A review of the events of the year 2020 in Nigeria, cannot be complete without remarkable happenings around the women. The Tide’s Women Desk takes a look at scenarios of events involving Nigerian women within the year under review.
Prof (Mrs) Blessing Esuru Ahiauzu was recently on the news for a good reason.This time, she has broken a record as the only person and woman to become a Professor of Library and Information Management in Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Prof (Mrs) Blessing Esuru Ahiauzu, who incidentally is the wife of the former Vice Chancellor of the then Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University,Prof Augustine Ahiauzu, was the lecturer, at the 67th inaugural lecture of the institution.
The distinguished audience at the occasion intermittently applauded and poured encomiums on her for her astuteness and brilliance, and the fact that she is the first Professor of Library and Information Management in the institution, made the honour conferred on her by the university at the event most significant.
No doubt, Prof Blessing Ahiauzu who rose from the ranks as a university Librarian from 1979 to 2017 to get to her current level, could not have achieved this great feat without hard work, humility, dedication and wisdom.
On his part, former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia, who congratulated Prof Blessing Ahiauzu on her achievements, emphasised the need for awareness campaign on the importance of Library and Information Management to be taken to the grassroots Generation Equality.
The Government of Nigeria and UN Women launched the Generation Equality campaign in Nigeria. The Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, declared the campaign officially launched in the presence of a high-level UN delegation including UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed.
Dignitaries at the launch included the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare; Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas; Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), Ms. Hanna Tetteh; Assistant Administrator, Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa; UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon; Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Otive Igbuzor; British High Commissioner to Nigeria, H.E. Catriona Laing; Australian Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Claire Ireland; Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Carl Michael Grans and Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Norway in Nigeria, H.E. Ingrid Skjølaas.
UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Comfort Lamptey introduced the campaign: “The Generation Equality campaign is rooted in a journey that began 25 years ago in Beijing, China when 189 countries gathered to adopt what is considered the most ambitious blueprint for women’s empowerment and gender equality to date – the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, with its 12 critical areas of concern. Today, 25 years later we have a chance to take stock of progress and also to chart a new path forward. It is in doing so that we launch the Generation Equality campaign.”
Women in End SARS campaign
Very fresh in our memories, is a leading role played by Nigerian Women in the recent past #EndSARS movement against police brutality and government violence in Nigeria, specifically seeking to abolish a federal police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. One nascent women’s group in particular, the Feminist Coalition, has used digital platforms to mobilise funds and design strategies to support protesters across Nigeria.
The Feminist Coalition’s work in the #EndSARS movement continues a long history of women leading and supporting political mobilizations across Africa. In July, Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi, both under 30, formed the Feminist Coalition activist group alongside 12 other young women. The group advocates equality for women in Nigeria through a focus on advancing education, financial freedom and representation in public office. Based in Lagos, the group uses online platforms for its work.
The Feminist Coalition gained popularity when it took on a central role in the #EndSARS protests just two months later. It raised and managed funds for the movement, established a legal aid service made up of volunteers, and coordinated help lines to align efforts across the country.
March 1, 2020, saw the end of a 40- year old Owerri-born Nigerian female powerlifter and Paralympic champion, Ndidi Nwosu, who became a professional powerlifter in 2008. Ndidi Nwosu won gold in the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016, gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games which took place in Australia, where she sustained an injury that affected her spine and incapacitated her the rest of her life in spite of the series of surgery she had.
She gave up the ghost on March 1, 2020, led to her having different surgeries in Owerri, Imo State Nigeria.
Okonjo – Iweala
10 June – The World Trade Organisation accepts the nomination of two-time Nigerian minister Okonjo-Iweala as its Director-General.The global economy faces profound uncertainties, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, faith in the efficacy of international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been weakened by a power struggle between China and the US.
As the process for appointing a new head of the organisation moves into its final phase, it is hoped that front runner Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala posseses the wherewithal to manage the international organisation, including designing and implementing reforms.
As the first woman and African to head the trade body, Okonjo-Iweala has shattered a couple of ceilings at the same time. She also has a chance to put Africa’s plans to build the world’s biggest free trade area on the top table, pointing to the productive and market opportunities on the continent.
Shafkat Bose Adewoyin
Shafkat Bose adewoyin:
The nation was thrown into a sorrowful mood as the news of the death of a renowned actress, Shafkat Bose Adewoyin, hitted the news wave on June 23, 2020. Shafkat Bose Adewoyin, was a Nigerian Nollywood actress. She was best known for her role as Madam Tinubu in Efunroye Tinubu. Adewoyin played in stage plays like ORÍ (Destiny) and as “Mama Oni” alongside Adebayo Salami in Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto.
