By Godson Moneke
THERE is a trenchant call for affirmative action to be part of constitutional provisions, especially in developing countries of the world. There is this erroneous belief that the female gender is eternally condemned to playing a second fiddle in all spheres of human enterprise.
Some female activists and social commentators have been very vocal in demanding for affirmative actions as the only way of giving them a sense of belonging. Women are generally perceived as the weaker sex to their male counterparts in terms of physicality.
Whilst one agrees on this score alone, it is important to stress that physicality is not all that matters in any gender comparison. For example, the feminine gender is not the weaker sex in terms of the contents of their brains and characters.
In the olden days, especially in African societies, men were often given preferences because their superior physical attributes enabled them to hunt in the forests, defend the communities against invaders and do manual works which are only suited to their physical strengths. Much of the work in farms was done by the womenfolk.
The preferences for the males today has more to do with succession in the family lineage and preservation of the family trees due to primordial and customary beliefs than any other consideration. This is purely an African phenomenon which has no global acceptability.
There is nothing to prove that the favoured male child has always been more intelligent than the female child. The only explanation is that the female child ends up marrying outside the biological family circle into a new family in possibly another community where they build another home. The irony is that while parents pamper the male child to the detriment of the female child, it is the female child that most often labour to take care of the parents at old age.
In a system where the social safety-nets are non existent, is it not paradoxical to continue to sustain this counterproductive practice? Looking down upon the female folks has introduced many negatives against them such as violence against women and misogyny. Talking of misogyny, one may ask: what is the motivation of misogynists?
These people see women as inferior beings who do not contribute positively to the society. But they are wrong, it is a perverted mindset which is evidentially mistaken and non-existent. By demanding for affirmative action, women are giving the impression that they can not compete favourably with their male counterparts without an external assistance.
I have seen millions of females who have bested their male colleagues in all fields of endeavours. I believe that demand for affirmative action by some females is an implicit admission by such people that they are inferior to their male counterparts. I see it as sending the wrong message.
There is no scientific proof to suggest that the masculine gender is more intelligent than the feminine one. Thus any suggestion to that effect is only aimed at intimidating the womenfolk to negatively affect their self-esteems. I, therefore, believe that the females can comfortably hold their own if given equal opportunities with their male counterparts.
The glass ceilings which suggest that women cannot attain a certain height in their chosen careers are more psychological than real. I have seen women who broke grounds and achieved what most men can only dream about. Therefore, insisting on affirmative action is demeaning and suggests an inferior gender.
Any person who requires affirmative action and an external assistance to achieve progress in life will always doubt his/her competence and ability to achieve the same height without assistance. This is why I believe that affirmative action designed either to give a head start to the female gender or to guarantee her a given quota in resource allocation is counterproductive and injurious to feminine gender growth and emancipation in the long run.
Affirmative action has ended up making some females believe erroneously that they are not and will never be as good as their male counterparts but in reality, some of them are better. Some believe that they are not more than sex toys to satisfy the men’s sexual pleasures and to produce children.
Granted that in a marriage, the men are usually treated as the bosses but that does not in anyway mean that the wife is an inferior homo sapiens. Marriage is like a partnership in which the man is the senior partner and the wife, a junior partner with some guaranteed rights. The role which a wife plays in a marriage should not be seen as inferior to that of the husband. It is a symbiotic relationship and none can exist without the other.
Roles should be streamlined so that the mutual benefits accruing from such roles are appreciated. Women who make themselves perpetual dependents on men lose their self respects over time.
Females should, therefore, see themselves as being capable of attaining any lawful status in the society just like their male counterparts. Even when a woman is a housewife, she must be seen to be adding visible value to the household other than childbearing. She should not present herself as a lazy dependent who is incapable of adding value to the home other than meeting sexual pleasure of the husband.
Rather than dissipating energy on affirmative action, what women need is equal opportunities for all irrespective of gender. We have seen women who have excelled and dominated in fields traditionally associated with men. For example, a few years ago, I attended the convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos where a female graduate from the department of systems engineering posted a perfect CGPA Score of 5.00/5.00.
