By Henry Uche
“A vast number of Women have been raped mentally, emotionally, Psychologically, Socially and Politically in Nigeria, no wonder they said we belong to the kitchen and the other room.”
“We have the likes of the Biblical queen Esther but we don’t have the likes of Mordecia in Nigeria today.”
“The Esthers we have today are hapless while the Mordecias are not only compromised but fanatically corrupt.”
“Women must rise up any day any time against any form of relegation and sidelining from anyone.”
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2021 international women’s Day, today March, 8th 2021, experts across board have lent their voices towards the course of women over time to bring to limelight the uniqueness of women and their impact in humanity. For this year, the THEME is, “Women In leadership: Achieving an equal future in a covid 19 world.” In this interview with Ms. Tammy Ruby Ayoko, an educator, a career counselor, a psychologist, a School Proprietress in Lagos mainland, she explores the theme of the celebration as it affects Nigerian women, using some biblical personas to fix some fundamental anomalies that has affected women negatively and to spur them to do greater things.
Let’s have your take on “Women In leadership” in Nigerian context, as we commemorate International Women’s Day.
Honestly, the Nigerian women have not fared well in Nigerians political space. Nigeria women has not been fully allowed to showcase their abilities. We have not been allowed to maximize our capacities and capabilities. Take a step backward, was it not a women that named us ‘Nigeria’? Was it not Flora Shaw? If we can perform excellently in the home front, why not give us a chance? Why not give us a platform! You know women are more in Number than men and a greater number of eligible voters can be found in the north, but unfortunately the set up of the northern hegemony is that, it’s the man rules the homes, the woman’s position is in the kitchen or other room. So that patriarch mindset still plays out against women’s emergence into position of repute. So We urgently need a re- orientation for these women. We need to change some belief, ideologies, some narratives, some unwritten laws or rules which does not speak well for women in Nigeria, else they will not go far as long as Nigeria politics is concerned. The reason is this, the North has refused to educate their people especially the women, you know how many schools Former President Goodluck Jonathan built and those he upgraded in the North, something he didn’t do in thy south, yet what do we have today, is the vision achieved today? Instead they give them the traditional (informal/ imitative) form of education. Where a child is told her father and mother were cattle rearer and milk maid respectively, therefore the children must follow suit, and it continues that. Now is that how our girl child would grow to become leader? You see there are so many errors and omissions done in the past by our ancestors centuries ago ignorantly against the girl child which kept women disadvantaged, yet some tribes are still relegating girl child til date; no wonder we have a microcosm of women in strategic leadership position (Less than five percent), am using the girl child here because it all started from our history how girl child was being relegated to the background, in those days, they don’t send the girl child to school. They get married after attending a basic education, don’t forget, the boko haram said western education is a crime, which is unthinkable and really unfortunate for the girl child/ren and women from that part of the country. But thank God we are changing the narrative.
We need every support you can offer. We need a new mindset. Then we (women) should not look down on ourselves. We can do it. We can lead. We want elective positions, mere appointments from the president or governor makes it look as if you’re sympathizing with us. That mindest to from men and women alike that brings women down should be trashed. In fact we look forward to women who have made it up to that top level; the likes of Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Dr Oby Ezekwesili and others should come out and take the challenge to bring women to the limelight. They can even form a women political parties and name it National Women Liberation Party, one founded, funded and managed by entirely women. Such women I mentioned here may not necessarily vie for any other position, but stay in the background and fully support younger ones.
We heard women don’t support their own… (Cuts in)
Yes you are right, some women stand against their fellow women out of jelousy and other unfounded reasons, however, men are also enemies of women emancipation. Remember, The biblical Apostle Paul was opposed by his follow Jew /brethren, not the gentiles. As for men, some of them have sworn that women would never rule then, but we countries ruled by women. Have Nigeria produce any woman president or governor since 1960 till date? The answer is NO! Why would you believe that women are sub to men? Though it started from to beginning. But you see woman are enemies to themselves when they failed to rise against any form of marginalization, relegation and intimidation from the very beginning-centuries ago. Oh yes, it seems to be a tradition but then when the man made that ungodly law that women would never occupy some positions was the woman not there, why didn’t she rise against it? Instead she took it hook line and sinker. So from genesis, women contributed to be enemy to herself, because as long as she bears children that mindset of “Women are not are allowed to lead where men exist, you know that boundaries made between men and women” would still affect her generation even if such women then didnt bear children, so long as it affects women in general, let me tell you, remember Cleopatra of Egypt, who said “There are no forces that’s more powerful than a woman who’s determined to rise.” So when some unfavorable statements were made against the woman? Where was the woman? Did any woman took to the street to say no? Today it has become Like a norm. All we hear is “Women are not allowed rise, they belong to the kitchen and such degrading statements, it didn’t start today, centuries past. Women have been oppressed and raped mentally, emotionally, psychologically and ideologically. But thank GOD for the likes of Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala.
OK, most women especially the very young people are afraid to swim in the murky water of Politics in Nigeria.
