By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Mr. Bode Adediji is the immediate past President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyor and Valuers. In this interview, he speaks on the need for government at all levels as well as other organizations to champion the cause for the emancipation of the Nigerian woman.
He also X-rays some of the grey areas mitigating against emancipation of women in Nigeria and how to redirect the Nigeria’s future towards integrating women into all spheres of life so that the country can be better for it.
Real Estate is not a woman’s world, why is that?
That is correct. Despite all efforts in the past to bring more women on board in this profession, it has been a major challenge. It is more tragic in the sense that most ladies who have gotten the education as certified Estate Management and Property professionals opt out in most cases. They rather venture into other things.
And as much as we (leaders) are struggling to integrate women into this profession, it appears that we have not succeeded. But hope is not lost because there are certain aspects of the profession that are women friendly. For instance there are more women in Property and Facility Management, Maintenance of Property among others.
But when it comes to the area of Aggressive Estate Agency where it is expected that women and men should be competing, the environment is not conducive for them to thrive. I am certain that women do not want to be used as marketing tools to source for clients and that is the area I also frown against.
I am an advocate of allowing women and men to compete on a level playing ground and once that is done with the special protection, education and enlightenment expected to be given unto them, you will find out that women succeed more than men. It is a known fact that women are more vibrant and successful in companies than men.
But, majority of women have not opened doors for opportunities in the areas of physical construction and property development, technical issues among others. Other areas that I most dwell on are that women are not risk takers. They always want to be within their comfort zone rather than pursuing new challenges.
With my 40 years of experience in this profession, I would say that what we have neglected in doing is to have created a special platform, infrastructure, to bring more women into the Real Estate industry. And government on its own at all levels has not seen the need to put up such thoughts in encouraging, supporting and defending women to venture into the Real Estate industry.
What we were 30 years ago was not what we were 10 years ago and what we are going to be in 10 years to come is certainly different from what we are now, which simply means we should develop policies that would help Nigerian women to thrive in all spheres of human endeavour especially industries that appear to be male dominated. We must know that it is practicable and not only be seen as theory. It is not difficult to attain because other countries have done it successfully.
Do you think Nigeria leaders have the duty to champion the cause of women?
No reason for any leader in any sector of Nigeria to attempt to shun policies and programmes that would bring women into the Real Estate and Property sector. We have been to other countries and seen how women dominate the sectors. In Russia, you hardly find a company without women. In Germany, one of the most successful leaders is a woman in politics, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and she has done that successfully. Britain with all their powers, a woman has been in charge. Therefore if any Nigerian leader thinks that the understanding of women 20 years ago which is ratio 10 percent women to 90 percent men is still the same in this computer age, that leader does not know what he is doing.
In the family line, I have three daughters and one son and I have brought them up in a way that none of them would feel inferior to another. There is no difference in their disciplines and I tried to emphasis that to my wife on how importance is it to train both the female and male equally and encourage, support and invest the same resources and energy in the girl-child so as to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the boy-child.
Is there any special way to train the girl child?
There are some fundamental bases for every parent to learn when training the girl-child. Beginning from the kind of programmes your children watch on the television to the type of course you persuade them to study in the higher institution. For instance, it is not out of place to allow your children learn both Science and Art courses so that they can stand the test of time. The truth is that many of these girls are better in Science courses than men. When it comes to education, those who top the class in the last 10 years have been the girls.
So, if we have that kind of phenomenon, I do not see reason for any government of the day not to explore various avenues of involving more women in different helms of affairs. Government should be able to shun gender discrimination and involve more women in the authorities. Government should invest in resources to give special incentives for girls to go into the mainstream. We have heard the story of Irene Koki Mutungi, Airline Captain who is a professional pilot in Kenya.
The largest economy in the East African Community is Kenya. She was the first female on the African continent to become certified as a captain of the Boeing 787. We also heard about the story of the Nigerian girl, Adeola Ogunmola Sowemimo, the first Nigerian female pilot at Qatar Airways and the first Nigerian female pilot to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. She was a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Lautech. Stories like these tell you that no one should despise the female but rather take it as a special project.
I think government should encourage women to venture into all the sectors and not only in active politics.
Special avenues and factors mitigating against women….
Special avenues should be created for women rather than allowing a few opportunistic women who have nothing to offer in the helm of affairs. Women have talents and they are intellectual naturally, and as such they would have taken the country to greater heights. Unfortunately, Nigerian mentality has trivialised the talents on the platform of populism. We must ensure that we engage women who have been tested and trusted in other fields including engineering, journalism, Medicine among others.
