+ Her Intimate Secrets
HONOURABLE Khadija Bukar Ibrahim is a third-term member of House of Representatives. A one-time Commissioner for Transport and Housing in Yobe, the wife of the former Governor of the State (Alhaji Bukar Ibrahim) is now running for Deputy Speaker.
Last week, Hon. Abba Ibrahim had an interactive session with select journalists. And focusing on what many don’t really know about her, the daughter of Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the late famous Second Republic politician, Presidential aspirant, founder of the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) and apostle of politics without bitterness, opened up on her on early life, political ideology, lifestyle and much more…
Can you relate your growing experience as a child vis-à-vis the girl-child education barrier in Northern Nigeria?
Growing up in Northern Nigeria was not different from growing up in Southern Nigeria in those days (70’s). I grew up in Kaduna and attended Capital School, Kaduna. Then it was a boarding primary school. We had children from all over Nigeria attending the school. There was no discrimination between Christians and Muslims or North and South. Kaduna was the old capital of the Northern Region, so all tribes were represented. The Southerners also felt at home in Kaduna because it was a cosmopolitan town with no cultural restrictions. Growing up in Kaduna as a child was very enjoyable. The British Colonialists had not entirely left by then, so we had tea parties with the diplomats as well as robust relationship with the white community. So, a lot of interaction took place between Northerners, Southerners and the white community. The weather was also very nice because it was not too hot neither was it too cold. Though, during the harmattan season, it gets rather cold and during the raining season, there was a lot of rain.
There were no religious conflicts because both Muslims and Christians lived together. There was a lot of respect for each other’s religion. During the Sallah period, the Christians would celebrate with us and during the Christmas period, and other Christian festivals, we celebrated with them. So infectious was the unity that it could be likened to the old National Anthem which says, ‘Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.’
Therefore, because of the indifferent nature of the town, Kaduna was one of the best places to grow up in those days because, one was brought up under an environment where high moral values were inculcated into the children; where there was love and respect for one another, where religious leaders preached love and unity of purpose. That was the kind of environment under which I grew up. In terms of education of the girl-child, the Northern Nigerian environment had its fair share of the traditional African belief concerning the place of a woman in society; that a man’s education should take priority over that of the girl-child. However, a few of us were privileged to have parents who were enlightened enough to appreciate the fact that every child in the home should be allowed to acquire western education in addition to Islamic education.
What kind of influence did your parent make on your person?
My parents had a great influence on me certainly because my mother who is a disciplinarian made sure we adhered strictly to our religion and culture. Though, we eventually went abroad to study, she made sure we could speak our language (Kanuri) very well and would only communicate with us anywhere in our mother tongue. She also made sure we were home sewing, at least at weekends in England. That was her own little way of empowering us with a skill for living. She also made sure we knew how to cook because I could remember she would ask the cook not to come on weekends so that we would go into the kitchen, clean and cook.
I must say my parents did have a strong influence on me because they didn’t differentiate between us whether one is a boy or a girl, because they gave us all equal opportunities and did not favour one over the other.
Can you share some fond memories of your growing up years with us?
I have great memories of growing up in Northern Nigeria, especially in Kaduna. We were free to go out on our bikes to see our friends down the road. The gates were always left open and the fences were not blocked walls but see through fences with lovely bougainvillea flowers growing against them. It was so safe because in those days armed robbers or kidnappers were unheard of. So, the lasting memory I have is that of peace, serenity and all round contentment.
Your background suggests you were born with a silver spoon?
I was born into the family of the legendary Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the proponent of ‘Politics without Bitterness.’ There is no doubt with the fact that I was born in a comfortable environment but it was an environment where you were constantly reminded that your father made a success out of dint of hard work; that unless one was prepared to work hard in life, one would be a failure and eat with the wooden spoon. That reminder has always been my guide. In my father’s world, his children must share and do the house chores with the domestic assistants and in that kind of environment you hardly can make a distinction between my father’s children and his domestic assistants. And of course, needless to remind us, often times, we see some of the proverbial “born with silver spoons” getting confined to the “wooden spoon” because they had allowed themselves to be duped by the mentality of “born with silver spoon.”
