Archive for the ‘Women’s Leadership’ Category

Armed Forces Remembrance Day: We Need To Talk About Biafra

January 16, 2017

It was Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Nigeria yesterday. Our big brass and the politricksions went and laid wreaths for unknown soldiers. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had speedily passed legislation for the payment of veterans entitlements instead of creating entitlements of themselves instead?

Let’s look at this Armed Forces Remembrance Day anyway. It started out as a commemoration of the soldiers that fought in the First World War in which Nigerian and African soldiers fought and died with the rest of the global community. Whether they went voluntarily or not is irrelevant if you ask me. They represented.

Then Obasanjo, that wily fox, went and changed it to commemorate the ‘surrender of Biafra troops’ effectively ensuring that the end of Civil War itself is not specifically commemorated or the events discussed. And discussions about the civil was and Biafra are drowned out in a natural outpouring of communal patriotism and and nationalism. To speak about the Civil War and Biafra on such a day would seem sacrilegious as Femi Kani Kayode no doubt learnt.

Of keen interest to me is the change in the tone of the media. Since the administration of Obansanjo the military has mostly been under fire from the media for their human rights violations. Amnesty International kept up a relentless stream of reports and Nigeria was unable to buy arms under some United States act that they invoke on a need to basis.

Now we are talking about the sacrifices that the soldiers are making and there is absolutely no single credible media report about the situation in the militarised zones of the north east, south south and south east. Has our military reformed over night as if by magic? But I thought Buhari keeps them busy chasing cattle rustlers and training in animal farming techniques in Argentina. It is a public relations victory?

I suggest to activists in the Niger Delta to consider the use of drones to capture footage. The activists at Standing Rock, the Native American protest against encroachment on tribal lands used drones to record footage that showed the real picture to the world. Watch the video. The drone pilot said he is completely self taught by the way.

Why do we need to talk about Biafra and why do our rulers want us to forget it? Because we need to heal the physic wounds that continue to haunt nation building in Nigeria. And to heal those wounds we need to listen to each other and accommodate each others points of view – and then find common ground to agree on. Instead what happens is every time the topic is raised there is a still a winner and vanquished mentality – the one saying “You tried to exterminate us, we do not feel safe” and the other saying “You lost the war, deal with it.” Even Chinua Achebe’s account was vilified and divided the national debate. Neither is productive.

The patriarchal old men that have been making decisions about Nigeria’s future learnt well the lessons of the jungle. Control information, only write down stuff in an elaborate code, control access to the code and who can read it. The masses will forget.

The old were revered as living encyclopaedia’s. Imagine what it must have been like when life expectancy was even lower and even fewer made it to old age. All that remains in the common memory is the idea of an injustice inflicted once upon a time, brought out and dusted off by old men (and young) when they need to whip up the crowd.

In the era of new media its tricky to pull off a scam like that. And video IS the new frontier for credible news delivered via the world wide web. It becomes both a record and an account and dilutes the influence and power of those wily old men that would keep their subjects ignorant and malleable. It would be great to see some female leadership too.

 

While, it is appropriate to remember and support our troops, those gone and those risking their lives, media coverage needs to be balanced and consistent to keep the government institutions on their toes and to keep citizens informed. We need to ask questions and investigate their allegations. And we need to whole heartedly celebrate the end of the Civil War and stop making it about the ‘defeat’ of Biafra and sweeping it under the carpet.

The men of the Nigerian Army sure do need our support right now. They’re spread pretty thin – north east,north central, south south, south east, cattle rearing, oil & gas security, Liberia and about to go off to Gambia. And they face formidable foes. Lets keep praying my praying brethren that trouble doesn’t erupt in the north west and south west.

Sadly, stories coming from the front lines seem to suggest they maybe as inadequately cared for as ever. Even in the military Nigerian women  are left to pick up the slack.

 

 

 

 

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Are You Required to Produce Husband’s Consent For Passports?

January 7, 2017

The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt decided you did not when they gave this judgement in 2009 in Dr. Priye Iyalla_Amadi vs The Director General of the Nigeria Immigration Service.

I think the NIS said they appealed the matter. I wonder where they are on it so far. Can’t find anything about the status. Whats the composition of the appeals court and the supreme court? Just thinking out loud.

The defendants did not really dispute the facts adduced by the plaintiff in their counter_affidavit but sought to justify the requirement of a letter of consent from the husband of a married woman who wants to be issued a Nigerian passport on the basis that Nigerian married women are classified alongside with minors by the government as persons who require consent from the head of the family. NIS argued that the requirement for consent was put in place to perpetuate the authority of the man over his wife, no matter the status she had attained in society. It also stated that the requirement was set to avoid unnecessary breakdown of marriage institution in the country.

