It will be a positive echo for women with ambition if Okonjo-Iweala wins the World Trade Organisation’s job, writes Okello Oculi

Naomi Osaka is a growing sensation. She walked onto the tennis court with a soft playfulness that seemed unfit for her impending war against an older and taller opponent fresh from terminating Serena William’s momentum. When she lost the opening set by the brutal gap of six losses to her lonesome single victory, her supporters hoped for a miracle. She attributed her defeat in Australia to her interest ebbing away. Having watched Serena lose a lifelong record, she was likely to react like a Masai warrior enraged by seeing a brother bleed from an enemy spear.

In the last exchange of strokes of the last and winning set she sent the ball to the edge of the court on the right of her opponent. Her killer shot was to the opposite edge of the court. It recalled Arthur Ashe making Stan Smith slide from one end of a clay court to the other. Osaka did not hit but WHIPPED the winning stroke.

The speed with which a ball flew was in inverse relation to her small and playful size. Professor Robert Scalappino liked to tell the fable that a Japanese Samurai warrior sliced off your neck with his sword without you knowing it. That is one gene in Osaka. The other is the stubborn courage of African-American civil rights campaigner, Rosa Parks.

On 19th September,2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. She was an anchor in American judicial struggles inside and outside the country’s Supreme Court for women’s rights, equality, right to abortion, and justice in the ‘’Black Lives Matter’’ movement. Her death came three days after Naomi Osaka had broadcast names of seven African-Americans murdered by the American Police written on masks she wore for the seven games she played. For her the sedate game of tennis had to see blood of victims of racial injustice splashed on strings of rackets used by players in America’s top ranked tournament.

One day before Justice Ginsberg’s death, the powers behind the global game of tennis announced a change of ‘’The Federation Cup’’ to the ‘’Billy Jean King Cup’’ in recognition of her successful struggle to promote the inclusion of more women in the game; equal status with male players and pay to women players on international circuits. She got high publicity for a tennis match on September 9th, 1973 tagged the ‘’Battle of the Sexes’’ in which she defeated male chauvinist Bobby Riggs. She was thrilled by Osaka’s victory because it affirmed the historic mission of female youths in the game.

Inside the labyrinthine corridors of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a Nigerian woman veteran in international economic diplomacy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Amina Mohammed, a former Foreign Affairs Minister of Kenya, are competing for the job of Director General of the organisation. Two African men, Egyptian Professor Boutros-Boutros Ghali, and Ghana’s Kofi Annan, succeeded each other (in heading the apex of global diplomacy and governance), as Secretary General of the United Nations. It would be fitting if an African woman won the WTO crown.

It would be a positive echo for women with ambition for the presidency of Nigeria if Okonjo-Iweala won. Support for social, economic and political status of Nigeria’s female population has crawled. In the Caliphate North, Mallam Aminu Kano’s radical advocacy for the progress of women suffered from his party getting rigged by British colonial officials from winning seats in regional and national legislatures. This blocked him from matching Tunisia’s Bourguiba in using political power to open skies for women’s education, professional jobs and social freedoms. It allowed conservative rulers to use the domination of women as a bribe for Talakawa to be ‘’suffering and smiling’’.

In other regions of Nigeria, the claim is that women get married and migrate with their motherhood capacities to populate other communities, to deny girls access to education, inheritance and ownership of land. Among the Igbo, for example, horrendous dislocation of society and moral values by the 1967-1970 Civil War may have infused a pandemic of violence against women; with male overvaluing of commercial power, thereby, paradoxically, giving female age mates the monopoly of attending schools that may be translated into political achievements.

At the level electoral politics, Nigeria has not matched Uganda and Rwanda that passed laws opening doors to women into legislatures at local and national levels. Senegal’s 2012 law requiring all political parties contesting elections to have 50 percent of candidates to be female should recommend itself to Nigeria. With a 90 per cent Muslim population, Senegal silences those hiding behind ‘’culture’’ and religion to ‘’Lock Down’’ women with political COVID-19.

Locking out productive talents of 55 per cent of predominantly females into unemployment is a crime which creative injection of financial capital should light up.