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OfiliSpeaks: Nigeria Needs To Try A Female President

OfiliSpeaks

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When I moved back to Nigeria in 2011 I was invited to speak on a “Building Your Business from Scratch” forum. It was a panel discussion that held at Life House which used to be at 33 Sinari Daranijo Street until it was shutdown.

My addition by Ekene Onu was very last minute and only happened because I was an author, and also to likely balance the panel as it was all female at that time. So I basically had no idea who the panelists were.

And even if I did, remember that I had just come to Nigeria so I was completely oblivious about who was who in Nigeria. #bigmistake

So I show up to this panel with my sneakers and my kaftan and this one book I had written and sold like maybe 2000 copies off. I had not even started @okadabooks then. I was basically a nobody in entrepreneurship, a JJC.

And as a JJC, I arrive early. Very early … My big mistake. When you arrive early you get rewarded with speaking first.

So I sha take my sit at the front of the stage. And then comes in this lady … light skin slim and just sophisticated, next comes another lady dark has an aura about her but reserved. Next strolls in another lady, you can feel her quiet rebellious independence.

So we start;  remember I came early so I speak first. I talk about my book, and average speaking career. I feel like a don.

Next up light skin lady speaks, she talks about a little big organisation she started called LEAP Africa, and how she is working to grow food in Nigeria. It turns out she is Ndidi Nwuneli, a name I am kinda familiar with. I start sweating in my boxers.

She says “find what makes you angry and turn it into positive energy” that’s how she started LEAP Africa. I still quote that today. In fact, that very thinking is what started Okadabooks

I am clearly out of my league, or so I think….until the last speaker arrives. She is late; I look up and it is none other than Linda Ikeji!

So Linda Ikeji shows up. This is 2011… she has not Banana Island blown up yet, but you can already see the zeal for success burning in her eyes.

She takes her seat.

The next lady speaks. Talks about how she started a make-up line, how she trains women to do make-up, and how fast her company is growing – so fast that she avoids interviews. It turns out she is none other than Tara Durotoye business mogul.

I am just there like there, begging for the seat to swallow me up. I am sweating everywhere … Boxers drenched. My claim to fame is my single book and a handful of speaking engagements.

Anyway, the next lady speaks, she is Nwamaka Okoye I ran into her several times after the panel. She talked about how she went to work one day and was basically like … screw it! I quit!

And she started her own interior decoration business just like that is now the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Housessories Limited.

When I ran into her at the airport in Port-Harcourt she was headed out for another job. She was talking about business expansions and other stuff. Her talk was gutsy. I was still there hating my job, but afraid to quit and with my one book. She would later become one of those that inspired me to quit: see The Day I Quit My Job.

I had already started sinking inside the chair. It was like “2004 Blackberry Curve” was speaking on the same panel with “Iphone 7.”

So at this point I just want to go home as I am feeling out of place …

But I can’t, I have to sit this one through. I mean I had written one book, still worked a 9 to 5 and here I was in the midst of legends that had already started national/international businesses that would change Nigeria ?

So Linda Ikeji starts talking about how she started blogging, and how you should do things for passion and not for money. Pretty much the same Linda Ikeji message she still gives today, except with banana flavor. But the way it was delivered was done in this gisting laid back manner.

It was just an unscripted talk, with little gloss and lots of honesty.

One thing she shared that stuck with me was how she would pre-sell adverts in her magazine and people won’t pay after. Or as she said it, she will be chasing people for the money. But now people chase her to give them their money.

After the talk, people probably forgot I was there ?

I quickly found my way out from one backdoor and just drove home quickly. I remember placing a call to my girlfriend then and saying 2 things:

1. I have not achieved sh*t in my life and I need to, because I was inspired.
2. And lastly, that Nigeria needs a female President.

I was sure of #2 now, as I was sure of it then.

Because now, I have been privileged with the little time that I have to work in the communities of Nigeria especially in Education.

One thing I observe is that most of the time, the women are the most open to learning new ideas/skills to improve their communities and are amongst the most active when it comes to ensuring their children stay in school. And it’s not just because of motherly love, but rather for the most part due to a lower amount of ego/pride when compared to men in the same community. Men who are worried by what others will think of them learning “how to make and sell soap.”

Thus, women in those communities have a greater chance of coming up with innovative businesses, because they are willing to try different things to make ends meet. According to inc.com “when women hold a portion of leadership roles at companies that prioritize innovation, those companies consistently generate better financial gains.”

