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You don’t have to be rich to touch people’s lives – Hadiza Abdullahi

Weekly Trust: Can you tell us briefly about yourself?Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi: My name is Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi; I was born in 1952 in Jos where…

Weekly Trust: Can you tell us briefly about yourself?
Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi: My name is Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi; I was born in 1952 in Jos where I grew up. I am a cosmopolitan and well integrated person because I grew up in a diverse society where everybody was everybody’s keeper. People spanning across the west coast of Africa were our neighbours. It was a lot of fun. I attended St. Luke’s Primary School, Jos, we had fantastic teachers who were like parents to all the pupils and up till today, we still refer to some of them. From there, I proceeded to Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin for my secondary school. I spent seven years in Ilorin for my Cambridge West African School Certificate then, and Higher School Certificate. From there, I went to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where I obtained a BSc in Government, what we now call Political Science and International Relations with some touch of public administration and development economics. It was a combination of everything and it was quite intensive and quite satisfying. There I had the opportunity of coming across great teachers such as the late  Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, Professor Okone, Dr. Haroun Adamu and a host of others, but these three I mentioned imparted on me positively and of course the late Dr Bala Usman, our great mentor. Then, I went for my one year NYSC and after the service I proceeded for a master’s degree in Management Education at the Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts, USA. That’s the peak of my academic journey. I went into the civil service, did what I could and here I am today.
How was your growing up like?
It was a lot of fun. I come from a family that is well disciplined, a policeman-father; a policeman of those days. I had an uneducated mother, but in her own way, she was educated. She was quite disciplined. She knew when you failed Arithmetic; she wouldn’t allow you to touch one penny, because you don’t know how to put one penny plus one penny together. She would threaten you, if you don’t pass your exams in the upper ten. She was quite an influence.  In all, I had other nine siblings and it was a close knitted family and we have lost three, with six of us left now. We grew up among neighbours who were like our parents and the children of other houses were like our brothers and sisters. The parents at that time will reprimand you for going wrong and your parents will even thank them for doing that; you are everybody’s child. It was a disciplined society, free from discrimination and what have you. I am happy that I grew up in that kind of environment.
Let’s know what you are into now?
I am trying to reach out to people positively, better peoples’ lives in a way. I must say that any attempt by anyone to better anybody’s life does not mean that one is rich and   wants to show wealth. You can even do that in so many ways. I have tried in my own little way to initiate youth empowerment programmes on a very small scale. I don’t have much resource, but I have been able to prevail on well meaning Nigerians, neighbours who came out in their full force to help and I appreciate them greatly. I have had less privileged people sent to schools. I have had youths who were roaming the streets sent somewhere to have some skills and that had helped them tremendously. As I speak to you now, we have a child who just graduated as a Pharmacist and then another one is studying for a degree in Agriculture. We have a few of them who went to polytechnics and a good number of them we sent to centres where they could acquire some vocational skills as mechanics, iron benders and all that.
Why are you sending other people’s children to school?
Well, I don’t know, but right from my childhood, I have this passion to impact on people. I have this sharing spirit, I like sharing with somebody who doesn’t have at all. I found out that by the grace of God, the more I give, the more I get. And I have a fantastic daughter who is into charity at her age. She is about 30 now and sometimes she will come to me and said, look, we want to sink boreholes in some areas who cannot afford potable water, please can you contribute? In fact, she would naturally oblige me to please contribute. She would come to me and said, ‘there is one orphanage there, the woman is doing very well, everything is out of her pocket, please can you endeavour to contribute a bag of rice every month?’ And I found myself doing these things. I found myself obeying her and I often say to myself, ‘this one is like me’.  Though I didn’t do as much as she is doing, let me help and encourage her and it has been like that because I enjoy seeing happy people around me. At times, you will find kids pass-by and you ask them why they are not in schools by such time of the day and they would tell you, they can’t afford it. ‘Where are your parents?’ They would say they live here in Kaduna. How much should that school fee cost? And I say to myself, ‘something as little as N900 will keep a child out of school for a term!’ So, from my meagre resources, why can’t I take   N900 and give, even if it is two people at a time. For as long as I am able to, I offer and that has really helped a lot because you put smiles on the faces of people who would always look sad because of the frustration of everyday living.
