Lagos — BUT for the special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Ethics and Good Governance, Chief Kanu Agabi, Norwegian deputy Head of Mission, Mr. Jens Erik Grondahl, executive director, Africa Leadership Forum (ALF), Mr. Ayo Aderinwale as a well as the few male resource persons, one would have concluded that the opening ceremony of the five-day workshop put together by ALF penultimate Monday at Ota, Ogun State was just an all female affair.
Having this thought in the back of one's mind, really will not be out of place, after all, the workshop entitled "Breaking the barrier: the challenge of female leadership" was meant for the youth, especially female student leaders from across the nation's tertiary institutions.
And since the show, as it were, was for them, these female leaders embraced the opportunity without any hesitation as their greater presence showed on the occasion. From the University of Benin (UNIBEN), University of Lagos (UNILAG), Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria to mention among other polytechnics and universities, these amazons came not just to share their personal experiences, but to examine and holistically too, their role in governance and by extension in humanity.
To prepare them for their onerous task, therefore, several topics and plenary sessions bordering on leadership were packaged. Some of the topics deliberated on ranged from understanding political liberation, rights, power and responsibility, effective communication, coalition building and alliance formation, leadership and the challenges of ethics," to deliberative democracy: conceptual framework.
And on hand to steer the discourses which were interspersed with mentor chats, were eminently qualified resource persons comprising former Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Prof. Albert Ilemobade, Dr. John Ayam, Mr. Olumide Ajayi, Mrs. Kumbi Imonitie, Comfort Ogunye-Idika, among other leadership experts and counsellors.
Capturing the essence of the gathering, the ALF executive director, Mr. Aderinwale in his opening remarks, said the goal was to promote and sharpen in young leaders, skills that would prepare them for leadership position and good governance.
"The leadership training workshop is designed to enhance opportunities for young leaders, sharpen their leadership skills in participatory democracy and governance; to seek to inculcate in young leaders the values and concepts of effective democratic leadership and by so doing create an informal opportunity for young leaders to interact and share ideas with select members of former and serving political office holders the virtues of participatory democracy and select members of the larger political community in Nigeria," he said.
The emphasis on women, he said, was in recognition of their symbolic role in humanity as purveyors of worthy causes naming amazons like Nobel laureate, Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya, Dr. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the late Comfort Nwizu and the current Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) president, Mrs. Mojisola Osuyemi.
He frowned at the discrimination against women, particularly in Nigeria, saying that they are segregated both in governance and in the labour world.
Mr. Aderinwale disclosed that only 2,012 and 2.8 per cent of Nigerian women were in the telecommunication industry and the parliament respectively as against 10,224 and 31.5 per cent recorded for their counterparts in South Africa.
The workshop, he, therefore, said was to help in sensitizing as well as effecting the needed change in the womenfolk.
Contributing, the ICAN president, Mrs. Osuyemi called for deliberate planning for leadership, saying it would be a recipe for good governance and ethical practice.
Mrs. Osuyemi who expressed gratitude to the organisers, said there was need for equal opportunities for males and females to be equipped with the ingredients of functional leadership.
She solicited more trainings, especially for the participants in order to make them beacons of hope and excellence so that they can impact positively on their different neighbourhoods.
Requesting that the workshop be extended to the grassroots, the ICAN helmsman charged the participants to help spread the gospel, in literal fashion, to the local women, who largely need proper education of the role in society.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Agabi implored them to be proud citizenry by exploiting the opportunities and potentials abound in the country.
Most youth, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice said, unfortunately do not believe in themselves and the country.
He, consequently, charged them to have a change of heart and endeavour to distinguish themselves in their life goals and be ready to serve humanity.
"The hallmark of leadership is service. You must serve. You just must serve, if you want to be distinguished. I know some of you want to be distinguished. I know some of you, young ladies are looking forward to the day when you will be married to ministers or be presidents and ministers yourselves. You will be, if you begin to serve. You must begin to serve," he counselled.
Mr. Agabi who chaired the occasion, remarked that the present administration was committed to the cause of women, remarking that President Obasanjo wants a good representation and participation of women in governance.
The special adviser also during the question and answer session, noted that the nation's legal system was weak, attributing it to past military governments.
Referring particularly to problems faced by widows, Mr. Agabi stated that in addition to cultural and traditional hinderances, the country's legal system has not been favourable to them.
The presidential aide, nonetheless, promised that the present administration was determined to change the tide even as he enjoined women to be ready to win life's battles themselves.
He declared that the future of the world belonged to women, advising them not to allow the superficial hurdles placed by men to suppress their actions.
The Norwegian government which was represented by its envoy, Mr. Groundahl, pledged continued support for the programme, saying democracy, good governance and sound leadership are unseparable features of any modern society.
He noted that the training of these leaders would contribute to the implementation of best decisions and practices in the various institutions.
"Only by the training of leaders, skilled professionals and leading members of community organisations in democratic leadership, can the greater society perform well and be in accordance with the universal rights of the citizenry," Mr. Groundahl said.