What’s New on MzAgams’ Blog?

Its been a crazy few months that started this year. The story is coming up. Stay tuned. But just a few tit bits about what I’ll be bringing your way for the rest of the year.

I’d like to thank all of you that have read and commented on the ‘How To Get A Divorce in Nigeria’ Series that I wrote in 2012. It’s been great fun reading and answering your questions. And its really satisfying to see blogs inspired by that series popping up all over the place in the past couple of years. I need to update and I’ll be doing so over the next few weeks bringing you the latest decisions in family law, child custody, and related family law matters. And maybe even a something from a guest blogger.

I’m also starting a new series on Customary Marriage including Islamic Marriage. It will tell you everything you need to know about women’s rights under various customary from around the country and Islamic law and how they are evolving. I have a couple of guest writers  eager to share what they know with you.  Antony C. Diala who is writing his PhD on living customary law will be contributing.   So will Barrister Amina Abubakar who is with the Human Rights Commission.

I’m expanding and trying something new – I’ll be bringing you vlogs and podcasts of your favourite topics. Keep sending in your questions and comments. I’m here to ensure you know what your rights are as a woman within your family – the family you were born into and the family you married into.  Knowledge is power. There are a lot of lies and half truths circulating in popular media about women’s rights within marriage that are deliberately created to exploit, oppress and even cheat women. Don’t be one of those women.

Shine your eye. Know your rights. Women’s rights are human rights.

And read my blog post about protecting your assets after marriage here.

That’s not all.

Working with the theme “Women Activists; Women’s Activism” this year I’m going to interview some of the women that work hard to advance and expand women’s rights in Nigeria and anywhere else we find them. My first interview is going to be with Josephine Effah Chukwuma of Project Alert on Violence Against Women. Got any questions you want to ask her?  We’re at the cutting edge of change in Nigeria. What does it take to build and sustain an organisation like hers in an environment like ours? Find out.

I’ll probably be interviewing a lot of Ashoka fellows. I worked with them over the years and I think they’re great. They’re the best that the social enterprise sector has to offer any where in the world. You don’t want to miss anything they have to say.

Do you have any suggestions about some woman or women that are doing great work in advancing women’s rights that I should talk to? Let me know. Drop a comment. Tell me what they do and where I can find them and I will. I’m always looking for shero’s to promote. So much of women’s work is hidden and unsung its no wonder people end up  thinking we aren’t doing anything much.

Elections are around the corner. More women are expressing an interest in contest for public office. Some people say we should vote for them just because they’re women and get more women in the political space. Some people say we should hold them to the same standards we hold male contestants. Its a hard choice believe me. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Maybe we should just listen to the women contesting and hear what they say. I’ll score some interviews with female contestants and ask them some questions too.

Its going to be fun filled and informative. I promise.

 

humor4-2

 

Advertisements

Good Manners

Sometimes I am too brusque. I regularly forget the social courtesies knocked into me me by my Igbo brethren in the village. Thank Mother God I returned before I became a complete barbarian in the US.

Americans are such barbarians. Always looking at their watches and hurrying you along. They do not understand Time.

Mark: ‘Hi. How you doing?’ (Do not anwser! This is merely salutatory. They do not want do know how your doing.)

Before you can answer Mark continues;

‘Could you go over these figures and get back to me?’

“Is next week okay?”

“Can I have it later today?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Okay. You should come over for dinner soon.” And Mark walks away.

ALL POC know you need to approach the main subject AFTER some sort of personal exchange to establish trust, rapport and bonding. They’re paranoid. Cant blame them.

Black Man1: Hey brother. What you been up to?
Black man 2: Bro I spent the night down at Benni’s with a fine piece of ass.

JayZ and the black Amercian billionaire brigade would tell us this is why black people are still poor. Maybe that’s true in America and of teenage boys.

And it depends on how you measure wealth and value don’t it?