Its important to pursue legal precedents expanding women’s rights all  the way to the Supreme Court. And those cases should attract support from women, women’s groups and women’s funds.  If you have any current information about this case could you drop an update for me? Or steer me towards someone who knows? I’d appreciate it.

 

 

Nyanya: Two Years Later. While We Talk About The Chibok Girls What Became Of The Survivors?

April 15, 2016

I’ve been looking for one mention of the tragedy ‪#‎Nyanya‬ on 14/4/2014

The National Mirror is the only Nigerian or foreign paper that carried a headline remembering the incident that happened exactly two years ago today. And just a couple of tweets.

On the other hand ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬ has received extensive coverage and extensive support.

In the aftermath of the Nyanya bombing hundreds of Nigerians donated time, money, food items and other forms of assistance to the injured.

I remember meeting a young Illorin lady in her 20’s with a baby on her at National Hospital. She was trying to get the body of her husband released so she could take him home for burial. He was a driver. I still wonder how she is coping with her two children.

i met so many hurt and traumatised Nigerians, male and female in the hospital beds. The mother of the only baby involved in the blast had shattered two legs. She called me about a year ago. She is healed and can walk now.

I keep in touch with some of them. I hired one of the survivors as my driver when her recovered.

Let us not forget those who lost their lives, those who lost their livelihoods and those that lost their quality of life on April 14, 2014.

I would like to thank Olufunke Baruwa, Zakari Momodu, Emeka Odita, George Blankson Theodora Eromobor Charles Chizor Onuba Uche Anyanwu Maya Edukere Opuama Pamela Baride Ayi Osori Obi Asika and a host of others that reached out to help us.

We started a Facebook group and registered with the local government so that we could help out more. Then as more Nigerians and institutions became involved and more attention was directed at the growing IDP problem we moved on with our lives.

Its kinda sad to see that no one remembered them today.

Zakari, Theodora – who has those phone numbers? Let’s call these people up and ask them how they’re doing.

Yohanna who I hired as a driver recently lost his job when my contract ended and needs a new one real fast. He has a young wife and a baby.

Who’s in?

P.S – Its good to know that the perpetrators are being prosecuted but its kinda frustrating to see that two years later they are still submitting evidence. This should have been a priority case if for no other reason to assure ALL Nigerians that bad behaviour WILL have consequences.

What can we do my legal luminaries?

Now That You Are Finally The Oga Madam At the Top

August 15, 2013

A few years ago you finally realized you weren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur after your umpteenth venture crashed and you went bankrupt again.  So you dusted off your certificates, updated your CV with exaggerated achievements and applied for a real job like your mama and everybody else had been telling you to do since you graduated. After all middle age was approaching and you still didn’t have a house, a retirement fund or health insurance

After a few months and numerous soul crushing rejections by people that failed to see your brilliant genius you eventually landed a lower level job than you felt you deserved in an industry whose philosophy you don’t even respect but hey, it was a paying job. You couldn’t continue living on the dwindling good will of family and friends anymore.

You doggedly endured the soul numbing life of a worker bee, you never called in sick, you came to work on time, worked late, answered all your emails, attended boring departmental  meetings, sucked up to the boss and generally kept your nose clean. Once in a while you even managed to impress the boss and the board. Finally five years later, just when you were giving up your hard work is rewarded and you are promoted to a senior management position and become an oga madam at the top.

Google Images

Google Images

Well done.  You’ve been validated, your knowledge, your genius, your skill has been noticed and you are finally given the position you deserved in the first place. You can now boast to family and friends about your responsibilities and preen in the trust that has been placed in you. All those nay sayers that called you a good for nothing ditherer when you were being an artist will have to swallow their words and respect you. After all this is a credible organization you work for not some hick town one man show.

Well now that you are an oga madam at the top and no longer a lowly worker bee, I’m here to tell you how to live the rest of your life because I just love to give unsolicited advice. You see you cannot continue to live like you did before , when you came home after everyone has had their dinner and ate your reheated portion hunched over your laptop dealing with late emails and ignoring your SO who was trying to tell you about his day.