Is there any memorable moment in your life you cherish or otherwise?
Well, one of the saddest moments of my life was when I lost my father when he went on Hajj. I was with him before he left; he was full of prayers for me and gave me a little Koranic booklet and said to me that I should always read it and handed down to me a lot of things that I should do and should not do in my life. And I was happy that he was going to perform the pilgrimage the second time, though he was quite an old man then. I was looking forward to him coming back, so that we could share a lot of experience, because we used to share a lot of experience because he was my best friend. So, a message came to me that I was wanted at home in Jos. I didn’t expect that such was what will happen. I was doing my national service then at Enugu. It was when we got to Bukuru that they told me, “Sorry, Baba is no more.”
Everywhere suddenly just went blank, it was like the world became an empty place to me and I said to myself, ‘I don’t have anybody any more; what I’m I going to do now?’ It was like things will not remain the same for me.
As we often say, time is the best healer. I live with the good memories of him, of all the good things he has done for me. That was my roughest memory. The happiest moment was when my first grandchild arrived. I was so happy that I was in tears. I have a lot of them now and they happen to be my very good friends. My greatest achievement in life is impacting positively on the less privileged. It is not the school I went to, it is not the job I did. It is my ability to impact, to change the lives of the people for the better and turn around the lives of the less privileged for the better. Maybe, God gave me all that He did like the good education, the exposure, to do what I am doing and I am happy doing it; because I have had instances where people just walked up to me and said, “Do you have a child I can adopt?” I go to them and say ‘please adopt a child’ and they will ask, ‘adopt a child?’ I said ‘yes, I am not bringing that child to your house, but you can pay the fees and all that.’
Tell us about your NGO?
I do not have an NGO.  What I do is borne purely out of my passion to reach out to the less privilege,with a view to impacting positively on the lives of the everyday people I meet on life’s journey. I honestly don’t think I need an NGO to prevail on well meaning Nigerians to be their brothers keeper, especially if there are true life evidence to show.  It has always been my ambition to see that the world is a better place for me and everyone out there.  This is my first step of perhaps, a thousand miles journey. – who knows there maybe reasons for one to operate. On an elaborate scale, which might invariably require the need for an NGO.
What is your view of NGOs being labelled fraudulent?
I  am not aware of this practice among NGOs, for the simple reason that the primary function of an NGO is to add a helping hand to ameliorate a situation.   However I have come in contact with an NGO. established by some incredible young girls who are presently involved in giving quality education to less privilege children   in and around Kaduna, through contributing money among themselves to fund the project.
With your profile, why are you not giving preference to the girl-child given that this part of the country where you are operating has a very low rate of girls attending western education?
I give priority to girl-child education through advocacy and funding when the need arises. After all there must be a reason why parents do not send their girl-child to schools. I mentor and coach such parents on the significance of sending their girls to school. After all I was a girl child, and I got a sound education.
 I’m not too sure I have a clear picture of what your views on the girl-child education in my environment is, but I must say enrollment of the girl child into primary,secondary as well as tertiary institutions is on the rise by about 75  per cent estimation. There are other advocates of girl-child education out there, who I must say equally enjoyed quality education. There is a drastic change from what it used to be inspite of handicaps both on the part of the parents,government and those of us too willing to effect changes. There is great improvement and more is expected.  I believe in another five years.  In shaa Allah. You may come back to ask me more cheerful questions on this issue.
What is your views about Nigerian politics and do you intend to participate and seek elective office in the future?
 Well we have gone along way on our journey to democracy and good governance, some perfections here and there is essential,   most importantly we should aim at sustaining democracy. There is no two way to a democratic form of government.  Democracy is all about people coming together to take far reaching decisions on those matters that affects their lives. Directly of indirectly that is through elective representations. For democracy me its a beautiful form of government if practiced accordingly suitable for any sovereign state.  However we cannot have true democracy without integrity,accountability,transparency and probity. People, the electorate is the key to democracy. It ceases to be democracy if the people fail to have a voice in the management of their affairs. We should re-orientate our national values as Nigerians; and these values are what I have already mentioned ,integrity, accountability,transparency and probity, all that added together, amounts to good governance.  As for the second part of your question. I’d say no I’m not looking to participate in politics or  seek an elective office. I am a proactive citizen of Nigeria.

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