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WOMEN AS NIGERIA’S HIDDEN RESOURCES – IMPROVING THE LIVES OF GIRLS & WOMEN IN NIGERIA & WHY AFRICA IS A BEGGAR CONTINENT – OBAFEMI AWOLOWO

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‘’No doubt women are Nigeria’s hidden resource. Investing in women and girls now will increase productivity in this generation and will promote sustainable growth, peace and better health for the next generation. What happens here to women and girls matters, not least for realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – United Kingdom Government Sponsored Report.

”For the true and real neo-colonialists are no other than we Africans ourselves. It is we, in spite of our political independence and sovereignty who voluntarily submit to economic, and sometimes diplomatic dominance from outside our borders.” — Obafemi Awolowo 

FAMILY VALUES, FEMALE GENDER & YOUTHS AS OUR PRIMARY MANDATES: Our mandate places very high premium on family values as a major ingredient of societal development. We have, therefore, since inception in 2017, championed the cause of the female gender because we believe that they are very vital tools as pillars of family units. Currently, we are engaged in how to promote proactive approach to issues pertaining to preventing social and criminal conducts. We sincerely believe that those horrible occurrences perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated by youths locally and abroad would never have occurred had those that constitute the target audience been alive to their responsibilities.

ISSUES MILITATING AGAINST THE FEMALE GENDER: I settled down to research into issues militating against the female gender and I remembered Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s address at the Silver Jubilee Anniversary Dinner of the University of Ibadan held in November, 1973. One of the great Nigerians commended at that dinner is the first female professor in Nigeria, Professor (Mrs) Adetowun Ogunseye.  Awolowo said it this way: ‘’Prof. (Mrs) Adetowun Ogunseye has risen from the humble status of student to the enviable height of a Professor – all in the University of Ibadan, moving in the process from the wooden army barracks turned University campus at Eleiyele,  to the present beautiful campus on Oyo road. ‘’ And whenever the story of the nativity of her alma mater is told in centuries to come the name of Mrs Ogunseye will be mentioned also’’ That was November, 1973.

FOLA AKINTUNDE-IGHODALO: We had also intended publishing the very remarkable attainments of late Chief (Mrs) Folayegbe Akintunde Ighodalo, the first Nigerian woman to be named a Permanent Secretary. She was promoted permanent secretary in the Western State civil service at a time when there was an unhidden discrimination against women. Born in 1923 in Oke-Igbo, Ondo State, Fola Akintunde-Ighodalo was able to finance her own studies and in June 1954 obtained a degree in Economics in the United Kingdom.  Yet, these great Nigerian women – Fola Akintunde-Ighodalo and Prof. Mrs Adetowun Ogunseye remain reference points as solid achievers who never lobbied, but worked diligently, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts.

SUCCEEDED WITHOUT WOMEN’S LIBERATION: The success stories of the two women named above challenge the female gender in Nigeria. A Nigerian female journalist and writer, Mrs. Tola Adenle paid glowing tributes to the woman fondly called Aunty Fola this way:  “Letters to my Aunt.” addressed to “Auntie Fola”, the anecdotal information contained therein left no doubt that Mrs. Akintunde-Ighodalo was the aunt in question. In these letters, Adenle mused over Nigerian women’s political awareness and leadership problems. “Are we willing”, she wrote, “to pick up the torch that the pioneers have passed?’’ (Emotan Magazine) Now, on to the substantive issue as captioned:

IMPROVING THE LIVES OF GIRLS & WOMEN IN NIGERIA: The importance of this piece is underscored by the request of those who worked on the compilation for mass circulation. The Foreword is co-written by two eminent Nigerians, His Eminence, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. They signed off the document under reference as Governor,  Central Bank of Nigeria and the Hon. Minister of Finance respectively.

FOREWORD TO THE DFID SPONSORED REPORT: Adolescent Girls and Women in Nigeria Why should we as citizens and policy makers pay attention to the situation of women in our country? Nigeria has the largest population of any African country, some 162.5 million people. Of this magnitude 49% are female; some 80.2 million girls and women. So any discussion about Nigeria’s future must necessarily entail consideration of girls and women, the role they play and the barriers they face in making the future. 54% of Nigerians still live in poverty and the proportion has doubled since 1980 (when about 28% were classified as poor). Nigeria’s human development indicators are also worse than those of comparable lower middle-income countries. 42% of Nigerian children are malnourished. The averages hide a context that is worse for women and girls.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Nearly six million young women and men enter the labour market each year but only 10% are able to secure a job in the formal sector, and just one third of these are women. This situation has dire consequences for human development and conflict mitigation. This is not a problem of northern Nigeria versus southern Nigeria because the statistics are troubling in all parts of the country. It is a Nigeria wide problem which we all, as government, private sector, civil society and families must tackle. In government for instance we are working to provide early business opportunities to young persons, through innovative ideas such as the Youth WIN programme. No doubt women are Nigeria’s hidden resource. Investing in women and girls now will increase productivity in this generation and will promote sustainable growth, peace and better health for the next generation.