Google Images

Google Images

You can relax now and ask your new PA to deal with the emails and have a proper conversation with the people at home like you used once upon a time when you first met. You can wake up at 5am in the morning as usual and make guilt free love to your SO and discuss the kids, the mortgage, your plans for the day or whatever it is you want to discuss after sex early in the morning instead of jumping out of bed and heading for the laptop to check what email came in overnight.

There is no competition in the office to see who does more work after office hours. You don’t get paid over time and you work for an organization that can’t fire you anyway without a lengthy and complicated due process so unless you have fucked up pretty badly they won’t. Relax and enjoy your new position, enjoy your renewed love life and the loving companionship you have denied yourself all these years.

Picture: Forbes Magazine

Picture: Forbes Magazine

You can go to the office late once in a while, you can even skip that boring meeting, you now have a pool of eager young things at your beck and call waiting to climb the corporate ladder just like you did that you can delegate to attend and speak on your behalf.  They may not get it right every time but they need to learn and you need to learn to delegate. That’s what leaders do you know. You can finally close early and go for a candle lit dinner with your SO or take him for a long leisurely lunch  and now you can afford to.

Just think of all the other good things that you can afford now that you have become oga madam at the top with the new salary that goes with it. You can afford to go on a cruise for two or a vacation to the Bahamas or to buy a two-seater sports convertible.   I guess you could also decide to move into a bigger flat or get a bigger mortgage or you could decide to send junior to that new expensive British curriculum boarding school.  But hey, what’s the fun in that?

Your little flat is comfy, easy to care for, and in a great location and junior is already in a an expensive day school, and these things already swallowed your little salary before anyway leaving you with little for leisure, romance, hobbies or R&R.  Now you have become oga madam at the top thank your personal ‘chi’ and the Universe and enjoy it. It was not given to you only to take on more responsibilities than you had before. It was given to you so you could enjoy more life too.

Google Images

Google Images

Don’t deceive yourself that you will enjoy the world and all the things you missing out on right now when you are retired. You will be living on a pension, you will be old and tired and you may not have the energy mental or physical to start a new business or hustle for extra income. Hustle and start- ups are for the young and able.  And don’t deceive yourself into thinking that the children need an expensive education to succeed or that they will be grateful.  Children nowadays are very unreliable.

If your reason for the continuing the grind at the office to the exclusion of a life is anxiety that your enemies are waiting for you to slip up then the appropriate place to put your energy is prayer and fasting or frequent visits to the babalawo, depending on your beliefs. No matter how good you are if your enemies want to get you they will, your hard work will not save you. Even Forbes magazine says so. And if the boss doesn’t like you, you will never get ahead, as any woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment can tell you.

Photo: Forbes

Photo: Forbes

It won’t matter that you are the only one that submits projects on time,  that you always exceed your targets, that you regularly save the office money by exposing fraud, double invoicing and inflated contracts, that you come in early and are the last one to leave at the end of the day.  If you got enemies and the boss is one of them you will be tolerated only for a season before the hammer comes down on you at the first opportunity and you will loss the job and any chances for a good reference.

You got this job because you worked hard and paid your dues already.  Relax, expand your life with a healthy work life balance and be a good management role model. Make the trip to the top seem worth it to the rest of slogging womanhood.

Report Abuse Button on Twitter Campaign?

July 30, 2013

This landed in my inbox today

Add a Report Abuse Button to Tweets

I wish I could have a button in real life that would make abuse go away. While I get the arguments for this button I’ve heard some critics say the button itself will end up abused. When I meet someone abusive on Twitter I report, block and move on

Of course I have not experienced as much twitter abuse as Caroline Criado-Perez did so I won’t be too quick to say how I would respond if I had numerous strangers threatening to rape me or whether I would still think existing protocols are adequate.

Still I don’t know, I’m not convinced. Can anyone help me here for or against?

Nigerian Women in Politics – When Is It Okay to Play the Gender Card?

February 22, 2013

A story at ThisDayLiveDotCom headlined the ‘Agony of a Woman in Politics’ caught my attention this morning about Zainab Adeniji’s experience in Nigerian politics.  After reading the story several times I’m still unsure how it has anything to do with women in politics except for being the story of a woman in politics. Unless of course there is more that wasn’t reported or she just didn’t say.

The experience Adeniji recounted had nothing to do with gender. So she was asked to pay off the local PDP chair. So was her male counterpart and he did. So she used private funds, all rookie politicians have to. Her experience is typical of Nigerian politicians and politics. Corruption is not gender exclusive or selective. Her claims that men disregard women are nothing new and do not relate to her experience. Unless, like I said already, there is something more to tell.