Igbo Man1: Odogwu! We do not see you again in the village square. (Meaning: You must be too broke to perform in social and civic life.)
Igbo Man2: Ogbu Agu. You know the big masquerades don’t need to come out often. (Meaning: I’m powerful enough not to need frequent displays of power. They are establishing status which is very important to Igbo men and women too.)

Then –

IgboMan1: You are looking very fine. Tell me how you do it?
IgboMan2: (His response will depend on the level of intimacy and trust between the speakers.) We are trying. Or ‘My brother you need to come to Abuja. That is where it is happening.’

Igbo Woman1: Wife of Okorie. (Or Mama Ngozi. Or Teacher. Or even Mummy.) You don wake? How are Ngozi, Emeka, Jide, Amara and Chidundu? (Each new inquiry comes after a report has been given of the preceding one by African woman 2. Unless of course they are the new breed of Igbo woman – the politicians.)

Igbo Woman2: (Ditto)

After 5 or 30 minutes depending they’ll come around to discuss the business. Because time belongs to us and relationships are more important than productivity.

Harvard and Wharton who charge big big money call it breaking the ice. We call it good manners. Just like taking a bottle of liquor and and gifts to a leader before asking a favor is good manners. And breaking the ice. Not much different from flowers or tickets to a Yankees game or Hamilton.

Let’s cut to the chase and not pretend to care. The Illuminati, (which I shall henceforth call the global elite of any nationality because its easier and more fun to do so) – that the super exclusive league of global masquerades – just smash the ice with cash, expensive toys and baubles anyway.

BTW: While new money struts around and shows off, old money consolidates power.

Our ways made us care because it made us have to look at each other and actually ‘see’ each other. Each relationship had specific obligations that maintained it.

I digress.

White people are such barbarians. Always in a hurry. Where are they hurrying to? The grave? They don’t care about anyone but their wife and children. So selfish.

Thank Mother God I returned before I became a complete barbarian!

 

 

 

What’s In A National Anthem? #NGWomen4Peace

In 1978 Obasanjo’s military government decided to change the national anthem as part of its preparations to hand over power to a democratically elected government after 12 years of military rule and a 3 year civil war.   As a true Nigerian man he was offended that the previous anthem was written by two white women, if he could have changed the country’s name coined by another white woman he probably would have. The new anthem was written by 5 men and the music composed by the director of the Nigerian Police Band. Women were not considered good enough for such an important task. The new anthem sounds very masculine and military and the sovereign motherland of the first anthem became the fatherland, with all the character of a fascist sound track. Hitler would have been proud.  It sounds ominous, brooding, saturnine, and paternalistic. It announces – women beware, we are a nation of men – men of war.

22008025_1679369062082738_331422641272487407_n
Dr. Gloria Laraba Shoda, President NCWS at Press Conference announcing their alliance with #NGWomen4Peace on 28 September 2017

Independence Day Statement from #NGWomen4Peace

 

On 7 September 2017, women from across Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss the need:

  1. for a platform (NGWomen4Peace) for women to voice their concerns about key issues which negatively impact on us, our children and our families and
  2. to organise women to promote a stronger sense of ownership and belonging in the country and build our confidence to contribute positively to making a difference to the present alarming trajectory of our country.

#NGWomen4Peace is a movement of women and women’s groups representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.

We have observed the following:

  • An increased wave of hate speech and inciting statements,
  • An increased spate of violent conflicts around the country, and
  • That women, who bear the brunt of the violent conflict, are not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.
  • That despite almost two decades of activism women are still not proportionally represented in politics, peace and security decision making and governance

We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem. We have mobilised to add our voices and assert our rights as citizens, as mothers, as women and as one half of the population of this nation in pursuit of peace, dialogue and deescalation.

OUR DEMANDS

We are not begging. We are not asking. We are insisting. We are demanding

DIALOGUE & DEESCALATION

An immediate cessation of all hostilities across the country and a demand for all stake holders and state and non state actors to begin a process of deescalation and dialogue that will include women in proportional representation as active participants, negotiators, referees, observers and peace keepers.