FULFILLING THE UN DEVELOPMENT AGENDA:  What happens here to women and girls matters, not least for realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This study is of critical importance because it draws together the literature that references the role of girls and women in Nigeria in one practical and serious document. It distils from that corpus the key issues that need to be addressed to maximise the potential of girls and women. It focuses attention on critical but little known statistics, which paint a clear picture about the seriousness and importance of women’s situation. It is our hope that this report will have wide relevance to all players interested in the future of Nigerian society.

We believe it will amplify the issues, hasten development and serve as a resource for a wide and non-specialist readership. The study would not have been possible without the knowledge, skill and application of a core team working under an intensive schedule. We acknowledge the excellence of the work of: Ben Fisher, Director Programmes British Council Nigeria; Roy Chikwem;  Project Manager British Council Nigeria, Sushila Zeitlyn, Lead Consultant;  Admos Chimhowu,  ResearcherOmowumi Asubiaro-Dada;  Researcher Amina Salihu, Strategic communications Saudatu Shehu Mahdi;  Political contributor; Nkenchor Neville, Banking sector contributor;  Caroline Pinder,  Peer review; and Katja Jobes; and Senior Gender Adviser DFID.

IMPACT OF STUDY: The impact of this study will not be achieved without the support of a high level panel of change champions who encourage and exhort the state and sections of society to address the inequalities and barriers that face adolescent girls and women in Nigeria. Their support has been crucial and we are grateful to them and feel privileged to be part of that team. They are: Amina az-Zubair former Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs; Bilkisu Yusuf, Pioneer female Editor, New Nigerian Newspaper & Founding President, FOMWAN.  Maryam Uwais, Lawyer, Adviser to Government and founder of the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative;  Mo Abudu, Television presenter and founder of Inspire Africa;  Zainab Maina, then the Honourable Minister, Women Affairs and Social Development.

AUTHORS OF DOCUMENT: We encourage all readers to broadcast this study to their peers and other interested parties. The challenges and opportunities discussed in this report call for concerted and sustained action. We must each ask ourselves: what are we doing to provide opportunities for women? Doing so goes beyond gender justice. We will be saving ourselves and investing in our future.

SIGNED BY: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo–Iweala,  Minister of Finance and Chair of Panel   & Sanusi Lamido Sanusi Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria and co-Chair of Panel

This study was funded by the UK Department for International Development

 SECOND PART OF COMPILATION —WHAT POVERTY CAN LEAD TO THE TEXT OF AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY CHIEF OBAFEMI AWOLOWO AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION DINNER PARTY 17 NOVEMBER, 1973: It gives me great pleasure to propose the toast of the Alumni Association of the University of Ibadan, for two main reasons. First, it is a matter of stimulating delight to be in a gathering of this elevating character and composition; second it is a rare opportunity to play some part during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the oldest and exemplary university in Nigeria. Twenty-five years is an infinitesimal time-scale in the life of an institution such as the University of Ibadan which has every prospect of perpetual survival. But, in the life of every individual alumnus, and for that matter, of every individual human being, a quarter of a century is a considerable span.

For, whatever may be our individual feeling to the contrary and howsoever we may try, it is absolutely certain that not all those who participate in or witness these Silver Jubilee celebrations of the University of Ibadan will be on this side of the great divide when the Golden Jubilee is celebrated 25 years hence. The reputation of a university depends, I dare say, wholly on the soundness of its teachings and on the calibre and quality of its graduates. In these two regards the University of Ibadan has had to its credit an immense success which can be equalled but cannot be excelled.

PERFORMANCES:  In this connection, it should be emphasised that by their individual performances in all the spheres of human endeavours to which they have been assigned, the alumni of the University of Ibadan have done more than anything else to put a stamp of genuine respectability and of unaffected international recognition on the degree awarded by the university.

