Will the Nigerian Woman Ever Stand Up? By Sonala Olumhense

Sonala Olumhense

Four times in the past 10 years, I have challenged the Nigerian woman to rise and shine.
In: “Whatever Happened to the Nigerian Woman?  (New Age, April 2003), I said:

“Basically, I do not think that the Nigerian man is comfortable with the prospects of a woman President or Governor. They ought to give this ego problem no more than a passing acknowledgment because women constitute about half of our population. Why has the Nigerian woman not taken advantage of this, settling instead for second best in the one stronghold that can make all the difference?

“…Why is the Nigerian woman not challenging this order, this bias, this glass ceiling? Is it just coincidence that none of the major parties is being run by a woman; that none of them is presenting a woman to be voted for as President or Vice-President or Governor? Even at the level of appointments, what does it mean that a woman may be Electoral Commissioner of a state, but that no woman has ever headed the nation’s Electoral Commission?

“Women have governed some of the world’s most challenging countries, such as India and Pakistan. Today, a woman is leading Indonesia, a nation of 230 million people, 92 per cent of them Muslims.

“I support the political advance of the Nigerian woman to the very top because our masculine self-serving swagger apart, men have not made much success of the art of governance, an area that remains outstanding for its ineffectiveness, incompetence and corruption. For 40 years, many families have routinely been deprived of their male heads night after night because such men are involved in “politics.” This nonsense is not working, because in addition to not being present at home to learn the true meaning of father, these political pretences have failed to move Nigeria nation forward.

“It is time for the Nigerian woman to insist that, in the interest of both the family and the nation, parenting and politicking responsibilities must be shared. I am certain that the presence of more women at party meetings on an equal basis as provided for by our constitution, will re-align the way horses are traded. It might even be that the Nigerian woman does not want to ride a horse, let alone condone trade permits for that animal.

“It is also possible that some men, observing that a woman is the boss, are not so eager or casual about trying to corrupt her office or their own. On the other hand, her male subordinates may be so uncomfortable under a woman’s authority that they work hard to discredit her; that is a challenge that I know the Nigerian woman would welcome and possibly beat back by some superlative performance.

“The problem is that the Nigerian woman is nowhere to be found. She is too far away picking up after men who tell her to wait; to wait for them; to wait somewhere else, to wait for a bottle of stolen perfume. They give her dubious pocket money, assure her that politics is too important or too dirty for women, and she listens. Up until the national elections that began two days ago, the Nigerian woman seemed to have accepted this nonsense as well. My sister, how can your contribution to progress, all 52 million of you, be to wait: waiting at home; in bars; in hotels; in the backroom; in the back of the house; in the back of the bus; waiting for what?”

In another reflection on August 27, 2006, provocatively titled “How to Offend the Nigerian Woman,” I wondered why a woman could not be president.
“…No, it is not a gender thing, it has to be a question of who can do the best job, or we are all lost. If you are honest enough to say you are unqualified or unprepared, surely you can help find or persuade someone who is. And yes, you can continue to love your husband, in fact, I insist on it. But you know in your heart—don't smile now—that you have always been smarter than he is. You know he is egotistical, corrupt and lazy. If you seek true improvement, you must begin by helping to ensure that the wrong people do not assume high office. By the time you apply your third layer of make-up, they would have done so, again. Unless you are an angel who never complains about how bad things are, you must become involved…

“…Ask them for an equal number of female governorship candidates, or negotiate a complete gender mix and match in political contests. Your influence, of course, is not in only in the power of your tongue, as forceful as that must be; it is also in the volume of female votes that you must work to command. In other words, sister, even if the party chieftains do not listen to your concerns about changing the party structure to allow for more women, you can do even more by organizing and sensitizing the female vote statewide, beginning with your own. Each is useful to the other: the more high-profile women there are in the party, the easier it will be for you to attract young female voters; the more female voters you attract, the easier it will be for you to negotiate high-female profile positions.

My point, dear lady of light, is that for too long, our men have been "right" in our country for no better reason than their gender. They emerged as the "politicians," the wise and powerful ones who reserved the right to be wise and powerful. They have since been found to be empty-headed simpletons posing as prophets. That is how we got stuck in the mud, but the female constituency can engender great change, or be that change. The opportunity that comes your way in the next few months is huge. In these months, Nigeria woman, the motherland will be crying for the best of her children to come forward to restore its spirit…”

In “Sleeping Beauty, Now Snoring,” on February 10, 2007, I I contemplated that year’s national election.

“There is only one face missing in all this: one kind we have yet to see: the Nigerian woman. I am amazed that given the size of our population and our political history, the Nigerian woman is still timidly loitering on the sidelines of power.

“In the major political parties, the Nigerian woman is not a factor, and she raises her voice neither in outrage nor to demand the microphone. Party big-wigs speak as though they are a one-gender gang. Small surprise then—isn’t it—that in none of these parties was a woman remotely thought of as leadership material.

“Nearly 50 years of independence, and our top female political figure will again be the First Lady. As usual, she will make a complete mess of it because, rather than engage and encourage her husband to serve with honesty and vigour, she will set herself up as President of the Governors’ Wives, or administer a “charity”. Nearly 50 years later, the Nigerian woman is still timidly serving tea and coffee in the public sphere, lying in the political bed just as she has made it. She is waiting for Master to come home. When he barks, she will say, dutifully, weakly, “Yes sah!”

