Emmanuel Onwubiko: Have Nigerian girls always mattered

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” — Kofi Annan

“Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.” — Ban Ki-moon:

Barack Obama became the first black man to become an elected President of the United States of America.

He did not make much developmental impacts to Africans and Africa as a result of his very privileged position because even President Bill Clinton before him did a whole lot for Africa by funding campaigns against sexually transmitted diseases.

But one positive value he (Obama) celebrated often as the President of the World’s most powerful economy was the equality that ought to exists amongst the two genders and the fact that belonging to either of the genders shouldn’t become a polarising factor but should be seen as an opportunity for all to give out their best to promote universal happiness.

He (then President Obama) was all over the place with his beautiful daughters, I think two of them who look very much like their highly educated mother. Obama was said to have met his wife at the college.

This tendency of President Obama to publicly celebrate his girls brought home for us here in Africa, the indubitable and undeniable truism that a girl and a boy are the same since they are both products of the same divine origin, the differences in gender notwithstanding.

President Obama’s public shows of his female children did a lot to put to rest this inexplicable attachment of some primitive minded male chauvinists to grade male children far above females.

Although it is not culturally and statutorily stated in black and white, the truth is, even in this 21st century World, some Nigerians still see the female child as disposal item that is only good for marriage and procreation to such a ridiculous extent that even in some states in Nigeria, girls who originate from one state but married into another state that is not her father’s state of nativity, can’t be trusted with public offices.

Such discriminatory practices are not known to affect the males even when Section 42(1) of the Nigerian Constitution speaks to the issue of discrimination.

There a whole lot of discriminatory practices that many communities inflict on females which have confused visitors to Africa to think that females are not actually regarded as equal with males.

But this is factually inaccurate if we recall the roles and leadership positions of some historical women like Queen Amina of Zaria and the recent activism played by the Aba Women in 1929 to challenge certain oppressive policies of the then British colonial administrators at a time when the men were afraid for their lives.

So Africans have always regarded the females as important as the males but in a lot of cultures in Nigeria, the females still suffer deprivation like not being considered when the inheritance rights are dispensed.

Even when there was this Supreme Court’s verdict in which it was ruled that Igbo girls ought to share in the inheritance and assets of their fathers, a lot of Igbos think it was an affront to their customs (later in this article, we will recall that verdict which applies all over Nigeria).

This norm of subjecting females to odium and illegal discriminations is being challenged in a very stylistic and methodical way by some of Nigeria’s richest elites and the tool been deployed in doing this is to expose their daughters to as much top rated educational and scholarly experiences in some of the finest institutions as much as the males.

I think President Barack Obama should take the credit for this. This is because rich men in Africa love to be identified as persons that are not bound by old and meaningless cultural barriers that limits the opportunities of their children to make it as much big as they have individually achieved just like how the then United States President showed us that a father should be happy whether he has males or females since all children are equal.

What happened 24 hours ago tells me that this trend by the wealthy needs to be celebrated so the society can become happier because the female gender has some unique beautiful style on how to bring about purposeful leadership styles in most of the businesses that they are the heads. Females who know their onions bring atmospheres of solidarity, high energy and creative tendencies just like the males. In effect, there is really not much difference between female and male engineers because both underwent identical training and are therefore similarly equipped and ready for the arduous engineering tasks just like their male colleagues.

Writing on the theme- “Do Nigerian Women Have The Right To Inherit Properties?,” Nonso Ayansi wrote in a piece in The Guardian thus: “Spoken in hush tones and taught to girls from a tender age, the age-long question often causes a stir when asked… the Supreme Court affirmed the right of Nigerian women to inherit properties from their deceased parents. This is the case of Ukeje & Anor v Ukeje (2014) LPELR-22724(SC) where Lord Olabode Rhodes-Vivour JSC made the noteworthy pronouncement that:

“No matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently the Igbo customary law which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of her deceased father’s estate is in breach of Section 42 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fundamental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. The said discriminatory customary law is void as it conflicts with Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution.”

This decision settled beyond all doubts, the fundamental right of a female to participate in the inheritance of her deceased father’s estate. The judgment of the Court in this case is of very significant value to Nigerian women because the Nigerian judiciary has experienced a chequered history on this issue of the right of women to inherit their deceased father’s properties, in light of the various customary laws in some parts of the country which prohibits women from participating in such inheritance.”