The diversity of experience a female leader brings to the room, pushes people to try different ideas, Nigeria is in need of new ideas and we have an untapped stack of them in our women.

But it’s not just innovation, “a study by Harvard Business Review finds that companies who transitioned from leadership positions held by 0 percent women to 30 percent women see a 15 percent increase in profitability for the average company, or 1 percent bump in net margin.”

But getting more female leaders in Nigeria is not going to be easy.

Because, the moment you mention that only 6.4% of the current Senate is made up of women or that only 5 of the 36 current ministers are women, people will be quick to point to Stella Oduah, Diezani Madueke and Kemi Adeosun, but will forget the scores of male ministers or senators ahead of them that have done little or nothing to move Nigeria forward.

So please, let’s give more female leaders a chance in Government just like we have done for the men.

Because time and time again, women in Nigeria have proven themselves more than capable in their personal businesses, growing them into national brands, from LindaIkejisblog.com to LEAP Africa to Tara Cosmetics, and I am a living witness to what women can do for Nigeria!

Okechukwu Ofili is a trouble maker, the author of 4 books and speaks at organizations that are tired of hearing the same old stuff and want the truth. He is also the founder of okadabooks.com and blogs daily at ofilispeaks.com You can follow him on Twitter or stalk him on Instagram You can also read his funny books on konga or okadabooks

22 Comments

  1. MurderSheWrote

    June 16, 2017 at 10:07 am

    I said this weeks back in the comment section. Nothing positive is going to come out of this country until a woman takes the reins. Whether you want to hear it or not it is fact! The Tinubus and Babangidas and Fayoses and Wikes and Melayes and Buharis and Obasanjos of this world keep digging us deeper every damn second. They are headless chickens and we are following them. When will we wake up? Where is health care, education, housing? Which way Nigeria, which way? The saddest part that keeps me up at night is the youth collecting handouts from these disgustingly wicked and worthless politicians all in the name of keeping up with the rich and powerful. When did politics become a means to wealth as opposed to a call to serve. Who else knows what it means to serve but the Nigerian woman. We have so many of them. Highly educated and connected to the hopes of the people. The disgusting men just want to amass wealth and power for their generations. As I pray for the poor and less privileged every morning as I wake and evening as I lay down to rest, I never forget to pray for the wicked politicians and public office holders. God is going to answer me one day. They will be disgraced. Their ill gotten wealth will dry up very soon. It just needs a brave woman with a purpose and a clear plan for Nigeria to be great again. And these evil merchants that have been doing us bad since the 1970s will die. I mean it. They will die. Yes i am angry. Thank you Ofili.

    • Baba

      June 16, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Deiziani and Stella Oduah are both males…right?Nigeria is morally corrupt…Male or female do not make a difference.What we need is the right person.Thanks.

    • Olori

      June 16, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Shut up. Sit the hell down. They are the exception to the norm. The men who steal are the – norm. Get your facts right before you ever try to be foolish next time. Don’t be another useless man. We have enough of them already.

  2. Jubawale

    June 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

    A female president ?! in Nigeria ?! “Indecisive” “Bad decion” capital of the world ?! A female president will be too much ooo! “Patriachy” and shivery is the way forward! All hands on deck!

  3. Deleke

    June 16, 2017 at 10:46 am

    All they know how to do is wear fila and agbada and sing ‘Ajekun iya ni o je’

  4. Californiabawlar

    June 16, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Come of it you! The only thing that is non-gender comformity in Nigeria is corruption. All dem Dezaini and co are even more cutthroat!
    A cosmetic fix of electing a female president based on gender is no more silly than tribal based politics. Nigeria can’t afford it.

    • A Real Nigerian

      June 16, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      ?

    • Darius

      June 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      @Californiabroiler, for the first time in your miserable life you’ve said something positive. How long will this common sense last?

      It’s good to see that you are preaching against tribal politics. I thought you were an Oduduwa warlord!

    • Katrina

      June 16, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Why not give it a try first before condemning it outright?

  5. Lliki

    June 16, 2017 at 11:24 am

    All the women that I know of that has occupied top position in Nigeria are all corrupt, not one of them cares about the masses.
    It’s not about male or female, it’s about someone who fears and respect both God and the masses.

  6. Sharon

    June 16, 2017 at 11:25 am

    You don’t need to compare all women to Deziani, Stella Oduah and the likes, please. That’s a very narrow minded way of thinking. Looking at Ndidi’s genuine quest to add to economic growth in Nigeria for instance, can you even compare past corrupt female leaders to her? I’m not even talking about Ndidi alone but every other hardworking genuine female influencer today. Just like females should be president, younger and more educated people should be given a chance. The only thing standing in the way are political forces.

