I love Serah Makka-Ugbabe. She’s the woman who heads ONE Campaign in Nigeria as the country director. She has extended role for Africa. The first time we met a little over five years ago our chemistry kicked in. She has a good education and reputation—a degree in Economics and International Relations from the University of North Florida and a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. Ms. Makka-Ugbabe is from Niger State. It may not be too long before Nigeria taps her to serve in government.
This is the point I’m making, girls in Nigeria deserve better: better education, better survival rates, better protection from child marriage and sexual assault, better access to resources, better health outcomes, and a better future.
Yes, I want to do an exhibition on women who have rescued our nation in troubled times to drive home what the United Nations Day of the Girl Child really means for us. I want to show that women have been called to clean up the mess when men mess up. The links cross the ages.
Oh! October has a way of reminding us of our freedom, yet we hardly remember that women actually pushed us into demanding freedom.
In November of 1929, a group of market women challenged obnoxious rule of the British colonialist. These market women with gut forced the colonial authorities to surrender on its terrible tax imposition on the market women. In the book we know it as Aba Women Riot. The women’s uprising, though debatable was a signpost to the British authorities that Nigeria will revolt. It was the first major challenge to British authority in Nigeria and West Africa during the colonial period.
Honestly, women have been called to rescue our nation when in dire need. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who gave Nigeria the best financial policies in history was called in to clear the mess, when Nigeria was roiling in external debt. As a minister of finance, she got Nigeria a deal with the Paris Club and went on to institute major changes in fiscal policies. She had a good education to do that. Aged 18, Okonjo-Iweala went to the U.S to study Economics at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worked for the World Bank.
Now, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun came in at a turbulent time as finance minister. She came to fix what has been plundered. She is pragmatic at what she does, first taking Nigeria out of recession and implementing fiscal policies to recover Nigeria’s money out of the hands of the big men who have evaded taxes over the years.
Adeosun’s good education has made her a star in the company of men. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of East London, a postgraduate Diploma in Public Financial Management from the University of London, and qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, Adeosun is an example of why Nigeria should care about girl education.
And this, when Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili was saddled with the responsibility of pioneering Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence office also known as due process office by president Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria was tapping into her quality education. With a master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, as well as a Master of Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, she performed brilliantly. It paid off for Nigeria.
Now, 40-year-old Aishah Ahmad from Niger State in northern Nigeria—a region known for its laid-back culture on girl education, where women struggle for better life—has been tapped following her excellent work at Diamond Bank to go to the Central Bank of Nigeria on another rescue mission.
Ahmad’s education and experience is what Nigeria is looking for to solve problems at the apex bank. A holder of Masters Degree in Finance and Management from the prestigious Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom, and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from one of Nigeria’s first generation university, the University of Lagos, Ahmad is ready to be deputy governor at the CBN.
There are many other great women in different sectors in Nigeria making a difference with amazing abilities that I may not be able to mention here.
Here is the lesson: Men who do not send their girls to great school are losers. A country that doesn’t create opportunities such as quality education for girls to realize their potentials will borrow from other countries. You make Nigeria better for girls; you make Nigeria better for everyone. Girls with education grow into great women.
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