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I wept when they asked me to run for office, says first elected Northern female LG boss

What was it like growing up as a child? I am the fifth of seven children; I grew up among boys. There are two boys…

What was it like growing up as a child?

I am the fifth of seven children; I grew up among boys. There are two boys before of me and two boys behind me, so I was a little bit of a tom-boy and I remember I was always fond of climbing trees. My father was a dispenser in Bakori. I did my primary school in St. Barth’s boarding school. I started early. I had my secondary school education at Queen of the Apostles at that time. I later moved and finished at St Maria Gorethi, Benin City. Because I grew up in the midst of boys, I always had the challenge of wanting to be like them. My mother had always had the ambition of going to school. She was fortunate to have had a little education before she got married. So she encouraged us to go to school. It was a challenge for me to have to leave home at an early age to go to school in Zaria because the schools in our communities then were local. It was immediately after my secondary school that I picked up a job with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Radio Nigeria. Even though at that time my parents did not want me to start work, my father particularly wanted me to become a nurse and I was already toying with the idea of wearing aprons and giving my father some assistance in the hospital, but then I was caught in with a broadcasting job.

What happened to your nursing ambition?                        

Well, my parents wanted me to become a doctor or nurse but before then, this man I had met earlier (and we were actually planning to get married later on), came to me and told me that they were advertising the job of announcers and broadcasters. He thought I could make a very good candidate since I could speak very well and express myself. It was a good arrangement since I will be working close to him as he was also a staff there. My parents were not happy at the initial stage because they felt I was waiting for my result to go into nursing school. My fiancé then said there was no problem since I could easily leave the broadcasting job when the results come out. Later, everyone was uncomfortable and felt broadcasting was not a job that a young girl will be left all by herself to do and that it was better to have the marriage. So we got married and, within a short time, I started having children. The demand of the marriage and the job were two different things so I had to sacrifice school at that time, but much later, I was able to return to school. I was later able to attend the announcers training school in Lagos and then got a scholarship to go to the School of Television Production in London and then later did my post-graduate at the Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. I was really happy with my job. I was reading the news and presenting programmes. It was really exciting and that was how the dream of going into nursing died.

Then why did you leave broadcasting for politics?

People from my community started coming to talk to me about the need to go and serve my community. At the initial stage, I thought it was a big joke because politics was the last thing on my mind. In fact, for me, there was never a time I considered politicians to be serious-minded people. Then, gradually as time went by, elders from my community went to talk to my mother. At that time my father had passed on and luckily, my husband had been given an appointment as a General Manager in Katsina State Television and we were always passing by through my community, Bakori Local Government. We would, sometimes, stop to greet my mother and it was then she spoke to my husband and I that the community had talked to her about needing my services. On our way back to Kaduna, my husband spoke to me about it and I was crying bitterly because I just didn’t think it was anything good for me.  We got to Kaduna while I was still crying, but when we got home, my husband sat me down and advised me to give it a try. He said if by any chance I didn’t win then I could go back and continue with my job as a broadcaster. So, I withdrew my services from the NTA and started gradually. I was mingling with the people, going to the villages and seeing to their needs. Because people had been watching me all along on the television, it was not hard for them to accept me and because of the services my father hadrendered to them, that was the major reasons why I was handpicked. My mother assisted me to mobilise people and take care of my kids. We won, but unfortunately, we were there for only nine months because the then military government of General Babangida, dissolved us. Then I went on to contest the House of Representative. So, it was a kind of promotion I got, but there again, we were dissolved and we all went back home.

Do you have any regrets leaving the broadcasting profession?

No, I don’t because the broadcasting job prepared me for future challenges. I had spent 17 years in broadcasting before I became the Local Government Chairman of Bakori in 1991. I later became a member of the House of Representative in 1992, then a D.G, first in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and Tourism, Katsina State and later when the cabinet was reshuffled, I was made an Executive Secretary of the Commission for Women during the Abacha days when Family Support Programme was introduced. I was in the Commission for some time before I left the government and much later when a new government was formed, my state made me the women leader of the PDP. Later, I was made a Commissioner from 1998 to 1999 in the Ministry of Information, Culture and Home Affairs. The following year, I was moved to the Ministry of Rural, Social Development Youth and sports. During the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s second tenure as Governor of Katsina State, he made me his Special Adviser on Women Affairs until the time he left office to become the president of Nigeria. I am a member of the Order of the Niger. I was a 2003 Rare Gem awardee and I am an indigene of the State of Newton in the United States of America. I hold a honorary doctorate degree in Philosophy given to me by the University of Philadelphia, Colorado, USA. I have many of such awards given to me. So, by leaving broadcasting, I was only moving forward.

How did you cope as the then only female chairman in the whole of northern Nigeria?

Yes, I was the then only female local government chairperson in the north. We were about five across the nation but I started coping in a predominantly male arena even when I was in broadcasting. So, even in politics, I saw the men as my brothers because I was born in between boys and was already used to mingling with them. So, the NTA job had already prepared me to acclimatise with men.

What is your passion in life?

My passion is to help the less privileged. I want to see a country in which nobody goes hungry. I like to see orderliness in people. People taking up their responsibilities as parents, not leaving their children roam the streets. It hurts to see the almajiri rush when I give them some token. I want to see a situation in which every law maker from the councillorship to the federal lawmakers pick one child on the street, from a poor home, just one child and be responsible for him or her.  The way I see it, every representative, especially the councillors, know exactly the people in their wards. They should be able to know all the Qur’an teachers in their locality and those who send away their children to faraway places to attend Qur’an schools and talk to them while citing examples of the ills of their actions. There is no community that has no Islamic school. So, why don’t they send them to the ones in their locality?

What is your philosophy?

I believe in hard work and honesty. I remember in my campaign days when I had to meet people, I said to the people that if by electing me it will be a disaster, then I pray to God to chose a better person. I had to go to that extent because I don’t like dishonesty. I am not perfect myself but may be my upbringing has compelled me to be like that.

How do you relax?

I relax watching television and reading newspapers. I also relax doing some gardening and most of the time, playing with my grandchildren. (Laughs) They always come to see me and during my leisure hours, I teach them some little things like poem recitation. I also love adventure books and films.

How does it feel to be retired?

Oh, it feels good. I am now able to go to so many places to spend time and even contact people I haven’t been able to in the past due to the pressure of work. I am a board member at the National Institute of Medical Research, Lagos and also a board member of the National Centre for Women Development. Now I mingle with people more often. I sleep when I want to and do my gardening. I grow grapes in my small garden which I manage myself and I am able to reap twice a year because the moment we finish eating up the fruits, we barb it and it grows over again. Once it is ripe, everyone comes to have a share because I don’t sell them.

What was your most trying period in life?

The most trying period for me was when I lost my parents and my husband. My father died a long time ago. That was in 1980 and my mother died about two years ago. The death of my husband, five years ago, was also a very trying period but I thank God for everything. I know that to God we come and to Him we shall all return because one day, we will all pass away.


How did you feel when you were awarded the MON?

It felt great to be recognized by my country and I felt I needed to do more. It was really a great recognition.

How do you relate with your children?

I have five children and they are my best friends. I call them every day and they call me, too, and come to see me often. I keep a very close relationship with my kids. They are my best friends.

Who is your role model?

I like people who are hardworking; people I can learn something from. Those are my types of role models. So, I don’t have any particular person in mind but these are the categories of people I consider to be my role models.

What would you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as one who assisted to shape the lives of some few. I also want to be remembered as one who had respect for other people, very trustworthy and reliable.

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