“I recall a governor once saying that the position of Secretary of state for the state government is not a position for women. His excuse was that sometimes the meetings last until midnight. I thought what a gaffe? They must be discussing and planning armed robbery instead of governance. If this son of man understands that there are women my age or older who have finished raising children or still doing so but are naturally more determined, resilient and talented than him he would not have dared to utter such a chauvinist gaffe”
The recent arrest, detention and bail of Dezaini Alison Madueke, Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum in London ended many months of speculations about her whereabouts and the state of her health.
The news came as a shock but being one person who strongly believes that corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s democracy and that we must fearlessly combat and end it, many people would obviously expect me to be jubilant. Frankly speaking, I was very happy but cautiously so.
I was cautious because I believe that no matter how anyone would like to look at the situation, her arrest and the allegations against her have implications for the future of women as leaders and politicians in Nigeria. The inexplicable coincidence of that arrest with the release of the list of ministerial nominees which has inadequate representation of women resonated hugely. I wondered if the timing was an attempt to distract and shut up women who may complain about the near total exclusion of women on the list.
I have since then been wondering about where this now leaves our quest for adequate if not equal representation at all levels of leadership in our country and what many may now see as the ability of some Nigerian women to be more corrupt than some of our men.
I came to the conclusion that women must be careful how much they flog the issue. If indeed Deziani took or stole all the money that has been mentioned and bought herself a £12.5m pad in London then she has no self-respect and must be treated as every corrupt politician or as I always describe them, common criminals without sentiments, fear or favour.
If women are agitating for equal representation, then we must not at the same time expect to be treated differently. That said, I notice that there has been more condemnations of her alleged actions than there usually are about men who may have done more than that in the past or who are named alongside her.
I have tried to understand why there should be such high expectations of women when so few of us are ever given the chance to be part of leadership in our country.
I came to the conclusion that it might not be after all for the reason of the clear fact that women are naturally more likely to be less corrupt than men because they bear the burden of society and know the consequences of such poor behaviour for their children and the wider society. It may indeed be due to the fact that many Nigerian men remain highly misogynistic and would rather be left alone to run down the country. Otherwise why is it that many men who have been doing these things are always ignored and when they are caught not much is said by many Nigerians?
I am aware of many men who are walking free in Nigeria today. Some of them are our law makers, governors etc. They are often alleged to be high class competent daring criminals involved in money laundering, frauds of inexplicable proportions, corruption and even drug dealing but no one seems to care. Today, I read of our youth giving an award to someone who is awaiting extradition to answer charges for drug trafficking in America. I have since then been wondering why we celebrate such males but do our best to destroy women for doing nothing or the same as the men?
I do not approve of corruption or any form of criminality and will never do so. However, I believe that many Nigerian women who have been given the chance to be part of leadership are constantly subjected to very unfair criticisms and usually hounded out of office without justification.
Looking at matters very constructively it is important to look into why many of our ladies have found themselves in serious troubles and if possible find a way of addressing their issues so that many of us do not remain outsiders who are judged on the poor conduct of a few while our men get away with things.
The truth in my mind is that these women are not worse or better than our men. They are simply victims of the attitude of our society which celebrates and glorifies mediocrity and enthrones nepotism. Many of the women who have found themselves in trouble were not selected because of their impeccable records as passionate patriots like Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili and a few others. They are either friends or family of people in power or sycophants who sing their way into such offices. Since their appointments are not based on merit, they are at the mercy of the godfathers who they see as their gods for giving them the chance of their life times which no one may ever consider them for if such appointments are to be on merit.
In these circumstances, the ladies find themselves answering to their godfathers who themselves may be highly corrupt politicians who recommended them for appointments in anticipation of using them for criminal purposes. Many of these ladies then feel trapped doing just as they are told to do not as their conscience or good judgment dictates.
Again, due to the age long discrimination against women in politics in Nigeria, women have no or little good role models and therefore model themselves against their corrupt godfathers and colleagues. There is also the fact that because women are usually outnumbered in the appointments, they have little or no chance of making the difference because the men will always outnumber them when voting on important matters.
So it is a question of joining them if you cannot beat them and when you do, you get badly burnt because you are a woman and many people are still not sure that women should be allowed to be part of leadership in our country. It’s a shame that not many Nigerians have the common sense to leave when the conditions are such that staying on will force them to compromise their integrity. I give Ngozi Okonjo Iweala credit for quitting OBJ’s government when she felt that the conditions were no longer right. I wish that many will follow her footsteps.
The big question and my last point is how do we get out of this mess and ensure that only committed, competent, credible and real women with integrity and the ability to lead conscientiously are given the opportunity they rightly deserve?
I may be wrong, but I believe that if more women should care to stand together and truly support one another in all matters concerning our rights as women and leaders, shout and protest whenever we notice anyone trying to exclude us, refuse to go away until we are heard and our rights respected, we may see an end to the situation. Obiageli Ezekwesili is standing up for Chibok girls but women like her are demonising her.
We must honestly stand for what is right and avoid being selective about what we think may be right or wrong because we have been made promises by men or allow ourselves to be used by men to pull down other women. I have found myself in situations where men who knew that they were doing the wrong thing used other women to try and defend themselves instead of rising to the challenges or saying sorry because they knew that the got it totally wrong. Why would any woman allow herself to be used in that way.
Women must stand together, hold hands and be ready to play politics at the highest level without excuses or sentiments.
I recall a governor once saying that the position of Secretary of state for the state government is not a position for women. His excuse was that sometimes the meetings last until midnight. I thought what a gaffe? They must be discussing and planning armed robbery instead of governance. If this son of man understands that there are women my age or older who have finished raising children or still doing so but are naturally more determined, resilient and talented than him he would not have dared to utter such a chauvinist gaffe.