Unfortunately, the set of women that congregate political affairs are those who have not been proven, only that they answer the father’s name and you should expect that the outcome of such political atmosphere would be failure. Where a nation encourages women who have been proven in all aspects of life, you have sanitised the political landscape and such women would be role models.
But, as long as you popularise female participation in key areas of development without reference to their backgrounds, the nation is the worse for it.
March 8 was celebrated as International Women’s Day and the theme was #BalanceforBalance. You just mentioned some factors mitigating against women emancipation. How would you advise government in ensuring women are balanced?
Let me say what worries me about Nigeria. As at today, people who are educated, who have daughters, who are exposed and intelligent are in government and without mentioning a particular name, they know those fundamental things that hinder the progress of women. Yet, they have not consciously created programmes, policies, facilities that counter those hindrances. Nigeria is the only place in the world that has no facility to help the disabled. My daughters work abroad and I have been opportune to visit them and find out that every major employer of labour has creche facilities for nursing mothers.
In Nigeria, you hardly see companies that created facility to encourage nursing mothers. Secondly, there is no other campaign aside the annual international women’s day created by government for fathers to consciously develop awareness on how to shower love on women and the girl-child.
Our love should metamorphose into a global campaign for women. There should be a synergy between the religious clams and the government as well as agencies in funding programmes and policies those caterpult women to higher place. The truth is that the largest number of attendees in churches, mosques is women. They even spend their time. The minute we are able to utilise the intellectual thinking into practical horizon, a nation then benefits. If we do not do that, the country will not only be stagnant but also retrogress.
If there is emancipation of women, there will be progress in all spheres of life. Where there is oppression, suppression and depression daily inflicted on women, the result thereof is retrogression. We need critical women in those clams to transform a country.
On March 29, Vanguard will be holding its International Women’s Day Round Table and the theme is “#Redirecting Nigeria’s Future, the Role of Women”. If you would respond to this theme, how do you think Nigeria’s future can be redirected?
Women possess hidden powers which they themselves do not know. Therefore, I believe, the question should be directed to women themselves.
There are basic questions including who is a Nigerian woman today? What does she stand for? Where is she coming from? Where is she now and where is is she going? Until you are willing to reform yourself through your knowledge and identity, strength, weakness, opportunity and threat and then begin to organise your life to use what you have positively to get what you want, there is no other person that can make it happen.
The other aspect is that there are things that women must increase their energy and advocacy upon. There are cultural tragedies and peculiarities in Nigeria and until, they are broken, women would be making piece meal progresses that are intangible. We must address that. Although, women are already doing that and I believe that men must collaborate with them on that aspect. There are so many parts of this country that women are treated as chattels. If they were like that hundred years ago, why must they continue on that terrain today?
There is another thing that is epidemic in Nigeria and I do not see women championing that course. And it is the gap between the rich and the poor. I have not seen any programme in the last three regimes that can claim to have bridged the gap between the rich and the poor. That is why wealth does not transit from the parent to the next generation. Therefore, if women can participate in the struggle to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, the country will be better off.
The other area is that we need to create shock absorber for the less privileged. Today, the kind of shock absorber that Nigerian leaders claim to have created is not real. We should know that businesses collapse in America on a daily basis and other ones are created.
But, Nigerians would rather castigate anyone whose business collapses in this country. People would call you all sorts of names because you can no longer run your business. Nigerians also call someone who borrows and is unable to pay a criminal. So, women must look in this direction such that those women who adventure into entrepreneurship can thrive.
If we continue to change political parties ten thousand times without addressing the fundamentals, there would be no progress. The other area is the failure of men to join hands for the emancipation of Nigerian woman. A sincere government must create a transition period to achieve that. They must be able to set aside an agenda for women in the next four years which everybody must champion. It must be a collective effort by all and sundry.
In the last fifteen years, I have not seen any policy or programme by government that promotes emancipation of women and that is a dangerous path.
Thirdly, I believe there are organizations that should play a major role in the emancipation of women but I doubt if we have many of them focusing in that direction. I believe there are many foundations in Nigeria. Therefore, it is pertinent to know the percentage of their resources committed to the emancipation of women.
And we need a leader that can drive these organizations for the emancipation of women so that young girls in primary and secondary schools can begin to have a rethink on the need to be relevant in their worlds. These children would understand the importance of becoming great in life and be responsible to them. Today, the only persons you see on the front pages of newspapers are the politicians and that is the degree to which our media has degenerated.