By: Shiloh O. Akinyemi
From time immemorial, ours has been a nation of actively productive women. From the days of Yoruba kingdom and the recorded history of Oduduwa descendants, marriage has never conscripted women from social responsibility. Moremi was the wife of Oranmiyan the son of Oduduwa, her intervention in the course of the life of her community left her name in gold. Up North is the Zazzau kingdom of the Hausa nation where we had the first woman who became the sarahuniya (queen) in a male dominated society, the warrior Queen Amina led men to war and expanded the Zazzau kingdom, unfortunately the history of the Hausa has been completely re-written and the bravity of that kingdom subjugated, the men can’t even stand up for themselves. The conquered Hausa kingdom today can’t even wish for a King not to talk of a Queen. A people from a far country have eroded them, their culture and traditions.
In colonial modern Nigeria, 1929 will go down as the year a group of women warriors changed the face of the nation in the city of Aba, south east, Nigeria. Today, Abia State rots away and no woman seems bothered. In the same city of Aba, 20 years after Aba riot, rose Margret Ekpo a woman who re-defined activism.
The foot prints of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti dotted the South West and were too indelible not to be noticed across Nigeria, she left a legacy of activism behind that has transverse three generations. When it mattered, Kudirat Abiola stood to be counted.
And if you are looking for more recent instances, we have the likes of Dora Akunyili, whose war against fake drug remains legendary, of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whose exit from the steering of our economy is no doubt the reason our giant ship is adrift on the sea of life. On the primary penchant of beauty we once ruled the world with Agbani Darego; Miss World 2001, a similar feat was repeated by Precious Chikwendu who became Miss United Nations 2014, her honour before the UN and the world not withstanding it has been difficult for the privileged man who had her for his wife to bequeath a dint of honour to her. That unfortunately most times is the travail of the Nigerian woman. She is being confined to second fiddle by a society of male chauvinists.
Nigerian women have always had to stoop to conquer. It is a common saying that behind every successful man there is a woman. But can it be vice versa? No! Yet these women who have contributed to the growth and development of our nation, are bullied in the space of politics and have become very passive towards leadership, except when few are appointed.
At every season of election, these women troop out in their numbers to determine a huge percentage of who our next leaders would be.
In 2019, women made up 47% of the total registered voters, while the men owned 53%. Despite this huge influence of women in political decision-making, we still queue for hours in the sun, giving our votes to people who have never had and will most certainly never have the interest of women at heart. While we should be demanding equity of 47% being our democratic strength, we are begging for 35% for which our bill still got thrown out of the window of the National Assembly.
The men in power do not represent the interest of women. A most recent proof is having the bill for gender equality trampled on by the male dominated National Assembly we elected.
The fight for gender equality will forever remain a dream, if women do not rise to the responsibility of giving priority to female representatives in the National Assembly and the House of Assembly.
Today, we make references to women like Margaret Thatcher, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Angela Merkel, Former Chancellor of Germany.
In our neighbouring West African country comes an example of consistent struggle of a female activist in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was released from prison in the 1980s.
Ellen was Secretary of State for Finance between 1972 and 1978, then Minister of Finance between 1979 and 1980.
She survived several assassination attempts, was forced to go into exile and then returned later, declaring that she wants to campaign against the president, which resulted in death threats again.
From 1985, she was sentenced to ten years in prison for opposing the military regime of Samuel Doe, but was allowed to leave the country shortly after. Her political opposition earned her the nickname “Iron Lady”.
She became the first woman elected by universal suffrage as the Head of an African state in 2006. She is a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She has proven that power is not traditional dowry that men will pay to have a beauty and brain in leadership. Power, Nigerian women must accept can only be fought for!
The world today celebrates the great achievements of these women and I wonder when Nigerian women will rise for the revolution they seek.
From 1960 till date, we have never had a female Head of State or President and we can see just how well the men have led us. The best we have produced is circumstantial 1st female Governor in Nigeria. Would the Aba women spirit take the needed lead in Abia State to produce the next female Governor? Or would the civilised state of Lagos embrace civility to give Nigeria the next female Governor?
It would be a sheer waste of time to get the men in power to see that there is more to us than just being in the other room. If we do not fight for our position, then the labour of our HEROINES past, the likes of Dora Akunyili, Kudirat Abiola, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and many others, will be in vain.
Who like Queen Amina, will lead us to this war?
Who like Boma Goodhead willl stand against this male dominated, oppressive government at the gate of the National Assembly?
Who like Sarah Jibril will against all odds and constant setback dare to give representation to our gender? Prof. Funmilayo Adesanya is up again for 2023, and I can’t even hear the mention of her among Nigeria women, imagine the impact we will make if all women vote for her.
The revolution we seek is within us
The Nigeria of our dreams lies in the bossom of a woman!
We can either cower in fear, or show up in our numbers rallying for our chosen candidate.
Shiloh O. Akinyemi writes most time under the pen name chilly pepper.