Estimated reading time: 61 minute(s)
Professor Petra Bola Abdul salam Sagar, a fellow of the African Institute of Women in Agricultural Research spoke with Gboyega Olaniyi of Splash FM and monitored by PLATFORM TIMES’s Oluwatosin Ejalonibu.
The Professor of Agricultural extension and rural development said women are forced to be wicked bosses to men because they are forced to .
She also talks about the controversy surrounding the appointment of the wife of a Commissioner in Lagos State as the first Female Vice chancellor of Lagos State University and other gender equality issues,enjoy the Excerpts.
I would like to ask what Petra means
Petra is a feminine for Peter, there is a city carved out of rock in Jordan and it is called the city of Petra, City of the Rock.
What was your Background like and what was Childhood like for you?
My childhood and background was a very interesting one because I grew up with my grandmother in Kwara State, it was fun for me then because I was free to do whatever I like at the rural level, I really enjoyed myself and it was in my formative years in the rural area that I made up my mind to be an Agriculturist and develop interest in rural development, it made me who I am today.
What part of Kwara State?
Ilofa, my education Started from that small town, I went to Jammat Muslim Primary School before we did anything we would recite some Quranic recitation, I did my primary one to six in that school, you won’t believe it, there wasn’t Nursery School then, I initially moved to Offa Grammar school but, I couldn’t cope there because I couldn’t take on the rigours of boarding school. From there I was taken to Our Lady of Apostle School, Ibadan, I did my Jss1 to SSS3 there.
Why were you with Grand ma, was it by choice, was it maybe your parents felt because of the rigours of work, may be they felt they won’t be able to give you the attention needed or what, why did you think you were in the Village?
Ordinarily, the Yorubas are polygamous in nature, we are polygamous in nature, my mum was the second wife of my dad and at a time there were issues, I needed to be taken to my grandmother to grow up for things to work.
What was it like growing up in a Polygamous home?
You needed to compete with everyone and everything, you don’t know who’s got your back, except that you find favour in the sight of one of your parents because of these people speak for you, it is highly competitive but then as a young people you must have what it takes to attract favour from anyone. It could be two sides of coin, it could attract backlash but at the same time you have a particular person looking out for you because maybe you are intelligent or brilliant at your studies and so somebody somewhere would say this one is brilliant, please stop beating her, stop maltreating her and stuffs like that.
There are two factors that could have mitigated against you going to School, the first being a female child at time and the one we just spoke about being in a polygamous home, how were those two not a challenge for you?
My dad of blessed memory was a very loving one, he tried as much as possible to give equal opportunities to his children especially, if he is aware that such a child wants to be educated, he will try as much as possible to support. In supporting, another can feel that they are neglecting her own children, if one child is the one getting societal and parental expectations, from such a child, to some extent it was kind of challenge but at the same time I had the full support of my father and mother, I must have got favour from God.
Let us talk about how tertiary institution was like for you?
I was used to being alone, it wasn’t really difficult to leave my parents to go to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and you know, that time, things were very easy compared to now, I could remember the first time I was going I was put on a train and I made it.
How old were you then?
As at that time, the first time I will ever be because my father of blessed memory was at that time a railway worker, he was the Principal commercial officer, I have been used to trains like a child living in a train to some extent because he had a personal coach and he would take me, some of us who are kin on excursion during the holidays, we would go up North and so I started I started travelling up North when I was nine on my own, you know then, life was so easy, you put a child there and because the father is a Principal Commercial Officer you might really need a ticket, just mention your father’s name, I am Pa Ajiboye’s daughter, the Principal Commercial officers’ daughter and that does it, you will just get to where you are going, it was fun.
From Kwara State, Ilofa to Ibadan to Ahmadu Bello University, was there a kind of cultural stuck for you, especially as a young lady at that time?
No, not really, actually I was born in Kano State, the first two years of life was lived in Kano State, spent in Kano State and to some extent even when I was growing up in Kwara State the culture that surrounded me was like a continuation from where I was coming from in Kano State, so when I went back to Ahmadu Bello University it was like a home coming for me, so I really enjoyed my stay there, then people were another brother’s keeper, it wasn’t like now, there was peace, everybody will watch out for you, there was no real shock or cultural change I could not adjust to.
Tell us the relevance of Gender Inclusivity in what you do?