Quite honestly I was expecting something more salacious than she dished when she said “they warned me not to go to the press.” She didn’t tell me anything new about party politics or Naija. She’s not even the first to tell about payoffs by candidates at the local and state level. We know payoffs go on all the way up to the national primaries.

It seemed to me like she is just a bitter politician crying over sour grapes that now wants to court our sympathy because she is a woman even while she admits she’s not the only one the party treated badly. The reporter tells us she is a widow, her husband was murdered, her children are grown up, and she now needs a permanent healing rest (why does that sound like death?). So what?

Adeniji uprooted herself from her life as a global consulting mental health nurse and came to Nigeria looking for a job without first ascertaining if there were jobs in her sector. There is no demand for drug addict heath care services yet. We’re not so rich yet that we are willing to spend too much good money on drug addicts lady.

Like many repats I guess she thought she could come and ‘create jobs’.  Their idea of creating jobs seems to be lobbying ministers and functionaries, who they bedazzle with flash presentations and fancy language, for  unsustainable ‘projects’ and ‘schemes’ costing millions that sound good on paper but have little if any chance of rooting in the local market place.  I wouldn’t trust Adeniji with my vote.

So the PDP has screwed her over. I sympathize with her as a person and not in this case as I woman. Then again not too much. She invested in a risky business. She lost. So did a whole lot of others men and women. But I take exception to the suggestion that because she is a woman, a mother and a widow whose husband was murdered she deserves special treatment.

That’s not the kind of level playing field Nigerian women in politics need; it just reinforces old gender stereotypes and fuels the Gender Wars. And the Nigerian women’s movement needs to pay attention. We can’t let men, women or the media misuse, abuse or devalue women and gender politics like this.

 

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Nigeria’s Women Move Forward: Congratulations to Oby Nwankwo and Alooma Mariam Muhktar

July 8, 2012

Progress maybe slow but like someone said if you follow one course you will eventually achieve success.

The past week has seen the nomination  of Nigeria’s first female Chief Justice of Nigeria and the election of our own Oby Nwankwo in the UN CEDAW committee.

Justice Muhktar is not just the first female justice of the Supreme Court, she is a fearless advocate for truth and justice as evidenced by her dissenting judgement during the SC’s decision on Yardua and Buhari in 2008.

Justice Mukhtar alongside Justices George Oguntade (now retired) and Walter Onnoghen, ruled against the late Yar’Adua  and insisted that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2006 in the election that produced him in 2007. Today, her stand is widely acclaimed in legal circles and the academia.

She has been described as true patriot and a woman of the highest integrity.

I have had the pleasure to work with Oby Nwankwo since 2003. She is a foremost advocate for domestic violence victims in Nigeria, a field she committed to after a personal tragedy that took her sisters life.

Nwankwo holds a Masters degree in Criminal Law and served in the Anambra State Judiciary as a Magistrate for 23 years, voluntarily retired from the Judiciary in 2004 and has been in the forefront of the campaign for the respect for women’s rights, gender equality and good governance.

I would like to congratulate both our sisters for their tireless commitment to the cause of truth and justice in Nigeria and for the inevitable recognition of their hard work and sterling knowledge and expertise in their fields. I am especially proud that both of them are learned colleagues.

I recently launched the Women’s Legal Defence Trust Fund and I am confident that the elevation of our sisters to  these two positions is an incredible boost to our plans to develop a body of case law for women’s rights in Nigeria.

I am sure that I speak for all Nigerian women when I say that we are right here with you and behind you to carry on the good work.  I look forward to working with you both for our country and for the women of our country.

Justice Alooma Marian Muhktar

Ms. Oby Nwankwo

May Day, Workers Day, Nigerian Women in the Workplace

May 2, 2012

Its the 1st of May 2012 and female workers in Nigeria still lack on the job protection from sexual harassment and victimisation. What a great day to blog about it. May day is also a distress signal at sea. Nigeria women workers sure do seem to be at sea. Are their May Day’s being drowned out by more dominant and privileged voices?

Where is the female Nigerian worker? What’s her story? What are her primary concerns? Are her concerns represented and addressed in a broader male dominated labour agenda?

What were my concerns as a female worker? Child care. Protection from sexual harassment and victimisation. Equal pay. Equitable access to capacity building and professional development opportunities. I’m no longer a worker but I am still affected.

Meanwhile, my role is changing from a worker to an employer of labour. What should I do to protect my female workers? What am I required to do by law, statute and policy? Paid maternity leave. Breast feeding breaks. Sick leave to care for dependants. What else?

