By Paul Mumeh
“You should not be deterred by the obstacles. You must strive to do more to surmount hurdles. You have demonstrated enough tenacity of purpose. Your perseverance, resilience and indomitable spirit as good managers of human and material resources have been unparallel”.
These were the inspiring words of Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa & New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD), to Nigerian women to commemorate the International Women Day (IWD) in Abuja; a disposition, which underscores his determination to stand for the voiceless, downtrodden, deprived, stigmatized and mistreated female folks.
In the 9th Senate, Senator Nnamani who is the progenitor of Ebeano political dynasty in Enugu State has been unwavering in championing the rights of women. This is a devotion he ventured into perhaps influenced by his calling as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist with sub-specialization in foetal and maternal medicine.
This irrepressible champion of the downtrodden has turned 60 (May 30, 2020). He is arguably overwhelmed by the outpouring of goodwill messages, prayers and accolades for his contributions towards the good of our nation and humanity at large. To his credit, the political landscape and leadership in the coal city state has been midwife successfully by Nnamani’s Ebeano political family at least since 1999.
Some of the issues Senator Nnamani have continued to champion unrepentantly includes but not limited to fundamental rights of women; right to freedom of expression, right to political and economic emancipation as well as right for self-determination and discovery.
According to Nnamani, “ I have a social burden for Nigeria and there is the urgent need for this giant of Africa to wake up and champion the process of real development in the continent. I want to be part of a process that will debate on the project Better Nigeria and to ensure that my constituents get what they deserve as an integral part of this country.
“I am interested in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease. I will strive to ensure that the health and wellbeing of women and children are given priority. I crave for an egalitarian society where peace, equity and justice reigns.”
French philosopher, Francois-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire once posited in his advocacy for freedom of speech and upholding of the sanctity of human rights that “I may not like what you say or do but I will defend with the last drop of my blood your right to say it”. In other words, “I (may) disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”. This represents Nnamani’s position in the propagation and Defence of women rights.
Freedom of speech is unarguably at the core of all fundamental rights, being pivotal to all tenets of democratic participation, social equality, fairness and curtailing excesses of power.
Recall that Nigeria in 1994 participated and indeed signed the Beijing, China Declaration and subsequent platform for action adopted by the 4th World Conference on women with representatives from 200 countries to among other things empower, restore the dignity of womanhood and enforce their rights.
High points of that declaration was the promotion of women and girls’ rights, involvement in governance in their countries as well as the implementation of the 35 percent affirmative action for women in appointments among others.
Twenty-six years after the Beijing Declaration, the implementation of the 35 percent affirmative action and elimination of discrimination and violence against women has been a dream far from reality in Nigeria.
Scores of Nigerian women and more than a few Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have taken the gauntlet on discrimination and violence against women to the doorsteps of authorities with less significant results to cheer so far.
The protests by the female folks across the country during the 2020 commemoration of IWD aptly brought to the fore the necessity to treat issues affecting women and the girl-child with all the seriousness it deserves.
The demand has been on government, particularly the executive and legislative arms, political parties, public institutions and faith-based organizations to entrench the standards espoused in the Beijing Declaration.
For this cause, Senator Nnamani, who represents Enugu East Senatorial Zone, has continued to identify with the Nigerian women as manifested in his consistent contributions to issues of women and the girl child. Coincidentally, he is the only male member in the Senate Committee on women affairs that is expectedly dominated by female legislators.
To further clear the hurdles against women, Senator Nnamani proposed legislation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and the girl child. Specific actions, he stressed needs to be taken to end societal ills against women as well as promoting gender parity.
To drive home his unwavering commitment to the ideals and rights of women, Nnamani on his part, registered and paid the 2020 West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees for the 3,991 female students in 68 public secondary schools in Enugu East Senatorial Zone. Some of the beneficiaries are indigent students.
The West African Examination Council (WEAC) Zonal Coordinator in Enugu, Mrs C.O. Agwu expressed appreciation to the Senator and urged other well-meaning Nigerians to emulate Nnamani in uplifting the girl child especially the vulnerable ones.
To further protect and preserve the rights of women and the girl child, Nnamani advocated for the criminalization of violence against women in the country saying “the panacea to the incessant cases of violation of the rights of women and the girl child is making such act a criminal offence punishable by law”.
He lamented that the unabating violation of the rights of women has continued to impede the development of the female folks and by extension the nation.
He pointed out that primitive societies in some African countries still deny women access to education, right to own property or vie for elective positions; a development he described as absurd and retrogressive. Nnamani bemoaned the rampant cases of sexual harassment against girls in tertiary institutions and urged authorities to bring the full weight of the law on any offender.
Governments at all levels, he charged to initiate an action plan to reverse the trend and protect the rights of women and the girl child.
He noted the struggles and exploits of Nigerian women, right from the Aba women riots of 1929 to the battle for the attainment of independence saying, “the female folks deserve to be encouraged because the Nigerian nay African women have over the years contributed positively to developments and have excelled in various fields of human endeavour”.
Born on May 30, 1960, in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Senator Nnamani is a graduate of University of Nigeria medical school. He is an American trained and certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist with sub-specialization in foetal and maternal medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria. He is also a trained molecular cytologist with specific interest in uterine smooth muscle contractility and cell-to-cell communication.
Only recently, the Enugu State University of Sciences and Technology (ESUT) Enugu, appointed Senator Nnamani as a Visiting Professor (Pro Bono) in the Department of Physiology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine in recognition of his promotion of maternal and child health.
This was contained in a letter of appointment signed by the Registrar of the University, Mr. Leonard O. Khama.
In the letter, the Registrar stated that as a Visiting Professor, his duties include block teaching, student supervision; research and such other related assignments as are consistent with the status.
Senator Nnamani is expected to make his contributions to the university using available time during recess in Enugu to provide teaching, research and guidance to students.
He is also expected to focus on maternal and foetal medicine, obstetrics, gynaecology and medical physiology as well as special clinical areas such as foetal surveillance and complications in pregnancies.
As the family, friends, political associates and colleagues celebrate this great compatriot, orator, philanthropist and scholar as he clocks 60 years, it is hoped that the campaigns and public enlightenments exhibited by the various women groups during the 2020 IWD would give a boost to Nnamani’s drive for women emancipation.
Mumeh wrote from Abuja.