Even though the military is a male-dominated profession worldwide, some Nigerian women have ventured into it and made their mark. In this report, TARKAA DAVID writes on the rise to stardom.
Major General Aderonke Kale
A psychiatrist by profession, she became the first female Major General in the Nigerian Army and rose to command the Nigerian Army Medical Corps.
Kale was trained as a medical doctor at University College (UC), Ibadan. She specialised in psychiatry at the University of London. According to her, she was inspired to join psychiatry by Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo, Africa’s first professor of psychiatry.
She worked briefly in Britain and returned to Nigeria in 1971.
She joined the Nigerian Army in 1972, which was a very rare decision for women in those days, particularly those at such a high professional level. She was a colonel and deputy commander of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps by 1990. She was later promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and in doing so became the first female General in West Africa.
Kale was promoted a Major General in 1994 and became the first Nigerian woman to occupy that rank. She was also the first female Major General in West Africa.
Her role was initially as chief psychiatrist to the army before she became the director of the Nigerian Medical Corps and was its chief medical officer until 1996. This was the first time in the history of the Nigerian Army that a woman was given the responsibility for the healthcare of all Nigerian soldiers at all levels in preparation for and during war. She retired in 1997.
Major General Abimbola Olatilewa Amusu
She joined the Nigerian Army as a 2nd Lieutenant on June 1982 and got to the peak of her career as a Major General as well as commanded the Nigerian Army Medical Corps from 2015 to 2018.
Amusu was the second female officer in the history of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps to have headed the corps and was appointed after the retirement of Major General Obashina Ayodele.
She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Health Management from Lagos State University and was an examiner with the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and a member of Faculty Board, Faculty of Pathology, at the same college.
Amusu also served as director and chief consultant hematologist, 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, from September 2014 to December before she was made the Medical Corps commander, an office she held until her retirement in December 2018. She was among the two Major Generals and three Brigadier Generals that were pulled out of service at the Nigerian Army Medical Corps in Lagos that year.
Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu
Born on January 18, 1959, Hotonu applied to join the Engineering Corps of the Nigerian Army but was told there was no place for women in that field in the Army.
She then turned to the Nigerian Navy, which did not have gender restrictions and was accepted as an officer cadet at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1985.
She was the first woman to attend the academy and graduated as the overall best student in her class of 73. She won the commander-in-chief’s prize and also the Commandant’s prize for best research project.
Hotonu became one of the first architects to join the Nigerian Navy and was also the first female officer to serve as an instructor at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji.
In 2012, she spent time in Liberia mentoring women in that country’s armed forces and was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in December 2012, becoming the first female Admiral in Africa.
An architect, she was one of the first women officers and amongst the first architects in the Nigerian Navy, served as a staff college instructor and abroad in Liberia. In December 2012 she became the first female Admiral in Africa.
At the age of 13, she decided she wanted to become an architect and studied architecture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she was often the only woman in her classes. After graduating she worked in an architect’s office for two years whilst she took her professional examinations.
Commodore Jamila Abubakar Sadiq Malafa
An international maritime lawyer and the first northern female Commodore in the history of the Nigerian Navy, Malafa was born in 1995 and joined the Nigerian Navy in 1988 and was commissioned as a midshipman in 1990.
In December 2017, she became the first Northern woman in the history of Nigerian Navy to attain the rank of Commodore.
Malafa was born in Whona village in Gombi local government area of Adamawa State and schooled St. Theresa School, Luggere in Adamawa for her primary education and proceeded to Government Secondary School Hong for her Secondary Education. She left for School of Nursing in Yola where she obtained a national certificate in Nursing and Midwifery. To practice the profession, she studied Nursing at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, while awaiting her admission into the University of Maiduguri to further her studies, a friend brought the notice of Nigerian Navy recruitment exercise to her notice, she went and was recruited being the only woman from the northern part of Nigeria to be recruited.
After joining the Navy, she went to the School of Nursing where she got her midwifery certificate. In 1995, she applied for a Law degree at the University of Lagos, but was turned down because she had no JAMB result. So, she enrolled herself in a school, sat for JAMB, got the cut off mark and was given admission to read Law. She obtained her master’s degree in Constitution and Criminal Law from the same university in 2004. In 2009 she got her second master’s degree in International Maritime Law, in Malta 2009.
When she returned from Malta, she was among those selected to tour some northern states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara and others to encourage young women to join the profession. Commodore Malafa, who is at present the legal director of the Nigerian Navy, holds the position of deputy director Civil-Military Relations (Law Support) making her in charge of the law department of the Nigerian Navy at the headquarters.
Malafa was decorated on December 2017 with the rank of Commodore.