• Obasanjo, Banda, Aisha Muhammed charge women to get more involved in governance
By Ola Kehinde-Balogun
Poverty and underdevelopment ravaging the African continent might have been caused by the exclusion of women from governance. This was the view of Women’s Power Lunch (WPL), a platform for women leaders and influencers. The group was founded by Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode.
Worried by the declining standard of living on the continent, the group regretted that the potential of womanhood had not fully been harnessed and embodied into governance.
“It does seem that especially in these parts (Africa), there is a reluctance to embrace the idea of female authority figures of women in power and leadership. Can you imagine how the narrative of Africa would change if women are given their rightful place at the table? This is why the women who have broken these barriers are such powerful and compelling heroines,” the group noted.
On July 28, influential people from all walks of life, including the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the former president of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda, converged on Lagos to celebrate what they described as the unique strength and valour of womanhood. The group concurred that its aim was to raise women of substance who would care for their generation in politics, economy and other spheres of life.
Convener of the group, Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, daughter of the former head of state, late Muritala Muhammed, identified that women are good role models in every society.
She emphasised that women have already broken so many barriers and debunked many mythical formulations about their alleged inferiority.
“In many respects, politics and governance appear to be the final arbiter in terms of female achievement. Nigerian women are already leading the drive for economic growth and progress. Often underestimated are our mothers, yet, we are all products of their strength, tenacity, courage and resourcefulness,” she averred.
She said she conceived the idea of bringing women from diverse backgrounds together to provide opportunities for them to learn, network, mentor and collaborate with one another with the aim of achieving synergy. More importantly, she argued, it would be an opportunity to showcase women role models and trailblazers on the continent. She said the Women’s Power Lunch series had grown to become one of the leading stops in the international calendar of events dedicated to women and development in Africa.
She said the group had hosted a number of iconic African women, including former South African First Lady, Graca Machel Mandela, who was hosted last year, and the former Malawian President, Mrs. Joyce Banda who was billed to present a keynote address at the event.
She said: “President Banda was credited with reversing the trajectory of an ailing economy that was on the verge of collapse when she took office and initiated a series of economic reforms that increased the country’s economic growth rate from 1.8 per cent to 6.2 per cent in two years. Before assuming the presidency, President Banda served as a member of parliament, Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, Foreign Minister, and Vice President of the Republic of Malawi.
“President Banda strengthened civil institutions and deepened democracy by repealing a number of repressive laws that abridged civil liberties and limited press freedom. One of her first acts upon taking office which signalled the direction of her administration was her sale of the multi-million dollar presidential jet and the donation of 30 per cent of her salary to the Malawi Council for the Handicapped, an organisation that caters for individuals serving with disabilities. This is only a part of the legacy that President Banda left which stands as a shimmering example not only to Malawi but to all of Africa.”
The WPLI convener, who is also the chief executive officer, Murtala Muhammed Foundation, advocated for oneness and unity among women of the continent. Unity, she argued, would serve as a force to shatter barriers that have held women folk backward in many parts of the world.
Said she: “There are barriers rooted in ill-conceived policies and retrogressive traditions that restrict female access to qualitative education. There is the glass barrier that keeps eminently qualified women out of the highest levels of public service and corporate governance even when their talents and competence have been proven repeatedly. There are barriers in the form of unfair standards that ensure women are paid less than men in the workplace, and other allied practices and conventions that are designed to place the toga of inadequacy and inferiority upon womanhood. These barriers have the combined effect of preventing women from living full creative lives and maximising their potential. I have made it my life’s work to challenge these policies that relegate women to sub-optimal lives. If our work at the Murtala Muhammed Foundation can be summed up in one word, it is ‘empowerment.’
“Our mission is to empower women – to give them the tools with which to surmount the obstacles in the path of their self-actualisation – whether it is by promoting girl child education, or enabling female professionals break new grounds in their chosen careers. Our foundation is constantly looking for creative ways of engaging the social, cultural and institutional forces that hold women back with an eye on the big picture – the betterment of our continent and ensuring that we leave behind a more sustainable world for our children.”
Muhammed-Oyebode said Africa’s quest for progress could not be decisively resolved until the issue of the “woman question” was tackled. What then is the woman question? She explained: “Building inclusive societies which create spaces for women to take their place as productive actors in their national economies and politics is essential to promoting sustainable development outcomes. Interestingly, we are in a significant historical moment that highlights the zenith of female possibilities. In the United Kingdom, Theresa Mary has just become the Prime Minister. The United States is hopefully on the verge of electing its first female president, Hillary Rodham Clinton. These landmarks will resonate powerfully with a generation that is too young to have known Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir.
