By Denrele Animasaun
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe— Frederick Douglass
The Liberians have got a hero in their new president, George Weah. When he announced that he is to take a cut in his salary, I bet the other politicos especially in our neck of the woods, were spluttering into their greed. They probably then laughed and sniggered that he too, would soon be corrupted. After all, his predecessor, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Johnson Sirleaf, succumbed to some extent, there were talks of nepotism, handing down lucrative posts to her family members. The former President Sirleaf threw in the towel and after 12years in power, admitted that she failed to tackle corruption and she blamed this on “public enemy number one” the “intractability of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance”. It is commonly felt that her government only improved the lives of the elites and the majority languishing in poverty.
Two thirds of Liberians live in poverty, and it were the very same people who attended Weah’s rallies and turned out to vote for him, they are hanging on his every word, they are hopeful that just maybe, his allure and his common touch that led to his prominence will rub off on them.
So, I think she doth protest too much and she did not try hard enough and those around her did not try at all. Of course, now, she has become person non granta because she supported Weah against her own party chosen candidate. Speaking at his inauguration, Weah promises that the focus of his presidency would be to transform the lives of all Liberians. It is a tall order and he may very achieve this but not on his own. It will take a collective change in mind-set.
Weah, knows and admits that he won because, the youths and the women of Liberia and he told them that his administration is their government. Time will tell, but one political analyst said ,”People believe George Weah has the magic wand,”
Having said that, Sirleaf transformed the image of Liberia and protected free speech and freedom of association but her failure to tackle corruption in the ranks was the nail in the coffin of her Unity Party.
100 years since women won the right to vote.
On the 6th of February, 1918 in the UK, women were given the rights to vote and it took another 10 years for all women in the UK were allowed to vote. Unfortunately, took a lot to get the vote and to think how much most of us take our votes for granted wen brave women fought hard to secure women the rights to participate in the electoral process. In the last one hundred years, women have taken the mantle of political power and have proven their capability to govern and lead, contrary to the fear that the leaders, who were men, that such thinking would bring disaster, they reasoned that women should not go anywhere near power because it was a male domain! So, 100 years on, women around the world owe a debt of gratitude to a group of determined women called the “suffragettes”. They campaigned, protested and went on hunger strikes and even went to prison; died to secure this unalienable rights. Emmeline Pankhurst, one of prominent suffragette, believed to agitate for change, there was a need for direct action by working-class women who would use any means necessary to secure the vote. “Deeds not words” – the motto of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) she created in 1903 – summed up their tactic of demanding, not asking, for their rights.
Nigeria had its own, – an extraordinarily brave women rights campaigner, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (FRK), a political activist, the lioness of Lisabi, fondly called Mama Africa. I understand she was the first African woman to drive an automobile.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was born Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas to Daniel Olumeyuwa Thomas and Lucretia Phyllis Omoyeni Adeosolu on 25th October, 1900 in Abeokuta, Egbaland.
Her grandfather, was a returned enslaved man from Sierra Leone, who traced his ancestral history back to Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria. She was the first female student at the Abeokuta Grammar School- 1914 to 1917. She continued her studies in England (1919–23), where she dropped her English names and shortened her Yoruba name to Funmilayo as you can see, she was very much her own person and with a strong sense of self. On return to Nigeria, she became a teacher. In 1925, she married a likeminded person, the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome Kuti. The Reverend,was also defender of the ordinary people, and one of the founders of both the Nigeria Union of Teachers and of the Nigerian Union of Students. FRK fought very hard and spoke out for women’s rights, earning women the right to vote and it earned her the Lenin Peace Prize in the early sixties. She founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union, one of the most impressive women’s organisations of the twentieth century (with a membership estimated to have reached up to 20,000 women, this was no mean feat), which fought to protect and further the rights of women. FRK was a fearless activist and for her work in advancing the rights of women in Nigeria, she received the national honour of Membership of the Order of Nigeria (MON) in 1965.
The University of Ibadan bestowed upon her the honorary doctorate of laws in 1968. She also held a seat in the Western House of Chiefs of Nigeria as an Oloye of the Yoruba people.
In 1932, she helped organize the Abeokuta Ladies Club (ALC), initially a civic and charitable group of mostly Western-educated Christian women. The organization gradually became more political and feminist in its orientation, and in 1944, it formally admitted market women (women vendors in Abeokuta’s open-air markets), who were generally impoverished, illiterate, and exploited by colonial authorities. In 1946,the ALC changed its name to the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) and opened its membership to all women in Abeokuta. Trading was one of the major occupations of women in the Western Nigeria at the time. In 1949, she led a protest against Native Authorities, especially against the Alake of Egbaland. She presented documents alleging abuse of authority by the Alake, who had been granted the right to collect the taxes by his Colonial suzerain, the Government of the United Kingdom. He subsequently relinquished his crown for a time due to the affair. She also oversaw the successful abolishing of separate tax rates for women.