Nigeria has an ancient culture that has existed for thousands of years. Some 500 different ethnic groups make up the country, each of which have their own history. The country has three major tribes, but also many minority tribes. The cultural heritage in each of these groups, passed down from father to son and mother to daughter, is tremendous.
Esther Nenadi Usman, who is the former finance minister from the state of Southern Kaduna, has been particularly interested in the cultural influences of Nigeria on the woman. As Senator Nenadi Esther, and particularly because she worked as a minister in the economic and financial arena, people could be forgiven for saying that she very much wears the trousers. Interestingly, however, up to the 1990s, it was classed as irresponsible for a woman to wear trousers at all. In Kaduna, women would wear gowns or skirts and blouses below the knees, using tie wraps should they so wish.
Today, however, Usman is happy to see that some 70% of women wear trousers. In fact, they even wear them to church! This does not mean that Nigerian culture is disappearing. Nenadi simply believes that there is a place for culture, and there is a place for practicality. The same is seen in men, actually. Esther reminds people that men were not allowed to have any long hair or to weave or plat it. Furthermore, men were not allowed to have beards. Today, men are allowed to style their hair in whatever way they see fit.
Marriage in Nigeria
One area in which Nenadi Esther Usman has seen tradition is still very strong in Nigeria, is in marriage. Women are expected to marry between the ages of 24 and 31. Any older than that, they are classed as liabilities. This means that she would continue to have daughter rights, but she would no longer be as accepted. What has changed, according to Esther Usman, is that few people continue to follow customary law for marriages, which means that a man is introduced to a daughter as a husband. Some elements of this tradition, such as the telling of a funny story, are perhaps to be cherished, but Nenadi Esther strongly believes in choice. She herself became Esther Nenadi Usman after marrying her Muslim husband, this despite her being Christian herself.
Other family traditions are also being questioned. For instance, the woman is traditionally responsible for looking after the family, although the man is classed as the owner of any children. Women look after the home, doing 90% of the housework, whereas men go out to work and earn the money to pay the bills. Esther Usman clearly changed this.
Certain traditions in Nigeria are to be applauded and maintained, even if it is just for the sake of cultural heritage. Others, however, have to become more fluid because of advancing times. Women, for instance, must become more empowered, something that Nenadi has been personally invested in. She has shown the country that a woman can take on any role, and she hopes that others will be inspired by her.