I’m not required to have a sexual harassment policy or grievance procedures. I’m not required to educate my staff about what behaviour is allowed and what type is not allowed or what is considered ‘sexual harassment’. As a small business owner can I afford the investment of time and money?

When I was a working single mother I marvelled at the women who claimed great success at juggling domestic and work responsibilities. How did they do it? Their stories were the stories of privileged Nigerian women. Are they relevant to or tell the stories of the bank worker, the low rank civil servant, the poorly paid private sector secretarial and clerical staff?

I fear much of the narrative of the women’s movement in Nigeria has been dominated by privileged Nigerian women who have an uncanny resemblance in their attitude towards their less privileged sisters to the ‘white saviours’ they so vocally and passionately criticise.

Our campaigns focus on the most dramatic problems and stories. Widowhood practices. FGM. VVF. Child marriage. Girl education. HIV/AIDS, VAW. Domestic violence.

We fight for the right to participate in political, economic and social affairs yet we seem to be less vocal on behalf of the female workers who are participating and who are vulnerable and under served in an already challenging environment.

I’ve been watching the local TV channels most of the day (an excruciating experience BTW) and while there are a few May Day and worker stories non of them are about women workers.

There was no statement by any women’s labour groups. No press conference, no announcement, no demands, not a whimper. Does this mean they have nothing to say? And nothing to celebrate?

The campaign for the domestication of the Africa Union Women’s Protocol is supposed to provide the a new framework for action but what action can be taken by women’s organized labour groups to improve working conditions and protection for women now?

Female bank workers speak of a litany of unfair labour practices that include unreasonable work conditions to restrictions on when they can get married and have children. Female civil servants speak of sexual exploitation by bosses in for promotions and training opportunities.
Female secretaries and junior cadre workers in the private sector have come to accept sexual demands from male bosses and small business owners as normal. In the citizen sector stories of expatriate bosses taking advantage of weak and non existent local sexual harassment and exploitation laws to wrongfully dismiss local female workers hired under Nigerian law grow daily.

I’m sure the female journalists, nurses, doctors and teachers all have their own stories about the challenges of being a working woman in Nigeria. Yet no one came out with any sort of statement or declaration or strategy for action on May Day, Workers Day. And no ‘women’s leader’ came out to speak for them (unless I missed something in which case tell me about it quick).

Women’s leaders seem to only speak out when there is a political or welfare issue that affects women. Even though exactly how it affects women is not always really well articulated.

For example during the Occupy Nigeria and Labour protests against fuel subsidy removal in January women’s leaders were visible but failed to critique how women were affected by fuel prices or by the protests.

The few women that had access to media during the protests and were able to speak represented a privileged point of view. With the exception of the Kano women, they were almost exclusively urban, salaried, professionals and rich party cheerleaders.

The women traders of the south west, south east, and south south, a significant and unique demographic were not visible. The Market Women’s Associations would appear a natural ally for women led and women focused NGOs.

They have significant social capital and resources women’s NGOs could leverage for their programs but that could mean dancing to the tune of a new master. It could mean realigning our programs with priorities of these women instead of the aid industries.

This group does not fit the preferred media profile of women showing them overwhelmed by children and poverty. They may be but that’s not the whole picture.

Nigerian women especially from the Christian south are primarily traders. The size of their trade ranges from micro-enterprises in front of their homes to organised inter and intra state trade and regional and international trade.

They’re ubiquitous at the markets, at the airports and the trade route road stops and the borders. They work real hard to meet the demands of their local market, to build capital and provide value.

Their associations are their networks and their protection, they pay dues. I’m sure they could tell us a lot about how to make their trade safer, easier and more profitable if we empower them to speak and share our spaces and platforms with them instead speaking for them.

Like Nigeria’s male leaders and the white man before them we’re looking down from the lofty heights of our well guarded privilege and doling out mercy instead of fixing the systemic problems that affect everybody equally.

Systemic problems like unfavourable labour laws and trade laws as well as domestic violence and matrimonial laws that affect both men and women irrespective of class etc but affect men and women differently.

May Day is a good time to remember all the other women that contribute to the cohesion and growth of our nation and enrich the diversity of women’s voices through their work.

May Day in a context of the African Women’s Decade takes on an even deeper significance. It is a good time for the Nigerian women’s movement to indulge in some critical self assessment, identify and name its privilege and the biases of that privilege and consider how it may be silencing other women’s voices.

