Leadership in Public Arenas

At all levels of Igbo society men dominate leadership in public arenas. Igbo men far outnumber Igbo women in positions and influence in Nigerian federal and state government institutions. While some women are elected or appointed to political office, there have been no female Igbo governors, relatively few female ministers, senators, and representatives at the federal level, and few female commissioners and other political appointees compared with males at the state level. In addition, men clearly dominate the civil service, though less dramatically than political offices. Given Nigeria's postindependence political history, it is important to note that the top posts in military are, and have always been, entirely male.

In local government, women are represented in larger numbers, as local government chairpersons and councilors. But even at the local government level, men dominate. Significantly, at the nexus between traditional community authority and the Nigerian state, where the office of eze (chief/king) is a legacy of the British colonial imposition of a warrant chief system, men are in charge almost entirely. Almost every community in Igboland is ruled by a male eze, and most eze's cabinets (the body of local influential leaders who advise him) are almost exclusively male. Typically, an eze's cabinet has one woman's representative and a dozen or so men. Even at the most grassroots level, public leadership is primarily in male hands, so that village and hamlet (the smallest unit above the family/compound) headships are almost universally male in Igboland.

This male dominance of leadership in public arenas obscures two important points. First, both historical and anthropological research suggests that male dominance in the public arena may not have been as prevalent in the precolonial period (Amadiume, 1987). Some evidence suggests that the importance of female deities in traditional Igbo religion and the powerful role of women who held traditional titles associated with these deities placed women in strong positions of public leadership. Further, women's relative domination of the marketplace in the precolonial period may have afforded them more significant public roles. Second, men's monopoly of public leadership positions conceals the extent to which women influence decision-making. Particularly at local levels, through the parallel women's associations and the fact that Igbo men openly acknowledge that women must consent to any decision that is to have significant effect, women have a much greater say in the conduct of Igbo affairs than their lack of prominence in public leadership reveals. Indeed, the historical literature on the Igbo is well known for incidents where women's political action proved effective (Mba, 1982; van Allen, 1976), and anyone who has worked in Igbo communities in contemporary Nigeria has been told by male public leaders how important it is to gain women's collective cooperation. How all this must be weighed in assessing the relative status of men and women is considered further below.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment