Source: The Guardian (Abuja)
By Nimah Arigbabu and Oyinkan Akintola-Bello
From the beginning of time, women have played varying roles, albeit behind the scenes in most instances, in shaping matters of foreign relations. Maids, domestic workers, female diplomats, women married to diplomats, mistresses and even the women who worked on plantations have played a vital role in shaping international relations. For Instance, female secretaries played a vital role in events such as the Iran-Contra affair, which exposed the covert American intervention in Nicaragua in the 1985–1987 and the covert Israel-Palestine negotiations in Oslo.
In 2016, 93 names were sent to the Nigerian Senate by President Buhari for confirmation as ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Of those 93 names, 17 were women (18 per cent). On May 12, 2020, President Buhari announced the nomination of 42 career ambassadors and three weeks later 41 non-career ambassadors were also nominated. The President also appointed one person as a career ambassador-designate. In total, 84 names were sent to the Nigerian Senate for confirmation. Of the 84 names, 10 are women (12 per cent), and of these 10, 4 received challenges to their nomination.
Shortly after the announcement on ambassadorial nominations, a local youth group opposed the nomination of the female candidate, Mrs Nimi Akinkugbe, from Ondo State on the grounds that she is not originally from, (not born) Ondo State. The group, as represented by Emmanuel Ademariol, has remarked that her application must not hold as “Ondo had prominent sons and daughters that could take up the appointment”. He also remarked that, “The person that was nominated is not from Ondo State. We are doing more research to know those behind the recommendation of that appointment and we will send a letter to the Presidency and the governor.”
Nimi Akinkugbe was born in Rivers State and is the daughter of Feniobu Iruloye Ajumogobia, former Chief Of Mission to UNESCO, who unfortunately died in a plane crash in 1996. She married her husband, Yinka Akinkugbe, who is from Ondo State.
In May 2020, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Federal Character Commission Act 2010. Prior to this amendment, and according to the culture of many tribes in Nigeria, Married women were seen as indigenes of their husband’s state. The amendment of the act goes thus:
“A married woman shall have the option to lay claim to her State or Local Government of origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character formulae at the National level or State as the case may be.”
It is unsurprising that in Nigeria, until the year 2020, women were forcefully displaced from their birth states by both culture and law. Culturally, a married woman fully adopts the identity of her husband. She takes his name, adopts his traditions and way of life and is seen as an extension of all that he is — including his state of origin. However, even culture is trumped by political maneuvering. On 3rd March 2020, the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly refused to honor the National Judicial Council’s nomination of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the state’s Chief Judge. The lawmakers stated that, despite her marriage to an indigene of the state, she was actually from the neighbouring state of Akwa Ibom and thus she constituted a security risk to the state. Ironically, Mrs Ikpeme was born in Calabar, Cross River, when Akwa Ibom was a part of Cross River. Akwa Ibom was created out of Cross River on September 23, 1987, by the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. It is also important to point out that Mrs Ikpeme’s mother is also from Cross Rivers State. The NJC renominated Mrs Ikpeme, emphasising her status as the most senior judge in the state and the rightful next Chief Judge. Despite this, The House rejected the nomination stating it would not reverse itself.