Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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“Association of Defense and Police Officers Wives. Nigeria Civil Defence Officers Wives. Association of Federal Road Safety Officers Wives. National Association of Speakers’ Wives, Association of Wives of Secretary to State Governments” and so on and so forth. These are examples of wives’ associations that are now cropping up in the Nigerian landscape. Originally, wives associations were more common in the military, among them, Army Officers wives Association, Naval Officers Wives Association, Air force Wives Association and of course, Police officers Wives Association (POWA). Now, other quasi military organizations such as the Nigeria civil Defence Corp and the Federal Road Safety Corp are having their own association of wives. Ditto Customs Officers’ Wives Association, Immigration Officers’ Wives Association, Prison Officers’ Wives Association, etc. I shall not be surprised if sooner or later, we have Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Officers’ Wives Association with branches in all 36 states and the federal capital territory (FCT), Abuja with wife of the NDLEA chairman as president. Wife of the highest ranking boss of the particular institution in each state is the chairperson in the various states while wife of the overall boss in the Abuja headquarters of the organization is the national chairperson/ president as for instance, wife of the Commandant-General, Controller-General, Inspector- General of Police, etc. In the case of Association of Speakers’ Wives and Wives of Secretaries to state governments, would they be able to have state branches? It is doubtful since there is only one SSG and one speaker for each state. In that case there would be just the national body with wife of the secretary to the Government of the federation(SGF) and wife of House of Representatives Speaker as their leaders respectively.
But it is not impossible for there to be an association of wives of parliamentarians or Legislators, comprising of spouses of elected members of the State Houses of Assembly and House of Representative; the latter would form the national body while Assembly members’ wives would constitute state chapters of the body. I guess that wives of our senators may not want to be lumped together with Association of Wives of Parliamentarians/Legislators as they may feel that they are a breed apart because their husbands are “Distinguished Senators” while the other legislators are just “Honourables”. Abuja would of course be their only base. To further show off their superciliousness they may call their own gathering, ‘Association of Distinguished Senators Wives”. And not to be left out , there could be ‘Former Senators’ Wives Association’ to distinguish it from sitting senators’ wives because a Senator even out of office bears the prefix ‘Senator’ for Life according to the Nigerian norm. Thus, just about any group can form a ‘Wives Association’ these days.
We should differentiate between these Wives Associations and gender based associations such as Federation of Women Lawyers, Association of Women Medical Doctors, Association of Women Journalists, etc. These are groups catering to the special needs/interests of women in those professions and the wider society. Women lawyers for example, would better understand issues of gender violence, rape, etc., and so be in a position to better counsel victims as some of them may have experienced some of these things themselves at some point in their lives. Female doctors understand better, medical matters bordering on gynecology and pediatrics, having experienced reproductive issues and nursing of children themselves. Ditto women journalists on matters concerning women generally. Thus, we see the usefulness of these gender associations to the general public.
We should also distinguish between aforementioned wives associations and the long standing Niger Wives Association. They are not exactly the same though they sound alike. This is an association of foreign born (white) women married to Nigerian men living in the country. Their coming together under an association appears necessary given the contrasting cultures between their original homeland and their new Nigerian homeland. By forming an association they help to give one another some kind of psychological boost to weather whatever cultural shocks they may be experiencing. And by sharing, deliberating on their experiences, members learn how to adjust to their new environment and even contribute to its development.
The new name, ‘Defense and Police Officers’ Wives Association(DEPOWA) suggests a restructuring and amalgamation of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Officers’ Wives Associations. DEPOWA is headed by wife of the Chief of Defense Staff, Vickie Irabor. This is a welcome development . Such a body is necessary now given that security agencies have to contend with a common problem occasioned by increasing insecurity nationwide that has led to overstretching of the personnel and dire consequences on them in terms of fatalities and injuries leaving their wives more vulnerable. Actually it all started with the #EndSARS protest by angry youths that targeted policemen and their structures. Now military men and policemen, frontline chargers in the battle against insecurity, are being gunned down, fatally wounded by terrorists, insurgents, bandits and gunmen, leaving their ‘poor’ wives to carry the can as breadwinners of the family. In this case DEPOWA serves as a kind of support for them; to help cushion the emotional, financial and other effects for such women. In this regard the Defense and Police Officers’ Wives Association(DEPOWA) is useful to some extent. It serves a special purpose in the war situation Nigeria finds itself today.
However, the same cannot be said of the other associations of wives that are germinating all over like mushrooms because there is no compelling reason/need for them. I am not saying that their forming such wives associations is bad per se. Rather, am saying that their focuss is narrow and selfish to be blunt. They wish to sun themselves in the glory of their husbands as appendages of their spouses. They make it seem as if a woman has to tag along, behind a man to be able to be successful or achieve anything meaningful. A man and a woman are two independent human spirits, working together in their own unique ways. A woman does not need a husband to be able to fully unfold her God-given potentials cum talents although having a spouse does not hinder their unfolding either. A woman does not need special recognition or public applause as such. For, a woman’s high calling is to serve in humility, in quiet working as a vessel of the Lord, a vessel which does not lend itself to showmanship or other outward shams behind which lay vanity.