Tolulope Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile
Tolulope Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile:
A notable event in the women circle that can’t be forgotten in a hurry, in the year under review, is the death and burial of a 24- year old Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile, on July 14, 2020.Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile, born December 13, 1995, was not just the youngest female helicopter pilot, she was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force.
According to Nigerian Air Force spokesman, Ibikunle Daramola, Arotile died on 14 July 2020 as a result of head injuries sustained in a road traffic accident at the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kaduna State, when she was inadvertently hit by the vehicle of a former Air Force Secondary School classmate who was trying to greet her.
Arotile was described as courageous, patriotic, nationalist and a role model for Nigerian youth.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
Nigeria’s First Female Ambassador To US Emerges
News was made Tuesday, as the special assistant on digital/new media to Buhari, Tolu Ogunlesi, announced the president’s approval for the appointment of Uzoma Emenike, a woman with over 30 years experience in foriegn affairs, as the country’s ambassador-designate to the United States.
The appointment of the country’s ambassador to the United States on a normal day, couldn’t have been anything to talk about, but the mention of the first female diplomat to man the country’s embassy in US, is in itself newsworthy.
The posting comes six months after senate’s confirmation of the list of ambassadors-designate submitted by the president. With the development, the diplomat has emerged as the first female ambassador to US, raising the bar and setting a new standard.
Until Emenike’s appointment, the Nigerian embassy in US has been headed by men since its opening on October 1, 1960, according to office of the chief protocol, US Department of State.
Emenike, who currently serves as Nigeria’s ambassador to Ireland with concurrent accreditation to Iceland, came into limelight in 2016 when Buhari sent her name, alongside 45 others, to the senate for confirmation as non-career ambassadors. This thus marks a new era at the Nigerian embassy in the US.
Emenike received education both locally and overseas. She is a recipient of two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate.
The diplomat holds a B.Sc. in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Maiduguri, and an LL.B. from the University of Reading in the UK. She also earned a master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and another master’s in International Management from University of Reading. Emenike capped her academic pursuit with a doctorate in International Relations, also from the University of Reading.
Emenike’current appointment has thus bridged the gap created in terms of diplomatic relations between both countries due to the demise of her predecessor, Sylvanus Nsofor, on December 10, 2020.
Aside from her role as a foreign diplomat, Emenike is a writer with a host of published works. Among her published articles are: “The Africa We Envisage in 50 Years Time” and “Europe Needs Africa”. She is also the author of “Africa: The Centre-Piece of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy”. Uzoma is married to Ikechi Emenike, and the union is blessed with four children.
Meanwhile, other Women also made the ambassadorial list. They are; Ambassador Eniola Ajayi of Ekiti State who was reposted to Netherlands from Hungary. Mrs Opunimi Akinkugbe of Ondo State, posted to Greece. Maureen Tamuno of Rivers State, posted to Jamaica.
Others are; Modupe Enitan Irele of Lagos State reposted from France to Hungary. Ijeoma Obiezu Chinenyerem of Imo state sent to Ireland. Deborah Illiyah of kaduna Posted to Congo, Hajara Ibrahim of Gombe posted to Malaysia. Safiya Ahmed Mallam of Kano posted to Romania, Zahra Omar of Kwara State posted to Malawi and Monique Oshame Ekpong of Cross River State, posted to Angola
I Respect Integrity – Dr Spencer
To followers and watchers of events in and around Port Harcourt metropolis, the name ‘Dr Patience Spencer’, has been in the news in recent times, incidentally, for all the good reasons. Succinctly put in the language of the social media, Dr Spencer is trending, and her name has gone viral.
However, in case the name is still strange to you, just a few weeks ago, Dr Spencer misplaced her smart phone, fully loaded with information she ordinarily would find difficult to part with in a hurry.
A lad, by name Victor Ugochukwu Ami, a year one student of Political Science at the Ignatius Ajuru University, who by all standards needed a phone to prosecute his academic programmes, picked the phone and eventually returned it to the owner.
The visibly elated Dr Spencer could not hold back her joy. For this reason, she not only exposed the lad and his rare act of kindness to the outside world via the social media, she personally introduced the boy and his act to the school authorities which instantly honoured him in an amazing manner.
Today, Master Victor Ugochukwu Ami, through that singular action of Dr Spencer, has a smart phone, an award of honour as the ‘Student of the Year 2020’ by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education which has earned him a four-year comprehensive scholarship with reasonable pocket money. This singular exposure of a worthy act, has continuosly attracted financial gratifications from well-meaning Nigerians to the boy.
With all this drama that popularised Dr Spencer’s name and personality on social media, as well as the sound of the name, many had already concluded that she is a foreigner found in our clime. On the contrary, The Tide’s Women’s Desk, went to town during the week, just to find out who this rare gem in feminine apparel truly is.
