By Magnus Onyibe
he House of Representatives, also known as the green chambers of the National Assembly, NASS has reportedly reversed itself by electing to bring back for review, the three bills concerning women’s rights which it had jettisoned during its debate on the new laws to be introduced into the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
This followed a powerful resistance put up by the womenfolk who were ready to occupy NASS until their demand to be allotted 35% of political appointments; allow their husbands who are not Nigerians to attain citizenship of Nigeria automatically, and also allow them to be indigenes of the homesteads of their Nigerian husbands after five years of marriage.
Tuesday, March 8 – a United Nations, UN-declared International Women’s Day was particularly an auspicious occasion for the women to flex their muscle, and given that NASS by its promise to bring their matter back for review has capitulated, it would appear as if the doggedness of our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters has paid off.
Before then, First Lady Aisha Buhari had stormed the hallowed chambers of NASS, while in session with a bevy of ladies of timber and caliber on the day that the bills were going to be debated. That was perhaps done with a view to wiping the lawmakers into line.
And it could have been in the manner that Mr Fix-It, chief Tony Annenih of blessed memory used to do whenever then ruling party, PDP wanted its rules enforced by the legislators.
On the heels of the visit of the First Lady, Aisha, to NASS chambers, second lady, (for lack of better nomenclature) Dolapo Osinbajo-wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, embarked on a similar voyage to NASS for the same purpose.
But the 469 strong members of NASS comprising only 29 women were not intimidated by the August visitors — First Lady and subsequently, the second lady. As such, they did not bulge.
Thankfully, the NASS did not wait for the womenfolk to deploy the other tools of coercion available to them, which includes being the boss in the ‘other room’ which President Buhari, once told the world in faraway Germany, that Aisha, his amiable and fire spiting wife, belongs. By the way, I would be happy to vote for Aisha as the next president and first female commander-in-chief of Nigerian armed forces, or at the worse, as a senator of the federal republic of Nigeria.
And l am not being glib with this proposition.
That is because, in the light of the confusion about the choice of a presidential candidate by both the ruling APC and main opposition party, PDP, it may be expedient to fall back on the womenfolk as the last resort.
And one lady that has proved that she has the spunk by taking on the powerful Aso Rock mafia with the mindset that a woman’s place is only in the kitchen, is Aisha Buhari.
Of course ,Mrs Buhari is just a metaphor for women in Nigeria , of which anyone of them is capable of being the president of our country if given the opportunity.
According to statistics from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, women constitute about 50% of the population of Nigeria. And they are the dominant participants as voters and mobilizers of other voters in the political space.
Arising from the above, if women band together, and also leverage their female ‘asset’, (I mean prowess) to woo or if you like to seduce men like Delilah did to Samson by extracting from him (the man ordained by God to free Israelites from their bondage in the land of Egypt as narrated in the Holy Bible) the secret of his power, they would be the no 1 in the pecking order in Aso Rock villa. What this means is that we may soon have a first gentleman, instead of First Lady in Aso Rock villa.
And that is not all the feminine wiles that women can activate to get men to align with them.
How can we forget how Eve convinced Adam in the Garden of Eden, (where the first man was created by God) against his wish to eat the forbidden apple offered by his wife ,Eve which made him fall out of favor with God, as also recorded in the Holy Bible?
On account of the foregoing, I have no doubt that women may have their way in making a member of their gender, become the next president of Nigeria in 2023 by manipulating the menfolk who are susceptible and vulnerable to being maneuvered simply because we are actually the weaker sex, not women as we have been led to believe by our mothers.
After all, in 2016, in the almighty, United States of America, USA, Hilary Rodham Clinton, missed becoming the president of that great country by whiskers. And Kamala Harris, the incumbent Vice President of the USA, a black woman who is the first to attain such height in the USA political hierarchy is only a step away from becoming the president of the USA-the undisputed leader of the world.
Actually, she has acted in that capacity when President Joe Biden had to undergo a minor surgery during which he was put under anesthesia.
Who Runs The World?
That is the rhetorical question once posed by the iconic pop singer, Beyoncé Knowles in her hit song by that title.
Perhaps, until the women of Nigeria assert themselves more in the manner that they have recently done as catalogued above, Nigerian men may not know that it is women that truly run the world.
Probably, when the reality dawns on the menfolk, they would realize that they have to cut women some slack in the political leadership of our country, as they are demanding so that we can all have a happy ending.
Keeping in mind the foregoing, why does the ruling party at the center seem to be taking women for granted by ignoring their plea to recognize them as partners in the leadership of our country, until they served their recent notice to NASS about their impending rebellion which jolted the lawmakers out of their revelry and underestimation of the strength of a woman?
