It is on the shoulders of women like hers that those of us coming behind must stand and learn. We must learn that capable, competent women with impeccable character and a track record for excellence have a role to play in the future of our Nation with the caveat that we must first have the self-esteem to take our rightful seat at the table. Because of women like Mama Rosemary Alami Umameh , women like me must chose to reflect on the words from a wise progressive man (Romanus Woghiren) recently that “fortune shines on the brave and the bold”.
Published 3 hours ago on May 6, 2023By Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor
Nigeria’s demographics show that about half of our population is made up of women. Readily googled data has also revealed that we have 109 Senators in Nigeria out of which only 7 are women. It is no different from the House of Representatives where only 22 out of 360 members are women. The world over, women constitute a powerful force in the electorate. They are the ones that take the messages of political parties and run with it. Whereas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and other policies, countries in the West and even some in Africa like Rwanda are reaping the fruit of optimal women engagement in politics, Nigeria is nowhere to be reckoned with on this front. Why are Nigerian women only good enough to feature in jingles and at campaign rallies? What stops our women from taking their own seats at the table of “true leadership by the electorate”. The answer that comes into my mind in response to this rhetorical question is simply – nothing.
I know that most readers would be quick to point out the challenges women face in politics. First is the pseudo-gospel that women do not like to see women progress or vote for themselves. Well, the question is, whose gospel is that? It is from us women or from confounding factors that seek to divide us. Besides, today’s sisterhood is waxing beyond nay-gospels. From this, we move on to the fact that wives of men running for offices are put out to pacify the teaming women folks and tell them how their needs will be taken care of by their husbands. Next in the long list of challenges is the trend that most political meetings are intentionally held at night to exclude the women. In answer to these, we must begin to understand that leadership skills and leadership positions are not “sexually transmitted” so, we must not hope to bring value to the lives of Nigerians via the bed-route. Furthermore, many of us are the last to go to sleep in our houses because we are tending to the needs of everyone before we go to bed. Some of us are in professions where we do night shifts. Examples abound with the nurses, doctors, midwives, laboratory scientists, pilots, engineers, the policewomen to mention but a few. Consider instances where many surgeries are being performed by female surgeons on night shifts across hospitals in Nigeria. So, it is not that women cannot hold meetings, do high performance tasks in the night or reason with their faculties at night. Rather, it is the socio-cultural stigma and stereotypes that a woman is out at night (holding political meetings) when she should be at home with her husband and children. By the way, who says such political meetings happens only at night?
Therefore, enter on to the scene, progressive and supportive husbands of Nigeria who will attend these kinds of meetings with their wives and watch the myth die out! I can foresee the meetings being moved to saner times of the day, the moment these kinds of progressive Nigerian men, start to support their women staunchly in politics – by the way they abound in Nigeria. Other analysts will be quick to say how women neither have the financial muscle to incentivise the electorate nor the thugs-war-chest to intimidate people and rig the electoral process. It is to this that I will point out how a new Nigeria is upon us. The February 25th, 2023, elections in Nigeria and events that led up to is as well as events now evolving post that election, is evidence that Nigerians are now awoke and ready to take the evolution of true democracy in the country into our hands. It clearly signalled the rise of a neo-order, who believe that their vote must count. Similarly, the continued resistance to the government “select” by Nigerians should not be dismissed with a wave of the hands. Even the thugs are now realising that the episodic and cyclical use of their bad side (surely, they cannot be all bad) by the old order politicians is not the long-term solution to achieving the Nigeria of their dreams. They too now understand that they can be better educated, and lead descent lives like the children of the old-order politicians if they elect a government that has true value for human lives.
However, we look at it, all these challenges which by the way, I have proffered solutions to and some of which the natural evolution of Nigerian minds is solving, do not stop our women from taking their own seats at the table of “true leadership by the electorate.” Not at all. Mama Rosemary Alami Umameh JP is a living example that it is only us as women, who are actually stopping ourselves from taking our own seats at the table. When I first met her son, Reverend Father Michael Umameh many years ago, his articulation of Nigeria’s political issues laced with practical solutions led me to ask, “who is your mum and what does she do?” Little wonder I came to find out that she is a well-known name in Kogi politics. Without fear, this amazon took her seat and still sits at the table many men fear to tread. Supported by her husband, Chief Innocent Adaji Umameh, a rare breed, Mama Umameh blazed and continues to blaze women political leadership in Nigeria. It is on the shoulders of women like hers that those of us coming behind must stand and learn. We must learn that capable, competent women with impeccable character and a track record for excellence have a role to play in the future of our Nation with the caveat that we must first have the self-esteem to take our rightful seat at the table. Because of women like Mama Rosemary Alami Umameh , women like me must chose to reflect on the words from a wise progressive man (Romanus Woghiren) recently that “fortune shines on the brave and the bold”. So, as we congratulate Mama Rosemary Alami Umameh and Chief Innocent Adaji Umameh on their Golden Wedding Anniversary this May 2023, I choose to see them as the inspiration for a stronger women political leadership in Nigeria supported by progressive minded men. Because of this golden relationship they share, the rest of us will be brave and God will ensure that fortune shines on us as He continues to give them length of days to see us shine!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor is author of the book My Father’s Daughter