You may probably be shocked to hear that Dr Patience Spencer as she is officially addressed, has got nothing to do with the white race. She is not only from the black race, she is a Nigerian and a full-fledged Rivers-born lady. Hear her: “I am Dr Patience Spencer, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, in Ignatius Ajuru University of Education here in Rumuolumeni, PortHarcourt. I also double as the Acting Director of the Directorate of Idea, Creativity and Innovation. I am from Rivers State, Kalio-Ama in Okrika precisely”.
For those who think that Dr Spencer’s action was not without any western influence or undertone, she said, “ I actually had my nursery, primary and tertiary education here in Rivers State.” Howbeit, the peculiarity of this young lady simply stems from her respect for integerity and her acclaimed love for honesty and hardwork.
In her words, “ In an era where negativity is the order of the day, I think any positive deed is worth celebrating. I actually felt it is a character to celebrate. When you look at the society, there is an air of fear of what the future would be. So Victor’s attitude in this regard, was quite timely. It was a big relief. It is an indication that there are others somewhere we may not have identified. Definitely, there is hope for a better future for our society”.
On her passion for discipline and promotion of integerity, Dr Spencer believes that using a strategic plan devoid of unhealthy political influence, she would like to change the narratives concerning corrupt and unacceptable practices such as disrespect for university rules and regulations on the part of the students, abuse of office on the part of the lecturers, and poor attitude to work and ignorance of the importance of self development on the part of the non-teaching staff.
She loves singing and dancing and stands out as a passionate reader.
Stories by Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
Womanhood In Ibani Nation
The Iria ceremony among the Ibani people (Bonny and Opobo) in Rivers State is an admired and valued rite that marks the passage to the age of child bearing and marriage.
Consequently, it is compulsory for all women and it gives the woman the leverage to participate in socio-political activities of the Ibani Kingdom. This ceremony makes the Ibani woman unique among other women in Rivers State and the world in general.
The practice of Iria (Mgbede) gives the status of complete womanhood. Any woman who does not perform the Iria, cannot be recognised and honoured among the womenfolk.
This, however, is performed in two levels. The first is between the ages of 12-15 years to celebrate the attainment of puberty, that is a strategy for preserving chastity among young girls. The second level is when the woman has attained the age of 30 and above. In recent times, due to the expensive nature of the ceremony, women go through both levels within the same week.
Recently, Mrs Evelyn Owunabo, nee Brown, a public servant, an educationist and mother, completed her Iria rites, her passage to womanhood as an Ibani indigene from Bonny Kingdom.
According to Owunabo, “the ceremony named Bibite/Egerebite in Bonny Kingdom is a traditional rite of passage from a young maiden to a full grown woman. This is an induction into womanhood in Bonny Kingdom.
To prepare for the ceremony takes a lot of planning and preparation, it may take at least a year”.
Enumerating the financial involvements, she attested to the fact that it is really huge because it involves buying a lot of traditional wrappers which are expensive. They include Ikaki, Suu, Egerebite, Poopo, Akparakpa, Damask, Georges (Big and small). Each of these wrappers will go with a matching blouse, head tie and shoe. Then jewelry (gold), choral beads, food, drinks and other things.
Her advice to women and their husbands who wish to perform the ceremony is that they should start gradually, by buying the wrappers one at a time.
For the jewelry (gold) and choral, since they are so expensive, one can hire if you can’t afford them.
On the perception by some people that the Iria ceremony is anti-Christian, which conflicts with Christian beliefs, Owunabo disagreed with the fact that people have no understanding or are misinformed about the ceremony, According to her, there is nothing fetish about the ceremony. The celebrant accompanied by the women, dances to the admiration of family members, friends and well-wishers. “It is not against my belief as a Christian because there was no ritual, libation or invoking of any diety involved. And at the end, all thanks, glory, honour and adoration is given to God Almighty”.
She added that, “the ceremony has come to stay as long as Bonny Kingdom exists. It is our culture and it is our pride. This culture is one thing that makes us unique and stand out among others, so, it must be sustained. The ceremony is so important that if you don’t perform it in your life time, you will do it in death. Whichever way, you must do it, so it’s better done in life”.
Recounting her ordeal after the ceremony, (though she rested a few days to recover from waist pain resulting from dancing), she narrated that the ceremony was not really stressful because it was properly planned.
“You will be in confinement for about two weeks to one month before the occasion. This confinement period, you are not to do any work. All you do is to eat, sleep enough, so in the evening, the older women will come to teach you the dance steps, so you are supposed to have enough rest so that on the day of your outing, you will look refreshed and full”, she said.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
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