to evolve into QSR and provoked an unprecedented expansion and growth in the industry in Nigeria.
Otunba Bola Kuforiji-Olubi
THIS list cannot be complete without Otunba Bola Kuforiji- Olubi of blessed memory, a woman who demystified the corporate world and its boardroom, inspiring other women to follow suit. She is a woman of many firsts.
Born 82 years ago in an era where women were regarded as only good for the kitchen, Kuforiji-Olubi defied all odds to become one of the first women to make serious impacts in the highly male-dominated banking profession in the country.
She had become a headmistress at age 19 at Zawan Girls Catholic Primary School in Jos where she had started out a Grade-II teacher, but her thirst for knowledge made her abandon that job for a degree in Economics in 1963 at the University of London. While she later studied Accountancy, her name however did not strike any chords until 1977 when she became the first Nigerian female graduate of Chartered Accountant of England and Wales, as well as that of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria-ICAN.
Immediately after her degree in accountancy, she entered into the banking profession, aimed for the top, and through hard work and resilience, by 1984, she had become the first-ever female chairman of a leading financial institution, United Bank for Africa Plc. Kuforiji-Olubi was also the first Nigerian woman to be CEO of a multinational company; first female Chairman of a public company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange; first woman to preside over the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN (from 1989 to 1990); and in 1993, she was appointed Minister for Commerce & Tourism.
Kuforiji-Olubi was in fact a boardroom guru extraordinaire—chairing and serving on the boards of several companies— and she played it out like a man, never succumbing to intimidation.
Dr Josephine Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin
A PROTEGE of Gani Fawehinmi and Beko Ransome Kuti, Odumakin is an activist with a rare personality. An enigma of some sorts who has traversed courageously where even men fear to tread, her foray into activism dates back to the era of military dictatorship in Nigeria. Despite her many travails, for Odumakin, there is no giving up. She’s been in an out of detention for about seventeen times, been severally beaten by soldiers and also stripped naked in some occasions.
In the course of her work during Ibrahim Babangidda’s regime, Odumakin had been urinated upon while lying still to evade arrest at the Police Headquarters where she had gone to place anti-Babangidda posters around 1am. She didn’t however escape that scene without being beaten to pop.
One of the most memorable accounts of her activism was of a day she was billed to address a press conference but went into labour the early morning the same day. When her doctor examined her around 7.30am, it was confirmed that the labour had advanced and seeing that it couldn’t be stopped for her to go ahead with her press conference, Odumakin patiently waited till 9.10am when she delivered the baby, and before even her mother could say Jack, she disappeared from hospital, went to the conference venue, did her thing and then returned to the hospital.
Odumakin was aptly honoured a couple of years ago in America with the Woman of Courage award. In fact, her consistency and unwavering determination for survival of democracy in Nigeria made Professor Wole Soyinka to describe her as “a tireless fighter…who remains an inspiration to men and women, old and young.”
Justice Mariam Muktar
JUSTICE Mariam Aloma Muktar had her primary education at the St. George’s School and St. Bartholomews’s school, Zaria between 1950-1957. She attained her GCE O’Levels in 1962 at Rossholme School for Girls in East Brent, Somerset, England and later attended Technical College, Berkshire England. She was called to the English Bar in 1967 after graduating with honours from Gibson and Welder college in 1966. She was also called to the Nigerian Bar in 1967 after she had attained her English Bar. She is the first woman from the North, who has set the trail for many women around Nigeria to look up to. Among many firsts which she has achieved, Justice Muktar made history for being the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court in Nigeria. She also made history when she was appointed as the Chief Registrar, Kano State Government Judiciary (1973 – 1977) and Judge, High Court of Kano State in 1977 and Justice, Court of Appeal in 1987.
Justice Mukhtar began her legal career as a pupil counsel in the Ministry of Justice of Northern Nigeria in 1967. She was later appointed Magistrate Grade I, North Eastern Government (1969 – 1973), thus scoring another first as the first female Magistrate in the Northern region.