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We shouldn’t be gender-biased in leadership; women are as intelligent, competent as men — Dr Onwuka

Onwuka

What informed your choice of career?

I will just say I went into university administration by chance and not by choice. As a corps member, I taught in a school but after my national youth service programme, I got a job at a college of education in Agbor as an administrative officer. I thought working in a house of assembly would give me more money, so I went to the house of assembly where I got a job as a clerk assistant. While I was there in 1983, there was a coup, and at the end of the day, General Jeremiah Useni who was the military administrator sacked everybody in the house of assembly because every civilian structure was dismantled.  It was only those who were seconded to the house of assembly that could go back to the ministry they came from. I was without a job for one year. Then, my husband got a lecturing job at the University of Cross River and I had to go with him. In Cross River, I taught for about three years until there was an opportunity to apply to work in the university as an administrator. That was why I said it was by chance, it was not as if I chose to be a university administrator from the beginning. What I really wanted to do was to study law, but I was not given admission. I read English at the University of Ibadan. I wanted to study law because I like to sustain an argument.

 

How has the journey been like since you became a university administrator?

To the glory of God, I will say that like any other endeavour in life, it has not been too smooth or too difficult. Sometimes, it is really rough, at other times it is neither here nor there. I joined the university administration as an administrative officer one and by the grace of God, I rose to become the pioneer registrar of Federal University of Petroleum, Effurun, Delta State. From there, I came to FUNAAB as deputy registrar 1.  The journey has not been so bad.

 

In every organisation, there is politics, how did you cope with the politics in the university system?

The issue is, there is politics everywhere. I will actually say that I have not coped well because I am not very diplomatic. For women, the politics against women is even the worst. Whether we like it or not, our society is very patriarchal, to start with, when people see women who have risen to certain positions, they will feel she slept with men to get to such positions but it is not true. You also have a difficulty in dealing with your male subordinates. When I was the registrar, some men used to complain that they didn’t understand why I had to be involved with everything and these were things that were statutorily   my duties. But I believe that if I were to be a man, things would have been smoother for me. There is this camaraderie between men that does not exist between men and women. However, for us as administrators, the politics is minimal because we are not struggling to be HOD, Dean or VC. And even for the registrar to an extent, the selection process is transparent. I don’t know how I coped. I had a rough experience as a registrar that if I were a man I would not have passed through such experiences.

 

What would you say was the most defining moment of your career?

Every point in my career is remarkable as an administrator. I told you I was teaching. I left teaching to join University of Cross River that had campuses in three senatorial districts and I had to move from one campus to the other. I was the pioneer student affairs officer and I had to supervise practically everything on the three campuses. Every point was a learning curve for me and wherever I went to, the experiences I got there propelled me for higher positions and people could look at my CV and say she has done this before maybe she can do this too.  I left Cross River and followed my husband to FUNNAB and when the student affairs officer was going away on study leave, when they saw my CV, I got the job and was there for five years. From there, I worked in the college at personnel level which was totally different from what I had been doing before. When I got there, I didn’t know what to do, I went to my supervisor and he told me to study the rules and regulations.  I did and in a period of three months, I found my feet and could close my eyes and treat any mail. The experience I got there helped me to function as a registrar.

 

How were you able to combine your career with the home front?

It is usually a tough battle for every woman to combine the two seamlessly. When I started out as a teacher, I had more time because then I used to close at 2’0 clock. The children and I would go home together, we used to spend a lot of time together. Then, I used to have time for siesta but being a university administrator, I had to work for longer periods. I must say that I am lucky I had a father that was very considerate and my husband who is also very supportive. I am lucky to have two good men in my life. My husband was and is still supportive. If he didn’t support me or give me his consent, I would not have been able to spend five years in Effurun as registrar. I had to be away from home at the time, I only visited. If he didn’t support me, one of two things would have happened; it is either I have a career without a home or a home without a career. But with his support I am lucky to have the two, a home and a career which without being immodest, I would say is a successful career. To rise to the level of a Registrar in a university system is not a mean feat.

 

Can you give us some tips on how to successfully combine the home front and career?

It is basically about time management. Women can multi-task and do more than the men but you have to plan your day and activities in such a way that none suffers. For instance, as a young mother, I made sure I swept the floor at night when the children had gone to bed, I also made sure I get everything I would need to make breakfast ready so I won’t be looking for anything in the morning. I made sure the children’s bags were packed so we won’t be searching for pencil in the morning, everybody would just pick their bags when we were ready to leave the house. It has to do with time management. If I say it is easy, it would be a lie but I have a to-do list that will help me to manage the time. Also, pray that you should have a supportive husband because you cannot do everything alone.

 

How can we achieve gender equality in 2020?

Like I said earlier, the society is still very patriarchal. I worked on gender for my PhD. I grew up in a family where there was no discrimination, everybody went to school but there were gender roles. I had only one brother who was treated like a king because of this patriarchal attitude that if you don’t have a male child, you don’t have children yet. My brother was given certain privileges that we did not enjoy. We should stop segregating and stop saying this is a man’s duty or a woman’s duty. Or you cannot study a certain course or occupy certain positions. Women are as intelligent as men and they are competent too. But we still have to negotiate with the men, especially when it comes to elective political positions. We are still battling for acceptance. I once had a typist that I gave an assignment and he told me he had a wife at home. I told him I was not his wife and being the one in charge, he had to take instructions from me. When you challenge a man, he would ask if that is the way you talk to your husband at home, to which one would have to reply that you are not my husband. The basic thing like I said is socialisation. Let them know there is no difference between a boy and a girl and they do the same chores. Even the gender roles are determined by the society and not God. The only roles God gave women is biological because of her anatomy to bear and breastfeed children. When it comes to nurturing, men can do that too. We can start from the home to say everybody is equal and should perform same roles and no one is superior. Also, encourage every woman to be hard working so that they compete with men and outshine them. Just say what a man can do, a woman can do better, show it, prove it.

We shouldn’t be gender-biased in leadership; women are as intelligent, competent as men — Dr Onwuka
Tribune Online



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