NOT many would note that Gov. Obiano runs one of the most gender-inclusive government in the country. Aside five female commissioners in his cabinet he places women in several vital positions and they are performing well. The myth Obiano created in five years is unequalled in the annals of history of the state. He is a governor so passionate about the status of women,
the physically challenged and the youths; a governor so persistent in his belief in excellence. This, observers say is the reason for his strong performance He selects very competent and capable persons irrespective of gender physique or age to man different governmental agencies and parastatals; a case of a round peg in a round hole. An example is the Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, who has a perculiar zeal in for projecting Governor Obiano’s agenda dimensions even as it pertains to women, youth and physically challenge persons.
In the light of the foregoing, I am taking a cursory look on the impact of Willie’s Obiano’s administration on women.
According to the Adinuba, the governor feels that disadvantaged groups like women and the physically challenged must be given consideration. He is probably the only governor with a physically challenged person as a permanent secretary, another as an SSA and a couple of others in key posts. In the same vein, women are given a pride of place. There is fundamental difference between what you have in Anambra State and other states. Whereas other states are more concerned with the numerics of appointments of offices, the governor is concerned more with the criticalities of the offices occupied by women nay the strategic nature of the portfolios. For instance, the Attorney General of the state is a woman.
Until recently, a woman used to be the State’s Accountant General .There were political appointments traditionally not given to women as they were regarded as a taboo for a woman to head. The Special Adviser on Chieftaincy Affairs and Town Unions, Dame Vera Queen Okonkwo, a woman, heads such an office. One may wonder why a woman should preside over affairs involving traditional rulers and Presidents Generals.
In the words of the Adinuba, “the governor is challenging some taboos about women; that is revolutionary. So, it is not just the number but the strategic and critical positions appointed to women”.
Statistics shown by the Ministry of Information and Public Enlightenment reveals that women are not lagging behind in the Willie Obiano’s administration. This is indicated below:
Chief Judge : Justice Ijem Onwuamaegbu Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice: Dr Obianuju Nwog House of Assembly Speaker: Rt Hon Rita Mmaduagwu Women occupy two Senatorial Seats out of three senatorial zones. They are Sen. Stella Oduah (Anambra North) and Sen Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central) ,while the governor appointed five female commissioners out of 19 Commissioners. Challenging task for women
It is a known fact that a career woman juggles between her home and her office. That is to say she manages the home as well as her career which can be herculean for the woman. Against this backdrop, how prepared are the women appointees facing the daunting task occasioned by these key positions? The information honcho enthused, “of course the women are doing marvelously well in their offices. So far, they have proved that what men can do, women can do even better. For instance, our Attorney General is so accomplished that all the cases she has handled, she won for the state; she is representing the women folk very well in government.
The erstwhile Accountant General, Lady Monica Okonkwo was a tough woman; she was equal to the task and performed creditably well. Also, bear in mind that education is critical to the state and has always been. To this end, the Commissioner of Education and Commissioner of Women Affairs, Children and Social Affairs are young women who are talented Professors recruited from the universities. The Ministry of Education is another critical ministry occupied by a woman as the governor places high premium on education in the state”.
On how these key positions generally affect the women of Anambra State, he stated, “for us, empowering women is not only in terms of making them more productive in the economy .That is to say, making the economic resources available to them. Empowering women is for us, a development issue. It is statutorily to development; it is a sectoral matter as you are not just dealing with one part of the society but with the whole part. Therefore, to empower women, you are enabling the entire society to develop; to grow rapidly.
It then goes beyond the fact that women account for some 50% of the population and therefore, in statistical terms, it cannot be overlooked to avoid serious consequences. When you empower a woman, you are actually empowering many others. They are the homemakers given to the children. So, when you empower a woman; say with education, also with certain resources; you are enabling her train her children very well. Sometimes, these are single mothers. So, it is not only a woman you are empowering but the entire family. I was being trained by a single mother since my father passed on when I was a little boy. If my mother had not been empowered so to say, she would have been helpless to raise me and I would not have been where I am today.