The writer recalled that in 1963, the Supreme Court had in the case of Nezianya & Anor v Okagbue & ors (1963) 1 All NLR 352, held that a widow is a recognised member of her late husband’s family and not a stranger to it, and thus permitted to live in her late husband’s house, but she was not permitted to dispose the property by giving it out or selling it. This 1963 decision left women handicapped as they were incapable of exercising ownership rights over the properties of their late husband.

This 1963 judgment also formed the basis of support for the old Igbo “Oli-Ekpe” custom which stated that only the eldest surviving male off-spring could inherit the property of their late father and prohibited female inheritance because the judgment suggested that ownership of property should be restricted to the patrilineal lineage of the deceased.

However, in 1997, the Late Niki Tobi (Justice of the Court of Appeal) was bold enough to declare this “Oli-Ekpe” custom as being repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience in the famous case of Mojekwu v Mojekwu (1997) LPELR-13777(CA).”

The immediate trigger for this piece was the story that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has quit his position as the publisher of one of Nigeria’s most flamboyant and successful media platforms Daily Sun group of newspapers and has handed over to his daughter.

The serving Senator and erstwhile Abia State governor who is a very successful entrepreneur before entering politics may have been influenced by few other wealthy elites like Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu and the Lagos based billionaire Femi Otedola who all celebrate their daughters publicly and in the case of the duo of Dangote and Elumelu, they publicly announced strategic business roles for their daughters in their corporate institutions. Otedola’s girls are some of the vastly educated youths in Nigeria.

There are a number of ladies who were practically trained by their fathers to step into their big shoes in Nigeria just like Obama and not to forget Bill and Hilary Clinton who also have a daughter that they celebrated and who is doing well in her chosen field.

Below are a few of those emerging amazons whose impressive rise signposts a new kind of corporate culture amongst the business and political elites in Nigeria in what can be called ‘like fathers, like daughters. This is challenging the nonsense stereotype about females.

We have read about Oyeyimika Adeboye who is a woman of many parts, the most visible being her position as the Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc. This much was written by a reporter who penned some details about her rise from greatness to greatness.

As reported, in April 2019, she was announced as the successor to Amir Shamsi, the erstwhile Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc. By this development, she became the first female MD of the company in its over 50 years of existence.

Oyeyimika was born to late Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola, a foremost entrepreneur of his time. It is on record that he was one of the pioneers of indigenous manufacturing in Nigeria, alongside the likes of Alhassan Dantata (Aliko Dangote’s great grandfather) and Louis Ojukwu (father of Odimegwu Ojuwku, the Biafran leader), and was the first President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) when the body was formed, writes the reporter.

The reporter then asserted that being daughter to the man who created a “multimillion-dollar conglomerate including three factories, a retail franchise, a cattle ranch, a 5,000-acre plantation, a sawmill, and an exporting business before the end of British colonial rule in 1960” must have been an inspiration, in addition to having a mother who was a very successful businesswoman. Oyeyimika recalled in an interview that her parents were her role models.

After graduation, Oyeyimika started her career as an articled clerk with a United Kingdom accounting practice, Midgley Snelling & Co., Chartered Accountants and was on this job while she qualified as a Chartered Accountant. She became a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Nigeria.

She returned to Nigeria in the 90s and took up a job with the erstwhile Nigerian Accounting and Tax Practice of Arthur Andersen & Co for a couple of years. From there, she moved to Nigerian Bottling Company Plc in 1994 as the Director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer for about 13 years.

Returning to Nigeria from the United Kingdom was a career-defining moment for Oyeyimika, and she recalls the trigger event thus: “My first “ah-ah” moment was triggered by a conversation I had with an English friend and colleague who was a senior manager in a firm while I was still working in the UK. She had worked in this firm for many years but remained a senior manager while the firm admitted other male managers into partnership.

In November 2008, Oyeyimika was headhunted to join the board of Cadbury West Africa as Finance and Strategy Director, West Africa; and a director on the board of Cadbury Ghana Ltd. She was also a member of the audit committee of the company until October 19, 2016. She is a member of the executive management committee, and member of the risk assessment committee of Cadbury Nigeria.

