Musing on women empowerment and appointment
Sir: My audacity is in tackling this combustible subject-matter on “Appointing women into political positions in Nigeria in an article posted on The USA African Dialogue website and written by Matthew Agboma Ozah, published in The Guardian, December 9, 2020.
First, I will do so against the backdrop of a paper I presented at two conferences viz, in Marrakech, Morocco, in spring 2019 and at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA, in Spring 2020. Second, I will briefly discuss it, comparatively, through the lens of the “theory of privilege-cum-law of self/interest.”
The paper I presented in Morocco and Georgia examined concisely the issue of women’s rights from the point of view of the impact of religion and patriarchy on women’s role in society and in the global south. That is, I attempted to explain, culturally, why women are marginalised in politics and in a polity in general. I was also very bold—perhaps too bold—in suggesting that there was and is a need to tweak some of the problematic religious dogmas and pedagogies on women found in the Holy Bible and Holy Koran. My suggestions, I contended, might be helpful in exculpating most women (in pastoral regions mainly) from their political and economic quagmires. I further argued that patriarchy (and its praxis) especially in the rustic or rural settings in the developing world (as well as in Nigeria) is another wahala when it comes to women’s human rights and marginalisation in politics.
My second opinion intended to augment Matthew’s discourse with respect to leaders’ political equivocation on women’s empowerment in Nigeria (Africa and the developing world), relates to the theory of privilege. This supposition is complex but critical for understanding human and especially men’s behaviour in politics. Men, in most societies, have enjoyed a position of privilege (politically, economically, socially, and religiously) and will not give it up without a fight. This assumption is true in Nigeria and elsewhere.
In fact, how else would one explain why Xi Jinping extended his stay in power in China, Vladimir Putin in the Russian Federation, and Donald Trump is attempting to do in American politics aujourd’hui. This is not to mention Paul Biya of Cameroun, the late Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. These leaders wish to monopolise power and, like the late Dr. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, inaugurate themselves as President-for-Life. My judgment on this matter is that the attitude of these leaders and their cabals, very much like the attitude of most Nigerian political leaders, is explicable within the context of the theory of privilege and the “law of self/interest.” Accordingly, the Buhari administration is only paying lip service to the idea of appointing more women to important political positions. Most men in Nigerian politics will resist such a notion overtly or covertly, too.
Thus, in my view, the battle to open the political and economic space to women in Nigeria (and in other African countries) based on the influence of religion, patriarchy, and the theory of privilege is going to be difficult but not insurmountable. Thanks to the efforts of rights activists fighting for women’s rights and political and economic empowerment in the republic!
For an illuminating caricature on the struggle for women’s empowerment in Nigeria, I recommend you watch the Nollywood movie “Women in Power” starring Olu Jacobs and Patience Ozokwor.
Prof. Ike Udogu wrote form United States of America.