The 70th birthday celebration on the 10th of July 2018 in Abuja by Iyom Barrister Josephine Nwogo Akubude-Anenih, mni, FNIM, former Minister of Women Affairs, was a private event. However, its public value for the position of women in Nigeria's democracy is worthy of emulation. To be sure, it is symbolic that the event was held at the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) built by Mrs. Maryam Babangida, former first lady of Nigeria. Both Iyom and Aisha Babangida (daughter of Maryam Babangida) were unhappy that the name of the beautiful edifice was changed from Maryam Babangida Women Centre to NCWD!
A birthday photo book, which fits the average coffee table perfectly, was launched by Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, CEO, The DOME. The cutting of the cake was supervised by Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande (Former Majority Leader, House of Representatives), while former President, Olusegun Obasnjo, who delivered the keynote address, titled 'Democracy & the Nigerian State - The role of Women' relished sharing the cake in a most comical manner, a task he assigned himself!
In his keynote address, Obasanjo (affectionately called OBJ), decried the low number of women in the National Assembly, saying that the situation is unacceptable. He called for the amendment of the Constitution to make it mandatory to reserve at least 40% of the seats for women. OBJ said 'Our Constitution should be amended to 40% of women participation in politics. It's about time that women should feature in all aspects of our democratic process and practice. The health of our democracy can be judged by the level of participation of women. The low number of women in the National Assembly is un-acceptable, and makes a mockery of the concept of gender balance'.
OBJ described democracy as the best form of government for Nigeria because it promotes unity. He noted that though Nigeria's democracy is alive, it is not healthy. OBJ said: 'Democracy is a form of government that allows team spirit and debate before decisions are reached; it is a government for all citizens to benefit from without fear or favour. OBJ congratulated Iyom, who was the National Woman Leader of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) during his administration on her birthday, noting that she's a woman worth celebrating.
There was a panel of discussants on the theme of the symposium who shed more light on various dimensions of the subject matter:
*Dr. Emem Omokaro - Executive Secretary, Dave Omokaro Africa Institute on Ageing & Development (DOFRIAD)
*Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande - Former Majority Leader, House of Representatives
*Prof. Remi Sonaiya - Former Presidential candidate of KOWA Party
*Dr. Otive Igbuzor - Executive Director, Centre LSD
*Maryam Laushi - Youth Activist
*Chinyere Stella Okunna
Other commentators from the floor are:
*Prof. Joy Ezeilo
*Hajiya Ai Maradun
*Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi
Abiola Akiode-Afolabi was singled out for commendation on the occasion because of her role in bringing to the attention of the nation the sex-for-marks scandal, involving a Professor and one of his students. On account of Abiola's effort, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (my alma mata), has done the needful by firing the Professor!
It was indeed a graceful outing for the celebrant. Happy birthday, Iyom!