The are numerous violent conflicts ongoing all across the country – in the north east, in north central, in the south east, in the south south, a nation wide conflict nomadic pastoralists and farming communities.

Nigerian women demand that all violence end immediately and all parties and stakeholders begin a process of dialogue.  Whatever the demands – restructuring, devolution, inclusion, marginalisation, secession, religious freedom, ethnic protectionism – they can and must be negotiated. We will no longer tolerate the blood of our children be spilled to sustain untenable positions of violent insurrection and dominance in a democratic federation.

No Be Fight. We are a civilised and modern nation. We will dialogue and we must start with immediate deescalation.

We call on Arewa Youths, IPOB, Boko Haram, Oduduwa, Ohaneze, the Federal Government and its agencies.

INCLUSION

Increasing women’ s active and full participation in politics, peace and security negotiations, decision making, conflict resolution and peace agreements. There are over 200 MDAs in Nigeria and women must be proportionally included and represented in all. For immediate action –

  • The newly formed House of Representatives committee saddled with the responsibility of fostering national unity led by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun should appoint a female representative as its deputy and of the nine other positions at least half should be filled with women.
  • Project Steering Committee for the implementation of the 54.5 million euros support project for the North-east inaugurated in August 2017 should have at least 50% female membership, line ministries that are on the committee must nominate women to fill their position.
  • The National Judicial Council (NJC) under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, established a Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to monitor judges and courts handling corruption and financial crimes cases in the country. The membership of the committee is almost entirely male, with a lone female representing the NGO sector. We demand a review and women to be immediately take 50% of the membership.
  • Immediate implementation of Chapter 2 Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria especially section 14(3) and (4) on Federal character to immediately implement representative inclusion of women in all federal, state and local government agencies and a 50% affirmative action policy.

We will in collaboration with our members and allies over the next 30 days continue to identify and various committees, bodies and institutions where women are not adequately represented and demand inclusion and nominate capable women for inclusion. We will use legal means and judicial process as appropriate and various other means of protest and pressure where appropriate.

Zonal and State Working committees of NGWomen4Peace will also articulate and announce specific demands that will be pursued at the zonal and state level to ensure dialogue, deescalation and inclusion of women and respect for the constitution and rule of law. These plans will be announced in a series of press conferences over the next week.

We will assess the response to our demands and our strategies for their enforcement over the next 30, 60 and 90 days and continue to adjust our actions to ensure compliance and update the press and our fellow Nigerians on progress towards peace and women’s inclusion in governance, conflict resolution, peace building and decision making.

We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities. Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.

We continue to build a critical mass of women and women’s groups in a grand alliance of women waging peace and will launch the White Blouse Campaign for Peace to build women’s solidarity, visibility and support for our movement.

Signed By:

  1. Iheoma Obibi – Alliances for Africa, Imo State
  2. Esther Eshiet – After School Centre for Career Development, Akwa Ibom
  3. Mabel Ikoghode – Girls Power Initiative, Delta State
  4. Dr. Alice Musa – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  5. Dr. K. Kwari – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  6. Ayisha Osori- Self, Kaduna State
  7. Azeenah Mohamed – Independent, Nassara State
  8. Patricia Onyekwelu – WILPF Nigeria, Enugu State
  9. Ifeyinwa Omowole Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, Lagos State
  10. Ballason Gloria – House of Justice Kaduna State
  11. Osai Ojigho – Self, Delta State
  12. Nnenaya Emeremadu – CARA Development Foundation. Imo State
  13. Jemila Barkindo – Women Peace and Security Network, Adamawa State
  14. Amy Oyekan Monii Development Consultant, Delta State
  15. Ify Malo – Clean Tech Hub, Anambra State
  16. Eleanor Nwadinobi – Gender Expert, Abia State
  17. Olufunke Baruwa – Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ekiti State
  18. Priscilla Achakpa – Women Environment Program, Benue State
  19. Blessing Usie – Open Society Justice Initiative, Delta State
  20. Felicia  Onibon – Change Managers International Network, Edo State
  21. Edna Mathews-Njoku – Joel Women Youth Development Initiative, Imo State
  22. Ndi Kato – NNidari Empowerment Foundation, Kaduna State
  23. Natasha Akpoti – Builders Hub Foundation, Kogi State
  24. Lesley Agams – Consultant, Abuja FCT
  25. Mariam Aldu – Self, Adamawa State
  26. Amina Salihu, Gender and Security Consultant
  27. Blessing Duru – Program Manager, Alliances for Africa
  28. Ogechi Ikeh – Program Officer, Nigerian Feminist Forum

