Respect, decorum, integrity, discretion, family values and the likes are priced assets in Nigeria.
Not disputing the fact that there are bad features, there are several ‘things’ that are good about Nigeria and Nigerians; but like vehicles in a hurry trying to overtake slower ones on the highway, we are quick to neglect, ignore or forget the fine points about our country and her people. These fine points are many but the media, having splattered and sensationalized stories about the bad aspects of Nigeria has successfully made the negative happenings seem more important and relevant than the positive endeavors. Daily, the newsstands are awash with stories of bomb-blasts, corruption, illegalities and improprieties. With so much coverage given to undesirable and tabloid-like news, information that delineates the fine points of Nigeria gets rarely gets the spotlight.
One of such fine points is the exemplary role played by our mothers in the past; roles which have largely made the children of these mothers quite outstanding. How often do we get to read or hear about this? Yet, every person in Nigeria or any Nigerian anywhere in the world has or had a mother; a mother whose daily routine needs to be honored (in any case, the place of fathers is well-reserved and there’s the exception of mothers who are less worthy to be so honored; these are mothers who in certain, particular circumstances have relinquished their responsibilities as mothers for reasons that cater to their selfish interests).
Let’s visit some of these exemplary, iconic and exceptional women who stood out in the past representing millions of other women and whose names are probably only known to their children and family members. Regardless of their personal struggles, these women were outstanding in whatever task, project or mission they embarked on. That is the reason why we are still talking about them till this day.
Some of these mothers include Queen Amina of Zaria, Queen Kambassa of Bonny, Omu Okwei of Osomari (Ossomala), Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Lady Olayinka Abayomi, Inpki of Igala, Moremi of the Yoruba and Duara of the Hausas. Professor Bolanle Awe, the first female Professor of History in Nigeria, will refer to some of these woman as the “Savior of Their Societies”.
Professor Felicia Ekejiuba once said of the Omu Okwei of Osomari, “Madam Okwei, the Omu of Osomari, is a remarkable woman. It is due to her force of character, that by sheer ability, hard work and single-minded attention to business, this resolute woman has won for herself a name.” In addition, E.K. Allagoa had this to say of Queen Kambasa of Bonny, “she was a remarkably liberated woman to use the expression of the modern champion of women’s equality with men. She did not allow anybody to tell her what she could or could not do. She did not believe certain things were reserved for men and barred to women.”’
Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti was the mother of the Nigerian Women’s Union and an Educationist. She was also the mother of three great sons, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti. Of all her achievements, what should readily command our attention is that innate and unique will she had in grooming three sons to greatness. This distinctive motherly attribute is so much required of every mother and should be commended wherever and whenever it is observed. Of course, where would this be better observed if not in the quintessential Nigerian woman?
Margaret Ekpo, Adamma Okpara, Senators Ita-Giwa, Stella Omu, Mrs. Koforiji Olubi, Gina Onyejiaka, Dora Akunyili, Judge Rose Ukeje, Onyeka Onwenu, Obiageli Ezekwesili and Ambassador Sefi Attah are women who have also carved a niche for themselves in the annals of history.
In the current trend of woman empowerment, development or liberation, premium value seems to be placed not so much on the ability of women to groom their children rightly or position their homes on a good footing (not that they don’t anyway but the society, on the average, does not judge the success of women on that basis anymore but more on corporate achievements). This is the reason why on the different lists of the Most Influential, Most Successful or Most Empowered Women, you find names chosen on the basis of achievements outside the home. That notwithstanding, it goes to say Nigerian women today and in the past have not been all about the stereotypes of half-nude, bony frames, exposing their sucked-out and lagging breasts to the admiration of their similarly bony male counterparts and mocking thrills of houseflies.
