Over the years, there has been a change in the role of women in the contemporary African society.
The days of women belonging to the kitchen, living room and the other room (shout out to President Muhammadu Buhari) are long gone.
Seven Nigerian women proved this point.
1. Oby Ezekwesili
For many, the name Oby Ezekwesili is synonymous with Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG)advocacy group.
But for her followers, Aunty Oby (as she is fondly called) is a leader, totally intolerant and biggest motivation.
Constantly holding the federal government to account, the former education minister was one of President Buhari’s biggest critic of 2017.
She, however, did not fail to applaud the government when it performed creditably well.
In January 2017, Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufuwere in Sambisa (well, they flew over) forest in search of the Chibok girls.
Lai Mohammed and a few journalists were on-board the military helicopter that took them round the dreaded forest.
The trip was to take the BBOG team through the efforts of the military in finding the remaining Chibok girls.
Despite the denied access into the villa, Ezekwesili and her BBOG team have continued to meet daily at the Unity Fountain, march demand and the release of the remaining Chibok girls.
Till date, Oby Ezekwesili remains one of the few former public officials who has not been named in any corruption case. Impressive.
2. Kemi Adeosun
In 2017, Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun was a member of the economic team which led Nigeria out of recession.
Adeosun launched the Voluntary Income and Assets Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) which seeks to get more Nigerians to pay tax.
This was part of her ministry’s strategy to reduce Nigeria’s internal and external borrowings.
Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, told journalists in Abuja on Thursday, November 7, 2017, that the federal government realized the sum of N17 billion from tax evaders since the launch of VAIDS.
3. Aisha Alhassan
Popularly known as Mama Taraba, Aisha Alhassan made headlines in the year when she publicly declared her support for former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
At a visit to Atiku, Mama Taraba referred to him as Nigeria’s next president, come 2019.
While many condemned her action considering her position in President Buhari’s cabinet, most Nigerians commended her boldness despite the odds.
Alhassan’s ministry for women affairs was also in charge of the rehabilitation of the Chibok girls, who were either rescued by the military or escaped from Boko Haram’s captivity.
4. Hadiza Bala Usman
Hadiza Usman heads the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), an income generating agency of the government.
Prior to her appointment in 2016, Usman was one of the conveners of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group.
Her appointment caused controversy as most Nigerians accused the Buhari government of using the job to calm the BBOG group.
In March 2016, Usman was accused of paying some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) each during President Buhari’s extended medical trip in London.
She denied the allegation, threatened to sue the author of the story with defamation while presenting her availability for a probe.
In her capacity as the NPA boss, Usman has encouraged more women to join the maritime sector “because of their innate abilities like the capacity to listen, adopt collaborative approaches to problem-solving, multi-task and synthesize viewpoints effectively and quickly are requisite for effectiveness in the sector”.
5. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita
For the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, 2017 will forever remain an unforgettable year in her life.
Prior to her appointment, Oyo-Ita was the permanent secretary in the federal ministry of special duties and intergovernmental affairs.
Her ministry in collaboration with the Finance ministry led to the elimination of thousands of ghost workers from the federal government’s payroll. This saved the country millions of Naira.
Recently, Oyo-Ita was in the news over the reinstatement of the embattled former pension boss, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service.
Oyo-Ita was alleged to have written to the President Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari to inform him of Maina’s reinstatement.
In the said letter, the Head of Service cautioned Kyari of the implications of Maina’s reinstatement considering the circumstances surrounding his (Maina) sack by former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
At the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, Oyo-Ita was caught in a heated argument with Kyari over the matter.
At the investigative hearing by the House of Representatives, Oyo-Ita restated her position on the matter adding that Maina was reinstated without her approval.
6. Aisha Mohammed
Prior to her appointment as the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, Aisha Mohammed was Buhari’s minister for environment.
At the time, Mohammed pushed for the cleanup of the environmentally polluted, Ogoniland.
Mohammed recently had a taste of the bitter-water of corruption allegations when she was accused of bribery and illicit timber export by the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA).
She was accused of having allegedly authorized export of endangered timber, rosewood, to China in her last days as Nigeria’s minister for environment.
EIA said its investigation revealed “Nigerian officials were paid over $1 million” to help facilitate the export of the rosewood, but Mohammed was not categorically accused of receiving bribe.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Mohammed had “categorically” rejected any allegations of fraud.
Mohammed was said to have signed the export certificates requested before the ban only after due process was followed and better security watermarked certificates became available.
Although she is not working directly for the Buhari-led government, Mohammed continues to chart Nigeria’s course internationally.
7. Aisha Buhari
Despite the insinuation by her husband that she belongs to his kitchen, living room and the other room, Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari refused to stay only in all those places.
Unlike other First Ladies, Mrs Buhari would criticize her husband publicly – although not much this year.
Mrs Buhari and her daughter, Zahra also caused a probe of the State House Clinic.
You see, the Villa Clinic has remained under-equipped despite the huge yearly budgetary allocations.
Wonder why President Buhari still had to travel abroad for medical treatment?
Worry no more.
“I am happy that the MD of the Aso Rock clinic is here”, Mrs Buhari said during a recent stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition held at the Banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“Dr Munir, I am happy you are here. As you are all aware, for the last six months, Nigeria wasn’t stable because of my husband’s ill health. We thank God he has fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a man in the street.
“Few weeks ago, I was sick as well. They advised me to take the first flight out to London. I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. If the budget is N100M, we need to know how the budget is spent.
“Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working. They said it was not working. They didn’t know I was the one who was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 percent. What does that mean?
"So I think it is high time we did the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the Governors’ wives what is happening in their States. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government and this is the Presidential Villa”, Mrs. Buhari added.
All through her husband’s absence, Aisha kept the support for her President Buhari.
What more can a President ask for?
Aisha also continued the support for women and children through her Future Assured initiative.