Yesterday, the Nigerian twitterati was literally on fire after the Senate, the upper house of the National Assembly rejected the gender equality and opportunity bill. According to Senator Olujimi, the bill sought equality for women in marriage, career and education. It had quite important provisions, one of which was: if a woman’s husband dies, she gets custody of the kids and inherits his property. Yet, the Senate struck it out.
The National Assembly has so far, been the most castigated arm of government in our 16 year democratic journey. So much has been said, ‘our lawmakers work only for their interests and pockets, they are a huge cost centre with minimal benefits, Nigerians do not feel their impact’…etc. Most of this is true and yes, we need new members of Parliament; those with the right mindset, to create laws that end oppression and inequality and restore the hope of the common man.
But beyond changing members of the National Assembly, we need a change of our collective mindset. For every Yerima and Ndume in the Senate, there are a thousand more in their constituencies urging them on. Think about it, how many people in the hinterlands actually think women are equal to men? How many thousands still believe every spinster’s prayer point is to get married so she can ‘be under a man’? How many still subscribe to Ali Ndume’s notion that ‘the first care of a woman is marriage’? Even in ‘developed’ Lagos, women are constantly reminded, subtly and not so subtly that the ‘man is the crown of the woman’. It’s ubiquitous; we see it in church, we see it in the workplace, comedians make jokes about it and we laugh.
Let’s face it, the Senators are just a reflection of the majority of the Nigerian people. We say they embezzle and earn bogus allowances for doing nothing, buy exotic cars and live in palatial mansions at the expense of the Nigerian taxpayer. But don’t you and I know people who envy them and their relatives wishing they also had access to the ‘national cake’, saying totally ridiculous things like, ‘It’s their turn to enjoy’ and using the Name of God to justify their obscenity and impunity? Aren’t there employers in the private sector, creating policies to enrich themselves unjustly, jetting out on vacations at the company’s expense while denying employees their wages?
The Senators aren’t the only ones with broken moral compasses. As a people, our moral compasses are in need of serious repairs. Yes, we need a new National Assembly but more importantly, we need re-orientation as a people. We need to come to the realization that empowering women is not emasculating, rather it a symbol of freedom. Most pertinent, we need to be aware that chauvinism and misogyny will only take us backward and farther from our dream of a united, prosperous Nigeria.
Photo credit: dailypost.ng