Essay on Nigeria

This essay has a total of 6538 words and 29 pages.


Nigeria





The Federal Republic of Nigeria, known as Nigeria, is located on the African continent and
borders on the south the Gulf of Guinea, on the east Cameroon, on the northeast Chad,
Niger on the north, and Benin on the west.

Nigeria is divided into four sections: the north, south, east, and west. The Hausa kingom
is located in the north, the Yoruba in the south and the west, and Ibo in south and the
east. The Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba are the major ethnic group of Nigeria, but also refer to
the kingom’s name and the culture and language of the area. There are many similarities
between these kingdoms but also many recongnizable differences. For example, the Ibo’s
have lighter skin than the Hausa and Yoruba people. Also, many Hausa’s and Yoruba’s have
tribal markings on their face. The women of the Hausa kingdom typically where a headress
covering their eyes and are known to be the less educated people of the country. The Ibo
people are thought to be money-makers and business people of the country and almost all
that is produced in Nigeria is produced primarily in the west by the Ibo’s. Women in the
Yoruba kingdom are almost equal to men. Yoruba women inheret land and can acquire wealth,
which is very unique treatment of most women throughout Nigeria.

Almost half of the Nigeria’s population identifies as Muslims, followed by nearly 35
percent Chirsitans, and more than 18 percent as other indigenous religions (Metz, 1991).
But as different ethnic groups constitue specific regions in Nigeria, so do religions.
The far northern areas of Nigeria have commonly been considered Muslim, but the middle
belt has a mixture of Muslim and Christian followers. The south is traditionally
considered Christian and features Protestant and Africanized churches, such as the Aladura
movement among the Yoruba and Roman Catholicism among the Igbo. There was also a sizeable
Muslim population in the South. In addition, traditional religions, characterized by
worship of primordial spirits, dead ancestors, and spirits of places, is practiced,
especially in rural areas (Metz, 1991)

With a population of more than 100 million people, there are 250 to 400 or more recognized
ethnic groups, many of which are divided into subgroups of considerable social and
political importance. There are a huge number of languages spoken in Nigeria, estimated
at between 350 and 400. Most important are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. English is the
official language used in government, large-scale business, mass media, and education
beyond primary school" (Metz, 1991).

The state and local governments are responsible for the primary education (six-year
program). The responsibility for secondary education is shared by the federal and state
governments. There are also some private schools of Muslim and Christian faith. "In 1990
between 150,000 and 200,000 were enrolled in thirty-five colleges, universities, and
higher technical schools" (Metz, 1991, section 1 of 1). Approximity 61 percent of the
female adult population is illiterate in Nigeria compared to 37.7 percent of the male
adult population (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).

The major health problems reported in 1991 to effect Nigerians included cerebrospinal
meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever, AIDS, malaria, guinea worm, schistosomiasis,
onchocerciasis, and malnutrition among young children (Metz, 1991). Medical
establishments are owned by federal, state, and local governments and private groups.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Nigeria in 1988 consitituted the highest percent of
GDP coming from agriculture, represented by 39.1, followed by industry represented by 10
percent (Metz, 1991). Products produced in Nigeria range from palm oil, peanuts, rubber,
petroleum, wood, hides and skins to food products, textiles, cement, building materials,
footwear, chemical products, ceramics, small appliances (Metz, 1991). Nigeria’s major
trading partners are with the United States, Britain, other European Economic Community
countries, Japan, and Canada (Metz, 1991). Oil, a huge export from Nigeria has created
many problems in the country. Efforts to decrease unemployment have been hampered by the
dependence of the economy on petroleum, especially in the recession of the 1980s. "In
1988 oil produced 87 percent of the country's export income and 77 percent of total
federal revenues. This situation made the economy very vulnerable to world oil price
fluctuations" (Metz, 1991, section 1 of 1). The fall of oil prices and output in the the
latter 1980s caused a drastic decline in Nigeria’s GDP. As a result, gross national
product declined from $830 US dollars to $250 per capitia in 1989 (Metz, 1991). As a
result, for the first time in 1988, Nigeria was listed by the World Bank as a low-income
country. "The fall in the price of oil caused Nigeria not only to incur a trade deficit
but also to begin foreign borrowing, resulting in 1989 in the largest public debt of any
sub-Saharan country" (Metz, 1991, section 1 of 1). Most middle class Nigerian women will
agree that the basic situation of women in Nigeria is not intolerable or appalling because
of the economic women have within the system. Women of urban working class, the urban
poor, and the peasantry insist more on their right to work, as they very often are
effected differently by the system, both Islamic and traditional. (sisterhood, 500).