Note that empowering a woman is not doing the men folk a favour but you are dealing with the entire society and there is a very important part which is to inspire them. We give certain positions to women to also inspire other people coming after them like the girl – children who look up to them. They know that in Anambra State, there is no gender segregation of any sort. We are of the proponent that if you can achieve whatever you want to achieve in the state, not even the sky is your limit”.
Successes recorded so far
A saying goes like this: at the end of every tunnel is a silver lining, Adinuba averred that the successes recorded by these women commissioners outweighs the challenges incurred. “These women have performed exceptionally well in their ministries. Our Ministry of Justice is a clear example since she took over the rein of affairs in her ministry; she has never lost a case. She has been winning all her cases. She just won two major cases for the state recently. She has been a tremendous counsel for the state as well. We are satisfied with her performance and she is a good ambassador for the women folk.
The new chief justice of the state is one woman with a very sound educational background. She is eminently deserving of her new position and we are not in doubt one bit of both her capabilities and capacities.
Then, there is another woman of substance who is a national Icon. She is a lawyer and an accomplished artist. The Commissioner of Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Art, Culture and Tourism, Barr Sally Mbanefo, who has won a number of honours for the state since she took over the position.
Similarly, the Commissioner of Women Affairs, Children and Social Welfare, Mrs Ndidi Mezue, has also been doing very well. She is notably known for complementing the role of our first lady by caring for the most dejected in the society; for the poorest of the poor, for widows, for mentally challenged persons, especially women, for the homeless, for the hungry; for which reason she shares a nickname with the first lady as the ‘Mother Theresa of our time’. She is exceedingly compassionate and believes so much in what Pope John Paul (11) popularised as solidarity with the human filament. She abhors fiercely against anything that affects the dignity of womanhood which has largely played out in her functions.
Again, the Special Adviser to the governor on legislative matters is a woman. That is another key position. This is a lady who has been standing at the bar for decades now- studied law and was called to bar in the UK. She went to New York and was called to the bar in New York. It may well interest you to know that to pass the New York bar examination is pretty tough; maybe the toughest worldwide and she was practicing law in the US before she came back to Nigeria”.
Continuing he said, “As you can see, each of the people in government is solid. The immediate past Accountant General of the state is an ICAN Fellow. She has a Masters Degree in financial matters and is a tough fighter and a tough negotiator.
The Commissioner for Education, Prof Kate Omenugham is the second female Professor of Mass Communication in Nigeria.
Capping it all is our quintessential first lady; Chief Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme), whose unequall and unparallel humanitarian services has drawn the lens of the international communities. The feats recorded by the wife of the governor have never been recorded before in the history of the state. Despite the fact that there is no budgetary provisions for her office, she still donates human relief materials to the less privileged as she continues to empower more and more women in the state, hence nicknamed the ‘Mother Theresa of our time’.
According to Adinubua, “the first lady has donated several limbs to handicaps, provided shelter to the homeless and empowered widows; as well as other helpless women. One of her works that posterity will remember her with is the rehabilitation and the uniting of a mentally challenged woman back to the society and her family. The woman, who is originally from Kwara State but married to an Anambra man was given a new lease of life as a new home was given to her which was ably facilitated by Mrs Obiano. The poor woman was reintegrated back to the society after several decades of being presumed dead by her children”.
Generally speaking, I can tell you that the cabinet in Anambra State is the most distinguished in Nigeria. There is no state cabinet member that has the quality of men and women we have in Anambra State today. Non! Each person is highly accomplished in his or her own field”.
On the youths, he added, “It is widely recorded that no government in the country comes near to the vision given to the youths and children by Dr Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike) whose youth passion driven government explains the youth being placed in positions that affect them. Hence, we have very vibrant young men as Commissioners viz-a-viz; Commissioner for Economic Planning, which is a critical ministry is a young man and the Commissioner for Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy, headed by Bonaventure Enemali.