Who made the strongest influence on you, mom or dad?
They both did because while my mother instilled discipline and ensured a good upbringing for us in the home front, going out to the whole wide world, my father equipped us with the best education which ensured our independence.
Did you ever imagine you will become a politician some day and what other profession would you have loved?
Imagining becoming a politician someday? (She asked rhetorically with a moment of silence before talking further). One had grown up in a world where one’s father formed a political party (the GNPP) and contested to be President of Nigeria and where one’s father’s homestead and environment had always been a beehive of political activities. In that environment too, one had seen one’s parent carry out acts of philanthropy to the less-privileged and communities. Yes, naturally, one was not surprised to see oneself partaking in top-notch political activities. Although, I had dreamt of acquiring education, getting into the private sector and growing up to become a big time player in the sector and being a model for not only younger women but for the younger generation. Besides, I would have preferred and will love to retire into life endeavours that will encourage, strengthen and empower the womenfolk. I accept that one can do these from any walk of life.
What was your biggest motivation for politics?
My motivation and journey into politics is an offshoot and still remains a continuation of my father’s vision and life philosophy which is essentially rooted in the service of God Almighty and humanity. It all began in 1998 while I was on normal visits to various communities in Yobe, my state, to attend to the sick, the poor and needy with medicare, food items and clothing. Then, people would come to me for a representation of their interests at various levels – community, local government, state, etc. But at that time, I did represent them in personal and non-governmental capacities. Then came 2004, when out of the people’s pressure, the government of Yobe State under the stewardship of the then Governor, now Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim appointed me Commissioner for Transport and Energy. Thereafter, the pressure for me to represent my people at the federal level became so huge that I had to vie for House of Representatives. And here we are now. So, my motivation and journey into politics began as, and remains, a journey of service to the people.
Your life seems to have been politically wired. You hail from a family of political juggernauts and today, you are equally married to a gentle man politician. How did that come by?
My family knew my husband way back when he was in university. He was a friend and colleague to one of my senior brothers. During the time I wanted to venture into politics, I consulted him as the then Governor of Yobe State. He advised me to assimilate myself with the demands and challenges of the people so that they would know me and get used to me first. That I did for a long while and that led to my appointment as Commissioner which gave me an opportunity to get closer to the people at the grassroots and the choice was left to them. My constituents actually met my husband and told him they wanted me to represent them. So, I can tell you that Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim actually paved the way for me to enter the political arena.
So, what was the experience like working as a ‘staff’ under your husband?
Given our own environment where, in some cases, merit is never considered whilst government appointments are being made, a wife serving in the husband’s administration as a Commissioner may present an unfair assessment of either the Commissioner (wife) or the Governor (husband). But luckily for me, two things worked in my favour. I had said that I gained recognition by continuing my father’s philanthropy and community service. And for that, many had always advocated that I represent my people in government so as to attract development to their communities. This is because they recognized my passion in advancing the cause of humanity and also the fact that, in terms of finance, there is a limit to which an individual could go in assisting her people. Secondly, the appointment came at a time when there was urgent need for the development of the rural areas with roads and electricity and people thought that I had the passion and zeal to sincerely and seriously execute that mandate. I thank God that in the end, I never disappointed our people.
The experience was essentially unique except the pressure that went with it. Because one had to be early in office or meetings, say the right things and do the right things. You must be a positive example and sign post of the people and government. When others know that the Commissioner who is the Governor’s wife is usually the first to attend to duties, then, they take the whole concept of governance more seriously. And my husband believed in due process. He can never allow you bend the rules no matter who you are. In fact, he is a different man at work; once you leave the gate of the house and you enter that of the secretariat, you are under another atmosphere entirely. The experience put you on your toes and at the same time helped to simplify that ‘unique’ position and in the end a success was made to the benefit of our people, those who indeed made a case for my higher appointment in political service.
