Let me first say that this is really a wonderful idea today in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child. I think it is a very important way to celebrate it, first to celebrate the great success of Blessing, whom I am told had the best result in the Junior Secondary School Examinations. I have had a chance to look at the result, she seemed to have gotten As in all of the 18 subjects except one. I think it was 17 As and 1 C. That is really incredible, congratulations!
I think what success demonstrates is exactly the point that we have been making and that you all have been making; there is absolutely no difference in terms of intelligence, capacity and resourcefulness between a boy child and a girl child. I think for all of us the men, who have gone to school, we have all been beaten by girls several times in schools, so you would only be hiding your head in the sand if you were to suggest that girls were any less intelligent and resourceful than boys.
In university, my first year, in fact the very first person to get a First Class in the Faculty of Law in the University of Lagos was actually a married woman with 4 children. Not only was she female, she was married with children. Thereafter, we have seen excellent examples of that.
Only those who, for some reason or the other would want to deceive themselves, argue at all that there is any difference of any kind, especially in intelligence even in capacity.
I think more importantly in our society, especially because there are all sorts of historical, cultural type of prejudices and discriminatory practises, we have almost come to accept that there is a difference between the way girls are treated and the way boys are treated.
But I think that we are getting over that, especially with you young people, who are advocating even right from now, about the way that girls should be treated and equality of treatment. These days people argue about who is a feminist and not. I think it is something that shows the level of awareness there is all over the world today. I am really excited to see that you girls are advocating the rights of women and children and there is a great deal of work that can be done.
But I would also like to see many of the young boys also advocating, especially the rights of girl. We had the unique opportunity of doing so when the Ministry of Women Affairs launched what was described as the ‘He–For-She” campaign. I thought that was very creative. These are young men, boys, advocating girls’ rights. That, I think, is one way of ensuring that there is understanding across board especially with young people as they grow up.
So I am really glad to see you all and also to congratulate you today that has been set aside for the girl child. Of course as you know, we have had the unfortunate experience of having the Chibok girls abducted. Some of them have returned and are back home but there are still some who are out there and we are working every day to bring them back home.
It is very important for us that those girls are returned because anyone who has either a friend or a child recognises that girls are more vulnerable than men especially when they have been abducted by men older and stronger than themselves and held in captivity for so long.
But we want to be able to challenge men and people all over the world about these sorts of behaviour, and this is one of the reasons why we are advocating that this kind of conduct must be met with the greatest possible kind of objection and force. We shouldn’t accept it, we should condemn it for the wrongful and cowardly act that it is, and do our best to give succour to the ladies who have suffered this particular injustice.
As of today, those who have returned are studying; they have already started foundation courses at the AUN and we are happy to report that they are doing well, and are excited about the new opportunities that they have. They are starting their lives anew and afresh with a great deal of enthusiasm. We are hoping and praying that the rest will come back home soon.
I am sure you are following Malala, the youngest Nobel Laureate in the world, also stood up for girls’ rights in Pakistan and was even shot because she stood up for the rights of girls. But she is now in Oxford University, and I hear that this week is her first week at the Oxford University.
There is a lot to be done and said for people who fight for the rights of girls and are interested in advocacy for girls. I hope that you are not just going to do it while you are in school, but will remain fervent and serious advocates for the rest of your lives.
There are so many girls in various parts of Nigeria and various parts of the world, who don’t have the opportunity you have of going to school. Your advocacy is very important, whenever you are on social media, the internet, talking about these things, and drawing attention to them.
So I look forward to hearing from you again sometime soon and Blessing I hope this is only the beginning for you. Blessing, I hope you want to be a Lawyer? Yes? Excellent! Very good!
Thank you very much.
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, WHEN HE RECEVIED GIRL-CHILD ADVOCATES FROM ABUJA SCHOOLS ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD AT THE STATE HOUSE, WEDNESDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2017