Special Guests of Honour, residents of Queen Idia Hall, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am indeed honoured to be here today and to be counted amongst those Nigerian women whom you consider worthy.
When I was given this topic I was pleased because it gave me a chance to look at Nigerian women in history and their contributions to the transformation of their time. Unfortunately as a country we do not have much written history, however with what we do have we can go back as far as the 16th century and look at examples of the women who led transformation then.
HISTORICAL WOMEN OF TRANSFORMATION
Let us begin with Queen Idia. I am sure many of you young ladies do not know the history behind the famous woman whom this hall of residence is named after. I shall begin by educating you about her.
The kingdom of Benin was plunged into a state of turmoil at the end of the 15th century when Oba Ozolua died and left 2 powerful sons to dispute succession. His son Esigie controlled Benin City while another son Arhuaran, was based in the equally important city of Udo about twenty miles away. The ensuing civil war severely compromised Benin’s status as a regional power and undermined Benin City’s place at the political and cultural center of the kingdom. Exploiting this weakness, the neighboring Igala people sent warriors across the Benue River to wrest control of Benin’s northern territories. Esigie ultimately defeated his brother and conquered the Igala, re-establishing the unity and military strength of the Benin kingdom
His mother Idia received much of the credit for these victories as her political counsel, together with her mystical powers and medicinal knowledge were viewed as critical elements of Esigie’s success on the battle field. To reward and honour her, Esigie created a new position within the court called the Iyoba, or Queen Mother, which gave her significant political priviledges, including a separate residence with its own staff.
As mother of the king, Idia and later Iyoba’s wielded considerable power. Until recent times, the Iyoba, who bore the Oba’s first son, had no other children and devoted her life to raising the future ruler of the kingdom. Queen Mothers were therefore viewed as instrumental to the protection and well being of the Oba and by extension the kingdom. Indeed Obas wore carved ivory pendant masks representing the Iyoba during ceremonies designed to rid the kingdom of malevolent spiritual forces (These masks are what we now know as the FESTAC 77 mask).
Still in the 16th century, we have Queen Amina of Zaria. The seven original states of hausaland were Katsina, Daura, Kano, Zazau, Gobir, Rano and Garun Gabas covering an area of approximately 500 square miles and they comprised the heart of Hausaland in those days. Queen Bakwa Turunku built the capital of Zazau at Zaria, named after her younger daughter. Eventually the entire state of Zazau was renamed Zaria now a city in present day Nigeria.
However it was her elder daughter the legendary Amina, who inherited her Mother’s warlike nature. Amina was 16 years old when her mother became queen and she was given the traditional title of Magajiya. She honed her military skills and became famous for her bravery and military exploits, as she is celebrated in a song as “Amina daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man”.
Amina is credited as the architect who created the strong earthen walls around the city, which was the prototype for fortifications used in all Hausa States. She built many of these fortifications, which became known as Ganuwar Amina or Amina’s walls, around various conquered cities.
The objectives of Amina’s conquests were twofold :- 1) Extension of Zazau beyond its primary borders and 2) reducing conquered cities to vassal status. Sultan Mohammed Bello of Sokoto stated that, “She (Amina) made war upon these countries and overcame them entirely so that the people of Katsina paid tribute to her and the men of Kano (and) …. Also made war on the cities of Bauchi till her kingdom reached the sea to the south and the west”. Likewise Amina led her armies as far as Nupe and according to the Kano Chronicle, “The Sarkin Nupe sent her (the princess) 40 eunuchs and 10,000 kolanuts.” She was the first in Hausaland to own eunuchs and kolanuts.
Over a 34 year period, Amina’s many conquests and subsequent annexation of territories extended the borders of Zaria, which also grew in importance and became the center of the North South Saharan Trade and East West Sudan trade.