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

My Thoughts on the Nigerian Revolution

January 15, 2012

Fuel subsidy must go, I’m of the do it quick school of thought, don’t drag out the pain. Personally I am really angry that this fuel subsidy issue has been used to regularly and intermittently destabilize my life for the past 3 decades at least that I remember. As a free market social entrepreneur I cannot endorse its continuance.

As a citizen that has had the privilege to travel to many other countries I also know that we as a nation are extremely wasteful of our resources.  Even in Senegal they conserve electricity and think twice before they drive down the road to the super market,  not only in the US.  We want to live like Las Vegas and then complain of poverty when something threatens our very extravagant lifestyle.

I’ve frequently been told that I am privileged and that we have to fight for the ‘poor masses’  who will suffer the attendant economic hardship not me.  I find it all sorts of hypocrite and wrong for all the privileged people constantly speaking for the poor masses.  Is it your plan to keep them perpetually ‘poor’? When do we start treating them like people that deserve  that same ‘privileges’ that we enjoy instead of poor people?

I may be one of those ‘privileged’ (by your insistence not mine) but I come from very humble beginnings. My mother’s family was typically European working class.  They detested handouts, pity and the patronizing rhetoric that told them they were poor or needy.  They conserved their resources not because they were worried about climate change but because that’s how real folks lived.

My father’s family were simple  farming folk, noble but ‘poor’ even though my father and his brother were ‘privileged’ to travel abroad before anyone else in their village. I grew up in the family homestead in the village. My numerous paternal aunts, uncles and cousins didn’t want hand outs either.  They didn’t want subsidies. They too were conservationists by necessity.

Both sides of the family only ever wanted one thing, to do honest work and make an honest living. Anywhere in the world that’s what people want and we the ‘privileged’ few that have the opportunities to make decisions about the future of people and nations should start focusing on the economy. Like Clinton’s 1992 campaign  pointed out “It’s the economy, stupid”.

The removal of the fuel subsidy is about the economy and whether we want to admit it or not we have been making progress on the economic front and in the economic indices.  Growth is up across Africa, led by Nigeria and South Africa, there are more investor dollars and Diaspora dollars pouring in than ever before.  Investors and foreign professionals are coming to Africa instead of running away.

Corruption is a huge problem and it MUST be dealt with sooner than later and while it may not be the reason the protests started it has come to the surface as a key cause of the popular discontent.  It looks like the only way to appease the protesters right now (before they turn into a mob) is by making concrete and measurable goals to cut government waste, tackle corruption and make some arrests.

The faceless cabal that has been siphoning Nigeria’s money into their private bank accounts needs to be exposed and prosecuted. The government can’t get away with not naming them because to say there is a cabal is an admission that they are known and identifiable.  Someone should tell Mr. President Now is a good time to act while the people are out there to support his actions by their presence in the streets.

When the fuel subsidy removal debate started I wrote about it here. The government stated clearly that they wanted to save money. I asked then how much we could save cutting NASS salaries and benefits.  I think it is completely obscene that members of the National Assembly would call an emergency meeting and pass a resolution for the president to reinstate the fuel subsidy without addressing their outrageous salaries and benefits.

Especially after said president has gone on national television and publicly announced a 25% cut in executive salaries.  My advice to the protesters is accept and evaluate the president’s offer first, what are their salaries? What are their allowances? What are the criteria for necessary foreign trips? What are the potential savings? How do we set specific goals to which we can hold the executive accountable?

My advice to NASS, do not insult our intelligence by passing any more resolutions on the fuel subsidy until and unless you pass resolutions to cut your salaries, benefits, allowances and other perks by at least 50%.  If they can’t or don’t I think that that the National Assembly and its officers will completely lack any moral or political authority to make any pronouncements on the fuel subsidy.

Every government needs constant monitoring and babysitting, what mechanisms can the organized citizen sector put in place to ensure we can hold the executive and the legislature accountable on their promises?  Have our existing checks and balances failed or were they merely manipulated because we weren’t watching? How did we let NASS legislate their payroll so high? Where were we? What were we doing?

I believe any demand for a regime change is completely and totally out of order. We are a country that is under the rule of law. There are constitutional means of changing a government regimes and leaders and they have not been exhausted.  Although Jonathan,  like YarAdua and OBJ before him, is the beneficiary of a flawed election he is never the less winner in one of the best elections of the past 10 years.

