There is a cliché among the Hausa people of Northern Nigeria that says “mata adon gari ne”. This when interpreted means that women are the beauty of a place (town). Assuming this were true, it follows that the beauty of a town is inextricably tied to the beauty of its women. Basically, it is trite everywhere in the world that a beautiful home is the product of a beautiful wife. Traditionally, women were confined to the bedroom and kitchen where their role starts and ends, while the man was saddled with the responsibility of bringing food to the house. Things have changed now. Not only do women perform the aforementioned tasks, but they have been part of the building process of our nation. The role they played in the development of the country in the recent years adds flesh to the assertion that ‘what a man can do, a woman can also do same’. As the world celebrates the women’s day, we also celebrate Nigeria women. We shall explore a little of the notable contribution of the women folk in the advancement of our country.

One of the first things I learnt as a primary school boy in current affairs was who the first female Vice-chancellor was. That was Prof. (Mrs.) Grace Alele-Williams. She has contributed a great deal to the advancement of education, knowledge of mathematics, and the academia in general. Her career commenced on a rather humble note as a mathematics teacher in Queens’ college in Ede, Osun state. Thereafter, she moved to the University of Lagos as a lecturer after she bagged the necessary academic qualifications, both at home and in abroad. She was the first female professor in Nigeria, and by implication, the first female professor of mathematics. Her wide knowledge and experience in the academia was put into application in the various committees that she served. She was a consultant to UNESCO and Institute of International Education Planning; she was a chairman of the curriculum review committee, former Bendel state; she was also a chairman of the Lagos state curriculum review and Lagos state Examinations Board. She was also magnanimous enough not to forget to enlighten teachers on how to go about the teaching of mathematics, which led to the publication of her book “Modern Mathematics Handbook for teachers”, and other several articles published in national and international journals. Her knowledge was too wide to be limited to the four corners of the country, thus, she was benevolent enough to share it with the world when she served as a member of the African Mathematics Programme, and vice-president of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education. We remember her today as a woman of substance who immensely contributed to the academia in Nigeria.

What about Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili? I believe she needs no introduction. She was referred to as an ‘Iron woman’ by many, an expression which denotes a no nonsense woman who treads places that were thought of as exclusive reserves of men. Oh yes, she was a good administrator Nigeria will not forget anytime soon. Her tenure as the DG of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration Control (NAFDAC) not only witnessed a breath of life into the agency, but also the undoing of the activities of those who specialize in the production, marketing and sale of fake drugs and other related products. She kept faith with Nigerians, and I make bold to state that she increased the life expectancy rate of Nigerians which was then threatened by the massive circulation of fake drugs. Like a military man, she put her life on the line for the progress and development of Nigeria. Nigerians will live to remember her as an epitome of hard work, dedication, diligence, and above all commitment to whatever responsibility given to someone. We remember her today as another woman of substance.

We thank God for the life of Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. She was one reason why many northern men eventually allowed their female daughters to go to school. Initially, the general idea and practice in many impoverished parts of the north was that after the secondary school education of a female child, the next thing expected of her parents was to marry her off. But Dr. Ngozi proved them wrong with her level of education, well constructed grammar, national and international appointment and recognition, aura of confidence which characterize every of her activity, and above all, relevance in the administration of the country. She is a world class renowned economist with many years of working experience at the World Bank. Dr. Ngozi is Nigeria’s finance minister and the coordinating minister for the economy, a position she held during the President Obasanjo’s regime. Perhaps one noticeable contribution she made to governance is the publication of the monthly allocation that goes to every state within the federation in a national daily. This no doubt increased the level of accountability, and by extension, transparency in governance. We celebrate her as a role model.

The list of women that shook this country with the aim of taking it to the citadel of development and admiration are many. This is not to forget those at the political scene who have served as mothers and voices to the voiceless. They made policies, changed programs, added meaning to leadership, and served selflessly. Their number one goal was the nation they pledged allegiance to, and they did not disappoint in that regards. If Nigeria would be great, then many people sacrificed to make that happen - women inclusive. I celebrate every woman in my life, I celebrate every Nigerian woman, and I celebrate every woman in the world. Happy women’s day!

About the Author:
 Author Photo Bandawa writes from Abuja, Nigeria. You can follow on twitter @NBandawa