Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu on Advocacy, Gender, and Emerging Issues in the Nigerian Polity.
(This is the second report on the interview conducted with Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu on February 21, 2021) For its entire recording, see https://youtu.be/LOQ4lsdm_VY
Nigeria was a promising nation in the 1960s. Its respect among the comity of nations increased in the 1970s when it experienced an unprecedented economic boom. During this period, it was a hopefully important country to many others who were eager to associate themselves with Nigeria precisely because of its cardinality to the Black man’s civilization. Sadly, this respect and international admiration were short-lived. The evaporation of respect for the country was not surprising as it coincided with the emergence of purposeless leadership that overtook the country during this period. The urge to manipulate public offices to advance a provincial dream arrested the country’s administrative space and reduced the quality of its governance. This led to the downgrading of the nation’s democratic culture and foregrounded the politics of patronage in its stead. Sensing this political anomaly, many countries that have earlier maintained a diplomatic relationship with Nigeria began to seek alternatives, and their first instinctive response was to sever ties with the most populous Black nation. The declination of values, therefore, was not predominantly economical; it was diplomatic and equally sociopolitical. As Nigeria became a proportionately downgraded nation, the values placed on its citizens internationally reduced, and the chances of being given international respect eroded with the trend.
During the interview session with Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, it was revealed that a strain of disrespect has been on the Nigerian relationship with the Netherlands for quite a while. Because the audience of the interview session was wide and penetrating, our knowledge about the situation was expanded by the contributions of Dr. Michel Deelan that came in the form of a question for our guest, Dr. Awolowo Dosumu. When asked about the challenges encountered by our interviewee, or Nigeria, during her ambassadorial assignment to the Dutch country, we got the opportunity to know more about the strained relationship between the two countries. For the most bewildering part, Dr. Awolowo Dosumu, who confessed to not being a professionally trained diplomat, was confronted by the challenge of rejuvenating the dying Nigerian image that had suffered the most disturbing form of abuse at the international scene. Knowing how financial profligacy has compounded the country’s woes, the international community is sensitive about dealing with Nigeria. Although she conceded that the Netherlands was deliberately welcoming of her during her national assignment, the nation still had its utmost reservations about Nigeria, with which the elegant diplomat had to contend.
Political hospitality for ambassadors by their host country is a sign of maturity that usually ends at the doorstep of one’s international image often gathered over the years. However, because the woman representing the country was, and still is, pragmatic (an attribute inherited from her parents), astute and foresighted, she began the assignment for the reconfiguration for her country’s identity on the right trajectory. Doing this requires serious pragmatism, for it is when one can decode the situation that one can think of the necessary approach to tackle the problems at hand. Having thought about how the situation could be rescued, she began on the right footing by selling the country’s culture to the outside community, the Netherlands. This was a well-planned strategy for the revaluation of Nigeria’s political identity so that various economic opportunities can be unlocked.
By inviting me to the Netherlands when she was the country’s Ambassador to give an intelligent appraisal of the Nigeria cultures, she aimed to sell to the Netherlands community the idea that there was an expanse of cultural identities and geographical boundaries which can be considered by people who have the foresight of investment. Without a doubt, this is thoughtful thinking because apart from the fact that Nigeria has an almost interminable list of cultures and values, the realization that dealing with Nigerians is tantamount to connecting with Africa’s central government makes it a beautiful engagement for the enhancement of a good name for the country. Of course, I did justice to the topic. This created a sense of pride for the Nigerian community in the Netherlands because they all eventually gave their respective support and goodwill to the ambassador.
This takes us to the issue of gender equality in the Nigerian sociopolitical landscape. There is no contention that Nigeria, like many countries of the world, is patriarchal, and because of this cultural disposition, the nation has been unable to bridge the gap between the female and the male population. However, Dr. Awolowo Dosumu concedes that the trend is changing in contemporary times, as the fact that she was delegated to serve in that capacity was a testament to their evolution and development. But there are fundamental things that are necessary for the Nigerian political system to consider. Women are segregated against, not because they were repealed by some codes in their constitution but because there is no suitable atmosphere for their participation in politics, economy, and other conceivable areas of their national life. Nigerian politicians chase women away by their act of making political engagement an extremely costly enterprise. To be successful as a Nigerian political member, monies must have been spent in its great quantity. Nigeria makes it appear like without having sufficient money to throw around, it is impossible to be elected to public offices―monies needed for campaign, for settling labor organizations, for inducing supporters, for obtaining forms and some other things, all cumulate to the reasons why women do not have the opportunity to serve in many political capacities. Therefore, it is impossible not to have a questionable financial source before nursing a political ambition in Nigeria.
