The Nigerian Women Mega Rally has come and gone but the memory of the epoch making event will continue to linger in the hearts of not only women, but in the annals of the nation.
The rally brings to mind the role and importance that women play in nation building and also re-emphasized the greater need for women in national development. No government will ever again ignore women as important national assets for fostering peace and national integration.
This National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) rally was not only timely but due to the peculiar time of in our national development, it has driven home the truth that no meaningful development can take place without the integration of women into the scheme of affairs.
It also brought to the fore the roles women had played since independence and roles played by prominent Nigerians in empowering the women-folk, including the advocacy played by reputable persons to emancipate the Nigerian women from doldrums.
The august occasion brought about 35,000 women from across the geo-political zones of the country to celebrate “peace and empowerment’ of the women in the 21st century, which was enthusiastically hosted by NCWS under its President, Chief (Mrs.) Nkechi Mba, while Dame Patience Jonathan was the grand patron. It was a rally that cemented the grassroots mobilization skills of the First Lady and also echoed the message that the women are important national assets in this democratic dispensation.
It attracted women from all walks of life from the military to para-military including civilians, artisans, farmers, rural and market women from far and wide who came in their thousands to celebrate a commemorative day meant for them. The Vice President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo was the distinguished guest of honour, while it had in attendance the ministers of FCT, tourism; diplomatic corps, First Ladies from Belize and African countries, including former First Ladies of Nigeria, and women that have been first in all endeavours.
Also in attendance, women in appointive positions in governance, industry, civil societies and the media. It was a roll call of ‘Who is Who’ since Independence of women in Nigeria.
It was a day laced with razzmattazz, dance, drama, parade of colours and women NGOs; a motorcade in carnival fashion that started from the Old Parade Ground and ended at the Eagle Square. It was indeed a day of glamour, fashion and glitz of the Nigeria women from all over the federation.
The high point of the carnival was the motivational speech delivered by the First Lady, where she declared that women henceforth will demand for their rights and positions from any government in power.
It also made it mandatory that in future elections, manifestos and plans for Nigerian women before the commencement of any elections, must be a matter that is clearly defined. The rally brought to mind the Aba women riot of 1929, when the women spoke with a voice that indeed “enough is enough,” and that their silence should not be taken for granted.
Aba women riot also removed some negative perceptions against women/girl-child including the traditional/cultural restrictions of women in Nigeria to aspire to positions of authority.
The women declaration of August 15 of 2013, at the Eagle Square will go down memory lane as the womenfolk used the epoch event to drum home their support for Mr. President, his inclusion of women in governance, the 35 per cent Affirmative Action policy including appointive positions of women in the present administration, not minding the fact that the gathering for the first time in the history of the country cuts across party affiliations, party politics and what have you. Women from various endeavours in their thousands united in one course for peace, development and their emancipation.
They expressed their role in peace building and national development and also used the day to announce emancipation of women their definite roles in nationhood.
As expected the colourful event was graced by popular artistes: Onyeka Owenu, Yinka Ayefele, Iyanya and Sani Danja. However, the climax of the event was the award dinner scheduled for 7p.m. of the same date (August 15) at the International Conference Centre, as women came in their numbers from all socio-economic backgrounds to honour those who have demonstrated commitment to the cause of women as agents of peace, unity and development in the country.
The President was honoured with a Life-time Achievement Award for his dogged stance to empower women into appointive positions of governance in the country. Other governors such as Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Theodore Orji of Abia State, and Rabiu Kwankwaso Kano State governor, amongst others, were honoured at the auspicious occasion for according women a pride of place in the nation.
Little wonder she has been recognized from far and wide for her humanitarian and philanthropic disposition towards women and children in Africa. Dame Patience Jonathan towers above all her contemporaries in her zeal to drive home the emancipation of women, and as a great mobilizer of repute, she was able to actualize “the mother of all rallies” in Nigeria according to pundits, who gave her a pat on the back for a job well done.
Keying into her husbands commitment to the empowerment of women, Dame Jonathan had worked assiduously with various stakeholders to see how women can be empowered, as she has also initiated the legal framework for the constitutional requirement to enhance the role of women in governance.
It will not be out of point to stress the point that the issue of women can no longer be swept under the carpet, as Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan has brought it to the front burner of national politics.
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, is Media Adviser to the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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