Mrs. Ene Ede, a journalist and publisher of Women Today newspaper, is a civil society anthropologist with bias in community development and gender balance issues. In this interview with ENE OSANG, she says the present state of insecurity in the Nigeria is an offshoot of bad political system. She also laments the plight of women occupying leadership positions in the country.
The impeachment threat President Goodluck Jonathan
You see many of us who have been following events would just laugh when some people would just wake up suddenly to behave as if they are democrats. Some people have been in the House of Representatives for so many years. So, why are they taking this action now when they have been ganging up. What we are seeing today is an accumulation of what happened before and Mr. President is not a messiah that he will cleanse all the mess in the system in just one day. It is like a rotten house, how do you come in one day and say you want to renovate it in one day? There are processes to this. Many of the House of Representatives members allowed the rot in the system.
Why are they just talking about realising of funds for projects in July? This will only make many Nigerians to be suspicious. Everybody should please calm down because we are doing so much talking and yet nothing has been achieved. Some people are confused and if only we can dwell on few issues and deal with them one at a time it would be better. Let them deal with the internal issues before bringing up something else because there are so many issues on ground. If they take out sentiments and nepotism, they will move faster, confront challenges and make more demands, but if there are so many voices on one issue, it becomes a major challenge and our problem now is that there are too many analysts around who complicate issues here and there and this is the main reason for the insecurity in the country.
Nigeria needs intensive political education. The issue of security, what can be done about it? We should not just look at the symptoms but how it started in the first place. It is off shoot of bad political system, careless people who do not reward hard work but hail people who do badly. If the good people are rewarded and bad ones punished, there won’t be all these vices today, but many Nigerians are so driven by sentiments and don’t have information. Both the rich and poor are corrupt and not concerned about each other. So, we are basically not politically aware, too much ethnic and religious sentiments and this is killing us because we are not Godly but only a people going to Churches and mosques because we belong there.
Present administration in view
If I assess it from the perspective of inclusiveness I will score it an A. For example, this administration listens to people and I have never seen any time in Nigeria where after elections people go round on a ‘Thank you visits,’ that is good but in terms of the rule of law unfortunately, the issue of Boko Haram came, but I am confident that if those around the president guide him properly we will get good results. The President has the disposition to bring peace. For instance, he assured the ‘one man one vote’ system and kept to it. He was also the first person to congratulate Governor Adams Oshiomole when he won the Edo gubernatorial elections. Before now such wouldn’t have happened. I also heard how he talked to his party, but unfortunately this system is not really adaptable to natural and genuine people like the president.
Indicators of the Presidents genuine nature
One is from the way he talks, he laments that many people do not understand the programmes that his government is implementing. He then said that Nigerians are not interested in the working of the system. Look at the empowerment of women for instance, he made a commitment and he was able to fulfil it. Nigeria like I said is such a complex system but the President thinks that Nigerians are simplistic to listen to him and buy into his project plans but there are those who will never want him to work.
Busy mothers and insecurity
I disagree that women’s ambition to pursue their career is why children are involved in social vices, that is not true. I think the problem is the lack of partnership in parenting that is leading children astray today. Parenting or parenthood is partnership. I will give an example. The estate where I live, 99 per cent of families here are held by the women due to absentee husbands and not like they are widows. Politics, governance takes most parent’s time that there is no time for pleasure with their family. Men will always go out for meetings after meetings to strategise and mobilise for what will benefit them and when women do same, theirs become suspicious while theirs is empowerment. It is not enough to get the money and just throw it at the women for the house upkeep, no. It is the lack of partnership and breakdown of value that has caused insecurity in the country. If the men and women sit down and plan nobody will be blaming each other for moral decadence.
Some women have made themselves vulnerable most times because they pursue their husbands in desperation to rescue the family. The institution is too important and not just a matter of running around. Once we get governance right we will be able to balance the family system. So, it is our duty to get our attitudes and ethics right. Section 22 Chapter 2 of the National Ethics stipulates that once we get it right every other thing will fall in place. Insecurity should not be blamed on the women rather parents should strategize and think of ways of bringing the family together because governance is too tasking in Nigeria.
Why women in positions don’t last
It is lack of experience. I have worked with very powerful women, I mean women who have the traits to transform the system but I want you to go and investigate this, If former Speaker Patricia Etteh was allowed leadership for just two years, she would have empowered women to the level that the whole world will want to identify with her. It was because she gave women key positions that the men set her up. If I was in her position there would have been gender balance. If you hear the true story of Oteh, Eteh and all other women you will pity them because it is the people they trust that accelerated their premature exist from power by crumbling their platform. Many women trust men to a fault. Oteh was about to cleanse the whole sector that was why they hit at her. Many men in positions guard themselves by employing private aides outside the ones given to them and that is why they are succeeding but the women are too genuinely ambitious to work and cleanse the system that they don’t think of all these kind of things, that is why they are hit and targeted at so easily. On the other hand you won’t blame women much because they feel those things are wasteful.