Come with me as we shake hands with Mosunmola Umoru (CEO, Honeysuckles PTL Ventures), Yasmin Belo-Osagie (Co-Founder, She Leads Africa), Isoken Igiemwonyi and Wonu Okoye (Founders, L’Espace), Adaora Mbelu (CEO, Innovation Factory Limited), Eseoghene Odiete (Founder/Creative Director, Hesey Designs), Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola (Co-Founder/CEO, Wecyclers Corporation), Dr. Ola Orekunrin (Medical Director, Flying Doctors Nigeria), Damilola Solesi (CEO/Creative Director, Smids Animation Studios), Hannah Kabir (Managing Director, Creeds Energy Limited). Others include but not limited to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Adesuwa Oyenokwe, Admiral Itunu Hotonu, Agatha Amata, Agbani Darego, Ainehi Edoro, Alima Atta, Amina Oyagbola, Arese Ugwu, Arunma Oteh, Banke Meshida-Lawal, Benie Uche, Betty Irabor, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, Bimbo Odukoya, Biola Alabi, Blessing Okagbare, Bola Olawale, Bola Atta, Bola Balogun, Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, Buchi Emecheta, Bukky George, Bukola Elemide (Asa), Bukola Karibi White, Chimamamnda Ngozi Adichie, Chioma Ajunwa, Chioma Omeruah, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Deola Sagoe, Dupe Adelaja, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, Ekene Onu, Elohor Aisien, Esther Agbarakwe, Florence Ita-Giwa, Folake Coker, Folorunsho Alakija, Funke Akindele, Funke Bucknor-Obruthe, Funke Felix-Adejumo, Funke Opeke, Funmi Iyanda, Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi, Genevieve Nnaji, Grace Alele Williams, Hadiza Bala-Usman, Hajara Adeola, Helen Paul, H.I.D Awolowo, Omobola Johnson, Ibukun Awosika, Ifeoma Obianwu-Fafunwa, Iheoma Obibi, Ini Onuk, Josephine Okei-Odumakin, Joke Silva, Kafayat Shafau-Ameh (Kaffy), Kate Henshaw, Kemi Adetiba, Kema Chikwe, Kofo Bucknor, Kudirat Abiola, Lala Akindoju, Linda Ikeji, Lisa Folawiyo, Lydia Idakula-Sobogun, Mary Olushoga, Mildred Okwo, Minna Salami, Modupe Ozolua: Modupe, Mosunmola Abudu, Ndidi Nwuneli, Nike Adeyemi, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Nike Ogunlesi, Nimi Akinkugbe, Nkiru Olumide Ojo, Nkem Uwaje, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Oby Ezekwesili, Ojoma Ochai, Oke Maduewusi, Ola Orekunrin, Olajumoke Adenowo, Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi, Oluremi Shonaiya, Omotoke Makinwa-Ayida, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Omoyemi Akerele, Ono Bello, Onyeka Onwenu, Osayi Alile – Oruene, Oyindamola Honey Ogundeyi, Peace-Anyiam Osigwe, Rita Dominic, Ruth Obih, Ruth Osime, Sophie Oluwole, Stephanie Linus-Okereke, Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Tara Fela-Durotoye, Tosin Ajibade, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Tunde Aladese, Uche Pedro, Udo Okonjo, Uduak Oduok, Wana Udobang, Yetunde Taiwo, Uzoamaka Aduba and most especially, YOUR MOTHER and last but not the least, MY MOTHER.
The impression being fastened to hearts about the quintessential Nigerian (African, in extension) woman is that of ‘the end (in personal terms) justifies the means’. That is regardless of the personal sacrifices even if it means losing your family, as long as the woman is at the pinnacle of success then it is all good. For some women, the notion of how much wealth they can command in comparison to other woman or even other men (does ‘what men can do, women can do better’ sound familiar) is worth sacrificing their integrity, sanity and family. Such women have invested their time and efforts in pursuing personal glories via avenues that will even tarnish their name. Such rash actions is an aberration considering the challenges and obstacles Nigerians mothers overcame in the past and what they will hopefully accomplish in the future. The career challenges and accomplishments of amazing Nigerian women and mothers such as Folorunsho Alakija, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and the late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh stresses that you don’t have to lose your family, integrity, voice or being to be successful. These Nigerian women and many more unnamed here are names to be reckoned with and they all attained their current status with grace and a sense of personal pride. More importantly, they were very unselfish in their pursuits because they remember their predecessors that laid the foundation for them and realized the fact that the mothers of the future will learn from their current actions in the present moment.
What do we say about the modern women of glitterati, who post selfies on social media, in order to come across as sleeker than their peers, of course, while battling with a damaged (or almost damaged) personal life they are yet too lazy and uninformed to do anything about? Are they keeping up with the Joneses? Is it a borrowed life that must be jettisoned for our children to be great again? Do we again begin to look inwards, develop our own ‘things’ and export same as our major contribution to the table of globalization? The answers should be personal!
As we launch The 234 Project, LET US CELEBRATE THE NIGERIAN WOMAN. Let us sing to her. Let us honour her for she deserves it and a whole lot more. She has always been great. I choose to celebrate the Nigerian woman in my mother. Without her, I won’t be me. She carried me for nine months, poured her blood on me as I came to the world and with a constant smile on her face, she saw me grow. She didn’t spoil me, she didn’t not fail to chastise me and she definitely didn’t spare the rod when its application was needed and necessary.
She took me on like a job. My mother, that Nigerian woman, is a multi-billionaire in child-grooming. She invested all her waking moments, her money, her efforts and her life in me and my siblings; not on oil bloc operations or buying and selling. No! She didn’t care about such ephemeral things because as she would often say, “those things mean nothing to me”. She would say she derived her strength from the ease with which to set priorities and avoid the temptations of modern slavery (or trappings of an out-and-out western civilization, if you like). Rather, she held me by the arm and took me through the years till a few minutes before setting these words on blank pages.
As children of great Nigerian mothers come together to start up a deliberate system to celebrate the good in Nigeria and in line with Yoruba customary practice, I genuflect in obeisance to our mothers for all you have invested in us. I pray on the head of our mothers to lead and guide us through. I pray that your blood and sweat shall not be in vain. May your umbilical cords bind us with the strength of your love and may we grow in grace.