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WIMBIZ, others fault composition of newly constituted governing councils of federal varsities

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Mrs Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo


• Seek reconstitution, gender inclusion

Criticisms have continued to trail the reconstitution of Governing Councils of five federal universities by the Federal Government as women groups and eminent scholars demanded reconstitution of fresh teams.

A non-governmental organisation, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), has called on the Federal Government to consider gender inclusion in appointments.

The organisation, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and made available to The Guardian said it was disappointing that the 25 members appointed recently by President Muhammadu Buhari into governing councils of five federal universities were all male.

In the letter titled, “Re: Appointment of council members of five Nigerian universities; the need for gender inclusion,” and signed by the organisation’s Chairman, Board of Trustees, Mrs Ifeyinwa Ighodalo and Chairperson, Executive Council, Mrs Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo insisted that Nigerian women are intellectually capable to handle sensitive positions.

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Citing the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director General of World Trade Organization (WTO); Mrs Amina J. Mohammed, the fifth Deputy Secretary General of United Nations, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, first female Vice Chancellor in Nigeria and Ebele Okeke, first female Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the group noted that gender inclusion is imperative in federal appointments.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last week approved the reconstitution of Governing Councils of five federal universities namely, University of Ibadan (UI) University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) University of Lagos (UNILAG) Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, and Maritime University, Delta.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, Sonny Echono, listed members of the new council of UI as Chief Odigie Oyegun, Chairman; Mr Masud Kazaure, Abba Yaro, Alhaji Abubakar Maikafi and Mr Emeka Nwagbo as members.

For UNIPORT, the governing council members are Sen. Andrew Uchendu as Chairman while Mr Kolo Uzamat, Cdre. D. T. Hinga, Mohammed Makarfi and Ahmed Al-Mustapha are members.

For UNILAG, we have Dr Lanre Tejuosho as Chairman, with Dr Aminu Ahmed, Dr Uro Gardner, Chief Chinedu Adindi and Mr Mustafa Salihu as members.

Also, OAU has Chief Oscar Udoji as Chairman with Capt. Bala Jibrin, Mr Eugene Odo, Dr Lateef Babata and Alhaji Saidu Bako as members.
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State, has Dr Elias Courson as Chairman and Mr Nelson Alapa, Mr Victor Giadono, Alhaji Bello Dukku and Mr Godwin Ananghe as members.

But WIMBIZ, while faulting the composition reminded that gender inclusion in federal appointments underscores the very essence of federal character and mirrors global organisational best practice.

The letter read in part: “Gender diverse leadership teams infuse dynamism, deliver long term stakeholder value and improve employee engagement. In addition, appointment of women into these Councils would further drive inclusive development and accentuate the role of women in nation building.

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“The United Nations gender equality in 2030 agenda for sustainable development emphasises that as long as women are economically and socially disempowered in the world of work, their homes and communities growth will not be inclusive and we will not succeed in ending poverty as stated by Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of United Nations. Nigeria through the office of President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is committed to all the Goals inclusive of SDG Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities),” the letter stated.

The group subsequently called on the presidency to have a rethink and prioritise gender inclusion in subsequent appointments. Seasoned educationist and former presidential candidate in the 2015 general election on the platform of KOWA Party, Prof Remi Sonaiya, said the absence of women in public governance is a sad reality.

For instance, Sonaiya noted that an NGO, Kimpact Development Initiative, has been putting out Twitter posts on the number of female Commissioners and members of Assembly in the various states of Nigeria.

“The numbers are abysmal. There are states where no single woman has been appointed as a commissioner, and others with no single female in the House of Assembly.

The foremost scholar warned that in the absence of inclusive appointments, 50 per cent of the population are shut out from making contributions to running of institutions and the nation is worse for it.

She said: “Women bring a unique set of skills and competences to issues, and these often have very significant positive impact on institutions concerned. The absence of women on the Governing Councils of these institutions means that those universities are going to be poorer in terms of policies and decisions that would be made at the Council level. Of course, the universities themselves can have internal members that are female (e.g. as Vice Chancellor or Deputy, Registrar, Senate Representative, etc.), but the fact that government refused to be inclusive in these appointments is a sad comment on the governance of the nation.

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“The problem is the entrenched system of male chauvinism which refuses to acknowledge contributions that women can make at the highest levels of governance. We just need to keep pointing this out to our leaders. Our collective well-being depends on a system of governance that is inclusive; one that seeks out the most capable hands to run our affairs. We know that when merit is the determining factor (not connections or other parochial considerations), then Nigerian women also come out in flying colours,” Sonaiya added.

Legal luminary and rights activist, Uju Okeke, said the appointment is gender discriminatory and a clear violation of section 42 of 1999 constitution.

“When we talk about federal character, it is not just about different ethnic groups, that particular section should contain gender diversity. In this case, members are from different ethnic groups but all of them are men.

“There would be issues that concern women in those schools, who would talk about those issues? Who would think of them? That is why we will continue talking of discrimination because tomorrow, they will laws and policies for these schools and before you know it, female lecturers and students would start complaining,” Okeke stated.

To address the imbalance and in the true spirit of section 42 of the constitution, Okeke said not less than 35 per cent of these appointees should be women.

On her part, Vice Chancellor, Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Prof Chinedum Peace Babalola described the appointment as insensitive and called for a reconstitution.

In the same vein, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika of the Department of Mass Communication, UNILAG described the appointment as a sad development and monumental embarrassment.

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Ogwezzy-Ndisika said the action is insensitive to gender inclusivity and should be resisted. She said: “We see women who are Executive Directors of multinational corporations of publicly quoted companies, who are leading top professional associations. If you go to National Universities Commission (NUC), you would see a list of enough female professors; nobody can tell me that we don’t have qualified people. We have women doing well in business, science and technology, arts, communication, education among others. I think it is just a mark of insensitivity, and it says a lot about how government is run.”

President Buhari kept saying he would ensure equitable women representation but unfortunately, he is not walking his talk.

“If anything, we should have more women in the Council because that is where they are going to talk about the future of our children. And if you check globally, where women are involved, you have better outcomes for families, even for societies. So, I think that they should suspend and reconstitute new governing councils.

“Government gives licenses to several universities, both public and private, including state level, they should have gender balancing in the constitution of boards,” Ogwezzy-Ndisika added.

Professor of History, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, described it as strange and befuddling.
 
“There’s no Nigerian university that has not produced female professors, professionals and administrators, serving or retired. The glaring omission of women is a national disgrace, which exposes Nigeria to ridicule. This is the ugly face of patriarchy.  How can Councils without external female representation (on merit, not mere tokenism) deliver fair results? Women’s views within universities cannot be captured that way. This composition lacks diversity and sensitivity, which can still be rectified. I wonder why we have a Ministry of Women Affairs, if such simple things cannot be got right,” Olukoju added.

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