MRS FUNMILAYO RANSOME-KUTI
When we come to the 20th century, we take the example of Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. She was born at the beginning of the 20th century, on the 25th October 1900. She was a teacher, political campaigner, women’s rights activist and traditional aristocrat. Her political activism led to her being described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria, as well as being regarded as “The Mother of Africa” Throughout her career, she was known as an educator and activist. She founded an organization of women in Abeokuta, with a membership of over 20,000 individuals spanning both literate and illiterate women.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti launched the organization into public consciousness when she rallied women against price controls which were hurting the female merchants of the Abeokuta markets. Trading was one of the major occupations of women in western Nigeria at the time. In 1949, she led a protest against the native authorities especially the Alake of Egbaland. She presented documents alleging abuse of authority by the Alake, who had been granted the right to collect the taxes by the British Government. He subsequently relinquished his crown for a time due to the incident. She also oversaw the successful abolishing of separate tax rates for women. In 1953, she founded the Federation of Nigerian Women Societies which subsequently formed an alliance with the Women’s International Democratic Federation.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti campaigned for women’s votes. She was for many years a member of the ruling National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons party. She was one of the few women in the 1950s elected to the House of Chiefs. At that time, it was one of the most influential bodies in Western Nigeria. Throughout her life time she continued to advocate for women. In 1978 Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was thrown from the second floor window when her son Fela’s compound, a commune known as Kalakuta Republic was stormed by 1000 armed military personnel. She lapsed into a comma in February of that year and died on the 13th of April 1978 as a result of her injuries.
CHIEF MARGARET EKPO
In this same period we have the example of Chief Margaret Ekpo born in 1914. She was a women’s activist, social mobiliser and pioneering female politician of the first republic. She was a leading member of a class of traditional women activists, many of whom rallied women beyond notions of ethnic solidarity.
Margaret Ekpo was born in Creek Town, Cross River State. She reached standard six of the school leaving certificate in 1934 when tragedy struck with the death of her father. Her goals for further education were put on hold and she became a pupil teacher in elementary schools. She married a doctor, John Udo Ekpo in 1938 and moved with him to Aba. In 1946 she had the opportunity to further her education and she studied for a diploma in domestic science at DIT in Dublin. On her return to Nigeria she established a Domestic Science and Sewing Institute in Aba.
Margaret Ekpo’s first direct participation in political ideas and association was in 1945. Her husband was indignant with the colonial administrators’ treatment of indigenous Nigerian doctors but as a civil servant he could not attend meetings to discuss the matter. Margaret Ekpo then attended these meetings in place of her husband. The meetings were organized to discuss the discriminatory practices of the colonial administration in the city and to fight cultural and racial imbalance in administrative promotions. She later attended a political rally, where she saw the fiery speeches of, MBONU OJIKE, NNAMDI AZIKIWE and HERBERT MACAULEY. By the end of the decade she had organized a Market Women Association in Aba to unionise market women in the city. She used the association to promote women solidarity as a platform to fight for the economic rights of women, economic protections and expansionary political rights of women.
Margaret Ekpo’s awareness of growing movements for civil rights for women around the world prodded her into demanding the same for Nigerian Women and to fight the discriminatory and oppressive political and civil role colonialism, played in the subjugation of women. She later joined the decolonization leading NCNC as a platform to represent marginalised groups. In the 1950s, she teamed up with Funmilayo Ransome Kuti to protest the killings at an Enugu Coal mine. The victims were leaders protesting colonial practices at the mine. In 1953 she was nominated by the NCNC to the Regional House of Chiefs and in 1954 she established the ABA TOWNSHIP WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION. By 1955 women in Aba had outnumbered men in a city wide election.
She won a seat into the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961. A position that allowed her to fight for issues affecting women at that time.
Ladies of Queen Idia Hall, as you can see, all through the ages there are Nigerian women who have been at the center stage of transformation. There are examples too many to be mentioned here through the eons of time. I encourage you to GOOGLE the information and learn more about your heritage. Suffice it to say that yours is a country of women no matter their circumstance or limitations of the environment, played a prominent and courageous role in building a better future. A future that you and I as women inhabit right now. Yours is a history rich in the contributions of women to the development of country and society, the question now is what can you do to carry on this tradition and history and remain on the centre stage of transformation?
In present day Nigeria of the hundreds of women eminently worthy to be mentioned here, I can only take one example due to a limitation on time. We will take as our example Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on the 13th of June 1954. She was educated at Harvard University graduating magna cum laude in 1977 and earned her PhD in regionaleconomic development from MIT in 1981. Prior to her Ministerial career in Nigeria, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was vice-president and corporate secretary to the World Bank Group. She left in 2003 and she was appointed to President Obasanjo’s Cabinet as Finance Minister on the 15th of July 2003.