This is a course of studies in which most of the graduating students were males yet a female came out tops. I understand the girl is now pursuing her PhD studies in one of the top universities in the United States. There is another, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has recorded many successes where most men have failed. At her tender age she has amassed a handful of honorary doctorate degrees to her credit.
The term Due Process was made popular in Nigeria by the outstanding works of Dr. (Mrs) Oby Ezekwesili who has excelled where many men have failed. Her social and moral advocacy is top notch, thus showing an example of what a properly educated girl-child who is given equal opportunities as the boy child will turn out to become.
Along the line, she must have met and beaten many male competitors in terms of compassion competence and character. Then we come to another world beater, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who at various times was Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Co-ordinating Minister of Nigeria’s Economy and the Managing Director of the World Bank. She held these positions and enviably acquitted herself with distinction.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is currently the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, WTO, a position she defeated numerous male competitors to occupy. Aside the aforementioned, there are numerous females who beat their male counterparts to occupy leadership positions in Nigeria.
They did not attain such heights by affirmative action but rather through grit and hard work given the same opportunities available to the male. Examples abound the world over of females who have achieved what the males can only dream of.
You can find them in politics, business, academics, poetry, leadership and indeed in all fields of human endeavour. Affirmative actions played no role in such achievements but hard work and equal opportunities did. Many countries of the world are governed by female Presidents and Prime Ministers.
We have more of them in advanced and emerging economies thus making affirmative action a Third World concept. I believe that affirmative action was designed by men to perpetually keep the women in the minority because of the fear that they would overtake the men which has continued to be a looming possibility if left unchecked.
The parliaments in some countries are dominated by females thus underscoring the truism that you do not need an affirmative action for the female gender to excel and take their rightful positions in the scheme of things. They did not achieve their statuses because of affirmative action but achieved same on merit and dint of hard work. Nancy Pelosi is a woman but she is the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the third most powerful person in the world’s strongest country.
The current President of Estonia is a woman, a former Prime Minister of the UK was a woman, a former President of Brazil was a woman, so was that of Argentina. Examples abound in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Germany and others too numerous to mention where women beat men to occupy the highest leadership and political positions. Today, there are about thirty countries in the world where women are either the presidents or the prime ministers. When you add countries which had been governed by female leaders at one point in their histories, the number becomes longer.
I need not remind readers of other achievements of women which are too important to be glossed over. For example, the current President of the European Commission is a woman and so is the Managing Director of the IMF, one of the two most important Breton Wood institutions.
They achieved these feats on merit not because of any affirmative action. Affirmative action can only serve the gut of opportunists in the short term because in the long term, it is retrogressive. Affirmative action does not aid holistic development, rather it stifles it. Examples abound in Nigeria where the politics of disadvantaged states has militated against orderly development in the country.
I believe that competitiveness is key and that people should be given opportunities to compete with each other and let merit decide our actions rather than primordial sentiments, nepotism, ethnicity or affirmative actions.
I am sure that if competitiveness had been an integral part of our body politic in Nigeria, we would have gone ways beyond where we are at the moment. We attained political independence since 1960 and have implemented this policy of disadvantaged states since then which is more than two generations. Have the pampered states now caught up with the rest despite these subsidies? The answer is a clear NO, it is not possible.
You don’t assist a people by holding them down while pretending to be helping them. Some people are stark illiterates today because they were the favoured children of their parents who because they did not understand the values of education refused to release their beloved children to the educational authorities who were mostly missionaries.
In fact, studies have shown that such a retrogressive policy actually harm the same people it is intended to serve. Brilliant people abound in equal measures all over the country but when you pamper a people, you make them lazy. In my list of the ten most brilliant people I have interacted with in my educational and work history, ironically people from the so-called educationally disadvantaged states come out tops.
This means that brilliance is not the exclusive preserve of any region. Therefore, the policy of developmentally disadvantaged states bothers on insincerity and dishonesty. It is having a negative effect on the psyche of the so-called disadvantaged people. For example, it makes majority of them to get laidback and live lives of entitlement mentality. We should learn from the Caucasians and understand why we are always lagging behind them.