Women have to strive to make Nigeria better —Dr Annah Afolabi
Dr Annah Afolabi is a businesswoman, church leader and the wife of late Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief S.M Afolabi. In this interview with TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about the need to eradicate violence and money politics in Nigeria, the need for parents to educate and train their children, how she coped with the demise of her husband, among other issues.
We recently marked the International Women’s Day, do you think women are making progress in the fight for gender equality?
Women all over the world are progressing and doing very well. You can see women now coming up as president of nations. That shows that women are breaking the glass ceiling. In Nigeria too, we can see women at the helms of affairs in many organisations and corporations. You can see that during the elections, a lot of women vied for political offices such as the presidency, senate, governorship and so on. We are not there yet but it is better than what it used to be. There is a lot of awareness these days and women now see the need to contribute their quotas to the development of the nation.
As a woman of substance, what are you doing to empower Nigerian women?
I am constrained to my church. As the president of Ibadan North Diocese, I organise seminars for women where we train them not to see themselves as a weaker sex and the need for them to develop their God-given potentials. With the way things are in the society today,both the man and woman must join hands together to take care of the home front. Gone were the days when it was only the man that works to provide for the need of the family, today the wife too must work hard so that the family can live well. For me, men have failed us, especially in Nigeria,they have been ruling us since independence, you can see where we are today. So, it is high time women took over the running of this country. Let’s see what will women do. Let’s see if there will be a change. Let us see if Nigeria will be where we ought to be as giant of Africa. With time by the grace of God, women will make statement in Nigeria and all over the world.
Statistically, women have the highest number of votes in this country. Why have they not been using it to vote for their fellow women. Is that not a case of women being their own worst enemy?
Some times, I try to ask myself what the problem is, we are the ones that vote, we are the ones that make the society tick but despite that, we don’t accommodate ourselves. I think it is a matter of us doing more enlightenment, more orientation. By the grace of God, there will be changes because the way women are showing interests in politics and are vying for elective offices, we are getting there gradually. Also, men now allow their wives to participate in politics unlike in the time past so,we are learning everyday and our eyes are now opening. Women have to strive to make Nigeria better. The constraint women have in politics are violence and finance. The amount of money politicians spend on election is too much, politics should not be about money but on merit. If there is enough security and protection of lives, if money politics is eradicated, more women wiil participate in politics. I am praying and believing God that 2023 will be the year of women in Nigeria.
You have come a long way since the demise of your husband. How were you able to cope without him?
It takes the grace of God and courage. You must not see yourself as someone who has been defeated. God has said it that two people will be together and one will be taken away so, if you are a Christian, God will give you the grace to bear it. Though it is not easy but with courage, determination, you are bound to succeed. By the grace of God everything will work together for your good. His grace will enable you to do what ordinarily, you cannot do.
What roles can parents play in empowering the girl-child?
The first thing is education. Education is very important. The second thing is to instil morals in them. Train your children so you can have peace, so that your tomorrow can be better. These days, children are not properly brought up,may be it is because mothers are too occupied. The environment where one grow up too is important, your environment makes you who you are. Learning starts from home and the environment.If the environment is good, they are well educated and well brought up, they will do well in live.
How can a woman combine her career with the home front?
There is time for everything. You need to schedule your activities. You need proper time management skill. When you are at home, devote your time to your family. When you are not at home, call them on phone to find out how they are faring. Learn to communicate with them.
It is almost a year that you became the deputy lay president of Ibadan North Diocese of the African church, what has the experience being like?
I thank God. It has been wonderful. There is a lot of cooperation. The leadership of the Diocese has been supportive and cooperative. I thank God that I have a supportive bishop who works hand in hand with me. There has never been any rancour between us which makes the experience to be very interesting. So far, so good. God has been helping me.
What do you think a woman who is a victim of domestic violence should do. Should she stay or opt for divorce?
It is true that God hates divorce but the life of the woman is very important. When there is domestic violence, I will not advice the woman to divorce her husband but to separate from the man for some time so that she can pray and try to see how the issue can be resolved. You can let elderly people intervene then wait to see if the man will have a change of mind, if he can be counselled and taught the value of marriage. If all efforts made did not yield any result, don’t divorce, rather, find somewhere to stay and take care of your children. You can be calling him occasionally to ask him about his wellbeing and pray for him on the phone. One day, he will surely come back to apologise. Marriage is about communication, tolerance, perseverance, endurance, love and trust. There is no perfect marriage, we learn to trust and love each other. If you love your wife, you won’t be aggressive towards her and beat her up. If you love her genuinely, you will know she is your better half you can’t beat your better half and be comfortable. It is all about love, trust and communication.
What advice do you have for young people who are still searching for a future partner?
Don’t be in a hurry. If you are dating someone, try to know that person. The mistake most people make is that they ignore some red signs thinking they can change the person when they get married. It is not possible. We have already built our character. Change is very difficult so make sure the person you want to marry have the qualities you want in a partner before you say I do. Love is not blind,open you eyes wide when choosing a life partner. When you study your partner, you will be able to know whether he or she is responsible or not.