When you want me to talk about gender issues I am very passionate about it, gender is not all about women contrary to what people were meant to believe that everything is about women, gender issues are very essential , it is a win, win kind of pragmatic topic for any society that wants to progress in life, any society that would not want gender based violence, any society that wants social inclusion, economic buoyancy, there is need to consider gender issues as we give birth to our children, we need to consider Gender issues, what is happening now when you give birth to two children you raise them differently, the same type of environmental exposure but their coping strategies will be different, from the onset you need to start bringing your children up to consider the issue of gender, am not saying gender is stainless, gender itself like self-esteem, I want to have the same self –esteem, the same values that a boy child has, let a girl child have the same self-esteem, gender is not all about we are wearing the same trousers, I want to be a man in the house because a woman for goodness sake clamour for change in appearance, I love the way I am as a woman, I am wonderfully made and because of this I will not want to change the way I am but in doing that, don’t deny me my right, don’t deny me the right education , don’t deny me the right to education, don’t deny me my right to participate in social issues, in policy making, don’t deny me the right that you will give to a boy child, you must be able to balance that story, don’t be one sided, you cannot be partisan to any kind of gender if not you have got it wrong.
Few days ago a female was made the Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University and I recall seeing a quite number of headlines, Wife of Lagos Commissioner appointed Vice- Chancellor, you know, maybe the most dominant you know, at one point she had to read the story, is it that she wasn’t qualified, maybe because her husband is a Commissioner maybe that gave her some sought of edge, how do we stop the tide of women not being appreciated for what they have achieved until people tie them to a man’s apron or someone influence, how do we ensure that we have a balanced society?
Now what you have described as the media trying to sell their story, there are three things you need to look at, most often when politicians buy vote or wants to get vote they try to, they will just do a kind of empowerment, a kind of tokening game, giving something at that particular moment for women to vote or get women buy in. Now the media, they also want to sell their story, they would rather give the society what the society wants to read about, this scenario you have talked about the woman merit that position but because of the power structure and the societal norms that is in Africa, it is not common to Nigeria alone, women are being tied to a lot of people, from birth they are tied to their parents, even most often their birth is celebrated differently, even the naming ceremony, the way you name a girl child is different, let me give an example, if you have a boy child now, you name them as if your king has come, then you name the girl child Mayowa, Orifunke and then she is meant to look at things from another person’s point of view and not her own, she has been brought up to know that she has to take everybody on board except her, she needs to take care of her brothers, her siblings, her parents, take care of everyone in the house, when she starts school you rather want her to go for the softer courses like home science, home courses and all these soft courses like Nursing, etc. let us assume you buy a football for that kind of child, girl child when she is growing up and she gets to know that playing with football is not a stain and then you decide to buy a doll for the boy child, you can see the interplay and so they keep growing up like that and that girl child is assuming so many responsibilities to get marriage, to take care of, she is taking care of the husband and so on and so forth, the boy child is allowed to go and play football, to come back and do whatever he feels like and get away with it. And again the emotions of the boy child, you are not allowing him to express himself, he doesn’t do anything, if he wants to cry now, he will be told if people see you now, they will not allow him, saying all sort of things, it is a taboo or something and he grows to marry someone who is allowed to express her emotions, if she sees a cockroach, the girl child is allowed to cry, you know it, they get married, the same girl child you have allowed to express herself marries the boy who bottles up and so he doesn’t understand the emotions of the girl child, let us assume both of them are arguing in the house, the boy says I am okay, she says am not okay, she starts crying and then the boy begins to feel that what have I said wrong because of the differences in how they are brought up, one is emotional, the other one bottled up because of this the girl child is assumed into a lot of responsibilities, a lot of responsibilities that is not even her own, she gets another person’s name, she is just all over the place, taking care of other people forgetting herself because of this she has burnt a lot of candles even much more than the boy child, she is into other responsibilities while studying she cooks, she does this and that, the LASU Professor she deserves it, she deserves that office, she deserves it, it just because people want to allude that glory to a man because of the societal norms.
Is that something you have also experienced in the course of your growth as an Academic?
Of course, thank God for life itself any woman who is aspiring to be anything, they tag her to somebody, they may not even think that she has that capacity to grow on her own, they may say it is because of her husband is making her comfortable that is why she is able to do all that she is able to do, they may say maybe it is a godfather who is sponsoring her, meanwhile any woman who wants to be something in Africa or anywhere in the world, while others are giving 100%, a woman will have to give about 200% of efforts because all eyes are on her.
Why the choice of Agricultural extension and rural extension?
