5 Nigerian women who have spoken truth to the powers that be
Here are five women who have never been afraid to call out powerful Nigerians and the political class
Aisha Buhari has dominated news headlines in the past few days for doing the unspeakable act of commenting on the government of her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari in a series of tweets.
Apart from the fact that many expected her to show loyalty to her spouse, her actions are also commendable because in a male-dominated space that Nigeria’s political scene is, women rarely get the opportunity to make their voices heard.
It goes without saying, that most of those people who climb to positions of power, like the rest of the bunch, are more comfortable benefiting from the system than raising questions, whether they are male or female.
With that said, Aisha is not the first to call out the government of the day by its first name and demand more than is given.
Here are five women who have spoken up to the powers that be.
(1) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti:
The activist and mother of the late great Fela left behind a legacy that lives beyond her role as the matriarch of the Ransome-Kuti clan. Before she had Fela, she was one of the key figures against western colonialism in Africa.
Her most memorable moment, however, was when she instigated the abdication of the Alake of Egbaland, Sir Ladapo Ademola.
When the traditional ruler of Abeokuta, the Alake of Egbaland imposed taxes on market women, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti mobilised thousands of Abeokuta women to protest.
According to an account by Fela Kuti, 50,000 women stormed the palace of the Alake. The protest was so intense that the Alake left the town for Osogbo. It took the intervention of Sir Obafemi Awolowo for the king to return to his throne.
(2) Margaret Ekpo:
This Aba-born icon was a vivid women’s rights activist and social mobiliser who was one of the pioneering politicians in Nigeria’s first republic.
She began to raise a storm first in the city of Aba, a city dominated by masculine structures. Unlike many women in her class, she rose all her own without attaching herself to any single male politician.
In the 1950s, after joining the NCNC, she teamed up with Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti to protest practices at the Enugu coal mine where colonial heads were overworking and underpaying the local workers.
(3) Obiageli Ezekwesili:
This former minister of Education remains one of the most vocal critics of the Federal government.
Although her vocal activism gained a large audience when she became the head of Transparency International, Mummy Oby, as she is fondly called, first began to put fear to the hearts of Nigeria’s leaders when she initiated the #BringBackOurGirls group to demand the return of the Chibok girls.
After several runs-in with the government, a number of the girls have regained their freedom.
Recently, she also initiated the #RedCardToPDPandAPC hashtag to highlight the institutional misrule and the lack of alternatives in Nigerian politics in the lead-up to the 2019 elections.
(4) Hajia Gambo Sawaba:
Hajia, or the Fearless, as she was known, was one of the North’s most prominent women politicians and a major women organiser for the Northern Progressive Elements during the First Republic.
Gambo joined politics at the young age of 17 when Northern Nigeria was dominated by the Northern People’s Congress.
Even though it had the support of the Emirs and British Colonial Authority, Gambo joined the opposition NEPU group.
The fearless campaigner made a name for herself when at a political lecture in Zaria, she climbed a podium and spoke out in a room full of men.
Over time, she campaigned against under-aged marriages and forced labour, while fighting for western education in the north.
She also mobilised women to raise their voices at a time when the female gender was not allowed to participate in political activities.
Gambo was subsequently arrested alongside two hundred other women for not obtaining a permit before the assembly. They were sentenced to one-month imprisonment each.
Over time, it is said that Gambo was sent to jail 16 times in her lifetime and she was often brutalised by the police.
(5) Aisha Buhari:
Prior to 2015, not many people knew of Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s first lady. However, the fashionable mother of two has become an occasional yet vocal critic of indiscretions and malfeasance in the Nigerian government.
She first gained notoriety in 2016 when in an interview with BBC Hausa, she claimed that her husband’s government had been hijacked by a cabal.
On Friday, January 19, 2018, the First Lady shared a series of videos on her official Twitter account (@aishambuhari) which were heavily critical of PMB’s government.
The videos were from a plenary session of the Senate where Senator Isa Misau claimed that the president is not in charge of the country.
Since the responses have varied, but it cannot be denied that, even if she does have a political agenda as many suspect, she did not go quiet when it was comfortable to do so.