When Oteh was being probed I took time to listen to everything and was studying gender balance in governance and I asked what are the challenges and sentiments which informs some of the attitude of aggression towards women in governance. I was P.A to former Speaker Etteh and I saw all that transpired then. The issue is that women, both politicians and non politicians have not organised themselves well that is why we have problems. We are trying to see how gender will be well domesticated in the country. That is why some of us work tirelessly because gender is like quinine to men and we need to coat it before they can take it.
Vision for Chief Justice of Nigeria
Ah……! She has learnt a lot. I remember when I met her in Lagos during a meeting and how she was observing everything that was happening there I said to her, I am waiting for the day you will be named the CJN. Look at how she answered questions that day. I know a lot of men were angry because the way some of them were asking her questions, they thought she would fumble so they could use that against her but she did not. This is also why the men are tormented by Otte, her grammar, intellect, beauty and all that challenges them. I believe that upon her leadership there would be sanity because she said that genuinely and you know she is economical with her words, massive in action and an activist and we need activists everywhere to sanitize the system and the justice system will improve to favour everybody in the country. I am not saying women are not corrupt but it is just one per cent and most of those in this one per cent are pushed by men. I remember that when Etteh was to sign that contract, she said okay but I will need a receipt for it. It was because she did not have much experience in terms of dealing with corruption that was when people started making demands and she did not know it was all corruption plans. When she asked for receipt of the money being spent they thought she wanted to implicate them but never knew she only wanted to be accountable and they set her up.
Now look at what has happened to the person who implicated her. Although, she was exonerated but what she needs now is public apologies and not exoneration. I say apologies in plural because several people from different structures were instrumental to her exist and this was possible because here we don’t have any group that fight for women unlike in the US where such groups like ‘viral voices’ thrives. This should be applicable here also.
Motivation as a gender activist
I am lucky to have been a born an activist and advocate for the helpless in our society. I am a privileged person having been a survivor of child marriage, I was rescued out of that marriage and I want to give back to the society. I need to do so much. So, what I am doing is a ministry and not business that is why am not approaching it from the business perspective like a lot of people that are doing ‘bread and butter’ advocate. God has given me the passion to do this because I have a job that pays my bill. I am an Economist, I read accounting, journalism and also took a course in leadership. So, I do not lack what to do and I am not stranded.
Challenges of canvassing for women
It is the most challenging work to do because it is enormous and there is misconception, pretext, nepotism, mutual suspicion and all sorts of attacks coming. Above all you will find men and women playing around issues of women. This issue is a serious matter that the United Nations (UN) focuses different attention like in the area of peace and conflict resolution, in the area of the excluded women in the creeks being isolated, but you find people playing with it. One other major challenge is that the men are suspicious that women want to take over.
Promoting gender equity
We are giving the media muscle to discuss women issues and this is where we have the gulf because many women don’t engage the media in their plan or budget, this is because they fear, misconstrue and murmur against the media. We also started the woman today Newspaper a weekly publication which was becoming a daily paper during the military regime but unfortunately in a democracy it is quite challenging because publication is capital intensive especially the specialized publication like that of the women. Women themselves are not even encouraged to support or read, it is the men who even support but they do this sentimentally because they want to see how you will not take their power because the female power has been stolen by the colonialist and added to the African male. Getting this stolen power back has been a struggle and unfortunately most women don’t recognise that the stolen power needs to be retrieved.
Averting the problems
We have a project “Female Lawmakers’ project” though still scouting for funding. We are supposed to meet with councillors, lawmakers at the state and national levels to do a documented analysis of what has happened since 1960 till date. How many females do we have in leadership positions? They are not up to 500 for a big country like Nigeria. Lately, we added ‘gender in the balance’ because we have never really had any structured accountability that is in terms of monetary and evaluation platform or framework. Both men and women should be asking what the lapses are and where they can be of help both deliberate and uncontrollable lapses. We are engaging women in the armed forces, police, para-military organisations and market women. We are also trying to involve the federal government to work with all the markets women and know there leaders. Most times people just use these women whenever there is an opportunity they will gather market women to raise money but forgetting to raise important issues that will affect their lives positively. We have partnered with the federal Inland Revenue to look into the issue of gender and taxation because the women are vulnerable to multiple taxes.
Free election forms for women
It is not a favour but insult on women because sometimes the arrangements are already made long before hand. I will like to remind you of what the former minister of Women Affairs Josephine Anenih said. She said well the presidential election was guarded and guided and only a few women have the courage to say a thing like that. So, when it is guarded and guided, how you do come out with anything positive? Unfortunately, women are not organised enough because they nurture sentiments amongst themselves then men take advantage of this and crack their plans leaving women vulnerable. There is no gender sector analysis to know the challenges of women. One woman who has done very well is Senator Franca Afegbua but the other 13 ministers we are yet to see any results of achievement for women. That was why it looks like I was harassing the Petroleum minister when I asked her five questions during the ministerial platform. I like to see younger people taking over governance that is why we the elders should build an ethical group that will change the affairs of this country for the better. We need young people that will have interest of the masses at heart and be courageous enough to say look Mr. President, this is not in the interest of the people.