For Immediate Release – Statement from #NGWomen4Peace on Current Situation in Nigeria

 

On September 7 2017, women from across Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss the need:

1. for a platform (NGWomen4Peace) for women to voice their concerns about key issues which negatively impact on us, our children and our families and
2. to organise women to promote a stronger sense of ownership and belonging in the country and build our confidence to contribute positively to making a difference to the trajectory of our country.

#NGWomen4Peace is a coalition of women representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.

We have observed the following:
1. An increased wave of hate speech,
2. Numerous inciting statements,
3. Increased spate of violent conflicts around the country,
4. That women, who bear the brunt of the violent conflict, are generally not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.

We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem.

Our demands are:

1. Zero tolerance for hate speech while promoting and protecting freedom of expression;
2. The engagement of women in governance processes in the public and private sector as well as peace building and conflict resolution platforms.
3. That ethnic, religious and political groups refrain from making blanket statements purporting to represent us without due consultation with us. We want all Nigerians to know that when these provocative statements are being made – these groups are not speaking for Nigerian women
4. That we all work together for a better future for our country by promoting the ideal that we are our brothers and sisters keeper.

We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities. Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.

Further activities are being planned and we are open to other women and women’s groups joining us.

Signed By:
Iheoma Obibi – Alliances for Africa, Imo State
Esther Eshiet – After School Centre for Career Development, Akwa Ibom
Mabel Ikoghode – Girls Power Initiative, Delta State
Dr. Alice Musa – University of Madugiri, Borno State
Dr. K. Kwari – University of Madugiri, Borno State
Ayisha Osori- Self, Kogi State
Azeenah Mohamed – Independent, Nassara State
Patricia Onyekwelu – WILPF Nigeria, Enugu State
Ifeyinwa Omowole Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, Lagos State
Ballason Gloria – House of Justice Kaduna State
Osai Ojigho – Self, Delta State
Nnenaya Emeremadu – CARA Development Foundation. Imo State
Jemila Barkindo – Women Peace and Security Network, Borno State
Amy Oyekan Monii Development Consultant, Delta State
Ify Malo – Clean Tech Hub, Anambra State
Eleanor Nwadinobi – Gender Expert, Abia State
Olufunke Baruwa – Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ekiti State
Priscilla Achakpa – Women Environment Program, Benue State
Blessing Usie – Open Society Justice Initiative, Delta State
Felicia Onibon – Change Managers International Network, Edo State
Edna Mathews-Njoku – Joel Women Youth Development Initiative, Imo State
Ndi Kato – NNidari Empowerment Foundation, Kaduna State
Natasha Akpoti – Builders Hub Foundation, Kogi State
Lesley Agams – Consultant, Abuja FCT
Mariam Marwa – Abdu – Women and Children’s Rights and Empowerment Foundation, Adamawa State

Secretariat
Blessing Duru – Program Manager, Alliances for Africa
Ogechi Ikeh – Program Officer, Nigerian Feminist Forum

A Review of Oluremi Obasanjo’s Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo (From The Archives)

December 10, 2008 at 10:25am

OLUREMI OBASANJO: PORTRAIT OF A FEMINIST POSTER GIRL?