So, how do you face the challenge of running a home as a politician and women leader in your zone?
The challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. First, unknown to many people, the bar is sometimes raised whenever a woman is involved. Anywhere you see a woman is adjudged as ‘capable,’ that woman must have performed better than normal. Whereas, an average performance is enough for her male counterpart to be taken as ‘suitable.’ Secondly, you are confronted with effective management of the home and state/national assignment. Thirdly, most political affairs meetings, scheming in fact, real politicking, are usually night/evening affairs. So, in the case of a nursing woman-politician, you can imagine what level of resilience that is required of her. But as I usually advice the younger generation of women, try to acquire sufficient education first, by going to school and obtaining knowledge, which I did. With that, a woman can effectively maximize her home, office management and make the best out of both.
Can you recall your worst experience in politics?
The politics associated with the emergency of Boko Haram and its adverse effect on my people. The sad memory hunts me till this moment and it is not what I will like to remember or even talk about.
What would you consider as your greatest achievement in politics?
I am still in politics, so, there is still room for more achievements. But I can say my greatest achievement thus far is that I have not disappointed those who insisted that “Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim’s daughter should represent us.” I have given them voice in the National Assembly, executed numerous projects – electricity, provision of water, healthcare, schools/education, etc – to them at my own expense. In fact, literally speaking, I have shared whatever I earned here (National Assembly) with them. Besides, I have attracted federal government resources and numerous federal projects to their benefit.
You are known to always dress in a conservative way. Why is it so?
I am a firm believer that a woman should be a decent dresser. That is to say she should not dress to appear in a way that cheapens her or gives her away as desperate. Again, I believe that in dressing, we should see ourselves as role models to others. And please, don’t misunderstand me. This has nothing to do with religion. In all communities anywhere in Nigeria, we all know what amounts to indecent dressing. Even in the urban areas where some of us live, when you appear indecently, people around you will know. So my fashion psyche is that I should always appear and be seen as a role model for the younger generation.
What do you hate in people?
Honesty, they say, is the best policy. I hate dishonesty. As a leader, I have learnt how to tolerate and use the goodness in me to change the character ills of others. I don’t hate people; I only hate dishonesty in people.
You are being supported by gender organizations like Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) and several others to vie for the post of Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian Lower House, why do you think this call is coming at this time?
WIPF knows better why they are advocating for the presence and voice of a woman in the leadership of the House of Representatives. But I believe that they are not merely advocating just for the sake of gender. I guess also that WIPF and other organizations are apprehensive or worried that either the 8th National Assembly or the incoming ruling party, APC, may not be gender sensitive enough in this regard. I have this feeling that they know that I am what you might call a ranking member of the House of Representatives; that I have acquired relevant experience and exposure to discharge the functions of that office; that it will be unfair to the Nigerian women if persons of the other gender should be preferred just because they are what they are, ‘men.’
Your name has equally been mentioned in relation to several legislative achievements in the House. Do you think this is reason you are being touted for the office of Deputy Speaker?
With all modesty, my name is not and cannot be new in terms of legislative practice and attainments in the House. Besides some bills and several motions I have advanced for the betterment of the Nigerian society, I have served as Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Rural Development (2007-2008), Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Communications (2008-2010) and presently, Chairman, House Committee on Privatization and Commercialization and thus far without blemish. Many hold that there is no way one could have discharged the duties of these offices without acquiring experience and building confidence.
What is going to be your major objective as first Nigerian female Deputy Speaker?
If, by the grace of God, my party and my colleagues, one becomes the Deputy Speaker, my major objective will be to assist the President navigate our nation out of the current economic quagmire. Of course, it should not be taken for granted that I will be of immense assistance to the First Lady in realizing her vision for the Nigeria girl-child education and emancipation of women at all levels. All these we will achieve through legislative process and advocacy.
– UCHE OLEHI