A website farandwide.com reckons that women’s ascendancy in the scheme of political affairs in the USA has been significant.
Here is how the message was couched:
“When it comes to gender equality, we are living in a historic age. Women make up nearly a quarter of the United States Congress, more than at any other point in history, and representation is steadily increasing in statewide offices across the nation”
The website also reported that there are at least five(5) countries in the world where women are in charge and leading successfully.
These are (1) Taiwan where Thai lng-Wen is the prime minister (2) New Zealand with Jacinda Arden and (3) Bangladesh having Sheik Hashina Wazed.
There is also (4)Iceland having Katrin Jakobsdottir as leader of the country and (5) Carrie Lam as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Of course, the list does not include Angela Merkel, that just concluded her tour of duty as the Chancellor of Germany a couple of months ago and Theresa may who also recently exited her position as prime minister of the United Kingdom where Queen Elizabeth II is also the monarch. How can we forget the immediate past President of Liberia our sister country, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?
Another critical component in our society that the National Assembly, NASS, and by extension the ruling party, APC that controls the majority of the legislators and governors seem to be taking for granted is the institution of traditional rulers-kings and queens.
Their desire to be given a more active role to play in the leadership of our country in the reviewed constitution was also thwarted by lawmakers who trashed their request.
Given that the council of traditional rulers once played strategic roles in government during the first republic, their quest is valid.
In fact, ahead of local governments, traditional rulers are closer to the grassroots. By the very nature of our cultural system, before the advent of the so-called Western civilization that destroyed our very efficacious traditional governance system and supplanted it with Western democracy that got literally forced down our throats by the colonialists, our society was governed effectively and efficiently by applying African cultural ethos and mores. As there is not enough time to elucidate on that , it is useful that we for instance, remind ourselves of our glorious past by highlighting the virtues in one of the notable traditional governance systems, the Ekpo masquerade culture of the Efik that abound around Calabar, etc in south-south Nigeria. In that regard ,our lawmakers must dig deep into how our forbears managed our societies such that the Portuguese who first came here were amazed that ancient Benin kingdom had street lights powered with palm oil.
Members of NASS must therefore awaken their senses to recognize the value and strength intrinsic in our traditional institutions which need to be harnessed.
Is it not being alleged in some quarters that our public office holders are always clannish by first being loyal to God, then beholden to their traditional rulers before the government to which they swore allegiance when they took their oath of office? Although the practice is more prevalent amongst our northern brothers and sisters, it is an existential reality nationwide.
Why are our kings and queens not being given the opportunity to share their leadership wisdom via recognition for more strategic role in the constitution?
The point being made here is that instead of swallowing Western administrative cultures and values hook-line-and-sinker, we are supposed to think out of the box by picking from the foreign systems, only what can work for us and graft them on what has been working for us, pre Western civilization.
That is the strategy adopted by the Chinese hence they have been able to mesmerize the Western world and the reason they have risen from the bottom of development rung where they were located about four decades ago to being second only to the USA in terms of technology, wealth and influence globally .
Like the womenfolk, perhaps our traditional rulers -kings and queens need to threaten to strip all public office holders, particularly politicians in the National and state assemblies , of their chieftaincy titles, so that they would, as we say it in local parlance — know who owns papa’s land.
As we are all well aware, the demagogues covet their traditional titles which they proudly wear on their sleeves more than their academic titles.
Not a few politicians who are bereft of academic or professional laurels (and are unable to acquire honorary doctoral degrees) make up for the inadequacy with traditional titles which they can procure for a price.
Even those that have professional and academic laurels enhance them by enjoying being referred to as chief (Doctor) or chief (Professor ) and even chief (Barrister ) XYZ.
That basically suggests that politicians prize chieftaincy titles highly. That being the case, how dare NASS try to cancel out such caliber of Nigerians without suffering the consequences?
Should the traditional rulers in Nigeria decide to shun their ethnoreligious differences and band together as the female folks did by pulling their weight against NASS for taking them for granted, they would not only have their say, they would also have their way, otherwise they would vent their spleen.
If that happens, the consequences on the lawmakers at the polls would be dire.
As we say (in our neck of the country) to people who offend us without thinking first about our common root and consequences, ‘l will wait for you at the junction’.
That simply implies that the fight has been put forward and it would be fought locally at home.
As the conventional wisdom goes: a word is enough for the wise.
So l will say no more.
On a more serious note, (not that the case of taking women and traditional rulers for granted is not equally serious ) but frankly, it boggles the mind why the interests of such critical stakeholders in the electioneering process are being overlooked by politicians.
If after this treatise, our lawmakers do not ‘wise-up’ and do the needful to borrow the lingo of our youths, their likely calamity would not be blamed on ignorance as it would be self-inflicted and at best, own goal.
Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.