By Lesley Gene Agams

A privileged idyllic childhood, a precocious adolescence and a striving dogged socially conscious woman. That is the sense I get of Oluremi Obasanjo from her recently released book Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo. Although she often comes across as naïve, gullible and coarse there is no masking the raw ambition and sense of achievement lurking covertly like a cunning animal.

Bitter Sweet offers a rare insight into a young girl’s life in pre independence Nigeria. Her story of going off to Lagos with only a female cousin was a surprise, as was her sneaking away from an event in Ibadan to visit her beau’s house. Even more astonishing was her un-chaperoned trip to London to meet Obasanjo before they were even married. It’s rare to hear such honest accounts about young women of that era enjoying such freedom. To hear it told by the social matrons, back in 1950 all girls were on chaperoned lock down till their bride price was paid and rings on their fingers.

Oluremi’s story also offers important insight for the Nigerian women’s movement and victim’s activists all over the world. It provides a rare viewpoint into the psyches of a high profile domestic violence victim and her equally high profile abuser. The question ‘why do victims stay?’ is one of the most contentious in academic and legal literature on violence against women globally. There is no agreement as to the dynamics but there is a growing recognition that victims cannot always exercise agency and walk away. This is a rare portrait of a narcissist, his codependent and their traumatized and troubled offspring.

Here we have the unfiltered voice of a victim and an abuser known all over the world. This isn’t the transcript of a case study interview where the interviewer asks leading questions or a counselor offers culturally biased speculation about the motives behind an anonymous patient’s experience. We have a cultural and social context that provides incredibly rich information. A number of commentators have compared it to a Nollywood script but this is not fiction. Why did Oluremi stay? Why does she still call this man her husband and ‘the only man I have known’?

Her story is significant because of who she was married to, her experience with Obasanjo is the experience of millions of Nigerian women. Thanks to her book we may be able to bring attention to their stories and begin a rational discourse on violence against women and domestic violence, two issues that have failed to enrage the Nigerian public or engage the Nigerian media. Oluremi is just one of the lucky ones. Apollonia Ukpabio endured 25 years of escalating violence till her skull was cracked open with a machete. Miraculously she survived. Her husband is on trial for the attack. Why did she stay? She believed God and church wanted her to protect and defend her marriage no matter what. Others have died.

The challenges of being married to Nigerian elites are especially made obvious in her narrative. It’s the story that does not get told, the male entitlement, the female consent and often the mutual infidelity. It’s really difficult to complain when living a really privileged life in a really poor environment. I know many a Nigerian matron that felt Princess Diana should have put up and shut up. The ‘old school’ belief is that a woman should marry for economic security not love, and if it’s companionship you crave find it with the women and/or your children. The wisdom of the matrons for a woman thinking of leaving her husband is territorial– don’t be foolish, why leave your turf for some other woman to take over? Fight for your matrimonial haven and sanctuary. Oluremi had a lot to fight for.

For me one of the more disquieting revelations of this book is how powerful and rich men are manipulated to accept and expect exploitation through their sexual extravagance. According to Oluremi, Obasanjo’s aunt became one of his ‘pimps’ and weak minded male that he was “he abandoned his Lugard quarters for five days because he didn’t want a divorcee, who was even a mother of two. Later, he gave in and the woman had a child…” I know people like that, they will never go to see a powerful man without ‘an offering’, usually a young pretty girl. The most disgusting personal encounter I recall was a middle aged couple that brought their 15 year old daughter dressed like a hooker to see a certain big man they wanted a favor from. I was there. I’ve often wondered about the ‘powerful’ men that fall for that one.

