By Kenneth Jukpor
Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwui is a Board of Trustee (BOT) member of the MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative. She is also the Chairperson of Nigerian Ship-owners Forum and Chief Executive Officer of Morbod Group. Orakwusi was the Chief Host of the recent MMS WOFHOF event which marked the celebration of MMS Hall of Famers’ Day in collaboration with the United Nation’s 75thanniversary. On the sidelines at the event, Orakwusi spoke with MMS Plus newspaper on the crucial role of women in maintaining peace and unity in Nigeria amid the numerous conflicts. She also shares her thoughts on the state of the nation’s maritime sector with emphasis on fishing, maritime security and sustaining the marine environment.
You stressed during your speech that women should uphold peace and unity in the country. As Nigeria faces turbulent and chaotic times as epitomized by the EndSARS protests, how crucial is this role?
It is time we go back to the drawing board and in the history of this country women have made the difference. We can talk about Queen Amina and the Aba women riot and you can also talk about some of us who have broken into male dominated fields. One good thing is that there is no home in this country where you don’t have a powerful woman either as a mother or as a wife. So, when we talk about peace, it should be an initiative that should be moved by women. We should talk to the children and husbands because we know how to get them to do the right thing and play down on the things that divide us. Things like religion and ethnicity should no longer divide us because that wouldn’t develop this nation. No one should be interested in all that.
What would develop this nation is recognizing where our strengths lie and everyone contributing towards the attainment of our potentials. Nigeria is blessed with human resources as well as natural resources. This is a country where you can throw a seed away and the next week it germinates. We have no other country but Nigeria and it should be our collective responsibility to make this nation great. Anywhere you go, no matter how successful you are, you’re still a visitor. Therefore, at any time they could kick you out.
The onus is on Nigerians to first promote peace, understanding and standards. We shouldn’t sacrifice standards on the altar of nepotism. So, we must celebrate the excellent ones and allow people who have the capacity to develop this country to do so. One exciting thing among Nigerian youths today is that they don’t care so much about religion or tribe; they eat together, talk, share thoughts and encourage themselves. This is what I talk about when I emphasize the power of a woman.
The theme of today’s event is “The Third Paradise: A New Thinking on Women and Humanity”, has Nigeria appreciated this new thinking on women?
I think we are on the right path even though it could be much better. When some of us started in our respective fields, we were either the first woman in the venture or we sat on boards as the only woman.
Today, we can see more women even in the maritime industry. The numbers might not be what we would appreciate or celebrate, but we are moving forward and our voices are being heard. We are sitting on boards of crucial agencies and institutions and we are encouraging more women. We also speak for other women. So, it isn’t as bad as it used to be; but we haven’t reached where we should be.
You also know that the statistics say that there are more women in the society. There are more women in terms of female graduates. There are also more women capable of taking on responsibilities. So, no one should be ridiculed or discriminated against when she has the capacity.
These women who are being celebrated today are shining as stars but none of them got to their current positions by rubbing pancakes and make-ups. They got there because they have been brilliant and industrious. They also worked twice as hard as the men to be recognized.
Let’s talk about fishing in Nigeria; how is the business faring amid the challenges of poaching, pollution and security?
We still have lots of challenges in the fishing sub-sector of maritime including poaching by international companies. Remember that there was a recent incident of dead fishes on the shoreline of Nigerian waters. The problem of pollution in the marine environment is still there and it’s quite irresponsible for people to discharge used fuel, chemicals, plastics and other items in the ocean. We need to respect the ocean because that is also a means to get food. Pollution and environmental abuse is one of the main problems. We have a lot of resources out there in the sea, but today you could get a fish and open it up to see plastics. It is wrong and really disheartening.
There is also the issue of piracy which the nation has to address. Poaching is also another sad occurrence because people come into the country and steal the resources on water and land. Nigerian precious stones and other ornaments are being stolen by foreigners and taken out of the country. We are in the midst of abundant resources that should be for the welfare of the country. When these resources are sustainably tapped and developed, they create employment.
When you talk about fishing and seafood, there was a time it ranked as the second foreign exchange earner for the nation. The question is – what has happened? A big maritime nation like Nigeria should have a dedicated fishing terminal that should boost fishing activities. This would also create jobs for lots of Nigerians. When we begin to get all these structures right, the fishing industry would boom again.