Former University of Ibadan Vice Chancellor and emeritus professor of English Language, Ayo Banjo and Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, have decried what they called ancient systems and structures that limit the Nigerian woman, stating however that going by the array of women in history who have distinguished themselves as icons, the Nigerian history cannot be effectively written without giving women a prime place.
They both made this known in their forewords to a new book written byforemost professor of history, retired Director of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan and former Commissioner in the Western Region, Bolanle Awe, entitled Nigerian women pioneers and icons.
The book is a historical assessment of the contributions of some 34 women pioneers from pre-colonial era till date which showcases their uncommon contributions to the historical development of Nigeria and how they rivaled their male gender counterpart even when it was unusual for such demonstration of nationalism and patriotism.
Some of the women pioneers recognized in the book include Nana Asmau, the legendary poet; Hajiya Fatima Lolo, pioneer female musician; Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti; Wuraola Adepeju-Esan; Margaret John Ekpo, pioneer parliamentarian; Irene Thomas; Ladi Kwali, world-acclaimed potter; Adetowun Ogunsheye; Mabel Segun; Flora Nwapa; Folake Solanke; Grace Alele Williams; Gambo Sawaba; Hansine Napwanijo Donli, legal practitioner; Onyeka Onwenu; Zaynab Alkali; Batule Alake; Joy Ogwu, among others.
According to Professor Banjo, prejudice and discrimination, which he likened to the racial prejudice of apartheid South Africa, have been the bane of the assessment of the contributions of women to the Nigerian history, which he said suggested that a gender was superior to the other.
“The arbitrary doctrine of a class of human beings occupying a lower status in a falsely designed hierarchy within one humanity also lies at the root of discrimination against women. Unfortunately, discrimination against women had been allowed to go on for several centuries and in practically all the cultures of the world, before it was finally confronted in the nineteenth century,” he said.
The professor however said that in spite of the fact that what he called legal walls which he said were built around women have continued to be broken down, “inhibition of attitudes” was still a major factor stopping a thousand and one women achievers from occupying their rightful status in society.
In her own contribution, Hon. Dabiri-Erewa called for an understanding of the difference between the modern woman and her foremothers.
“The modern woman’s work differs considerably from that of her grandmothers and great grandmothers. The most significant difference is that the modern woman works and earns a living most of her adult life, whereas her forerunner, once married, stays at home and takes care of domestic affairs,” she said, asking for the striking of balance by the modern woman in her different roles.
Dabiri-Erewa decried a situation in which the menace of the few bad women in society is used to obliterate what she called “the unquantifiable contributions of women to the social, political, economic and religious cum cultural spheres of Nigeria,” stating that the history of Nigeria can never be complete without the mention of these women of note.