  7. Akara Pancake

    June 16, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    You know what , I think I can dig your idea. When I think of the late great Dora Akinluyi, and the brilliant work she did at NAFDAC, your suggestion suddenly becomes even more valid.

    What we need especially is an angry woman in charge. One who is frustrated with the system and is committed to reform. There is no force stronger or more ambitious than an angry woman

  8. A Real Nigerian

    June 16, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    This makes little sense. In this one’s mind now, he’s advocating for feminism and female empowerment. Mtcheeew.. We need to empower the common woman first and make Nigeria a place where they can live without being suppressed, discriminated and abused. A female president will not bring us any closer to that. It starts at the bottom, not at the top.

    People all over the world are electing credible people, we are here in Nigeria whining about trivial things like the ethnicity of the President or the gender. We still don’t know our problem and people like the author are either completely delusional or detached from real Nigerian struggles.
    Look for a decent President. Age, gender, ethnicity all do not matter. When will we stop with this petty way of looking at things?

    • Darius

      June 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      You went into exile and came back with a truck-load of common sense. This is unlike you! @ARN, making a great deal sense like one responsible member of society! Wonders will never end!

      Pls, whenever you run out of common sense, don’t forget to go into exile for replenishment.

    • Engoz

      June 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      “We need to empower the common woman first and make Nigeria a place where they can live without being suppressed, discriminated and abused. A female president will not bring us any closer to that. It starts at the bottom, not at the top.”

      ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The article might come from a good place, but it is more of a nursery approach of thinking. Populating government with women does not mean it will translate to progress in the grassroots level. Africa is PLAGUED with women who have become success stories but are still mentally held back by cultural delusions of what is expected of a woman. You will see a successful woman more interested in talking about ‘how women should keep their home, learn to drop their power as soon as they get home, how she as a successful woman still washes her husband’s undies, how they are good housewives’ to name a few. Ofili is quoting Western statistics. Please come close to home! Take Rwanda for example. It’s The No. 1 Country For Women In Politics, but it does not translate in daily life for women.

      npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/07/29/487360094/invisibilia-no-one-thought-this-all-womans-debate-team-could-crush-it

      Quote from link

      “So when Justine was getting her Ph.D. at Newcastle University, she returned to Rwanda to interview female politicians about their lives — not just their public positions but their private lives, with their husbands and children. She found with rare exception that no matter how powerful these women were in public, that power didn’t extend into their own homes.

      “One told me how her husband expected her to make sure that his shoes were polished, the water was put in the bathroom for him, his clothes were ironed,” Justine says. And this husband wanted not only his shoes laid out in the morning, but his socks placed on top of the shoes. And he wanted it done by his wife, the parliamentarian.”

      And so Justine would end each interview asking these female legislators what seemed to her to be an obvious question: Would they support a Rwandan women’s movement? A movement to change not just the public roles for women but to re-evaluate gender relations on all levels?

      Almost all of the women said no. Feminism? “That’s not Rwandan,” they told her. “That’s for Westerners.”

      GOD FORBID THAT THESE WOMEN SPRAWLED ACROSS AFRICA WHICH MAKE UP THE MAJORITY DOMINATE ANY PUBLIC SPACE WHILE I LIVE THIS EARTH!

      The mentality of the average Nigerian is currently suffering from kwashiokor. Fulfilling a gender based quota will only open the doors for more retrogressive thinkers into government, only that this time they will be in female demonic form as opposed to the arch-male demonic form that populates Nigerian political space. Case in point No. 1 female demon in the Senate- Sen Binta Masi Garba who challenged Senator Biodun Olujimi on Buhari’s kitchen/room comments. We did not hear of Binta for ground breaking bills, but we get to know of her when kitchen discussion was brought up with a gangster, vile demeanor.

      The author of the link I posted concluded there was no psychological buildup or women’s lib movement that made these women attain power in Rwanda. They only got there because a lot of men died in the Rwanda war. If the mentality of the women does not change, don’t think they’ll go in there and affect concrete policies that will challenge misogyny, sexism, harmful cultural practices that will make life easier for rural, average woman. The battle for true equality starts from the grassroots, the HOME, and not decorating some parliament with women. Ask yourself, since the creation of the Women affairs ministry in Nigeria, what have they achieved in tackling core gender based issues? What is the essence of this ministry in Nigeria? What ground breaking policy have they sponsored?