All families are dysfunctional and some may seem more dysfunctional than others but it seems too much of a coincidence that Obasanjo’s narcissistic, high risk behavior and mood swings only emerged after the civil war. Could he have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? This is not uncommon in soldiers, even Nigerian soldiers. I handled a divorce case a while back, the husband, an armed forces man, had just returned from an active mission and was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD. The administration couldn’t offer him any help. He refused to admit he had a problem, his wife did not know how to handle it, his marriage collapsed under the strain. He reacted pretty much the way Obasanjo did, contesting custody, refusing to pay child support and becoming increasingly abusive; contemporary Okonkwo figures, tormented, paranoid and insecure, things falling apart around them.

All that being said there is a lot that makes me uncomfortable about this book, it’s no master piece but its not meant to be. I found Oluremi’s total lack of self consciousness very disturbing, she seems to be saying of course I slapped that girl and of course I bit that woman and of course I made embarrassing scenes and even fought a truck full of soldiers, like it’s all normal. I found that eerie. The scene on page 66 where she attacks Mowo Sofowora, like a frenzied mother hen and then having fended off the interloper, clucks protectively around her chicks is totally dissonating and disturbing. All narrated like it’s totally normal, there is no moral debate as to the appropriateness of action. She is not the only female (or male) I know that considers her response to this sort of ‘provocation’ perfectly normal and unquestionably right. I find that frightening and sad.

Even more disturbing evidence of a venal, anachronistic world view was her calling Murtala’s ADC the day after she was informed of her child’s death and being morbidly counseled to see the incident as some sort of answer to her prayers to be back in Obasanjo’s house. Just access to this ‘big powerful man’ who happened to be the-father-of-her-children-who-he-had-custody of had become a goal. Her disappointment and resentment towards her sister in law who precipitated her hasty ouster five days later seemed to coldly over shadow her grief at losing a child. Her insecurity is overwhelming; she is willing to forgive Obasanjo the death of her child but not his sister. Her apparent devotion to him despite everything borders on an obsession. Is she a cold ruthless woman or the traumatized victim of a narcissist?

Then there was the bizarre description of their courtship, she presents herself as a passive and entitled recipient of Obasanjo’s courting. He wrote her letters, sent her books and gifts and eventually she said yes. Surely that’s not the whole story. What exactly did the shoeless son of a village drunk say to the spoilt railway master’s precocious daughter that convinced her that Obasanjo was worth waiting seven years for? It’s obvious he was a man on the fast track to power but Oluremi’s narrative while indicating that does not provide any insight into the motivation for any of his actions. Why did he want to study geology? Why did he change his mind for a military career? Is she absolving herself of all responsibility or did she really not know? Or is she just not telling? Loyal to the bitter end?

Whatever her motives for staying or for telling her story now Oluremi did not deserve the treatment she received from her husband. No man or woman deserves abuse and violence, and all women deserve the right to say to the man they married ‘I can’t live with you anymore’ and still be humanely treated with their children as Nigerian citizens protected by a constitution. We need to stop the abuse. We need to break the cycle of violence.

I have reaffirmed or learnt a number of things from reading this gripping account of lives interrupted;

1. There is an urgent need to review the Matrimonial Causes Act and extend its jurisdiction to women married under customary law; it is an archaic piece of legislation that offers little protection to women considering divorce or separation and their children. The customary law systems that the majorities of woman have access to in Nigeria are heavily biased against women and make seeking separation or divorce traumatic and humiliating.
2. We desperately need to introduce parenting skills to our education curricula. Children are often at greatest risk of long term harm and damage from their parent’s ignorance. Teaching children parenting skills is as important as teaching them to say no, zip up, life skills or whatever else we choose to call sex education. Teaching them religion is not enough.
3. The Nigerian armed forces need to increase their transition support for veterans returning from war, especially the psychological support they provide. Wars are dehumanizing and brutalizing, veterans and their family members need assistance re-integrating after prolonged exposure to the violence and brutality of armed conflict and barracks life.
4. Nigerian media need to learn how to write more sensitively about women and women’s issues. Most of media commentators including female commentators brushed aside her story and condemned her for telling it. Stark testimony to how such tragedies can play out to an inevitably sad outcome while hidden in plain view.

images