Calling on Nigerian Womenfolk to Reunite the Nation, by Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
Whenever the conversation of women being in control, or leading a nation or even a cause arises, there are half-witted remarks such as ‘emotional’ ‘disunited’ and ‘irrational’ that are thrown to offset the whole idea. However, in real time I have never seen a group that are more irrational like the menfolk.
Before getting into details on how men are indeed the illogical beings in the demeaning manner they refer women as, I want to uncover and debunk this “disunity” narrative about the female-folk that even the females seem to regard as true. Have you heard about the Aba women’s movement of 1929 in Nigeria?
Sincerely, I take pleasure in referring to historical events before western education became mainstream. So it is not attributed to the Whiteman giving us rights. While the historical demonstration has been dubbed “Aba women’s riot of 1929” it did not only happen in Aba and it was not just the women from Aba that engaged in the movement against the warrant chiefs and the policies imposed by the British colonial administration in the south-east. The rally actually involved thousands of women of different ethnic groups from Ibibio, Ogoni, Bonny, Opobo and Igbolands.
There were also many other women’s organizations at that time such as Lagos market women association and Abeokuta women’s union in the south-west.
Furthermore, there are the likes of Hajia Gambo Sawaba, a northern Nigerian woman who started her political career at the soft age of 17 and in 1953 organized an inaugural meeting for the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) women’s wing in Kano, which would eventually merge with Nigerian Women’s Union under the leadership of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti for the goal of enhancing women’s participation in politics.
These are just some of the courageous women that stood alongside our national forefathers such as Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, amongst others for the unity and the independence of the country.
It is also a clear illustration that women’s unity is not up for question especially Nigerian women who on their own create systems for community outreach and stand for one another in the face of adversity.
Truly, it is common misconception that women are impulsively emotional. It has gotten to a point that some make inane jokes that a woman holding power can get triggered to make illogical choices with an itch. However, nowhere in the history of Nigeria has a woman led separatist movements the way some male-folks are going about it like the activities of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafara (IPOB), and Sunday Igboho, the Champion of Oodua Republic and others.
As my point is becoming clearer, I think the time is right for us, the female-folk, to use our ‘emotions’ which are actually the natural inclination for unity, empathy and human compassion to fight off secessionist agendas plaguing the minds of the citizens of our country today.
In whatever way we look at it, it would be a gross disfavor to think that secessionist movements in Nigeria emerged over-night therefore it should be noted that ethnocentrism is always at its peak when it comes to policy making, political appointments and nation building.
Ethnocentric attitudes in Nigerians is evident even in the friendships we build. When truly observed this makes major ethnic groups who build intra-ethnic relationships based on languages, physical characteristics and cultural values to have better opportunity and better placement in the grand ladder of society than minority groups. Obviously this can cause frustration and resentments within ethnic groups especially when it has gone on for a long period of time.
I am for the belief that the ethnocentrism of Nigerians has affected different sectors of the country and has hindered national development but that doesn’t mean that the new generation of Nigerian women and men alike cannot reject ethnocentric views and make it right.
Of course, the first line of action is the acceptance of National identity. Many times, I hear the phrase ‘I am Hausa/Yoruba/Igbo/Ijaw first before the Whiteman made me Nigeria’ while this is undisputable, it is a flawed way of thinking especially in present times when the world is a global community. This line of thought only gives rise to putting intra-ethnic goals before national goals when in the eyes of the world we are labelled ‘Nigerians’ be it for better or for worse. Therefore, the acknowledging and accepting is of utmost importance even for an Amaka, Femi, Bala, Ekaette or Kyari.
Cultural awareness is the next step in understanding and appreciating one’s and other people’s culture and ethnic background. Sometimes we have erroneous impression about other people, things or places. I became aware of the Jos crisis through news broadcast when I was just seven years. When I turned eleven and a trip to my home-town in Adamawa through Jos-Bauchi-Gombe route, I could not see the bush fires and bullet-ridden bodies lying around.
Though my preconception was fueled by the jejune imaginations of a child a lot of learned adults today still see the world like that based on social surroundings, mass media and the society, hence until we disengage from our conscious ignorance and relearn about our country’s people, peaceful coexistence will continue to be a fable.
Which then calls for social inclusion and integration. In real time you will realize that the term “ethnic minority” which I absolutely dislike, has nothing to do with the population of the group rather it implies it social position in society. The reason why we can spend most of our lives without encountering people from this “minority” groups is that their legal and civic rights are not being met. This is evident even in metropolitan cities like Abuja where the actual indigenes have been driven away to satellite settlements where access to basic amenities are limited. Hence the need for social inclusion and integration through equity and justice.
There is also equitable allocations of resources for fairness. Inequalities between ethnic groups on the basis of population, size, wealth and level of development can breed acrimony
It is worthy to note that equity does not mean equality as there are communities and states that have less in terms of access to education, healthcare, security and more. Therefore, an equitable allocation, in a federal system is crucial to redress inequalities and address the fear of marginalization.
Every ethnic group should have access to the same resources while groups with greater needs can be supported with special interventions.
Women have always been used and dumped when it comes to seeking for public office and political power. In whatever agenda, the male-folks ride on the backs of female-folks to achieve one thing or the other due to our relatability with the masses through empathic and benevolent ways then disregard our efforts and cycle back again.
Being the bedrock of nations, we need to quit expecting men to decide our fates when we truly do most of the work in the background. Our unity is far better than our disparity and I yearn for us to utilize it to shape a better motherland. Today we have more educated women in various fields of endeavors. We need to teach our neighbors, friends, brothers, children and anyone around us to throw away the notion of ‘Us’ and embrace the idea of ‘We’ so as to tighten the tribal weak ties in our inter-ethnic relationships.
Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
Staff Writer at PRNigeria Centre, Wuye Abuja