      Do not expect any change in thought because there is a change in one’s genital conscription, especially in Africa.

    • redpillmale

      June 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

      Lol, allow Ofili…he just wants female approval. Seriously though you’re quite right about selecting the right people for the job regardless of gender or tribe. If we can’t recognise this then we won’t progress.

  9. i must talk

    June 16, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Good thoughts and refreshing to read from you again Ofili! Sure, power must change hands if we desire the CHANGE we crave for in Nigerian. Unfortunately some bald heads will not give it a chance. #sosad#

  10. Machado

    June 16, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Everyone just likes to talk…the fact that y

  11. nunulicious

    June 16, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    lol. hahahahahahahahahah
    This article missed a key point.
    All the women you mention here are WOMEN IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP. not politics.
    as always, lets see what history has to say about your argument:

    Patricia Etteh- She was the first female speaker renovated her house for 628Million
    Iyabo Obasanjo-500 Million self-appropriation scandal
    Stella Oduah-minister of Aviation. 250 million BMW
    Diezani Allison Madueke-Minister of petroleum, billion billion
    and for those who dared to played big and mix business with politics-
    Cecilia Ibru-Oceanic Bank
    Ndidi Okereke-Director General Stock Exchange.

    The point being that Nigerian women don’t do well in public politics. There are of course a few women who do well in public politics Abike-Dabiri Erewa, she was smart, she did her tenure and jejely stepped aside but the majority lie low in politics. So any chance of being a female president is ZILCH. Partly because women only few women have the heart required to play men’s type of politics-dirty and dark and when their actions come to light, women outside won’t defend them.

    That said, pre-colonisation, Nigerian women played key roles in governance but when they dashed us one yeye consitution in 1922 oyinbo man said women are seen and not heard (story for another day) Regardless, Nigerian women do very very well in grassroot mobilisation and for now that is where our focus should be on. Tara’s makeup community, Linda Ikeji’s I’d rather be self made, Ndidi’s Social enterprise movements, (any names in the north anyone?) these are the grassroots movement that may eventually provide for a female Nigerian president. But will it happen in our lifetime ?Most likely not.

  12. ab

    June 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    @baba I get your point ?, @ murdershewrote your prayers for these wicked politicians are validly perfect! I too I pray & fast for them sef! They will not go unpunished, they and any generation of theirs that engages in this wickedness ! Ike most have said above it’s time we as Nigerians stop talking/focusing on the small things …tribe, ethnicity, gender should not dictate who we elect, all I and I’m sure we all pray for is someone who has integrity & is dead to self, who has compassion & genuine love for its people and nation & ohh I how I ask God everyday to make this a reality ! But then God can’t move if we ain’t., so we all men, women, youths must strive to position outselves and prepare ourselves for we never know—time & chance ……!

  13. nunulicious

    June 17, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    @ENgoz I am trying to understand the logic of your argument.

    Its all about what works in each household. If she was laying bed or was “in the other room” BEFORE she became a parliamentarian should she now stop doing that because she now has “power” There are different types of power but those who know how and when to weild it are better for it. so the fact that she is a parliamentarian means she should not do her duties at home? the home that “allowed” her become a parliamentarian? Was she not polishing the shoes and cooking the food before she became a parliametarian??

    Secondly, about your comment “Take Rwanda for example. It’s The No. 1 Country For Women In Politics, but it does not translate in daily life for women” how do you justify that?? Are you aware that Rwanda’s model of healthcare delivery at community level is one that is praised as the most successful in Africa?! heck, even the american’s are envious of it. And who benefits from good healthcare the most-women and children! Matter of fact, since the war and genocide in Rwanda, it has been the fastetst recovering country in Africa. Women rock.

    The case studies of female dominated Rwanda governance and successful women in enterprise in Nigeria is an indication that the one thing women need to is PARTICIPATE. weather at the grassroot level or at the political level, PARTICIPATE.

  14. Chynwa

    June 19, 2017 at 2:35 am

    @ Engoz: u got me at “The battle for true equality starts from the grassroots, the HOME, and not decorating some parliament with women”… can we even start with ”are we interested in politics?” wait, that’s far- how many women in the corporate world have careers cut short because… “they had to take care of domestic issues”? I’m not sure how this sounds, but we need male support at home (true partnerships at home; refer to Lean In) and even in the workplace to actively participate for those interested #my2cents

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