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Are male ministers getting away with murder

Published by The Nation on Fri, 14 Aug 2020

Olukorede YishauA little over a year ago, this space was home to a piece titled I am a feminist. In it, I expressed my frustration with the female folk being repeatedly told you are a girl o or you are a woman o. This statement is usually made when a woman or a girl does things the society believes should not be done by a girl or a woman, or when she is refusing to do something that society has labelled chores for the female folk. We have even extended this thinking to matters of probity and accountability. We expect women to be more accountable. We are quick to scream: Doesnt she know she is a woman'It is hightime we started screaming: Doesnt he know he is a man' We should have screamed at Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige when he desecrated his office by attacking Hon. James Faleke, the chairman of a House of Representatives committee probing the crisis at the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). Let me also add that I was appalled the day Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabio appeared before another House of Representatives Committee and addressed members as though they were kindergarten kids. The altercation between the National Assembly and Minister of State for Labour and Employment is in a class of its own.Ngiges and Akpabios tactics did not bring a smile to my face. They were extremely rough and made me wonder what would have happened if some female colleagues of theirs had employed their roforofo strategies on members of the National Assembly. We would have screamed: Dont they know they are women!Over the years, we have this penchant for expecting women to act differently, even in matters of corruption. A few months ago, I came across a tweet in which someone expressed surprise at the kind of money ex-Minister of Petroleum Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke stole. He had wondered: Doesnt she know she is a woman! That tweet touched a nerve on account of its sub-textWould it have been okay if Mrs. Alison-Madueke was a man' Does being a woman make her alleged stealing a bigger crime or issue'I had cause to remember the tweet a few days ago when I read a statement by Emmanuel Onwubiko of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) challenging Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, to a public debate on how school children were fed while at home during the lockdown.The world over, school children are fed to ensure not just mental and physical development, but optimal school attendance with free meals as an incentive. The UK government in reaction to a call by footballer Marcus Rashford budgeted a whopping 500 million to provide food vouchers to indigent students this summer to help cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.I want to believe Onwubiko will soon ask Ngige or Akpabio for a public debate. Except you have been living on Mars, you must be aware of the show of shame enacted by these men at the National Assembly. Thanks to Akpabios appearance, the world was treated to the infamous Off your mic show. Now our lexicon has a new addition.Akpabio accused lawmakers of benefitting from the rot at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)an accusation he has been unable to substantiate about a month later, with billions still unaccounted for at NDDC. Akpabio is still keeping his job and HURIWA has not sought a debate with him to substantiate his claims. Professor Daniel Pondei, the NDDC CEO who fainted while being asked to account for the funds allocated to the commission, is still keeping his job and drawing a salary. HURIWA needs to invite these men to a public debate.Ngige has been in the eye of the storm following his summary dismissal of the board of the NSITF despite a recent memo from the President saying that ministers could no longer sack heads of parastatals without following due process. After the sacked executives called out Ngige and accused him of abuse of office and inflation of contract sums, what did Ngige do' He appeared at the National Assembly and turned the probe upside down. He called Faleke a small boy, condescendingly described him a Mushin boy, and did not answer the charges. He rose and went back to work and is still at work. We should have screamed at him: Dont you know you are a man' I am waiting for HURIWA to call for a debate over this.I feel a pattern of harassment of female ministers seems to be emerging in Nigeria and I will provide a few examples. Where women ministers have been accused of some malfeasance, the reaction of the horde is almost mob-like. The cries for crucifixion are very loud and there is always that unspokendoesnt she know she is a woman'The vilification of women in politics is just one of the many injustices the female folks face in our country. It is so bad that when a woman is doing well many of us believe she must have used the bottom power. Brilliant women abound and even when we acknowledge their brilliance, we still find a way to rubbish their records by attributing their rise to extraneous factors.In 2008, Dr. Adenike Grange was forced to resign as Minister of Health following allegations that she had awarded last minutes contracts that were captured in her ministrys budget. Following loud and virulent attacks, the woman was forced to resign; she insisted she had been misadvised by the civil servants in her ministry.Former Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun had to resign over allegation of forging an NYSC certificate. A male colleague, Adebayo Shittu, who was Minister of Communications, was accused of not having an NYSC certificate but what did he do' He said he deliberately refused to serve because he thought he didnt need it to become a member of the state assembly, and that is already a service. He did not resign and neither was he hounded out of office. He left the cabinet after completing a term. He should have gone like Mrs Adeosun.Imagine for a moment that the trio of Akpabio, Ngige, and Keyamo were female ministers and they took on the lawmakers. Imagine the headlines. Imagine the condescending tone of the lawmakers. Imagine the outrage that would have ensued on social media with Nigerians calling the female ministers disrespectful and uppity and asking: Dont they know they are women!A scandalous case of how many of us try to drag women down is a recent tweet from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which described the serving NIPOST Chairman Maimuna Abubakar as a privileged young lady who happened to be appointed to high office. Just imagine the reaction if social media handlers of a female minister tweeted those disrespectful words about a man!The whole scenario brings to mind the theme of this years International Womens Day: Each for Equal. An equal world is an enabled world in which women and men are equal and should be treated as such.I expect HURIWA to also throw its challenge at Akpabio and Ngige. That way it will be clear that corruption in high places is the target.My final take: It is as if when men misbehave it is okay but when women are the ones caught with their hands in the cookie jar all hell breaks loose. Corruption is bad and it should not matter who is involved. If a man is involved, let us crucify him, and if a womans hand is found in the till we must give her the same treatment. Male ministers appear to be getting away with murder. We must change the way we address and treat women. But are we ready
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