INFLUENTIAL ALUMNI: It is true to say that today, the alumni of the University of Ibadan are playing very influential as well as decisive roles in the affairs not only of Nigeria but also of Africa and the world. Look in any direction you like-worthy direction, i mean-the story is the same; the alumni and alumnae of this great university are to be found displaying strong, challenging, and decisive presence. Where all are worthy of mention, one can only confine oneself in a short speech to the promontories that one knows. The current Secretary-General of the OAU, Mr Nzo Ekangaki, is an alumnus of the University of Ibadan and a member of the OAU, General Yakubu Gowon, is an honorary alumnus. Both of them are carrying quite admirably I think, Africa’s burden which of late, is made heavier by the Middle-East war.

Two of the military governors in Nigeria in the persons of Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi and Commissioner of Police Mr Joseph Gomwalk are members of this association. Accounts From all accounts, both of them are acquitting themselves as competently as any other military ruler in the country. Lest we forget, one of the five celebrated or ill-famed majors (all depending on which side of the fence one is) who were the harbingers of military rule in Nigeria was Major 52 Ifeajuna-an alumnus of the University of Ibadan. In the ichael 0molayole of Unilever and Mr Adokpaye of Mobil who are top executive directors in their respective organizations. highly, sometimes cut-throat, competitive arena of business, your association has outstanding representatives; two of them are Mr M

THE GLORIOUS DAYS:  In the field of education and learning at all levels, members of your association are prominently in the vanguard: there is Dr Ishaya Audu, Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, under whom ABU has made enviable progress. There is also Professor Akin Mabogunje who has won international recognition as one of the world’s leading scholars in Geography and there is Professor (Mrs) 0gunsheye who has risen from the humble status of student to the enviable height of a Professor-all in the University of Ibadan, moving in the process from the wooden army barracks turned University campus at Eleiyele to the present beautiful campus on Oyo road. She was present at the foundation of the University of Ibadan. And whenever the story of the nativity of her alma mater is told in centuries to come the name of Mrs Ogunseye will be mentioned.

Also, Dr J. F. Ade Ajayi and Mr Osinulu Vice-Chancellor and Registrar respectively of the University of Lagos are also your fellow alumni. It was thoughtful of the Council and Senate to do well-deserved honour, on this historic occasion to Audu and 0molayole by the award to them of honorary degrees. The modern church militant also has one of your members in its leadership He is no other than your respected chairman, Mr Bola Ige. He is the current chairman of the World Council of Churches Committee to combat racism. The newspapers, the radio, the other actors of the mass media are almost wholly dominated by members of your association. 54 Two names readily come to mind: they are Messrs Adamu Ciroma and Areoye Oyebola. They both have one paradoxical quality in common. Each of them is as the ancient Roman would put it, “Cuaviter in modo, fortiter in re”; quiet, shy and unassuming in manners, but formidable in wielding the pen.

The civil service, the Armed Forces, the Police Force, the Prisons and any other spheres of human activities you can think of are manned in the higher cadre, largely by members of your association. So far; so good. There is a trite saying: To whom much is given, much is expected. And to be quite candid the members of your association, as patriots nationalists, and social reformers and innovators are still to win their spurs. There is no doubt whatsoever that you have all performed most creditably in all the spheres to which you have been assigned.  But, in all this, you have the unique fortune of being successors and heirs to a political and social inheritance which admittedly, is mixed but is on the whole conducive to healthy and self-respecting growth and development on all fronts. Among this inheritance are a free and united Nigeria, the Organisation of African Unity, and respect for the dignity of the African.

IMPORTANT DUTY: The duty which now devolves upon you is to uphold this inheritance from impairment and corrosion and to improve immeasurably upon it. Here then is the rub and the urgency of your new assignments. For, if the truth must be told, there are certain vital matters common to Africa in general and peculiar to Nigeria 55 in particular which must be attended to by you and all of us with a due sense of urgency, dispatch, and resolution. I will try to enumerate some of them briefly. For Africa as a whole, I will only outline six such matters, among others. One: In time past, the most potent weapon which African nationalists had employed in their fight for political freedom was freedom of dissent. Dissent That is, the freedom to disagree with, to criticise, and to chastise the government of the day, with as much vehemence and robustness as your eloquence or literary skill can command. It was the guarantee of this freedom, and its effective employment by African nationalist that had made our political independence a reality.

