By NBF News
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They came in dazzling colours. They came with pomp and élan. They came from virtually all areas of human endeavour-business, academia, the professions, media, publishing, politics, fashion, entertainment, even religion, to mention just a few.

They came from all nooks and cranny of this country, united by a common cause-to wine and dine with the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and also sensitize women in the corporate world on the need to participate effectively in the ongoing political process. In particular, the women of substance also gathered to review the progress made so far in the implementation of the affirmative action principles as entrenched in the First Lady's pet project, the Women For Change and Development Initiative.

The project has, as one of its cardinal points, the task of ensuring that women gain at least 35 percent of elective positions in the present democracy and work to ensure that people's votes count in the elections that start nationwide today.

And how the women shone like a thousand stars in the prestigious Expo Hall of Eko Hotel and Towers, Lagos. They shone not only in their dazzling regalia and rhythmic dance steps to the scintillating music that reverberated soothingly in the night ambiance but also in the highly cerebral contributions they made in the interactive session with the First Lady, who, in an expression of satisfaction, exclaimed at some point: 'What a night!'

The hall threatened to burst at its seams with women from different professional bodies, non-profit organisations, business, professions and even representatives of market women who all dressed up in glittering Aso Ebi for the event.

The comperes, the duo of TWC publisher, Adesuwa Onyenokwe, and NTA's ace broadcaster, Moji Makanjuola, were in their elements as they lit up the ambience with anecdotes and wise cracks before the Rev. Mrs. Ruth Iwunze of Love Base Assembly, FESTAC, Lagos, kick-started the event with prayers at about 8.49p.m.

Former special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Liaison, also the co-coordinator of the event, Senator Florence Ita Giwa, set the tone for the evening as she charged women to heed the First Lady's call, take action and refuse to be spectators in Nigeria's political sphere. She applauded Dame Jonathan for her concern and love for the Nigerian women, saying that the night offered the women of substance gathered in the Hall a golden opportunity to rub minds with the First Lady and cross-fertilise ideas on how best to fast-track Nigeria's development.

Former Minister for Industries, Mrs. Nike Akande, said she was thrilled by the array by the presence of Nigeria's women of 'timber and caliber' and the enthusiasm they have shown in the affairs of the country. 'We must sustain the momentum,' she said. 'Nigeria is about to hit the skies in concrete achievements, and it requires that we all contribute our level best to make that goal realizable in record time.' She rounded up her speech by urging the women to vote and also encourage all eligible voters in their households to troop out in their numbers to perform their civic responsibilities. 'We cannot afford to be passive,' she said. 'We must take action.'

In her remarks, the country vice president of the Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, in Nigeria, Ezinne Okoroafor, noted, with satisfaction, 'the passion with which Her Excellency, the First lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is pushing issues that affect women and the girl child in our country.' Okoroafor commended Mrs. Jonathan for her push, and noted that FIDA is a worthy partner in the First Lady's crusade as evidenced in its clamour for, among others, the national health bill, participation of women in Nigeria politics, and crusade to give the women of Nigeria a loud and effective voice.

The maritime sector was not left behind as they also pledged their support for Dame Jonathan's zeal in pushing the interests of the Nigerian women to the front burner, especially the 30 percent affirmative action of women participation in governance and elective positions.

An elated Mrs. Jonathan danced her heart out that evening and pumped hands with most of the women for their positive contribution for what was obviously a successful outing. She paid glowing tributes to Nigerian women whom she described as resilient, industrious, the best mothers and wives any country could boast of Above all, she described them as solid rock behind their husbands. That elicited some quiet murmurings from a section of the crowd who felt women are now beside their husbands, not behind them.

Dame Jonathan paid special tribute to Senator Ita Giwa, whom she described as 'our sister and one of our leaders in the People Democratic Party (PDP)'. Describing Ita-Giwa as a woman of great potential and stamina, she recalled: 'I can remember that when my husband and our beloved former President Yar'Adua contested the last election, she was also the one who assisted the wife of the former president, Hajia Turai Yar'adua, and myself to organise things. Today, she has done it again. That shows that she is a sister, indeed.'

Continuing, she said: 'This interactive dinner with women in various professional bodies is a rear opportunity to deliberate on the need to build a solid structure for women participation in our country's socio-economic and political processes.'

She said, 'Through the Women for Change and Development Initiative, we endeavor to change the orientation of women in all spheres of human life.' These, the First Lady said, include the change in our family, political, social and economic orientation. 'I would, therefore, not allow this rear opportunity to pass without urging all of you present to vote in credible candidates in the forthcoming elections. The Goodluck-Sambo presidential ticket offers you this opportunity. Further more, we have the task to ensure that the development chain already put together by Goodluck-Sambo is not broken.

In less than 12 months, we no longer have queues at our filling stations; electricity has improved, our road networks have improved. The present government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has placed more emphasis on education with the establishment of more universities in the nation.  Farmers have more access to funds and workers' have their ways as the minimum wage bill has been passed into law. Security of lives and properties is being given serious attention. Hence, to ensure continuity, I humbly and respective ask that you support to not only the Goodluck-Sambo ticket but also other candidates, especially our governorship candidate in Lagos State, Dr. Dosumu.'

One would have thought that the occasion meant to be an, 'interactive dinner with women in various professional bodies', would have afforded most of the women the opportunity to ask the president's wife questions on things that have affected them all the while, while the First Lady, on the other hand, would give them the assurance that things will be well soon, even if she could not have proffered immediate solutions to all their problems. But this never was.  Rather, the occasion was declared closed few minutes to 12 midnight and there was never an opportunity for an interactive session.