She spent a total of 10 years and seven months with Cadbury before being appointed as MD, Cadbury Nigeria Plc in April 2019. Her LinkedIn profile confirms that she also became MD, Mondelez (Cadbury) West Africa, two months later. Mondelēz International is the parent company of Cadbury Nigeria Plc.

Then comes the latest news that the Chief Whip of the Senate and founder of The Sun Publishing Limited, publishers of Daily Sun, Saturday Sun, Sunday Sun and Sporting Sun, has formally stepped down as Publisher of the newspaper company.

In his place, Barr Neya Uzor-Kalu, who was recently appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company, steps in to double as Publisher/Chairman.

The recently reconstituted board of The Sun has as members the following: Barr Neya Uzor Kalu; Onuoha Ukeh (Managing); Mr. Mike Awoyinfa, Mr. Iyke Ekeoma, Alhaji Kabiru Mohammed Shuaibu, mni, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Goka, Mr. Abayomi Fatusin and Engr. Niyi Babatunde. Barr Obinna Kalu was reappointed as Secretary to the board.

Senator Kalu had stepped aside from the board prior to contesting the senatorial election in 2019, to concentrate on his assignment as a lawmaker.

Barr Neya Uzor-Kalu has a degree in Law and an MSc in Finance from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom. She has 12 years experience crafting and implementing business initiatives across industries and functions.

The new board chairman/publisher, who is currently a businesswoman and entrepreneur spanning across various industries as reported by the newspaper, had previously worked in the banking sector, for five years, in the role of Human Resource Manager. Senator Kalu may have embraced what the likes of Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote did by frontloading their daughters to prestigious corporate positions to the admiration of many around the World.

As scripted by a media reporter, Mr. Tony Elumelu reportedly got married to his Wife Vivian Awele Elumelu in 1993 and they have Seven Children made up of five girls and Two twin boys. They are Oge, Ugo, Onyinye, Ogor, Nneka and the twin boys whose names are not made known to the public.

Oge Elumelu who is the First daughter of Tony is described by this particular media reporter from whose piece we are quoting to be a young and Smart Girl who is gradually following the footsteps of her father. She was born on the 29th of March and is currently studying Economics, History and Religious Studies at St Catherine’s Bramley School, UK.

Oge Also Spends more time with her dad as she has visited her dad at UBA where she is learning the Concepts of Banking as an Intern. It is no news that both father and daughter share a strong bond and hopefully she will lead the Affairs of her father’s companies soon.

Children of billionaires have access to a world that many can’t even begin to fathom. Some are just there to live lavishly in the fantasy created by their parents’ fabulous wealth —think vacationing around the world, exploring the seas in yachts, stocking closets with designer clothes, and partying it up in the city. But Halima Aliko-Dangote, one of the beautiful daughters of Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, is an exception and not such a freak. Since her father’s decision to rope her into the business, the self-effacing young woman has devoted her time taking the leading role in her father’s business empire. With nearly 15 years of professional experience, Halima has straddled several Executive Management roles in her father’s Dangote Industries Limited, one of Africa’s largest and most diversified business conglomerates. The next person who actually set the trend is the daughter of Billionaire Aliko Dangote known as Halima.

Halima has reportedly been said to be making her dad proud to the extent that she’s just been entrusted with a bigger and strategic role: appointed as a non-executive director of the Group’s flagship, Dangote Cement. She would be filling the void created by the death of her uncle, Sani Dangote, the former vice president of the Dangote Group and a director in the company, who died in November 2021.

Halima, who has a strong passion for the empowerment of women, is a trustee of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the President of the Board of the Africa Centre in New York, United States, a Board member of Endeavour Nigeria, as well as member of the Women Corporate Directors (WCD).

As a father of a very lovely daughter Nneoma Chisom Onwubiko who is just 11 months today, I think this kind of revolution whereby girls are loved and treated same as their opposite gender needs to be celebrated so the continent of Africa will change the wrong stereotype that Africans do not regard the females which isn’t true in any way.

Also, it is expected that this example been displayed by these rich elites should serve as a spring board to demolish any left over cultural barriers and practices that devalue the place of the female gender such as female genital mutilation, early marriages and neglect of the educational needs of the female child as much as the males.

I think the saying that training a girl translates into training an entire town is true. Looking at the phenomenal heights that Queen Elizabeth of England reached should inform us that a girl child is as precious as the boy.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

 

Emmanuel Onwubiko: Have Nigerian girls always mattered