I was invited to participate at The Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General’s celebration of the 2016 International Women’s Day on Tuesday March 8.
This event took place at the U.S. Consulate, 2 Walter Carrington Crescent Victoria Island, Lagos, with Prof. Remi Sonaiya, KOWA’s Party 2015 Presidential candidate as guest speaker for the event.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “Women in Leadership and Good Governance”.
Biography Of The Guest Speaker
Professor Remi Sonaiya obtained a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Ile Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1977, graduating with the overall best result in her faculty. She also obtained a Masters of Arts in Linguistics in 1984, then proceeded to Cornell University, New York, USA for an M.A. in French Literature and PhD studies in Linguistics in 1988.
She returned to Obafemi Awolowo University to continue lecturing at the department of Foreign Languages which she had joined as an Assistant Lecturer, and became a Professor of French Language and Applied Lingusitics in 2001.
- She is an Independent Researcher/Consultant, Former Professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics at the Obafemi Awolowo University.
- KOWA party’s 2015 presidential candidate
- She is an active supporter of several churches as well as para-church organisations including Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (NIFES), Calvary Ministry, and Great Commission Movement
- She lectures on Stewardship at the International Faculty of Haggai Institute, Hawaii, USA
- She has always been interested in public affairs, and is passionate about issues of Justice, Equity and African development.
- Interest in public affairs and development issues influenced her decision to retire voluntarily from her position at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2010, so she could devote more time and resources to her pursuit.
- She joined KOWA party, and was elected as its National Public Relations Officer, a position she still occupies
- She has published three books on the Nigerian (and African) condition: A trust to Earn – Reflections on Life and Leadership In Nigeria (2010); Igniting Consciousness – Nigeria and Other Riddles (2013); Daybreak Nigeria – this Nation Must Rise!!! (2014).
International Women’s Day is observed annually around the world to celebrate women, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the history of their countries and communities.
The Guest speaker, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, the First Female Presidential candidate at the 2015 Presidential election spoke about women and good governance. Inspiring the audience with the story of her life and her foray into politics, she mentioned how women are still being marginalised despite the oft-repeated mantra of change of the present government.
Analysing the number of positions held by women in the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government, Prof. Sonaiya said few women were appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari into the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Speaking further, she gave her reason for leaving the quiet life of a lecturer for politics and governance as so she could be more involved in issues that centres around the development of the nation and her politics as a whole. A lot of people thought it was a strange idea, but the desire for truth and justice spurred her into politics.
Why should a woman seek political leadership?
During the 2015 elections, people were more concerned about my gender. The issue of my being a woman practically became the most important factor about my candidature. I was confronted by several people as regards my gender and why I chose to throw my hat in a male-dominated ring. The whole thing was a wonderful experience for me and this made me realise that gender inequality is still an issue in our society.
The answer to the above-posed question – Why should a woman seek political leadership? – is actually quite short and simple: Why not? If we approach the selection of our leaders more intelligently, asking ourselves that given the current state of affairs in our land, what skills, abilities, traits etc should be required of the person chosen to lead? Could it not happen that these characteristics can be found in a woman rather than a man? That what we have currently in Nigeria is mostly strongmen politics, and in that case, press on to query: Why can’t we also have strong women in politics?
What Can Women Bring to Good Governance?
Prof. Sonaiya answered by mentioning how it has been her dream to see women rise up and change the political culture of the nation – especially the culture of money politics, believing ardently that women’s involvement in governance will have a positive impact on our society.
The National Democratic Institute recognizes the following:
- Women are highly committed to promoting national and local policies that address the socio-economic and political challenges facing women, children and disadvantaged groups.
- Women are particularly effective in promoting honest governments.
- Women are strongly committed to peace building, as they often disproportionately suffer consequences of armed conflict. Reconstruction and reconciliation efforts take root more quickly and are more sustainable when women are involved.
- Women are strongly linked to positive developments in education, infrastructure and health standards at the local level.
Prof. Sonaiya concluded by saying that she will keep working to ensure that her political party provides an enabling environment for women’s participation in politics.
We must also be clear about what time we are in as a nation. The time is for courage and decisiveness – Let’s make real change!!!