Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, spoke with the Nigerian Life Magazine surrounding the significance of International Women's Day for the West African state, Africa's most populous. a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘Women Must Rise To Relevance’
Sunday, 13 March 2011 00:00 LifeMag Life Magazine -
To mark the centenary anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD) and honour African women for their resilience and contributions to the development of the continent, a lot of activities were staged.
Among these was Okhma Global’s film, Desert Flower, adapted from autobiography of Waris Dire (Liya Kebede); an African, who overcame the trauma of female circumcision at five and early marriage at 13 to become a famous New York City supermodel and United Nations Special Ambassador of Peace and Security.
KIKELOLA OYEBOLA spoke with Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, a past deputy governor of Lagos State. The lady, who has never hidden her belief in the capacity of the Nigerian woman to deliver and contribute meaningfully to the development of her society if given the chance, says that it is only an unserious country that deliberately ignores the potentials and might of such valuable members of her population.
Nigerian women’s progress and the country’s growth
Nigerian women have really come a long way and they are making so much progress in every field of development in the country. There is no sector you won’t find the Nigerian woman holding her own and sometimes even calling the shots. They are to be found all over performing excellently and they are still marching on. But when it comes to the political front, there’s a serious problem because political parties are being run mainly by men; and women are being heavily marginalised. But this is an area that is so crucial as it impacts fully on all the other aspects of life and so, if women are not permitted to play significant and meaningful role here, there is no way they can see to their welfare and wellbeing in these other areas of life no matter how educated and determined they are.
The foundation for this lopsidedness, in my opinion, was laid by the military, which has mostly ruled Nigeria since independence. The military doesn’t really consider women’s role as so important when it comes to governance.
Be that as it may, however, I think it is high time Nigerian women took a firm stand on such matters. We should borrow a leaf from women in Tanzania who lobbied, demonstrated and went to a great length to ensure that they secured their 35 per cent representatives in the parliament.
Presently, there is only about seven per cent of Nigerian women representation in government and this is rather unfortunate. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and Nigerian women are very intelligent, hardworking, dedicated and purposeful. So, there is no reason for them not to have their fair share and say in the way the country is being governed as this is bound to affect their lives and that of their children.
A time for action
One of the effective measures that can be taken to redress the situation is by forming pressure groups. Women must be ready to claim their rights in the political front and in political parties. In the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) constitution for instance, provision is made for only two women ex-officio apart from women leaders. But this is not good enough as it is not likely to have the desired result. We want women at the centre, in the decision-making circles so they can make valuable input to the growth and development of the nation.
So, women need to come together, put their house in order and show their strength. They might even have to go to the extent of demonstrating — if that is what will bring about the necessary change. Look at what is happening in Egypt and other parts of North Africa. People are taking to the streets to make known their grievances and claim their rights and dignity, to wrest their lives from insensitive leaders. And there is no stopping the people’s will when it has been pushed too far.
So, some purposeful Nigerian women leaders need to work together to provide the necessary platform to achieve these goals. Nothing will be handed to women on a platter of gold. They have to plan, put in place strategies that will guarantee victory and they must set to work immediately.
One major obstacle confronting Nigerian women and which has the capacity to hinder progress on the political front is the issue of money. In Nigeria, the whole political process has been monetised. This is one of the factors preventing women from playing fully or holding key positions in political parties. Nigerian women don’t have access to the kind of money required to participate fully in politics. A way should therefore be found to eliminate this malaise. All well-meaning Nigerian women and men must come together to fight it because this is directly responsible for the corruption and massive fraud prevalent in the society today. Men are also affected by it because if a man is not rich to a certain extent, he won’t be able to participate fully or have a say in how things are done in the political arena.
And this is why people would go to any length to source for fund while contesting elective posts because to them it’s like an investment; they know they are going to recoup it manifold. So, rather than allow money play such prominent role in politics, more focus should be placed on values, integrity of persons seeking elective posts and their antecedents. They should de-emphasise the money factor so that decent and well-meaning Nigerians will want to participate in politics.
A word for younger women
THEY should get good education because nothing can beat having knowledge. They should not allow themselves to be discouraged by anybody or anything. Setting and achieving laudable goals is also very important. Above all, they should not cut corners. The present generation should learn to do things properly and not be in a hurry to arrive at the top. It’s true that the Nigerian society, especially some people in leadership position are not setting good examples. Values are fast disappearing and some people no longer believe in working hard to achieve success but if this trend is not checked soon, it will eventually lead to the collapse of our society. In the long run, there is always a price to pay and anyone that engages in such atrocities will have to suffer the consequences and it will destroy even their children’s children.
In this regard, women in leadership positions should endeavour to set good examples for the younger ones. It is a duty and a legacy they must leave for posterity. All of us have different roles to play in the up-building and furtherance of Nigeria and if anyone fails to deliver at any level, no matter how insignificant it may seem, this neglect is bound to have a devastating effect on the whole.
And for the men too…
Some Nigerian men must learn to change their attitude. They need to change their thinking that the top echelon of business or government belongs to them alone. This does not apply to all men though and that is why I said some men. My father, for instance, encouraged me to read law and go into politics. Men should allow the women to develop and exhibit their full potentials and not try to stop them in any way. The outcome is bound to be of benefit to all and not just the women at the end of the day.
As the saying goes, you cannot clap with only one hand. And a society that neglects half of its population is working half steam; it can be likened to a factory working at 50 per cent capacity.