He is no dictator even if he is a misguided and inexperienced politician.  The Arab Spring ousted sit tight dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Goodluck Jonathan is a democratically elected president in power less than a year. Removing him through ‘revolution’ will not only loss us the respect of the free world it will roll back all the democratic gains of the past 13 years!

When these protests started I was vocal in denouncing them. I felt betrayed that my fellow citizens did not protest the killing of innocents with as much fervor and passion as they protest the increase in fuel prices.  I was scandalized that my fellow citizens did not come out to protest as Boko Haram and its many franchisees  killed innocents across the country, Nigerians of all religions, tribes and ethnic groups and foreigners, guests that  we are supposed to protect.

The more immediate and fundamental threat I still believe is this rogue group that has been publicly threatening to start an insurgency since the Niger Delta militants were given amnesty in 2009 and the shadowy figures that are manipulating them now for different ends.  They are a threat because they dance a war dance on the very fragile fault lines of religion and while the Muslims in Kano protect their fellow citizens as they go to church in other states citizens are being killed in church.

I am a critic of amnesty in Nigeria, it sets a dangerous precedent and seems to reward a group of Nigerians by whatever name they described themselves for taking up arms and terrorizing their fellow citizens and the government.  At the same time I am sympathetic to the plight of the Niger Delta, abused and raped for over 40 years. Fellow citizens why did we not protest the blatant and horrific injustice against them?

I first wrote a paper warning of the consequences of continued repression and neglect in the Niger Delta in 1990 while on national service in IBB’s presidency.  Even then as a young inexperienced greenhorn I could see that militancy and insurgency were inevitable in the Niger Delta unless their economic and living conditions were radically changed.

We’ve making the same mistake now with Boko Haram in my opinion. Two years ago while I was at Oxfam GB we warned that poverty and a drought in the Sahel regions were destabilizing the northern states. We spoke to the media,  the bilateral and the multilaterals, we invited the armed forces, the police and the SSS.  The British and American embassies sent their defense attaches and followed up, the Nigerian Police Force sent their PRO, who never followed up. The rest of the Nigerian security forces ignored us.  Protest that!

While I admire the courage and share the outrage of protesters occupying Nigeria right now I am skeptical that this revolution will have the impact they want. While at Ashoka  I read two papers that studied the growth of the organized citizen sector in Brazil and India. The studies identified the economic and social conditions that supported a sharp growth in the local citizen action and social enterprise.

Level of education and income were key determinants of innovation in the social sector and sustainable home grown social change.  Increase in local philanthropy and funding for social projects were also key and dependant on incomes and economic indices.  These conditions have not as yet been met in much Nigeria and Africa. I believe Ashoka scaled back its operations in Africa after the 2008 US economic meltdown for this very reason.

According to the indicators Nigeria is not yet at the critical moment where the citizen sector  is set to explode and sustain real social change, the kind of social change that goes beyond band aid measures and pro poor policies like the fuel subsidy.  Notice how Nigerian states with a higher population of educated professionals and higher incomes are having more organized less violent protests.

It is in the states with the highest rates of poverty and illiteracy that violence is erupting and this is also where we are seeing increased militancy and insurgency.  While there may be interests that want a civil war in Nigeria it’s not going to happen. Whether the interests for or against civil war use neocolonial, imperial, capitalist or socialist theoretical frameworks to formulate their arguments there are more reasons for Nigeria to stay together than to break up.  A civil war will only be a violent and disruptive turf war.

When I pointed out on Twitter that Nigerian women were under represented in the occupy Nigeria protests some groups trotted out their women but we know their women are not allowed to think for themselves. Some other groups sent their women to church to pray for the nation’s salvation. Surely the God we worship is the one that helps those that help themselves?

Others sent me pictures of women in the front lines of protest and disagreed with my claim. The most disturbing of all those pictures was of a lone female protester half naked in a posture of ‘defiance or despair’ as Minna Salami called it, we can’t be sure but we can be sure that’s not the sort of women’s participation we are talking about.

Will the real women leaders only emerge when their peace keeping and conflict resolution skills are required, after the new partition? I am scandalized that my sisters are paying more attention to this male agenda of violence and dominance than coming out now to mediate this impasse with feminist sensitivity and compassion. This is an opportunity to show a truly transformative feminist leadership and avert more violence, death and chaos.

It’s time for women to come forth and assert their leadership NOW.  Yes we are outraged at our government, at government waste and corruption.  Yes we are livid at the insecurity and the nonchalance and ineptitude of the institutions meant to protect us and our families. Yes we are tired of the broken promises, deceit and lies but we must recognize that the exploitation and oppression is a result of systemic imbalances and inequities that neither a return to NGN65 per liter nor a change in regime can solve.