In her capacity as Finance Minister, in October 2005, she led the Nigerian Team that struck a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria’s External Debt (US 12 billion) in return for an $18 billion debt write off. Prior to this time Nigeria had been spending roughly US$1 billion every year on debt servicing without making a dent on the principal owed.
She also introduced the practice of publishing each State’s monthly allocation from the Federal Government in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance. She was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.
When she resigned in 2006, the World Bank appointed her as a Managing Director of the bank. In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan reappointed Mrs Okonjo Iweala as Minister of Finance with the expanded portfolio of the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, a position she now holds.
This year Mrs Okonjo-Iweala became one of the top 3 contenders for the position of World Bank President. In her role as Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has extensive influence in shaping the direction of the economic team and the transformation agenda of this country.
For nine years now, FORBES has ranked the 100 most powerful women in the world. These are the women who adhere to the traditional classifications of power (political and economic might) and those who have risen to the top of the social and cultural landscape. The list features 8 heads of state, 25 CEOs who together control $984 billion in revenues and 11 billionaires personally worth about $80 billion dollars. The list also includes women who head NGOs, women in technology, public service and many other works of life. In the FORBES list of the 100 MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN THE WORLD 2012, our Mrs Okonjo-Iweala ranks number 81 followed closely by Madam President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at number 82.
As Mrs Hilary Rodham Clinton (current Secretary of State of the United States of America) said , in her speech to graduating students at the all female BARNARD COLLEGE in New York on May 18th 2009, “ We are meeting at a time of unprecedented opportunity and achievement for women. As you have already heard, women are serving at the highest levels of government” …. All…. “ around the world, in business, in academia, in the professions.” Women….” Are presiding over companies and colleges, running philanthropies and laboratories, and breaking new ground as artists and athletes.”
This prestigious university, where we are all gathered, The University of Ibadan, is steeped in its own history too. UI is Nigeria’s premier university. I am sure you are all proud to be students of the University of Ibadan. This University has turned out several notable personalities and the are several firsts amongst them. I will focus only on the women as I mention some such as Professor Grace Alele Williams, _______
As female undergraduate students of this university, the university is providing you with your greatest asset and that is a good education. You are being prepared to face the world. As Mrs Clinton said in her speech, “You are coming of age at a time of unprecedented challenges; war, terrorism, climate change, economic recession, extreme poverty, extreme ideologies, the proliferation of disease and nuclear weapons. These challenges transcend borders and oceans, politics and ideology and they affect us all.
But the same inter-connectiveness that amplifies these global challenges also makes it possible for us to solve them and for you to help lead us to the solutions. In this global age we are engaging in the 21st century statecraft and it is carried out beyond the corridors of government, in rural villages, in corporate boardrooms and halls, churches, hospitals, town halls, dormitories and classrooms like yours.”
So Ladies of Queen Idia Hall, it is my purpose to charge you today to become the next great generation of Nigerian women who will occupy centre stage and transform our great nation. A Nation where since the 16th century and beyond, Nigerian women have proved to be great agents of transformation. What does it take to be a great generation? It takes : opportunity, service, sacrifice and selflessness.
We live in an age of extraordinary circumstances and you all are by virtue of your god given talent, education and aspiration about to be part of the greatest technological transformation the world has ever seen.
In this present age we have sequenced the human genome opening up opportunity to cure disease. We navigate by GPS and are no longer dependent on paper maps. We communicate across continents as easily as we speak in this room. We have come to the point where we look to technology for news and entertainment, for education and managing our finances. We expect to find technology solutions that will protect us from our enemies, that will eradicate hunger and suffering, save the environment etc. Instead of standing in awe of technology, we now demand and depend on it for the things that we do.
As Linden Gooden said in her graduation speech,  she “envisions a future where new technology development involves work in a nano-scale environment. Where computers operate by lightwaves rather than electricity. Where machines will provide intelligent conversation. The opportunity for greatness she says, in the form of great problems to be solved and great technology with which to solve them will not be lacking. The opportunity will be overwhelming”.