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the largest in area of the West African
states. It is a country of great diversity because of the many ethnic, linguistic, and
religious groups that live within its borders. Nigeria is also a country with a long
past. The history of the peoples that constitute the present state dates back more than
2,000 years. The Nok people inhabited the region of Nigeria from from 800 B.C.E. to 200
B.C.E. Kanem-Bornu, the first major state in Nigeria, developed in the 8th century,
extending south from Lake Chad into present-day Nigeria by the 11th century. During this
period, Hausa city-states were established (in the north) and Islam was introduced into
the region. Portugese traders entered the area in the 15th century and began to propagate
the kidnapping and buying of slaves. Ibo and Ibibio city-states were built with wealth
acquired from the slave trade (Morgan, 1996).

In 1804, a "holy war" led by the Fulani Moslem conquered the Hausa states. The son of
Usuman dan Fodio founded Sokoto, the ruling state until British colonization. Islam
became established in the early 1800’s and with it came segregation of the sexes, male
authority in choosing domicile, and deprivation of women’s traditional economic pursuits
(Morgan, 1996).

In earlier Nigerian history, women, such as Amina, Queen of Zaria, a 15th century Huasa
Kingdom ruler, succeeded her father as ruler and maintained control for 34 years (Morgan,
1996). Before British colonization, Yoruba women of the Oyo kingdom held high political
rank. Women in other significant tribes, such as the Ibo, had a role in traditional
politics as well. The Omu, was in charge of women in the village with her chosen cabinet,
which included a policewoman who kept order in the marketplace. Women also were organized
in groups of wives of lineage and daugthers of lineage that acted as pressure groups.
This group called the "Inyemedi" gathered regularly for mikiri, a forum for women’s issues
where rules were made about livestock, and the market, and women discussed their problems
about men; strategies for solving them-which might include seuxal, housework, or childcare
strikes-were arrived at collectively" (Morgan, 1996, p. 497).

By 1906, British controlled the country and divided into 2 protectorates under "indirect
rule." The British established judicial systems that circumvented the Ibo women’s
arbitration courts and recognized only male power structures. Igboland was split into
Native Court areas administered by British officers or Ibo men designated as warrant
chiefs (Morgan, 1996).

The usurpation of women’s rights was the main cause of Ogu Umunwanyi, the Women’s War of
1929, called the Aba Riots by British historians. The war was triggered by a census and
property count which resulted in taxes for men. Women leaders in several tribes organized
to prevent taxation and held meetings at which women decided not to comply with the count
and to riase an alarm if an official demanded information" (Morgan, 1996). On Nov. 23,
1929, women from all over the province portested at the local Native Administration
Centers’ district office. The women protested, demolished or burned 16 Native Courts and
released prisoners in several jails (Morgan, 1996).

Religious influence, especially by the Christianity missionary intensified during the
1930’s. The missionaries banned participation in traditional rituals such as the mikiri,
an Ibo women’s forum for example. In 1959, women again revolted against discriminatory
colonial policies. The Kon women of Eastern Nigeria protested when the colonial
government wanted to sell their lands to the Ibo. Nearly 2000 women marched on a nearby
town and burned down the marketplace. They demanded the closing of all foreign schools,
courts, and other institutions, and the expulsioin of all non-Kon peoples from the area
(Morgan, 1996).

On October 12, 1960, Nigeria gained Independence. Since Nigeria was colonized by the
British who set up government in the northern, Hausa section of Nigeria, leadership
naturally passed to these people after independence. The Ibo’s have historically been
egalitarian, settling disputes among family kindred.

Military rule has been the major ruling form established in the "democratic" government of
Nigeria, although there were many civilian presidents after indendpence and through the
1980s. More recently, on June 8 1998, Nigeria's ruler at the time, General Sani Abacha
died of a heart attack. Abdulsalam Abubakar took his, and initially was still promising a
return to civilian rule. Abubakar’s initial transition plan was to take the nation on a
path of political and economic reform. Shortly after, in February of 1999, another
presidential election took place between the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo (of
Yoruba), and another Nigerian, Olu Falae. Jimmy Carter went to Nigeria to monitor the
election and verify that it was a fair election. Olusegun Obasanjo won over 60% of the
votes and on on May 29, 1999, another military took over power from Abubakar (Lyman &
Cotton, 2000).

The military branch of the government has the highest power in the country, and they are
in control of running the country in general (though in the cases of the military, the
rule tends to be more dictator than democratic). The federal government is next in charge
of running the country, and is bound by the rules of the constitution. The federal
government structure is divided into 3 main branches: the executive, legislative, and
judicial.

