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Alison-Madueke: Let the Woman Be By Safiya Bello

It seems that women are held up to different standards in this country. A woman in any position of power is judged not just by her competence or her contributions but by some other less palatable standards.And when she doesn’t conform to these undefined rules, the male critics find something to badger her about. Right now, they have found a new candidate for pillorying in the person of the beautiful and brainy Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke. I don’t know if it is just me but I find all the attack on female ministers or women in high positions of authority in Nigeria a bit too much. In fact, to be blunt, it smacks of male chauvinism to me. The way that the female ministers, especially those manning(!) the critical ministries of Finance, Aviation and Petroleum have in recent times, been subjected to severe and unfair abuse is beyond normal. Besides, I cannot see the equivalence in the way their male counterparts in say Works, Defence and Foreign Affairs are attacked. Have these latter ministers done better? I doubt it. I am the first to agree that anyone in public service should be held accountable for the way they manage public trust, but we should not have different rules for different people and I certainly don’t think the women should be hounded like this. WOMEN, we must stand up and defend our own or we will be doing a great injustice to posterity!! Or how, for goodness sake, will we be able to boldly encourage our daughters, nieces, aunties etc to aspire to be high ranking government officials in Nigeria? From the beginning, Mrs. Madueke was always going to have a hard time in that powerful ministry. As a woman, and a very elegant one at that, there are people who just don’t think she should be in that high profile job, who believe that a man is more fitted to that kind of thing. This is the sort of lame sexist thinking that has made it possible for these men to attack her for using planes that the NNPC have said again and again that they rented for her official use. It is all well and good if governors, other ministers, party leaders and even her predecessors in office at the Ministry avail themselves of the use of private jets but not if it is a woman in charge of a ministry that requires quick mobility, urgent decisions and brings in more revenue than any other sector or for that matter has empowered a record number of Nigerian businesses in the oil & gas sector. No, I don’t think Nigerian women should be taking this kind of affront lightly. The Nigeria woman has come a long way and we deserve whatever position we occupy in this country. We form at least half of the nation’s population and contribute to its economy as much as our male counterpart. They should not be trying to deny us our place in history. More worrisome is how these blatant, unnecessary attacks practically kill the spirit of many younger women out there who look upon them as role models. This is sending a bad signal to our young ladies, that it is useless to aspire to significant positions in Nigeria, they will feel that no matter your achievements, no matter how much you deserved your job, your efforts will eventually be derided and your good name rubbished. No matter the campaign of calumny against her, no one can say that Alison-Madueke is incompetent. It is to her credit that the local content policy that she has championed in the petroleum industry has created up to 30,000 jobs for Nigerians in the last two years. The jobs were generated in the engineering, fabrication, marine transportation, logistics and exploration and production sub-sectors of the oil and gas industry. In fact, the Nigerian content implementation had improved the level of involvement of Nigerians in oil and gas contracts to a whooping 87 percent. This is a very remarkable achievement in an era when millions of Nigerian youth are roaming the streets jobless; and only recently, a million Nigerian graduates scrambled for the less than 5000 job vacancies in Immigration leading to fatalities. Alison-Madueke has shown that she is a very resilient and courageous lady; as this is not the first time that an attempt would be made to rid her of her job. What makes the matter suspicious is the fact that the momentum of these attacks is usually high just before a general election. It is difficult not to think that the opposition is doing all this to discredit the Jonathan administration, even to destabilise it. It is therefore imperative that as the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC), carries out its probe on the matter; it does so with all sense of sincerity without dancing to the tune of the opposition or any base sentiments. There is just no way that the minister or any jet flyer for that matter can spend 10 billion naira on charter and maintenance as alleged. I have no doubt that in the end, the legislators would find that the figures were exaggerated and I urge the House to remember to place Nigeria above politics in dealing with this matter before it does more harm than good. The Petroleum Minister is a woman who has paid her dues both in the private sector as a key member of Shell Petroleum Development Company and in the public sector as the first ever-female minister of transportation and of Petroleum. She has been able to perform her duties diligently and brilliantly. Surely, she deserves a pat on the back for doing so well in a man’s world. It is high time Nigerian women stood up to ensure that this strong-willed amazon is not unduly cut down simply because some people just can’t stand to see such elegance and power in the hands of the fairer sex!

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