FREEDOM OF DISSENT IS  THE BEST SAFEGUARD AGAINST TYRANNY: In my humble judgment, and with the greatest respect to all our rulers in Africa, it appears crystal clear that this freedom of dissent is not only long in abeyance since independence but also now in danger of total extinction. Freedom of Dissent is a positive good: it is the best safeguard against tyranny, and the surest preventive of avoidable costly error on the part of the government of the day. Two: The struggle against involuntary political and economic enslavement under colonial rule was over during the last decade in most part of Africa. But the struggle against voluntary subservience and submission to neo-colonialism is yet to begin. Our frequent and unabating declamation against neo-colonialism appears to me to be pretentious exercise and deliberate diversion.

For the true and real neo-colonialists are no other than we Africans ourselves. It is we, in spite of our political independence and sovereignty who voluntarily submit to economic, and sometimes diplomatic dominance from outside our borders. Resolutions Says Lenin: “THERE WILL BE NO EXPLOITERS IF THERE ARE NO EXPLOITABLES” Three: Only goodness knows how many resolutions we have passed, and how many billions of words we have spoken in condemnation of the last vestiges of colonialism in some parts of Africa; 2. Of white domination of Africans in Rhodesia and the Southern parts of our continent, and 3. of racial inequality and discrimination as between black and white in Africa and even in other parts of the world. It is my respectful submission that all these evil things against which we most vehemently and quite justly inveigh will continue until one African is equal to one white man in all respects.

RACIAL EQUALITY: Four: Further in this connection, and if I may borrow a biblical expression-“l say unto you” that one white-man will continue to be equal to twenty Africans, or, at any rate, to much more than one African, until African leaders are able to muster enough courage and dedication to venture into the contemporary fast-flowing stream of education, science and technology which alone can sweep our continent into a greater and nobler future where racial equality will no longer be a matter of patronising concession on the part of the whites, but one of accepted necessity among all races of the world. The current crusade for the preservation of our cultural heritage is highly commendable.  But we must not allow our pre-occupation with our past to make us lose sight of what these contemporary times demand both in efforts and resources for the promotion of education, science and technology, and for the quick advent of the greater and more glorious future which awaits our continent as a result. Five:

AFRICA IS A BEGGAR CONTINENT: To all intents and purposes, in economic terms, Africa is today a beggar-continent. At all times and at every turn, we beg for aid. However, as beggars, we are in a class by ourselves. When we beg, we do not grovel. Assumption Instead, we assume an air of superciliousness, and demand that the donors should attach no strings to the gifts. And when strings are attached, as they invariably are, we pretend to ourselves that they do not exist. But our budgets always tell the true story. Six: For some time n o w – t o be precise since the attainment of political independence by African countries-a terrible monster has been stalking the face of Africa, and threatening to hold full and permanent rein on the continent to the detriment of the masses of our people.

TENACITY OF OFFICE AS A MONSTER:  It is the monster of TENACITY OF OFFICE. The chief characteristics of this monster are inordinate and shameless love of public office; and morbid desire for its own sake, even when the legitimacy for such power does not exist or has completely disappeared. So much for Africa in general.  For Nigeria in particular, there are two matters which compel our urgent attention. i . Recent government measures ominously suggest that Nigeria may already have started to slip, albeit unwittingly, from federalism back to unitarianism.  In this connection, we have every right to look up to the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who is an honorary alumnus of the University of Ibadan, and who also is the farsighted author of the new federalism in Nigeria, to see to it that nothing is done or left undone which may tend to, or actually reduce the states to the status of glorified local councils.

POVERTY IS MOTHER OF REVOLUTON: Nigeria is fast becoming a country of extreme regional and interpersonal contradictions. Poverty In some parts of the country and amongst some individuals, what Rostow, in his famous book The Stages of Growth-A Non-Communist Manifesto, describes as Buddenbrook’s Dynamics, is already at work, whilst grinding poverty reigns supreme in some other parts of the country. If I may put it in my own words, what Buddenbrook’s Dynamics means simply is that the higher you go in the social ladder, the wider your field of cognition and your horizon of wants and discontent. On the other hand, and by way of contrast, what “POW ER DYNAMICS” (If I may be permitted this heresy) denotes is that the lower you actually sink or imagine you sink in quagmire of poverty and wants, the narrower becomes your field of cognition, and the deeper your discontent. Says Aristotle: “Poverty is the parent of revolution”.

May I, in closing, congratulate, most warmly, all the members of the Alumni Association of the University of Ibadan, and ask all my fellow-guests here tonight to rise and drink with me, as lustily as we ever can, the toast of the Alumni Association of the University of Ibadan, the premier and exemplar university in Nigeria.

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