But Ladies, she went on to say, “ you will not become a great generation just by opportunity and technology alone. The greatness will come in how well you meet the challenges implied by the other 3 factors of Service, Sacrifice and Selflessness.
As you face the world in your various endeavours, you will need to focus on providing solutions that are citizen-centric. You must engage technology in ways that enable our people to be better served by our government and for our people to be better citizens. Advances in healthcare should not just simply be an extension of life, but also improve the quality of that life. Advances in communication should not simply enable people to know more, but also to participate more in decisions that affect them.
With regard to sacrifice, some of you will be called to devote your professional life in public service. You should do it without regard to personal wealth or fame, but because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. You will also do it with a devotion to honesty and ethics that will make your families and your nation proud. Occasionally as an honest and ethical person you should question the authority that gives you the orders. For most of you however the call to sacrifice and greatness will not be in the public service. For you, sacrifice will be in the form of deferred gratification and hard work. A lot has been said in the popular press of the lack of work ethic in young people today.” Believe me, hard work has its just rewards.
When you look at the examples I have given in this speech today you can see the selflessness of these great women. Selflessness is a key ingredient to greatness.
As the next great generation if you can marry the technological opportunities with these softer values of service, sacrifice and selflessness, you will not only achieve greatness but you will be an example for others to follow.
The diplomacy of this age is fuelled by personal engagement and interconnections. And this is where you all come in. With new tools and technologies and the education you have received from the University of Ibadan, you now have the capacity to influence events in ways that no previous generation ever has.
But of course with that opportunity comes responsibility, because this new era of diplomacy requires a new commitment to global service. A continuing effort from each of you to help tackle the most urgent problems the country faces. Each of you should be a special envoy of your ideals. Use your skill and talent with these new tools to shape and reshape the future. What is different today is that we have 21st century tools we can use. Today women are finding their voices and those voices are being heard far beyond their own narrow circumstances. You can use these new social networking tools and unite your friends through facebook, twitter and others to fight a common cause. These new tools are available for everyone. They are democratizing diplomacy. No matter what you are doing you can be a citizen activist or citizen democrat. We all have the opportunity to do today so much more than even I dreamed possible when I was in your shoes.
In Nigeria today we have the examples of how young people like you used the new technology tools and the social media to overturn wrongs and serve justice.
We have the story of Amina Lawal Kurami, who on March 22nd, 2002, an Islamic Sharia Court (in Funtua, Katsina State) sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and for conceiving a child out of wedlock. The father of the child was not prosecuted for lack of evidence and deemed innocent without any DNA tests. The sentence caused widespread outrage in the west and a number of campaigns were launched to persuade the Nigerian Government to overturn the sentence. Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, an NGO based in Nigeria took up her case. With the rising pressure from all enraged citizens and other organizations using the new technology tools of the 21st century, pressure was brought to bear and eventually her sentence was overturned.
We have the example of the Fuel subsidy strikes and protests nationwide in January this year. The difference in this year’s protest was that a bulging middleclass with access to the internet took the social media platforms including facebook and twitter to swell the protests, which were organized under an “Occupy Nigeria” banner based on similar movements in Europe and the USA. Citizens made their feelings known and utilized all the tools of new technologies SMS, BB etc) to bring pressure to bear on the government calling for greater accountability and transparency in serving the people of Nigeria.
I urge you all to play your part on the centre stage of transformation. Make it part of your life and include it in whatever you do as you start out on this adventure. You are certainly well prepared and I wish for each and every one of you an adventure that gives you the same sense of meaning and purpose that you are looking for and an understanding of how much more you can do with the gifts you have been given to decide that you too will be one of those women at the centre stage of TRANSFORMATION of our great Nation NIGERIA.
Thank you all for your attention
Mrs Toki Mabogunje
 Alexander Ives Bortolot, Dept. of Art History and Archeology, Columbia University culled from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, website 19th August 2012.
 Culled from website of Black History Pages 19th August 2012
 Culled from Wikipedia 19th August 2012
 Culled from Wikipedia 19th August 2012
 Culled from Wikipedia 26th August 2012
 Hilary Rodham Clinton, remarks at Barnard College Commencement Ceremony, May 18th 2009
 Executive Vice President at Lockheed Martin Corporation to University of Maryland USA, Spring 2006.
 Wikipedia, 1st September 2012