By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features
In the beginning, the Nigerian woman was only seen but not heard. Her place was restricted to the kitchen and the other room.
Her voice was restricted to her husband’s ears and close family members. Her man who was hinged on his chauvinistic disposition preoccupied himself with the notion that decision making was exclusively for the men folk while women were to be instructed on what to do.
Politics was exclusively a man’s game, a club to which women were not invited. Laws were made by men, for men.
But that was then.
The place of the Nigerian woman has ceased to be in the kitchen and the other room alone. Her role has expanded to other places and for long now, women have ceased to be relegated to the background on issues of the overall development especially in the developing nations like Nigeria.
Nigerian women have for long been playing crucial role in political life of the country, and this has contributed in no small measure in shaping the political system of the nation.
In pre-independence era of Nigeria, there were a couple of women political activists such as, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Mrs. Janet Mokelu and Ms. Young who were members of the Eastern House of Assembly.
Sooner, more women began to venture into the exclusive club hitherto belonging to the male alone. Women like Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti became a very strong force to reckon with in politics. In the North, Hajia Gambo Sawaba waged a fierce battle for the political and cultural emancipation of women.
Civilization and political re-awakening has made women more anxious and keen over their surroundings. Today, they are beginning to raise their voices.
But when Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida emerged military president of Nigeria, the lot of Nigerian women in politics became more prominent. Maryam Babangida institutionalized the Office of the First Lady in 1987 and became the first working First Lady with the launch of “Better Life for Rural Women” programme.
Other women soon followed. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was later to become the Minister of Finance, who saved the nation records of billions of Naira as a result of hard work. Prof. Dora Akunyili performed credibly as the person at the helm of affairs in NAFDAC, leading the fight against adulterated pharmaceutical drugs.
Development has made it possible for women to participate in those activities which were exclusive reserve of the men.
But at this time in Nigeria when ethno-religious issues were creating problems in the country, the smart card is being wielded by a few who are seen to have ventured into other regions to break the jinx.
For a politician like Atiku Abubakar, its been campaign made easy as his divergent choice of wives has endeared him into the heart of many.
His religion permits polygamy and he chose to be a wise polygamist. Hence, he married his wives wisely across four zones in the country. He married Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, a Yoruba secretly at the young age of 25 in December 1971 at the Ikoyi registry in Lagos, because her family was initially opposed to the union. They have long embraced him as their son-in-law.
In January 1979, he married Ladi Atiku Abubakar.
He married his third wife, Princess Rukaiyatu Atiku Abubakar, daughter of the late Lamido of Adamawa in 1983 and married Fatima Atiku Abubakar his fourth wife in 1986 but later divorced Ladi to marry as his fourth wife, Jennifer Iwenjora, who has became Jamila Atiku-Abubakar.
As ethnicity rears its ugly head in Nigeria on daily basis, Atiku Abubakar, to some Nigerians, has broken the ethnic barrier and maximized his marital relationships wisely.
He has them from North east, North west, south west and south east and these are the voices that softened the ground for him in his endeavours and earned him recognition as a detribalised Nigerian.