Yes it’s so because so many things are involved. The fear of the unknown. How many of them (I mean those who have attained enviable heights) in politics would tell you the dire challenges they passed through? Even when you hear the story you would be afraid to dabble into Nigeria politics as woman. My brother there are so many words left unsaid, so many untold stories behind scene. Remember, we are talking about women here. So the challenges is so intense. Sexual harassment is a trending challenge. Recall the Sexual the case of former Managing Director of of the Interim Management Committee of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs Joi Nunieh, who accused Senator Godswill Akpabio of Sexual harassment. Why would I sleep with the so called political bigwigs or those who call the shots in other to win a position? My brother so many water pass under the bridge, let those who are “there” come and tell us what they pass through. For instance, why did some Female presidential candidates withdraw from the race suddenly? Would they tell us what really happened? It could not have been Sexual harassment but so many forces they couldn’t contend with, they pulled out. In precis, not every woman can pay the price and sacrifice. Note, this is not obtained in the western economies. And that’s why we don’t have mentorship in this line. Listen, sharp and corrupt practices in politics like under age voting didn’t start today, I witnessed it in 1984 in my father’s house, I Will stop here.
OK, tell us about capacity of women to lead this country or hold strategic positions? Do you think women posses the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and other capacities to weather the storms of Nigeria politics?
Yes they do even there more. There are many women who have what it takes to make the positive difference. Look at the young women who were at the vanguard during the end SARS protest at lekki toll gate like, DJ switch and Catherine Obainuju can take leadership position but the problem is, who is willing to hold their hands without first inflicting fear in them by way of intimidation with gory stories about politics? Who can help these very young ones to rise? The old wants to remain there and die? And until these hoods are removed am afraid if we can do anything now, there are hoods and potholes both diabolical, psychological otherwise, there are many adversaries on the way even though the door is widely opened. Many of us are ready to come forth into politics with the mindset of service to humanity but some one would come to corrupt me. Let me tell you one of such warning they give you. “If we bankroll your election, and when you win, your loyalty would be to us, the Obas, Baale, the Igwes, and others, else you are finished,” so every money meant for the development of the people are diverted to funders. You see that is why most public office holders (elected or appointed) fail because of the evil loyalty to so called political godfathers. You have seen it happen in Nigeria, don’t you know why some public office holders don’t secure a second tenure (that is even when they survive first tenure, this is is why corruption will never exit Nigeria.
So how do we achieve this equal future for women in a covid 19 world.
Yes, we need to float a women oriented party or movement. We need to start something somewhere. Speech is cheap action is costly. We need to do something for our children let it not be that mommy is only good at the home front or mommy is good as an administrator or a business woman, mommy can also be very good at becoming a president or governor, and even change the narrative of disappointing electorates after elections, so, we need a vision. One egalitarian woman, a selfless woman who Will carry this burden to liberate women from that shackles referring us to the Oza room not just for us but for our children.
Some women don’t come up to vie for elective positions, some who do throw in the towel along the line, does such actions speak well for our young female generation? For instance, the likes of Dr Oby Ezekwesiliri who withdrew from the presidential race in 2019.
Well, we never knew what exactly happened to her. Whether it was out of intimidation, Sexual harassment, blackmail, lack of support, threat to life, or any other reason best known to her. I wish someone would ask her this question. Because the younger generation want to know more, they need to be told the truth to aid them plan ahead take decisions as prospective political leaders. See If were holding a public office, to be frank with you, I will not uphold that “Oath of Secrecy”, so long as that information is meant for public use, why would I hoard or hide any information meant for the good of the people? I Wil devolve every useful information, if they sack me for such action, so be it. Governor Wike did it when he was contesting for governorship election, l he was telling the world how Ameachi milked the treasury of Rivers State dry amid threats and intimidation, yet he was on top gear telling Rivers people and the world at large how his predecessor run the government to keep the people informed. Integrity is a valuable virtue. We need people like them.
You know the story of the biblical of Queen Esther and Mordecai, do you believe we still have the likes of Queen Esther and Mordecai in Nigeria today?
My son, I can most assuringly tell you we have the likes of Queen Esther but we lack the kind of Mordecais who would put them through. Remember queen Esther is symbolically used here to represent those public office holders very close to government at different levels of governance especially the appointed ones who are sitting very close to the governors or president, while the Mordecais could be anyone who do not hold any political post. (In Nigeria the Mordecais could be Civil society Organizations, NGOs, Rights Activists, individuals and other groups) who would raise their voices seeking for Justice, good governance, and other democracy dividends on behalf of the masses. So we have the Esthers who are closer to the government but we don’t have the “uncompromising Mordecais” who would challenge the Esthers to speak truth to power against all odds. Remember the decision she took. Unfortunately, the likes of Queen Esther we have today are helpless while the likes of Mordecais we have today are not only selfish but fanatically corrupt who would receive some gifts from the likes of Queen Esther or directly from the government and clean up their mouths. Remember also that Mordecai rejected the gifts Esther sent to him when he came weeping before Esther. How many people can do that? Queen Esther took a very hard decision, putting her life in the line, Mordecai -a selfless and altruistic fellow placed the interest of his people above the his, and God was watching and delivered the Jews from the plot to massacre them Orchestrated by Hamman. Before I forget, one man stands out in Nigeria political history, who displayed altruism as a governor, his name is Dee Sam Onunaka Mbakwe. Do we still have such men these days? Your thoughts is as good as mine.