As if this is not enough, by making war out of political engagements, the female gender is disempowered in Nigerian politics. Politics in Nigeria is tantamount to war, and elections into public offices are characterized by various contradictions and intense controversies. This is entrenched in their political behavior so much that one would take elections in Nigeria for a Third World War. A number of women that I have spoken to said that they feel very uncomfortable being part of that war in pursuit of ego and greed. Apart from their naturally compassionate feelings towards other humans, the fact that the pervasion of wars is suggestive of a backward civilization makes the comfort level of a number of aspiring women politicians incompatible with the country’s political system. Presidential and legislative elections come with corresponding victims of elections who would lose their lives and properties in the course of supporting their candidates of choice. The reason for the pervasion of violence is not unconnected to the fact that Nigerian politics is not seen as a genuine opportunity to actually serve the people, but as an avenue to amass public wealth. For this reason and many other possible reasons, women’s participation is helplessly handicapped.
Sadly, another reason for the discrimination of women in Nigerian politics is also the women factor. If the numerical strength of the female demographic in the country is considered, it is unarguable that women would be victorious in any political office they vie for. However, because there are some unknown reasons why women are mostly unsupportive of their types, the woman populace has not been given the necessary political power in the country. The politics of seclusion that the females experience in Nigeria is informed by these three important factors. Without structuring the country’s power to favor the female gender, as it does the male counterparts, some important things would evade the country without its knowing. For example, during Dr. Awolowo Dosumu’s experience in the Netherlands, she was faced with one challenge that needed the immediate help of a particular Minister of her host country. But because there are expansive protocols to be followed before one could schedule a meeting with the country’s ministers, she was incapacitated and was immediately helpless. However, being a fast thinker, she found out that the minister she needed to meet with was an alumna of the same school with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the present World Trade Organization’s president. Dr. Awolowo-Dosumu pulled a call through, and the females settled what was imminently important for the country, Nigeria.
Fortunately, the discussion with Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu did not go without touching on the roles of advocacy in the current socio-economic and sociopolitical conditions of the country. What spurred this discussion was the fact that the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, has a foundation (The Awolowo Foundation) named after him, and which has been dedicated to carrying on advocacy for the investment in human development paradigm, representational democracy, and African progress generally. We are enlightened that the dedication to these courses of actions can be a useful tool for enhancing a virile society where there would be open access to collective opportunities. On the need to stop the increasing brain drain, which has been the most challenging threat confronting the country in contemporary times, Dr. Awolowo Dosumu asserts that The Awolowo Foundation has been airing its views on this. For one, the fact that Nigerians are making maximum contributions in places where they found themselves in the diaspora is not a coincidence. It is the result of accumulated efforts that they have invested in their human development. Therefore, there can be no contention about their success wherever they found themselves.
However, Nigeria stands to be on the losing side when almost all its citizens are ceaselessly interested in abandoning the country for a safer and economically better environment where their dreams can be achieved. This is more complicated because migration in the current world has been made easier as countries that are aware of the immeasurable advantage of taking people from countries like Nigeria have opened their borders to legal migrants. It is a sad case because the period of open access to Nigerians in the diaspora coincides with when many are ravaged by insecurity and economic issues in their country, increasing the push factors that make traveling out of the country a patriotic exercise. It is a raging irony that Nigerians need to migrate out of Nigeria so that they could be safe. Whereas, when given the opportunity and the necessary environment, Nigerians who are doing essentially well in the diaspora would stay back and develop their countries with their God-given talent. All these have been the basis for the advocacy of the said Foundation, and they have continued to make important marks in their chosen trajectory. The tragedy of the country lies in the weakness of their leadership, and the best way to bring them back to their feet is by electing leaders with the right frame of mind and a sense of responsibility.