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Identifying Women Leaders in Male Dominated Environments

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Tanko Ahmed
March 31, 2015


Women, as primary caretakers, often and noticeably pass as natural managers of human affairs. The Nigerian multicultural society submits to rapid changes under severe friction with traditional concepts and social constructs, particularly on gender issues. The male dominated world often witnesses occasional, now more regular, pop-ups by determined women who are able to breakthrough to the top by sheer strong will.

This article narrates a lonely, determined and noticeable path of an accomplished woman-leader of government agencies and reformer of human affairs in an environment not particularly enabled for progress of women. Methodology used for this narrative consists of participatory observation based on close proximity to subject, telephone interviews, textual analysis and the author’s self-assessment by the Gender-Leader Implicit Association Test (GLIAT).

A Pathfinder

The African, or Nigerian, restricted traditional settings offer stiffest resistance to gender equality at family and community levels, particularly in areas late in exposure to modernity, like northern part Nigeria. Professor (Mrs.) Lami Lombin, the pioneer and current dean of veterinary medicine faculty at the University of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria has been a pathfinder and trailblazer in educational and professional career progression. She was the first female veterinary doctor from an area where no other females ever attempted before her. She was also the first female president of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) and first female executive director of the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) from 2001 to 2010. Under her watch, the NVRI won United Nations recognition for collaborating with the Centre for Emergency Preparedness for Trans-boundary Animal Diseases for West and Central Africa. Another milestone is the Institute’s placement as a regional lab for West and Central Africa Vet Lab Network for Avian Influenza and other Trans-boundary.

In a recent telephone interview with Professor Lombin, she cherished her achievements in human capital development in the NVRI’s mass recruitment of 100 veterinarian doctors and their extensive training at master’s and doctoral degrees. She built and upgraded the entire lab units, mostly from foreign grants, and transformed the NVRI environment befitting work, studies and research. Other legacies to her credit include instituted reforms for the Fulani nomadic cattle rearers who were able to blend traditional and modern methods, a synergy never attained before. These are, by all standards, pioneering at personal, local, national, regional and global levels of professional and leadership feats befitting an amazon.

An Amazon

Measured on the scale of an amazon, the mythical Greek strong-willed female warrior, Professor Lombin struggled from family level where a very strict father had to give in to an equally very determined daughter bent on becoming a veterinary doctor. With a result good enough for general medicine, she scaled with ease through the veterinary school at apex performance. Her visible leadership qualities began to manifest from early childhood as ‘leader of the pack’ to six other siblings, the eldest of five sisters sandwiched by two eldest and youngest brothers. Early developed high-spirited qualities attracted unprecedented followership from school and college prefectships to the presidency of NVMA (1996 – 2001) depicting a career woman. Lombin also served as consultant to the World Health Organization. She is a winner of the Pfizer Animal Health Award and a recipient of Member of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR).

A Career Woman

Professor Lombin has been a teacher at university level since 1977 and a career public servant as commissioner for health, Plateau State from 1986 to 1990. Professor Lombin is presently the dean of veterinary medicine faculty at the University of Jos. I recently attended a retreat specially organized for faculty members which aroused curiosity leading to this narrative. This three-day interactive session was designed and executed for the purpose of exchanging and imparting knowledge, ideas and leadership qualities required for teamwork success in the faculty service delivery. The entire experience left a lasting impression as well as inspired the desire to study and analyze the often unnoticed, or sometimes deliberately ignored, rich leadership resources vested in women, but blindfolded by socio-psychological construct of the traditional Nigerian gender environment.

The Nigerian Gender Environment

The Nigerian National Gender Policy, which is affiliated to global and regional frameworks and conventions, still faces substantial resistance to full implementation from determined traditional male counterparts. However, Amazonians like Professor Lombin inspire others to muster potency through socio-economic and political platforms. An accomplished role model, a scholar-practitioner, teacher, administrator, public servant, traditional housewife, dedicated mother and ‘leader of the pack’, Lombin offers an answer for the question: Where are the Women?

Conclusion by GLIAT Self-Assessment

This locale not only shows a woman-leader, but also exposes and settles the writer’s cultural mind through a GLIAT self-assessment. The result shows that strong cultural assumptions on gender and leadership may be misleading as careful and sincere analysis points to clearer views. The narrative on Professor Lombin proves such proposition.

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