A general argument, often advanced for the evolution of modern society, is that which addresses the need to arrest inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities, a desire for an egalitarian milieu, where access to certain benefits is not skewed against certain classes of humans, irrespective of gender, race or creed. This theory of inclusiveness asserts the equality of mankind and therefore calls for this to reflect in how resources and opportunities are shared.
However, as good-intentioned and interesting as this lofty ideal is, the general perception in praxis is that women are marginalized and not often given the opportunity to excel like their men folk, especially within our polity and government appointments. This perception isn’t far from the truth if one considers that from the federal to most state governments, one can count the number of core or important positionsoccupied by women.
This perception that women are marginalized has become so pervasive that even political office seekers now make it an important part of their manifesto, detailing what percentage of their cabinet or appointment will be ceded to the womenfolk. This doctrine of necessity is what is usually referred to, in some quarters, as the principle of affirmative action.
Given all these, one man that has shown that he is committed to giving women their dues, when they are deserving and is willing to stand by the position, even in the face of opposition to it, is Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Governor Sanwo-Olu, in the face of daunting opposition has twice ensured that women are not sidelined or denied their rightful position at two critical points in the course of his administration.
First was the controversy that ensued when it was time to pick a substantive 9thVice Chancellor, for Lagos State University, LASU. Before the appointment of Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, there was a raging controversy that almost tore the school apart. It took the wisdom of the Governor and his Special Adviser on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab to navigate the issue and berth an amicable resolution which saw the emergence of Prof. Olatunji-Bello. Already, there were unconfirmed reports from various quarters that some people were not comfortable with the choice of a woman emerging the Vice Chancellor of the state-owned university. The Governor was said to have stood his ground that as long as she was the choice of the council and the panel assembled for the selection of the VC, she was not going to be short-changed.
In the same vein, the Governor on February 7, 2023 ratified the appointment of another woman, Prof. Bidemi Lafiaji-Okuneye as the first substantive Vice Chancellor, for the Lagos State University of Education, LASUED. LASUED is one of the two recently established universities in the state. The institutions were formerly known as Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin and Epe campuses and the Micheal Otedola College of Primary Education, Epe. Recall that the Governor set an unprecedented record in the education sector last year when he got the National University Commission, NUC to upgrade the state’s college of education and polytechnic to universities.
It is worthy of commendation that LASU and LASUED, two of the state’s top tertiary institutions, (LASU recently rated as one of the top universities in the country), both have female VCs under the administration of Governor Sanwo-0lu. This confidence in the ability and capacity of the womenfolk will encourage more women to aspire to greater heights; rest assured that attaining the zenith of their career and desired heights, in public service, is a possibility irrespective of their gender.
Nigeria as a nation has a National Gender Policy which stipulates that 35 percent of government appointments should be reserved for women. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has since his assumption of office shown a clear commitment to empowering women and ensuring that they are not denied their rights and privileges at any point in time.
By Victor Ganzallo