FEATURE ARTICLE

Augustine C. OhanweMonday, May 8, 2006
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NIGERIAN WOMEN POISED FOR PRESIDENTIAL RACE


hen, in the month of April this year, Nigerian women gathered in Enugu, to flesh out their agenda for women participation in the Nigeria's presidential race, hackles were raised in certain quarters. Ade called in order to divine my thought on the new development in the Nigeria's political landscape. I did not hesitate to give my whole concurrence to the Nigerian women's bold move. We have women of timber and calibre who can pilot the affairs of the nation and deliver the goods. They possess a type of antennae that assists them to see the grass root realities. I see no reason why their move should raise one's eyebrows.


The path that women have trodden for centuries is littered with shackles of imposed humiliating restraints. The footprints they left on the same path emit the odour of frustration and pain. Yes, for centuries women had been traditionally subjected by men and pigeonholed. Their roles were defined as food gatherers, child bearers and nurturers. They were not permitted to contribute equally with their male counterpart in matters related to policy crafting and decision making.

All the major religions of the world, including Christianity, imposed lowly status on women. Jesus, whom Christians follow never denigrated women and there is no place in His teaching where women were treated as second class people. But St Paul did. Paul toed a different path and tongue-lashed women. The negative position he took on women influenced minds of the people of his time up until the Medieval Age and beyond. Historically, Christianity has held women in a low status due in part to Paul's Biblical pronouncements: "The head of the woman is man for man is the image of God . I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over man, but to be silent".

It is in matters pertaining to women that all the world's religions, regardless of their divergent doctrines, have found a common agreement.

Even Rousseau, a libral philosopher of the Enlightenment was hard on women. He has this to say: "Nature herself has decreed that woman, both for herself and her children, should be at the mercy of man's judgement. When the Greek women married, they disappeared from public life, within the four walls of their home, they devoted themselves to the cause of their household and family. This is the mode of life prescribed for women alike by nature and reason". But Mary Wollstonecraft, the first woman philosopher and a product of the same Enlightenment disagreed with Rousseau's position on women and branded it unphilosophical. She was vocal against oppression of women and advocated for equal educational opportunities for women.

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John Stuart Mill also debunked the concept of women inferiority upheld by people of his time. He asserted that such concept was not innate but due to environmental factors such as lack of education. Educated Nigerian women with ministerial portfolios have actually dwarfed their male counterparts. Their glaring achievements may have spurred other women to move into politics. The recent gathering of Nigerian women in Enugu, Nigeria under one umbrella, to map out strategy for "take over" of political power from men is a commendable innitiative.

Some male chauvinists, afraid of their agenda, have welcomed their political gathering with palpable apprehension. But what is indisputable and unstoppable is that Nigerian woman are poised and have tightened their girdles to participate equally with their male counterpart in leadership tussle. They are ready to reverse the past obnoxious social and political trends.

Central African Republic had produced Prime Minister Elizabeth Domitien; Burundi had Prime Minister Sylvie Kinigi; Rwanda produced Prime Minister Agathe Uwilimgiyimana, Senegal had Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye and Liberia has Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - All in African continent. Outside Africa, we have Golda Meir of Isreal, Indira Ghandi of India, Sirimao Bandaranaika of Sri Lanka. Margaret Thatcher of Britain, Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed of Bangladesh, Others are Isabel Peron of Argentina, Soong Ching-Ling of China, Mary Robinson of Ireland, Benezier Bhutto of Pakistan, President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia, Prime Minister Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Prime Minister Tansu Ciller of Turkey. The list is long and this is just a few.

In retrospect, those, who in the years goneby, excluded women from leadership and decision making panels, based on their perceived innate inferiority qualities missed the mark and must by now felt disarmed. Nigeria is ripe for a female president. Their freedom did not come out of the blue but through trailblazers' impacts on socio-political landscape. Today, action and reaction have given way to synthesis. No one can stop the arrow that has already left the bow.