When I was growing up in the village, I used to follow my relations to the farm so much so that I was giving a portion of land at the backyard of my grandmother’s farm and I would plant whatever I want to plant and I kept seeing the way people struggled to produce, to take to market especially before you know it I started seeing my uncle’s and auntie’s bent because of the drudgery in Agriculture, so it was one of the reason that made me made my mind to say Okay let me see what I can do to alleviate some of this hardship, let me look at some of this things, I didn’t make up my mind to go into agriculture in my Masters level because in my first degree I studied economics at Ahmadu Bello University. When I was studying economics it was like Common sense made it difficult to some extent, I didn’t really fit in, I was now given Masters in Agricultural Economics and rural development, I turned it down and went for Agricultural extension to be closer to the people at the grassroots level.
Let go into some of your research especially in your field?
I have done a lot of research, even beyond the shore of Africa, in Africa I have done research, I have collaborated with researchers in Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania and so on, and looking at the impact of research on people’s life it is in the field that you get to see that. When you introduce a kind of intervention and then you could go back like six months after, and you see things started changing, it gives you so much joy and I have also collaborated renowned scientists even beyond the shores of Africa, I have gone to the University of Benin, I worked with my colleagues from the Natural Resources Institute in UK, in US I have worked with colleagues from Michigan State University.
Can you mention the one that has given you the greatest joy, you did mention that it gives joy going back to the field seeing the results of some of this intervention.
Can you point us to the direction of one that gave you the biggest satisfaction?
There are two projects that gave me good vibes; we have the crop and goat project, let me talk about the crop and goat project, in the project there were some collaborators who brought goats, each woman we grouped into groups, we gave them a goat each(group), we gave some bulls that will mate with the female goat and as soon as they get they passed it to people who haven’t, when we got back there a year or two almost everyone in that village have gotten their goats, it did not cost them anything, they could make the goat, sell it to polling stations in cash and in kind, the women were paid in cash and in kind, it was really fun.
To what extent are extension workers important to the development of agriculture?
They are very, very important, they are the one taking the results of research to a town, to farmers, without them whatever you have gotten from your research, the product of your research, if you don’t give it to extension workers to disseminate, you have not gotten anything at all, it is the extension workers that give life to research, if not for them nobody will know about, Artificial insemination or other agricultural issues, it is them that narrow the gap between the researcher and the town, without them nobody should be allowed to meet with the farmers in the first place because they are the one who know this farmers, they stay with them, they know them, they know their family, they know what they want and most of the packages, interventions, as to go through the extension agent for people to access and so they are very important.
How will you describe the level of acceptance of that course (Agricultural extension and rural development)?
I could remember when I told some people that I wanted to go into agricultural extension, they said ha, an old person’s job, what do you want to do there, there is no money there, there is nothing there, they discouraged me and it was because the work agricultural extension workers do, the money they are being paid is no in commiserate of what they do because of that the value addition for the extension agents is not there, they don’t see the benefits of working as extension agents, they see them as somebody who is just working in a farm or something and it is because of the value the government is placing on agriculture, if the government places a higher value on Agriculture everybody will want to be an extension agent, it is good to help people in that area because the food being produced in the rural area is not sufficient for those people in the towns.
Do you still fill that the same kind of comment you get when you went into Agricultural extension, do you still think people who go into agricultural extension these days still get that kind of comment?
They still do but the main difference now is that there are a lot packages for young people to key into, it is no longer going to farm and farmers that we have now are more literate, they are more educated and because of that young people see opportunities though they are very skeptical about going into that field and now there are so many opportunities embedded in that field or area of specialization.
In the Academia would you say that women are being considered for more leadership roles than, I don’t know how it was in the past but I am sure you know, would you say there is a remarkable improvement as to how women are regarded in that space now versus before?
It takes time for change to take place, to see the result of change, things are changing actually let me not say that things are not changing for example my University the Federal University of Agriculture, the Vice Chancellor there now, Professor Felix Kolawole Salako is giving women the avenue to showcase themselves in their field of study, let me put a ratio, in his cabinet the ratio for men to women is about 4:6, 4 to women, 6 for men, it wasn’t really like that before in the history of FUNAAB we haven’t seen a female Vice Chancellor but as we are going now a lot of women they are been encouraged to assume that position, their portfolio is scaling up when you scale up and scale down, the Vice Chancellor is giving women the chance to scale up to other positions.