At the state levels, the same three branches of government exist which is divided into the
executive and legislative branch which consists of the State house of representatives, and
the Cabinet which consists of a group of ministers that have been appointed to oversee
certain areas of the government. Under the federal government there are 28 cabinets set
up, for education, agriculture, employment, etc.

The Third Republic, is a form of civilian governmetn devised by the present Federal
Military Goverernment (FMG) in which the president has final say over any democratic
decisions made the senate any legislative houses. When General Babangida took power in
1985 this had been the first government that officially addressed the ‘women question’ and
placed it explicitly on its political agenda (Abdullah, 1993).

There are no legal impediments to political participation or voting by women in Nigeria.
Yet, in 1997, only 20 percetn of Nigerian women, who constitute more than half population,
were fully involved in national development activities and only five percent of women
particiapted in the Federal Legislature during the civilian regime" (Oduaran & Okukpon,
1997). In addition, there has never been a woman in the cabinet of the former Armed
Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria and the present Provinical Ruling Council, the highest
decision-making bodies in Nigeria" (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).

Interpretations of Islam have been used to exclude women’s access to participate equally
in politics. Fatima L. Adamu (no date), a female Nigerian activist of the 90s is involved
in work on gender issues in Northern Nigeria and states that "In Nigeria, women’s right to
be elected to the secular central government is being challenged in the name of Islam and
as a result, Hausa women of Muslim faith in Northern Nigeria are being left far behing,
compared with their sisters from the South" (p. 9). Adamu (no date) states that,
"Interpretations of religions throughout, including Islam, have been used as grounds for
refusing women their rights as individuals (p. 9). Further, Adamu (no date) explains:

One cannot ignore the centrality of Islam in determining the positin of women in Muslim
societies, and its impact on the everyday lives of women. In Northern Nigeria, for
example, ideas about gender relations are derived from interpretations of Islam, and these
ideas are enacted either through legislation or public opinion. Matters of central
concern to women such as inheritance, marriage, child custody, divource, and other marital
relationships are governed by Islamic rules in many Muslim societies. In Northern
Nigeria, the Shari’ah courts, which practise Islamic personal law, remain the most
relevean and widely used legal system, despite the option of using the civil court. Legal
matters which concern women in their role as wives and mother – for example, disputes over
inheritance, marriage, divorce, and child custody – are therefore commonly conducted or
resolved within the Islamic legal syustem reather than the parallel Nigerian civil legal
system (p. 10).

Adamu speaks of the importance and relevance of women’s participation in the Islamic
movement and the relevance of women’s participation in the Islamic movement in the Muslim
world. Adamu explains that the women’s movement in Muslim societies "has been interpreted
by some as ‘an ambigous political struggle’, where women are on the one hand ‘fighting
actively against their inequality, but on the other [are] accepting or supporting their
own subordination’ " (Adamu, no date, p. 10). Despite conflicting interpretations of
women’s struggle in Nigeria, Adamu and other Muslim women activits are confronting issues
of concern to Muslim women. According to Adamu (no date), "Muslim women in many
communities throughout the world are redefining Islam as a legitimate tool for engaging
with and tackling gender issues in Muslim socieites" (p. 9).

The pattern of discrimination against women varies according to the ethnic and religious
diversity of Nigeria’s vast population. Women are discriminated in employment, customs,
early marriage, religious practices, education and health care. In Nigeria, women are
generally prevented from participating in certain economic activities (Oduaran & Okukpon,
1997). They are not employed as auto mechanics or commercial driver, in the oil industry,
or in cement production factories (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997). Sex discrimination can be
seen in some work disciplines such as engineering and surgery. As an area of study in
Nigeria, surgery has been mainly dominiated by men. Women are seen as physcially unifit
for the field of engineering services and women who pursure studies in this field can be
riduled (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997). Women are often refused from positions of authority
where they would have power over men. "In the police force, the use of arms by women is
seriously discouraged because the authorities do not have confidence in women’s ability to
handle guns in carrying out their duties" ((Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997, p. 6).