“However the trajectory of our continent is frightening. The narrative today is desperate, poverty, and under development. That perhaps is not surprising. so long as the 50 per cent of the population that gives birth to the 100 per cent is excluded, perhaps then we cannot complain about this narrative. In fact, I always say, can you imagine how much better our continent would be if our women were all given a chance?”
In his address, Chairman of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, former President Obasanjo, hailed Banda for the active role she had been playing to support and promote women and women leadership in Africa.
In her address, former President Banda lauded the Murtala Muhammed Foundation for its efforts to “tirelessly work on sustaining the current wave of women in leadership positions in Africa and championing policies of inclusivity on the African continent.”
She said it was abundantly clear that women face the full blunt of poverty, diseases and climate change, among others.
“They have limited access to means of production such as land, financing and technologies. They are discriminated against at workplaces and in public life in general. They are underrepresented in policy-making circles. The list goes on and on and the picture, despite some strides made in some areas, remains less inspiring and remains wanting. The situation simply cannot be allowed to go on without being redressed and reversed.
“As women leaders, it rests upon us to take a leading role in making this happen. We need to ensure formulation of deliberate policies and programmes that benefit women,” she emphasised.
Banda said such policies and programmes must equip the woman with necessary business acumen, necessary marketing skills, necessary business management skills and, above all, give her access to market and financing. “The people to make all this happen are you and I as African women leaders.”
When ex-police officers, others turned prayer warriors
By Itoro Godwin
Recently, policemen and women attached to the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, elected to seek the face of God.
The police officers as well as the rank and file of the establishment, under the aegis of Christian Police Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN), Prince of Peace Chapel, were led by their belief that with God all things are possible. They were joined on the occasion by senior retirees of the force to celebrate the one-year anniversary and reunion conference of their fellowship.
The Grand Patron on the occasion, Mr. Daniel Mike, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), lamented that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) had been neglected and disdained by Nigerians. But he said as warriors in the vineyard, members of the police fellowship took the responsibility of interceding for the men and women in the force so that the hand of God would continue to rest on the force. He expressed happiness that Nigeria was experiencing a new face of the police as against what it used to be in the past.
He attributed the drastic changes in the force over the past years to the establishment of the fellowship on August 6, 2011. He said that it was prayers that brought light to the force and subdued the evil forces, attempting to pull down efforts at good policing in the country.
Mike thanked God for healing him of hypertension and other ailments that fought to slow him down in the recent past, recalling that the sickness that struck him in the first year of his resumption as an ASP cadet in the force never left until after his retirement from service.
Similarly, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Zephaniah Lenbang, thanked God for sparing his life after the motor accident that could have killed him. He said if he was not engaged in preaching to policemen and bringing them to Christ, perhaps, things could have been worse for him.
Recalling how it happened, he said: “I had left my house in Ajah area of Lagos State on that day to see someone. When I got to a place called Frajeh, which is between Bogije and Eleko, on the Lagos-Epe Expressway, a trailer driver crashed his vehicle into mine. Shortly after the incident, everyone thought I was dead. When the driver and his colleagues reached out to see if I was dead really, they spoke to with one another in Hausa language saying: Mu iya keshe; mu iya shan jinni, meaning we know how to kill; we know how to drink blood. They then took my cell phone and called my wife and instantly told her that I was dead.
“Later, however, the cement company, which had the truck that caused the accident through their insurance company paid me some money as compensation. But the accident at some point began to give me real trauma, stress, pain and inconveniences. It kept disrupting the work of the ministry to support the police widows, orphans and the less-privileged. It was not easy from that point but we thank God for using some men of God in our midst to fulfill His word.”
Speaking at the event, Bishop Kunle Afuye, who ministered on the theme of the event “Where Art Thou,” advised the congregation that a good church must be able to stand and help the needy in the society.
Mr. Abiodun Omolaja, a Deputy Superintendent of Police and the Lagos State Command Chaplain of the group, urged the force to always strive hard to emulate the sound doctrines of Jesus Christ, tasking them not to relent in praying for other policemen who were still wallowing in their evil ways. He assured them that in due time, they would surrender their lives to Christ and serve the nation uprightly.
He pleaded also with Nigerians to collaborate with the police for effective policing rather than complaining and continuing to fault their conducts. He, in addition, urged every Nigerian to influence the police positively.
“We should be able to assist the body of Christ in policing our men and keep praying for the force to be better. People should partner with the police and help them to return to God.”
He identified three factors that he said were capable of derailing every policeman. He said they included a home in disarray, lack of job satisfaction and lack of peace with their maker.