In The Women of OVATION, I commended her beauty and power in every edition.  

“Hopefully, when the cameras are shut down, the clothes changed, and the make-up taken off, these wonderful ladies do not lose their electricity.  Hopefully, in their real lives they are able to hold in the sun and the moon, and personally illuminate the world around them.  Hopefully, in their lives, they shake hands not only with those who appear in, or aspire to appear in OVATION, but also reach out to those who just aspire to a meal.   

“It is one thing to appear in OVATION; it is another to be worthy of a standing ovation.  And you do not collect a standing ovation sitting down, or with your eyes closed.   

Women are so much further upfront in many other countries. When will the Nigerian woman stand up?  
•    sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

11 comment(s)
Post a comment

Is our beautiful oil Queen

Is our beautiful oil Queen not a woman, but see the stench coming out of her ministry

Women Advocate - Sonala Olumhense

Nigeria women are aware of the "Women's Suffrage" and they are welcome anytime to run for office at any level of government.

Let's talk about the endemic issue of corruption in Nigeria and how to solve the problem. Women have been well represented in the current government, though they are used as servants by the men in their looting agenda. We do not need to see women as presidents, governors or commissioners before we start acknowledging their presence in government.

It must be a boring day Sonala. "Nak me better story my brother."

forget those people bo!

The Nigerian woman ke?
You have time to waste my dear brother. Shampoo don finish for market? Bleach don finish for shop? All they care for is to retouch their hair, bleach their skins and try to resemble oyinbo. Show me on Nigerian woman who is not buying weavons from Brazil for 2,000 dollars...show me one who doesn't wish for her hair to flounce like that of the young blonde in a Brazilian soap opera. They all want to ride Escalade, gist of "Nneka the Pretty Snake" and Genevieve Nnaji, send meaningless texts all about and gossip rubbish about who just "hammered". If only we can ship all our women to Mars and have them replaced with Cuban ladies, we will compete with the best in the world. Nothing will make me marry a Nigerian woman. Tufiakwa!!!

Nigeria operates on a totally different structure

It is so touching that you just wake up suddenly to the realization that there will not be a woman very soon at the level Sonala wishes. How can women take the challenge when even the men have become feminized? Men think domestic, and women do as well. But one domestic thinker has strong bones which the other domestic thinker (women) cannot contend with. We need to strengthen our men to be more radical in their thoughts. If there is a challenge confronting your nation, deal with it, don’t be afraid. Nigerian men do not have that can do spirit. They are too cissy.

women standing up


German women have been 'standing up' - and what did we - males - get:

Mrs. Merkel!

Over to you !!!


They stand up and open up for BlackBerry

Naija women go stand up for Blackberry and money. They don't care how you got the money. Just get them down to an expensive hotel and lavish money on them.

They'll not only stand up, they'll also open up - for you to come in! Shikena.

The Rights of the Nigerian Woman?

You may be right Mr. Sola Olumhense but the Nigerian woman is stifled by the same elites. Her interests and rights are expropriated by the first ladyism abnd their courtiers. The intersts they stand for start and end within the confines of their pockets and bank accounts, their special assistants and advisors and the now nearly functionless Women Affairs officers who function no more than extention lines in many instances.
The salvationlies in Education, insistence on free, open and fair elections, nothing else and nothing more than these fundamentals.

Our women are Trying

Gradually we will get there. We can only walk to get there. If we rush, we will break our spine and be bed ridden forever. I had expected to read where you gave praises to those who are trying their best. Let us try positive appraoch to issues. Have you lost sight of the persecution of Arumah Otteh at SEC because she wanted to correct the system. Why did you not mention our incorruptible and cerebral Ngozi Okonjo Iweala or you don't regard her a woman. What of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Didn't you see the mature way she handled the crisis involved in the elevation of Jumbo Offor, JCA. Take it easy. Our women are trying. We will get there

Our women are Grying

Gradually we will get there. We can only walk to get there. If we rush, we will break our spine and be bed ridden forever. I had expected to read where you gave praises to those who are trying their best. Let us try positive appraoch to issues. Have you lost sight of the persecution of Arumah Otteh at SEC because she wanted to correct the system. Why did you not mention our incorruptible and cerebral Ngozi Okonjo Iweala or you don't regard her a woman. What of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Didn't you see the mature way she handled the crisis involved in the elevation of Jumbo Offor, JCA. Take it easy. Our women are trying. We will get there

mumu-america nko? learn to creep b4 u walk

Why has america with her over 200 yrs history and development, not been able to produce a woman president? Is this man talking about women from the North-who are often placed under purdah by Buharis tribes men? Northern women were prior to the coming of the jihadist, who introduced sharia law in Zamfara, were guided by the secular nature of the country-In Turkey their women dont wear it to appease the Saudis and Kuwaitis from whom our Moslems often collect transport money. Yesterday ours were hardly seen to cover their faces with Hijab. Now every Moslem woman called Hannatu, has a head gear to help identify her as a boko haramist for the erufais and Sanusis-who marry toddlers in the name of their religious beliefs-what we need is transformation-good road net-works health facilities, and educational institutions among other facilities-did u vote for Sara Jubril or buhari?

Having only recently come to

Having only recently come to know more about Nigeria's culture and people, your article is right on point about the need for Nigerian women to step up. Even the men I speak with say this - be my partner!