Between 35 and 44 percent of all women in Nigeria work for wages (Seager, 1997, p. 68).
Women do no receive equal for equal work and often find it extrememly difficult to acquire
commercial credit or to obtain tax deductions or rebates as heads of household (No author,
1998). While the number of women employed in the business sector increases every year, in
the higher prestige sectors of the workforce, women are still significatnly
underrepresented. Less than 10 percent of women hold administrative and managerial
positions (Seager, 1997, p. 71). The issue of early marriage prevails largely in the
northern parts of Nigeria. Parents in this area see marriage as a way to raise their
standard of living, particularly if their daughters marry wealthy men. As a result of
early marriages, women drop out of school without completing their education and have
little time for social activities (No author, 1998). According to ‘Molara
Ogundipe-Leslie (no date) a scholar, author, and women’s activitst of Lagos, Nigeria, "it
is within marriage that the Nigerian woman suffers the most oppression (p. 498).
Ogundipe-Leslie further explains that, "the oppression of a married women takes many
forms: first, she loses status by being married, because in the traditional system-which
is still at the base of the society-the woman as daughter or sister has greater status and
more rights within her own lineage. Married, she becomes a possession, vioceless, and
often rightless in her husband’s family, except for what accrues to her through her
children" (Ogundipe-Leslie, no date). Many times the wife has to submit to dominance by
her husband or face blame from the total society. There is also peer group pressure on
the husband, pressure which encourages men in the direction of male supremancy
(Ogundipe-Leslie, no date). Ogundipe-Leslie states that subordination of women in marriage
has another reality: women are overworked. Generally, men do no housework or childcare
and women struggle on two fronts, the home and workplace.

Violence against women exists, but there are no statistical data to determine the extent
of the problem. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes. In areas where
customary law exists it becomes even harder to educate and stop violence against women
when the level of alleged abuse does not exceed customary norms. The government only
occasionally condemned child abuse and neglect and made little effort to stop coustomary
practices harmful to children, such as the sale of young girls in marriage (No author,
1998).

Until recently, Christian women were not allowed to be pastors or preachers or to take
leadership positions in worship. Women were expected to be silent and submissive and not
until recently have women been attaining leadership positions in their churches (Oduaran &
Okukpon, 1997). Muslim women who live under purdah are secluded from the outside world.
While the men may marry as many as four wives, women are not permitted to be seen in the
company of another man. It is generally believed that a respectable woman should not be
exposed to outside influences, and that a women’s education will erode her husband’s
control (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still practiced extensively in all parts of the country
and among all religious groups, and many ethnic groups, despite the fact that the Nigerian
government has publicly opposed female genital mutiliatin. In February of 1998, the
Minister of Health, Ihechukwu Madubuike, announced that the government had established a
25-person committee to study this issue. The number of female genital mutilations are
declining and the Ministry of Health and many government orgainisations have sponsored
public awareness projects to educate communities about the health hazards of female
genital mutilation. The press also openly condemns this practice.

Although women are not legally barred from owning land, under some customary systems only
men can own land, and women gain access to land through marriage of family. In addition,
customary practices do not recognize a woman’s right to inherit her husband’s property,
and many widows thrown off their property after their husband dies. In other areas, a
widow is considered part of her husband’s property and she too may be "inherited" by his
family.

Due to inheritance restriction and lack of affordability, women have little or no access
to land in Nigeria. To begin with, banks are not allowed to give loans to women unless
she has a written permission from her husband. If a women is single, it becomes even
harder to rent or buy a house or apartment. Single women are often discriminated against
renting apartments by landlords who uphold cultural prejudices (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).
According to a statistic by the Nigeria Habitat Coalition, more than 90 percent of all
family owned lands and property in Nigeria are registered in men’s names" (Oduaran &
Okukpon, 1997). Although Nigeria has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Disrmination Agaisnt Women (CEDAW), declaring women’s specific right to housing
and the related right of women to own, administer, and manage property, no action has been
taken to integrate the convention into the west African coutnry’s Constitution (Oduaran &
Okukpon, 1997). Government has not helped women either. The housing needs of women are
rarely considered when formulating policies and programmes. Women are rarely consulted or
brought into the process of policy formulation and execution. Female access to property
revolves around the legal status of women. "In Nigeria, the legal status more or less
subordinates women," says Eze Onyekpere, Executive Director of Shelter Rights Initiative
(Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).

It is quite contradictory that women are required to cultivate their husband’s land and
grow the family food including the food for the husband, for which they receive nothing in
return. The husband can sell in the market what a women grows to buy for himself whatever
he wants. She can be divorced at any time which means thrown out of her home to which she
has no right; nor does she have any right to her children (Oduaran & Okukpon, 1997).

Helen Nwaneri (1998) states that "Gender means the distinction between sexes (male and
female), it refers to the system of roles and relationships between women and men that are
dominated not by biology but by the society. Gender stereotypes are roles or a pattern of
behavior placed on a particular sex by the society, mostly beliefs, illogical ideas and
Continues for 15 more pages >>




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