From James Ojo, Abuja
History of collective action against societal ills as recorded in the 1929 Aba riot and Egba women revolt of 1947 was re-enacted on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) gathered women for the launch of Nigerian Women Against Corruption campaign.
The campaign, an initiative of the Ibrahim Magu -led EFCC, was flagged off by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha. She was assisted by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs Oludolapo Osinbajo at the Abuja International Conference Center.
A similar campaign entitled ‘Creative Youth Initiative Against Corruption’ had been launched earlier for secondary schools and youths in August in Abuja and has been taken to other zones of the country.
Like the women of old who were drawn out of their cocoon by necessity to make the difference in the task of rebuilding the society, EFCC is also calling on Nigerian women to be the catalyst in the narrative of the fight against corruption.
Magu observed in his welcome address that Nigerian women are being mobilized to become active change agents in the important national agenda to reclaim the nation from the grips of corruption which everyone had accepted as the reason why the country has been unable to transform its rich natural and human resource endowment into prosperity.
He said the commission under him was convinced beyond any iota of doubt that the power to change the destiny of Nigeria and free her from the cankerworm of corruption are in the hands of women.
The EFCC boss was emphatic that the choice of women as torch-bearers in the crusade to tame the monster called corruption was informed by the vital role they play in making the society a better place.
“We certainly cannot continue this way. It is time to break with the past and deliver hope to future generations. We at EFCC are convinced that the power to change the destiny of our nation lies in the hands of women,” he told the gathering which included wives of state governors, female students drawn from various schools and several women based society groups.
He buttressed his submission quoting the eternal words of Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French General, who said, “Give me good mothers and I will give you a great nation,” reaffirming that women, especially mothers, have a significant influence on the direction the society takes.
With the launch of the Women Against Corruption project, Magu was of the view that it will create public awareness through the mass media, develop anti corruption programmes that will be women-focused and women-driven, involve women directly in the fight against corruption and thereby enhance their roles as watchdogs, whistleblowers and foot soldiers.
“The participation of women in anti-corruption initiatives is an addition to our collective effort to rid the society of the menace. We are optimistic that this initiative will create opportunities for women’s organizations to become more actively and effectively engaged in the fight against corruption,” he pointed out.
For the renewed war against corruption, the EFCC according to him expected women to show personal integrity, transparency, zero tolerance for corrupt practices and practice of simple life styles.
Before she launched the project, wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari shared Magu’s opinion that corruption had not only eaten deep into every fabric of this nation, it has crippled the development as revealed in the deplorable state of the nation’s vital infrastructure.
“We are feeling the resultant effects of corruption in our erratic electricity supply, poor health care services, falling standard of education, dilapidated infrastructures, unemployment and the economic recession the country is facing today. Corruption fuels serious crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping, child trafficking, drug trafficking, gun running and a number of other crimes that directly and severely impact women of all ages and backgrounds,” she declared.
Because of the struggles women face daily, be they in education, justice, healthcare or employment, Mrs Buhari said that women are better positioned to understand the issues of corruption and at the same time through whom the scourge can be most effectively tackled.
She proposed that the Women Against Corruption Project (WAC) should go beyond holding workshops and rallies to directly engage and empower women and harness their immense, but largely untapped group power for a sustained and effective fight against corruption.
She pledged that the wives of state governors and all other women leaders at all levels of government, are going to be a part of the project and urged to launch the initiative at suitable dates in their various states.
Mrs Buhari revealed that starting from the campaign session together with the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, known as a pastor and herself known as Sunni Mallama, “we have never ever collected a single penny from our supporters or from donors in the name of campaign.”
“We rather asked them at that time to go and print the logo of APC on top of items and bring them in large quantities instead of buying one lace that worth N100,000 or N200,000 to be given to us to use personally. That is the beginning of the fight against corruption.
“I know the type of husband that I have and I stood firm to maintain the integrity and the name of the family going. And up to today, I don’t receive gifts. Right from the day we won the election, people have been trooping in with gifts but I have never collected the gifts and up till today, I am not ready to do that.”
But the paper presented by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar as the flag off’s Guest speaker, captured the totality of the need to enlist women’s active force in the war against corruption. She titled her paper- Women: the missing link in the fight against corruption.
In her paper, Mukhtar said that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of our society, so much so that a complete turnaround may not be possible in the nearest future because our very existence, sometimes depend on corruption so much so that one is expected to “perform”.
She explained that women are generally vulnerable, hence the reason to get them involved in the fight against corruption by encouraging them to speak out.
“Women have to be engaged and sensitised in this fight, they are victims, and unless they speak out and let people know what they are going through, there will be no solution to their travails. Dissemination of information and sensitization is very important. Women should not be allowed to die in silence,” she noted.
But then, she did not spare women who according to her made corruption to fester “by pressurizing their husbands to live above their means.”
The first woman to head the nation’s Judiciary wanted women to be empowered both economically and politically, while obstacles in the political advancement of women should be removed.
“At this stage of this Country’s development, women should be encouraged to be actively involved in governance. A woman who is worthy of any responsibility entrusted to her will undoubtedly discharge that responsibility creditably and she will be a useful partner in the fight against Corruption if carried along.
“A woman once headed this Commission, and I believe that she put in her best in the fight. Women should be involved in all spheres of governance if the country is to progress rapidly.”
When it was her turn to address the gathering, the former chairman of EFCC, Mrs Farida Waziri received ovation and she shared her experience while in office on the greediness of public office holders and acquisition of properties.
She repeated her call for psychiatry tests to be carried out on public office holders before assuming duties.
Addressing the gathering, first female university vice chancellor, Professor Grace Alele-Williams charged young girls and boys to join the crusade against corruption by working hard, play hard and keep straight in their conduct and behaviour.
The 84 year old Professor of Mathematics and former Vice chancellor, University of Benin urged students and younger ones to pray against corrupt parents, noting that the growth and development of the country had been stalled by widespread corruption.