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CONCERNING WOMEN MINISTERS

By NBF News
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Even if the press did it, the silence on that aspect from the presidency means acquiescence, and so, for the purpose of this discourse, we apportion the responsibility to the source of nomination, the presidency. It was announced that Edo State had a nominee, Engineer Chris Ogwiewenyi, but that Josephine, wife of a retired policeman and chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, is rather from Anambra State. Tony Anenih is an influential man, a political pillar that decided most of what Chief Obasanjo did in his first term as president, and a man that has dictated tones in the PDP. Right now, he is expected to return Edo State to his party, the PDP, and this is already creating waves in the state between him and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

The question is, can such a powerful man be uninterested and unconnected with the appointment of ministers let alone being uninterested in the position given his wife? Else, how would he begin the task of giving the state back to the party? If Josephine is there with the active hand of her husband, and if she is to be the weapon for mobilizing forces and logistics to fight Adams, how would she, in all honesty, be regarded as representing the interest of Anambra people, in doing whatever it is that ministers do for their states?

Let us leave that out for now and go to the more urgent issue of who owns a married woman, her father or her husband? We know many will say it is both, but who really decides such important issues for a married woman including names of her children, number of children to have, spacing, kind of work to do, more education, trade, to join politics or not, etc. We hear that Prof Dora Akunyili always sought her husband's consent in continuing or dropping her dangerous duty then at NAFDAC when the bullets were flying. We never heard the opinion of her father then.

True, on a good side, married women are lucky somehow. They can get appointments from either place; father or husband, and this did not start with Mrs Anenih. In 1999, the name of Diezani Allison-Madueke raised eyebrows when she was appointed from Bayelsa, her native state, instead of Imo, her state of marriage. Those who make the appointments seem to twist the logic to wherever it suits them, and we seem to dance along, pursuing narrow interests.

When Farida Waziri was appointed to the chair of the EFCC, she was listed as an Adamawa State woman, but many did not know she is a Tiv (from Ushongo local council area where Justice Kastina-Alu the Chief Justice of the Federation comes from, where the former Minister of Justice Michael Aondakaa comes from, where the new NAFDAC boss Orhii comes from, and where many other important appointments for Benue State would still come from or would have if Yar'Adua were to come back). So, Adamawa State was convenient as the true state of a married woman and was used to mask the link.

The truth is that a woman, an African woman for that matter, comes from and takes her share from her husband's place. A girl belongs to her father, and a woman to her husband and children. Now, most women are buried in their marital homes, along with their husbands, to rest beside the watchful eyes of their offspring.  A girl will live with or live for her parents, answer her father's name, and so on, but the moment she is married, she becomes a Mrs (miss us), defined by encarta as 'a customary title of courtesy for a married or widowed woman. If this is the standard meaning of the title Mrs, then the presidency has been most unfair to Mrs Anenih and Allison-Madueke by describing them as representing Anambra and Bayelsa States respectively.

Many have forgotten that if for example, an Edo girl marries away to a Taraba man, she is no longer an Edo woman but a Taraba woman. When they call out all Taraba women to line out, for good or for bad, she must file out. She was an Edo maiden but never an Edo woman. This is generally an African tradition (except one or two tribes in Ghana that count by the mother's side).

Now, politically speaking, if Josephine were to have married out at the age of 17, and lived in Edo, going round the world with her police husband, for say, up to 40 years, would anyone expect her to still have close Anambra associates to understand and represent Anambra people in the presidency? If Anambra villagers were to call for meetings from time to time to aggregate their political interests, would Mrs Anenih, in all honesty, be expected to attend and sit in? But, if such meetings were to be called in Edo, they would most certainly be called by Chief Tony Anenih himself and most probably in his house. So, Mrs Anenih would be there, or would be represented by her husband who would make promises and decisions on her behalf and hand down to her, something her father would hardly do.

This is not saying that a married woman cannot be a useful asset to her parents or her native people, afterall, many still ascribe the creation of Delta State and the capital at Asaba to the late Mrs Mariam Babangida, but it did not stop her from being a Minna woman or a Moslem woman. Mrs Anenih may actually influence some juicy jobs to her people or argue in the interest of her people at state executive council meetings but the fact remains that major decisions would be taken in her bedroom, not in Onitsha her father's. And if anyone wants to hurt Anenih, Josephine would be fired.

It is because women belong to their husbands anywhere in the world, and because most women are the natural next of kin of their husbands (not their fathers), wives are first ladies of governors and presidents even when the daughters are there. So, would Josephine go to Anambra State and drag for position of first lady with her father's wife, and would she sit and watch if Chief Anenih were to become governor of Edo State for her daughter to move in as first lady?

Simply put, Mrs Josephine Anenih, wherever she comes from as a maiden, is an Edo woman, and she is in Abuja jointly representing Edo State with Engr Ogwiewenyi. By this, Edo State, an opposition state, proudly has two ministerial positions. Anambra people proudly have Prof Akunyili, and they can also look up to their daughter (not wife) to make some back-passes, if the husband is not looking, so to say.

Whatever the case, for the prestige of our tradition and culture, and for the decency of behaviour, let married women be identified with their husband's states or homes, not their fathers'. It is our warped way of viewing things that will make a man born in a place, paying tax in a place, suffering pollution in a place, to be regarded as non-indigene of the same place. These are some of the issues politicians and anthropologists such Prof Mahmoud Mandani see as the tragic road Nigeria faces, which cause problem of definition between an indigene and a citizen.

By the time we begin to see people as belonging to where they live, not where they were born, then we would be approaching nationhood. For now we practice ethnocracy but deride ourselves as practicing nationalism. Mandani says we should choose to be nationals or indigenes, else, we would be easily agreeing with Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi, who thinks we should simply break up into ethnic nationalities and stop disturbing the sleep of serious nations around the world.