Women in Nigeria, awake!



The legion of civil society organisations committed to the welfare and interests of women and children may have been scandalised by the events leading to and conducing to the repeat performance of an identical scene in the Chibok School macabre drama.

About 1,500 days after the gruesome abduction of school girls from their institution of learning in the sleepy rural community of Chibok, Borno State another sensational taking away of school girls by force of arms took place in Dapchi, Yobe State reportedly involving about 110 pupils.

The tepid, almost reclusive responses by women groups to these events tend to give the impression that the Nigerian womenfolk have lost their claim to the patrimony or cherished traditions of their forebears.

Stories are told with refreshing regularity and a feeling of déjà vu of the deeds of great courage or of the epic roles played by certain named women in antiquity who confronted the challenges of their time and etched their names and the causes they fought for in gold.

Moremi, Queen Amina, Emotan are legendary by their sheer audacity and courage.

In the immediate pre-independence period, the dare-devilry of Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the forceful wit of Margaret Ekpo, the demotic lingo of Gambo Sawaba and the death-daring indifference of Aba women rioters in confronting the status-quo and establishing the basis for enlightened protests or conscientious objection is proof positive of the intrinsic possession by women of the fire that burns inside of all that are imbued with a disquieting spirit.

These avatar women represented the anthithesis or negation of complacency, cowardice or philistinism. Morbid stories of abduction, rape, forced marriages, paedophilia, etc. almost unheard of forty or so years ago are the juicy or screaming headlines of today’s newspapers.

The reaction of the aforementioned pacesetter women to today’s gory headlines is decidedly predictable. They would have mounted the rostrum, held vigils on lawns, picketted official residences, shouted themselves hoarse concerning the enormity of the situation or circumstance and appealled in sorrow and lamentation, not in mock seriousness, to the nimble minds of their audience.

Women leaders seem to have lost the creative indignation to speak up; the indignation that cannot rest until justice is done or upheld in each case. The National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) ostensibly the umbrella body for women organisations, an erstwhile vibrant, socially-responsive and ubiquitous alter ego of women’s groups, now bears the official badge of caution, taciturnity and “siddon look”.

The month-long manic snatching of young girls from their school to yet undiscovered destination, the indeterminable number of the victims, the abject lack of information regarding efforts to retrieve or capture them from their abductors, and the conflicting or self-denying official announcements regarding their situation all call for serious excoriation by women groups and their leadership.

One readily recalls the forward-looking leadership of the NCWS under Mrs. Hilda Adefarasin and her team in the 1970s; galvanizing efforts for optimal achievement of stated goals and objectives, marshalling points for properly situating the argument regarding the centrality of the womenfolk in the affairs of the nation and generally providing fitting representation respecting the position of women on issues.

The elliptical outpourings of concern, grief or angst, the double-speak of some women leaders, the mock seriousness of their “rallies” and the bathos attending their politically-motivated or instigated protestations regarding the maniacal abduction of girls from their institution of learning by the “technically defeated” Boko Haram insurgents all deny the epic as they do not answer strictly to the conventional heroic or epic form.

The protests by women in respect of this unspeakable brigandage have been token and lacking in the requisite moral or intellectual force that should attend them.

In a situation as we currently have on our hands, – situation of insecurity, of bestiality and of insouciant buccaneering – it is women that are the primary victims even as they lose husbands, children, parents, possessions, etc.

The emotional, psychological and mental trauma they go through is gory and remains with them throughout life. Our present situation calls for sustained affirmative actions on the part of women – not token twitches, not a moot court gathering or a fictive assembly.

Women and their affairs naturally find their place at the very heart of the complexities of historical and social experience.

As mothers and guardian angels, they pilot the direction of history in the nexus of hopes, aspirations and enthusiasm that enliven the individual, social or group purpose even as they dutifully and cheerfully tend or nurse the small human being in their care.

The role of the woman in the upbringing of the child is so fundamental that she has become a veritable force among us.

As a result of the perceived moral one-upmanship of the woman, she has become a disturbing presence among us even as she subverts our inclination to moral turpitude, decadence or degeneracy. The mother is wont to admonish her children to be of a good behaviour, be morally upright and socially suave.

She is generally protective of her children’s individual idiosyncrasies or limitations. In times of anxiety or gloom or even of misunderstanding within the family, her effort is in the direction of an invitation to order, peace and tranquility.

Her anxiety does not bespeak despair or despondency but derives from an intensely-felt commitment to the family ideal or group vision.

Our appreciation of the central ideas of traditional African thought regarding the place of the family within the context of the larger society will help to reinforce our understanding of the proper role of the woman in our situation.

The attributes or principles associated with our primordial values which are generally regulative of culture and society i.e., order, restraint, suavity, the resolution or management of conflicts or their frontal confrontation in critical situations etc. are today being eroded in the conflict of cultures scenario which globalisation and its antecedent trajectory portend.

It is not strange today to have or see mothers who encourage in their children the vices of looting, thieving or barefaced corruption or who personally engage in them.

The societal values of hard work, honesty and reward are being overtaken by an appreciative degree of obnoxious foreign cultures or influences.

Some of these cultures were notorious for their plundering of the artifacts of the native people and for robbing and terrorising the people.Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator wrote this piece in commemoration of the 2018 Mothers Day.



Guardian 27/03/2018