This week, Nigeria lays to rest Chief Mrs. Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi. Until her death, Chief OO was an active member of Nigeria’s vibrant civil society organization. She had worked closely with KIND, the organization I founded during the pro-democracy period to honor my late mother, Kudirat Abiola, especially on our work to promote women’s political representation in Nigeria.
Indeed, through her own organization, Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON), she had worked closely with so many organizations, giving unstintingly of her energy, ideas and contacts. Being in her company reminded me of something my mother had said when she took up the daunting task of demanding my father’s release after he was charged with treason and arrested by General Abacha.
On the reason why she felt that women had a role to play in public affairs, she said “If women stay at home and simply focus on rearing their children and taking care of their families, they do their children a disservice. They must also go out and make sure that the world is ready to receive them.”
Chief Mrs O.O. was always out there. Speaking up and standing for the oppressed. Of my different interactions with her over the years, it is the last that I remember most fondly. It occurred in December 2014. She had come to Abeokuta to run a program and and I had seized the opportunity to invite her to dinner.
During the several hours that I spent with her, she told me of the different campaigns that she had spearheaded in Nigeria and beyond. Such was her energy, passion and brilliance that I was stunned to see the announcement of her death this past December, a mere twelve months later. Africans say that when an elder dies, it is as if a great tree has fallen.
Indeed, this is true of our mother, our elder sister, our mentor and our champion, Chief Mrs. OO. Death is no stranger to us in Africa and it is no stranger to us women in the developing world. With each of our wise women that pass on, their deaths serve as a reminder to us that time is the resource that we must husband most carefully. What can we do with the time that we have to make a lasting impact?
Last week, KIND brought together the first group of what we hope will be an expanding circle of women working together to answer this question. We are beset on all sides by the insecurity in the North-east, which has taken a significant toll on women and girls there, and the economic slow down due to the fall of oil prices. The
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