While campaigningin Awka, Anambra state last month, President Muhammadu Buhari told SouthEasterners, Ndigbo that he had not been appointing people from that zone intotop decision making offices because he has not found any who merits such intheir midst. He was responding to criticism over the appointment of the newInspector General of Police who he picked again from the north even asNigerians are shouting coarse that these appointments have continually beenone-sided.
Thepresident could have also been indirectly making no apologies to Nigerian womenfor by-passing the next most senior police officer, DIG Peace Ibekwe A., a woman,to pick his candidate, the new IGP, Adamu. Following the choice, all senior officers beforethe new man, have been compulsorily retired from service as is the practice.
Whilemany have condemned the President’s continued disregard for due process andfederal character, the silent acceptance of the denial of opportunity to attainthe peak of police service, opportunity of being Nigeria’s first femaleInspector General of Police even as the cry for gender equity rings loud,speaks volumes on the level of respect the Buhari administration has for womenin this country. Buhari is not alone, the system has consistently ignored womenfor top positions offering only a token safe for the Jonathan administrationwhich gave women more and meaningful space in governance. Under PresidentGoodluck Jonathan women for the first time since Independence, had 13 ministersin a cabinet of 42 (31%) and six out of18 special advisers (33%), surpassingthe 30% affirmative action.
In2007, barely weeks after Late President Musa Yar’Adua named Alhaji A. B. Ahmedsuccessor to the former Comptroller General of the Customs Service, a group ofNigerian women who were monitoring that administration cried foul, lamentingthat a woman, Mrs Rhoda Ako was the right candidate for that post by virtue ofboth seniority and merit. According to the women, Mrs Ako was sidelined, as hasbeen the cross of many women in decision making, being a woman, while the list ofthe mandatory three names for presidential selection was compiled and sent.
In a protest letter addressed to PresidentYar’Adua and copied to the first lady Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, the NationalAssembly, Benue State governor, Benue State House of Assembly, the Federationof Women Lawyers, FIDA, the National Council for Women Societies, NCWS andWRAPPA, the aggrieved women lamented had due process been applied, Ako would havebeen the Comptroller General of Customs and Excise and called on the president to correct thewrong.
Partof the letter signed on behalf of the Benue State Staff Widows Association byits president Hon Evang. Esther. Acheka read:
“Itis with heavy hearts that we came out en masse to protest the recentdevelopment at the Nigeria Customs Service. We , Staff Widows of Benue State ofNigeria and greater widows of Benue state and beyond view with resentment, thechoice of candidates as Comptroller General of Customs Service aside from MrsRhoda Ako, a slight not only to womanhood but despising the state of widowhood.
“YourExcellency, this Association has on good authority, the list of the three namesof Deputy Comptroller General, DCG ranking recommended and forwarded to thepresidency for approval for the position of Comptroller General of Customs Serviceand how that of the superimposed andassumed Comptroller General Customs Service did not make the list.”
TheBenue Staff Widows said the sidelining of DCG Rhoda Ako, who had served invital and sensitive positions in the Customs Service, at the time in question,head of administration, finance andtechnical operations, all areas that demandcompetence, was a slight on a woman whohad offered distinguished service and women while also negating the terms ofthe Beijing Platform of Action’s 30% recommended decision making positions forwomen as well as denial of development.
Goingfurther, the women stated:
“Notquerying your veto powers, may we refresh Your Excellency’s memory to the factthat the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, 1995 set as goals, genderequality, development and peace and constituted an agenda for the empowerment ofwomen. The full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms ofwomen is essential for the empowerment of women, which is also essential forpoverty reduction and sustainable development.
“Withoutgender equality and equity, national development will stunted and lopsided. AWorld Bank report reveals that countries with minimal gender gaps have less povertyand faster growth. Also, countries that promote women’s rights and increasetheir access to resources have faster economic growth and less corruption thancountries that do not.”
Thewomen stressed that In Nigeria there is a gender imbalance which has to readdressedby government policies and programmes. Twelve years later, these gaps are still unattended to. Manybarriers are still obstructing women from breaking the glass ceiling especiallyin the uniform forces
Lookingback, the women traced how the Nigerian system has continually discouragedwomen. They pointed out that the first woman to head a para-military establishment in the country, late LadyUzoamaka Nwizuw as struck by a strange disease. She was even frontallyembarrassed by the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Adu Bayero when she visited hispalace on a familiarization tour as she assumed office.
“Thewidows expressed fear for the future of women in the country. “In a casesuch as this, Mrs Ako’s, in the Nigeria Customs Service and the nation, we fear that Nigerian women are an endangeredspecies. We therefore fear for our future positions to suffer annihilation ofgender placement and contribution in our country Nigeria.”
That fear is still playing out. From ward to national level, women are still being shortchanged in politics, they are the unheard and unsolicited voices in the family, communities, even churches. They face continued gender discrimination in the office and are last names to be considered for meaningful positions anywhere. The danger is that the longer society feigns unaware of this ugly trend including the Ministry of Women Affairs and the legislative assemblies which organs should be pushing for an end to this injustice, the greater the harm to the girls coming up behind us as the message is that there is no vacancy at the very top for Nigerian women, a call to despondency. It is therefore time to put to work the National Gender Policy and bring on the Equal Opportunity Bill for this endangered segment of our society.
#Gender And Accountability
By Constance Meju, Port Harcourt based publisher of National Point Newspaper and Gender and Environmental Justice Advocate