Is it a case of capacity or what, why is it that women are not given responsibilities especially leadership roles?
It is not capacity, Women have the to assume but you know that the society dictates whatever anyone wants to be, religion, societal Norm, power structure dictates who should assume or get a certain position, you get glass ceilings all over the place whereby you see the glass ceilings in it is invisible that have pegged the level a woman can get to, there are some positions, they would say this woman cannot get to this positions, it is not about capacity, we have women of substance and independent means who have capacity to be whatever they want to be but the society itself and power structures will not allow them to and if they struggle to get there, there are lot of frustrations, there are lot issues, to stay there is another problem entirely, it is not that they don’t have capacity it is because of the societal expectations, you don’t talk to this person like this, you don’t look at this things like this, you don’t do this because you are a woman, what would your husband and children say, how would your mother and father react.
A lot people say, when a woman is in a leadership position they are maybe wicked, is that usually the case and if not why do you think there is that notion, why do you think there is that euphuistism misconception?
It is a misconception actually, well, we can look at it both ways, at times before a woman gets to particular position she would have gone through a lot and when she now gets to that position somebody somewhere will now be subsuming her power because of her gender she will not take it likely, a lot of young people we have nowadays, want things very easy when they are working under such women, they see her as old school, they don’t want to work under such women, they don’t want to learn from her and so they see her as a very wicked boss but she has undergone a lot of rigours to get to where she is and because of that a lot of people see her as wicked but the other part is this some women out of their own ways because they have gone through a lot they will make up their mind to be wicked in quote. “I didn’t get to this place easily and so because of that others should pass through all the experience I have been through.
Why do you think politicians see women as the people who could do the ground work or leg work but not good enough in those positions?
There are a lot of issues to that; ordinarily, a woman will want to aspire to be anything in life but subject to a lot of beliefs from some people, she has to consider her husband, her children and everybody around her because for example she wants to go to Abuja to become a policy maker but by the time she is aspiring to do that somebody somewhere will call the husband and say, you want your wife to go to Abuja?, that is a political wife that you have, just say good bye to your wife because she will just be sleeping with everybody to get there even when the husband is aware that the wife cannot be like that but because the seed has been sown already he will discourage his wife from going into politics. Aside that woman who wants to be anything in politics must have a godfather and what is the work of a godfather, sponsor, package and everything, he who pays the piper dictates the tune, by the time she gets there as a policy maker there are people that will be influencing her by the side, now she goes there, most of all those women in politics they use them to make numbers, now they said we should do 33.3% representation as affirmative action but then they may not have that time because when important decisions are made in between the hours of 12 in the midnight and 3am, a woman who wants to keep her home will be beside her husband, sleeping at that particular time, now how will she be able to make cogent contributions, when she is not even there, when she is excluded, whatever she is able to hear is what the male folk wants her to hear , whatever decisions she puts her mouth into, is what they want her to talk about, it is not that she is there to be a decision maker with them, sit at the table and discuss with them.
Many say that women don’t help women especially when they are in leadership positions, you know giving opportunities to younger women, putting them through the ropes, ensuring that the challenges you pass through and they are able to rise on your shoulder, a lot of people say it, is it true and why is it so?
Any woman who doesn’t want another woman to rise is not a woman because let me tell you this there is no gain, no fun in saying I am the only one in my specialization, am the first, am the only one, who have you mentored really, if for goodness sake, if you live that place today who is going to carry forward what you have as that the only one, yes some people may not want to do that because they believe that if they pull someone up, that person at the end of the day will be disrespectful or will undermine their authority, for goodness sake what is that, there is a need at this point in time for women to pull women up, to support young people, to support themselves because without that, now we are saying there is gender based violence, there is this and that, who will now support women if the older women don’t really support them, I will like to point out that every man that grows up, there is a particular woman that brought him up to be like that, the issue of that man is wicked must have started from the primary institution which is the family and for goodness sake who spends most time with the children, even, this issue of gender inequality started from home, from women themselves, it is high time we started changing things so that there would be peace with one another.
How do you take time off, with Academics and management, how do you relax?
Am into myself actually but, sometimes I could take a walk, I love watching football, you guys you enjoy a lot, you go there, you eat pepper soup and when somebody score, you say hey, you opening your mouth laughing, is a big deal, it is a way of relaxing and so I do that also, I go to watch live matches, I also read wide and mile and not just agricultural extension and rural development or gender issue, I read interesting stuffs.