By KufreAbasi Edidem
The dream of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, right from his assumption of office, has been to industrialize Akwa Ibom State. Such a dream is not a bad dream, provided it is not allowed to remain in the dream state. To move it from the dream state to a point of reality, his Excellency must take certain actions in specific and well-defined directions. That’s the way to go. It is called focused niche building.
To achieve the industrialization dream, the governor must begin to segment the state into niches, and channel his energy, or coordinate and harness the available resources and energies in the state towards actualizing the industrialization dream. The process of segmentation can be energy-consuming. However, an easy way out would be for government to engage with existing segments which are already primed for action. The women constitute a ready and primed sector that, if properly mobilized, can help His Excellency turn the state into an industrial hub.
No. I am not a feminist. I am only stating the obvious from personal observation. Women can help Governor Emmanuel in his pursuit of building industries in Akwa Ibom State. Already, women in the state have exhibited powerful bonding and community spirit. However, most of this energy is channeled towards socio-political engagements. It is common to see women in their colorful attires moving in hordes to support and boost political rallies; but it is near impossible to see such spirited gatherings at economic, entrepreneurial and self-help forums.
One possible reason for this skewed relationship and behavioral pattern is the influence imposed on the women by the cultural milieu: women are culturally groomed to depend on the male figure. This has affected the psyche of the female population to the extent that the leadership and other abilities possessed by most women have been heavily dampened and paralyzed. This happens even when we continually see women demonstrating inherent abilities and practically doing well in their contribution to the economic and other sectors of the state.
But this can change. Governor Udom Emmanuel can choose to be different. Instead of acting like President Muhammadu Buhari who created a trend with his pathetic and hilarious coinage of “The Other Room,” Mr. Udom Emmanuel can choose to believe that women have a place beyond the parlor, the kitchen, and the ‘other room’. It is by taking this position that His Excellency will appreciate the ideas that follow.
For women to help Mr. Governor to achieve his industrialization dream, they must be organized into productive economic groups. This begins with the formation of legal structures through which women can mobilize their resources to bring economic independence to the members, the state, and subsequently spiral out to influence other parts of the country.
A viable and most attractive option of the legal structure for the formation of productive women economic groups is the cooperative business structure. Cooperative societies are easy to form, easy to manage, and easy to deploy for economic revolution.
The benefits of setting up women cooperatives for reasons of economic revolution and providing support for industrialization are many. First, the women will be moved away from the ridiculous culture of brewing political fanfare (where only the leaders of the pack eat the occasional largesse of their patrons) to that of a democratic economic venture where all members have equal control, sharing in the dividends of their investments. Second, women in such groups will quickly put to use and demonstrate their leadership qualities. This, when handled over time, will cure the women of their dependence on the male authority-figure. Perhaps, that would bring the much craved gender equality to the women in the state and country. The third, and the last reason, is the fact that government, if she has genuine intentions of industrialization, can begin to harness the availability of these groups to set up industries (even if they are cottage industries) which will eventually add up to transform the economy of the women and that of the state.
Yes, I know there is a not-so-encouraging history of women based groups that eventually disintegrated without trace, dashing the hope of economic independence of many women, and even frustrating the lives of many of their members whose contributions could not be recouped. Such groups, which I won’t give the honor of being mentioned in this piece, to me, were nothing but high-level scams. The poor were made poorer, while the rich – who led these groups – were made richer.
The cooperatives proposed in this piece could be made to be different from the defunct women groups. First, they are not to be based on demonic political colorations and unnecessary fanfare which, in the long run, destroy beautiful ideas. Secondly, the underlining philosophy should be to go into business –not politics – for the betterment of the economy of the members and the state.
For a start, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr. Glory Edet, could begin to mobilize women in the 31 local government areas of the state for the purpose of setting up 31 women cooperative societies. These groups will then focus on building industries, completely run by women. This is just one way that the women in the state can help Governor Udom Emmanuel to bring into existence the industrialization of the state.
Won’t that be a beautiful thing to do?