Now is the time to broker the changes we want to see in our body politic while asking our children out on the streets and our husbands and fathers in leadership  to step back from war, violence and chaos.  Not join them! Not encourage them. We are mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. How can we cook in the kitchen and take pictures while our youth prepare to confront the government’s security apparatus and die?

NOW is the time for real women’s leadership, for a truly liberating and empowering leadership that challenges the status quo.  NOW is the time to calm ruffled feathers, sooth tempers and focus everyone’s attention on the issues at hand. Enough is Enough. There has to be a compromise, the protesters, the labor unions and the government must find their compromise and I think women are the only moral authority left in Nigeria to mediate it.

Like the elite of the Roman Empire before its fall Nigeria’s elite are too busy drinking expensive wines and having orgies they have failed to notice the growing discontent of the people. Meanwhile in their struggles for power and neglect of governance they’ve created hungry monsters, the monsters that terrorize them and think their NGN920 billion security budget is going to protect them.

In the 21st century you can’t live large off the people like they did in medieval times. Levels don change, get with the program people but they didn’t get that memo. Apparently they don’t read the demographic data that passes across their desks every day,  just the proposals and news headlines.  Or maybe they do read it and it tells them something else.

Elites don’t care if they destroy this country they all feel they have chopped enough anyway, they would as soon sow chaos and turn Nigeria into another Pakistan as play nice and cooperate. I maybe privileged but I am not elite or elitist, we’re fighting elitism not privilege. We’re fighting elitist exclusion, exploitation and repression. Not democracy and not an elected government.

Elitism is characterized by hierarchy, dominance, competition and entitlement all masculine values. In order to heal the rifts that have emerged at this most frightening of times, to sooth the outrage of our collective brutalization we need the feminine values of justice, reconciliation, egalitaranism and cooperation to prevail upon us.

My sisters where are you? Can’t we speak for peace NOW not after the war, not after our daughters are raped and traumatized by war hunger and desperation? Can’t we speak NOW and not after we have consoled ourselves on the loss of sons, husbands and brothers? My sisters Iheoma Obibi, Bene Madunagu, Mario Bello, Asmua Saduatu, ,Amy Oyekunle, Hafsat Abiola, Pricilla Achakpa,  Amina Lawal, Ngozi Iwere, Bisi Adeleye – Fayemi  and the  many I can’t mention for lack of space where are you?

I know you’ve been active with the men in the mainstream occupy movement but where are you as women? As the counter balancing force political and social that great feminists like Margert Ekpo and Fumilayo Ransome Kuti  and used to such devastating effect against male excess and entitlement before our Independence? We are in need of a second Independence from a male dominated power structure that brings us to the brink of war and conflict again and again.

Traditionally and historically women countered male excess and youthful exuberance among many Nigerian groups just like we mediate it in our homes every day.  Many African women intelligentsia  have argued that that is the true character of African feminism, pro family, pro children and above all pro woman. Women will disproportionally suffer any violent social or political upheaval.

Are we as women going to let this country slip into greater chaos?  How do we prevail upon this situation? How do we bring our country back from the brink? How do we halt the madness of male led corruption? How do we harness our children’s energy at this moment in history to ensure that change comes through means peaceful and constitutional?

January the 16th is Martin Luther King Jr. day in the United States. I grew up admiring that man and studied him as an adult.  He would be proud of the peaceful protests and the people’s emergence from political apathy.  He also saw the importance of economic development in the black neighborhoods and what prevented it.  I hope that his light shines on us here in Nigeria too.

Economic outlook in Nigeria and Africa is positive for the first time in years; any large scale disturbance in Nigeria will affect the whole continent.  There are a lot of interests that will prevent that sort of destabilization from happening.  Perhaps our worst case scenario is that the military will step in and may or may not offer to hold elections within a year like they did in Egypt but is that a solution? Why do I feel that that’s just what some people want.

I’m no international development economist or opinion leader or political scientist and I’m no pundit, I’ve heard so many arguments for and against the fuel subsidy, the PDP, Jonathan Goodluck, Occupy Nigeria and a new kitchen sink that I can’t begin to evaluate them all.  I’ll leave the details to the experts. I’m a Nigerian citizen,  mother and small business owner whose country, whose sons and whose livelihood are threatened.  My only argument right now is for peace and conflict resolution and for Nigerian women to lead the initiative.