From Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
Hajara Jibrin Gidado is the Bauchi State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Child Development. In this interview, Gidado, from Itas-Gadau local government area of the state explained what led to her emergence as the only female Commissioner in the state.
She defended her boss, Governor Bala Mohammed who has been accused by a section of women groups of not doing enough for women in the state.
How do you feel as the only woman among the Commissioners recently appointed by Governor Bala Mohammed into his cabinet?
I feel very happy with my appointment as a commissioner but it didn’t come to me as a surprise considering how we stood firm as women in supporting the governor during his governorship election bid and he eventually succeeded to the glory of Allah. His Excellency, the governor is a man of honour and someone that keeps his promise. He promised to give women appointments during the campaign and he has fulfilled that promise. That is why my appointment did not come to me as a surprise.
But there are complaints by some women that the administration is not carrying women along in terms of appointments. You are now a part of the administration, what would you say about such complaints?
To be candid, it is not true because it is difficult to please a man.
To me, the issue that women are not carried along should not arise.
The complaint is just about the appointment of commissioners. The appointment of commissioners was not done solely by the governor. The governor did not just wake up and nominate and appoint commissioners. He came through the 20 local government areas of the state to ensure fairness and justice since every local government has a representative.
The governor being a leader that believes in fairness gave every local government the chance to nominate the names of persons they want to be appointed for commissioners from their various local governments in order to avert complaints. Eleven names were initially nominated from each local government and the list was later trimmed to seven, four and finally three. Each of the local government in the state ended up submitting three names and none submitted names of female nominees for commissioners apart from my local government Itas-Gadau and Zaki.
Only these two local governments out of the 20 submitted two names. If you look at it, since the governor gave each local government the chance to nominate their choice, they brought their choice without women and there is no way the governor can appoint women commissioners if they are not nominated by their council. He even called the attention of the local government and appealed to them that he would have wished to appoint a particular woman as commissioner but her name was not submitted and they kicked against it. So, if they rejected women from the council, he can’t force his wish on them because they have the right to nominate, they worked hard to bring the government to power and they speak on behalf of their council and so he could not impose a nominee on them. He had to give them what their heart desires.
The governor has gone on to appoint women into important agencies like the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Agency, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among others. Would you want to throw more light on these and other appointments of women in the administration?
That is why I told you that the cry that women are not carried along is just stories that are not true because if you look at the appointments, SDG was given to a woman, I am a commissioner for Women Affairs. For instance, SDG is a Federal Government position that is big and has a lot of activities going on there. It is an important position which he gave to a woman. He also gave BASOVCA to a woman.
Here in Bauchi, we know how important that agency is. We used to think that a woman cannot head the place, since Hajia Baheeja was appointed as the first women to head the place. But to our greatest surprise, he gave the headship of BASOVCA to a woman. This is an agency that every civil servant in the state contributes one percent of their salary to.
For public office holders, from the governor to the lowest, two percent of their salaries are deducted by law to run the agency.
BASOVCA is a big and important agency that has huge funds to manage the place. The governor was confident that a woman could manage the place. Again, at the Local Government Service Commission, he gave Esther Ahmed, a woman from Alkaleri Permanent Commissioner 1. He also took Programme School Feeding and gave the position to a woman, Doris Yashi even though she was a civil servant. Remember that the programme has been politicized since it was initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari to alleviate poverty. Also, a member of the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) was given to Rhoda, a woman. So, if you look at it critically, out of 30 appointments made, women got at least 10.
There is involvement of women in the government. What is left is for women to collaborate and unite to increase their active involvement because that is what the men usually do.
Let us now come to your ministry. May we know what programmes you have for women and children?
The only challenge I have right now that has prevented me from initiating programmes in the ministry is that we inherited a budget that had already been implemented half way by the previous government which has spent virtually everything budgeted for the fiscal year.
What is left was barely enough to do anything meaningful. That is why we had to endure and as you know, if your budget is exhausted, you have nothing much to run with because there is no way you can raise money.
But with a budget, you can cut your coat according to your cloth and organise programmes. The year is almost ended and whatever we have for the upliftment of women and children in the state cannot be effectively implemented. But with the presentation of the 2020 budget by the governor to the State Assembly, we are hopeful that God willing, they would approve and pass it owing to the good relationship between the executive and the legislature. Once that is done and we enter a fresh fiscal year, we will start afresh to address the problems of women and children in the state. The governor is passionate about addressing the plight of women in the state and the women should know. From his body language even in gathering of women, they should know by now that he has good intention for women. We are hopeful that by 2020, we will come up with good programmes and initiatives that will empower women and address the development of our children.
So what are those programmes or issues that are topmost on your agenda as far as women and children are concerned?
Truly, they are many because if you consider the issues of our women, we are still lacking behind in education; this is one of the reasons behind our current predicament. The current percentage of women in government means we must rise and ensure that women are educated. We must ensure that female children receive proper education. Research has shown that parents are now more willing that their female children receive formal education. Those that dropped out are willing to continue education as adults but the adult education is almost nowhere. I intend to revive the adult education to ensure that as many women that are desirous of receiving education are not denied. We believe that if the female parents are properly educated, if they come to realize how important education is, they will most willing to ensure that their children receive education. So we will hope to promote literacy among women and children, we hope to create a generation of women that will get whatever they can get legally on merit as a result of their being educated, trained and competence. By God’s grace, this government will promote this. There are lots of women that are jobless and unfortunately some men have shirked their responsibilities to women. If you take a careful look around, especially in our rural areas, where we lose votes, you will see that it is women that are taking the responsibility of caring for their children. So, if we empower this set of women with education, skills and give them a platform to learn a trade or handwork, not like it was being done haphazardly in the past where men are waiting around to finish the programme and collect their money from their wives, marry another wife and that is the end of the vocation she learnt, no.
We won’t do that.
We understand from past experience that there is often clash between the ministry of Women and Child Development and the office of the First Lady in the state. This is often reflected in situations where the governor’s wife executes programmes that have to do with women thereby bye-passing the ministry. How would you address this conflict of interest?
What I would say concerning the wife of my governor is that she is a woman who has the fear of God, well bought up in a strict religious background and she is western educated as well. What I have discovered about her is that she is always trying to find the position of the law before embarking on any action. She doesn’t interfere in other people’s activities because she is the wife of the governor. She asks a lot of questions and is always willing to know what the position of the law on any issue is. She would always say that she is always avid what will become a problem for her. So, with her kind of person, I am sure we will not find ourselves in that kind of person like what was obtainable in the past in the state. Our governor on his own part is an experienced leader. She is also an experienced and excellent woman who has been all over the world busy with her foundation, Al-Muheeba.
She is currently in Spain. She has become sought after because of the activities of her foundation. So, she knows what administration is all about and I am sure we will not have that kind of problem in Bauchi.
What role do you think women played in bringing the current administration to power?
Women made great contributions to. Like you know, government comes in with the votes of 60 percent by women because it is the woman that will cook for the family and as early as 5 or 6 am, she is at the polling unit to vote before going home. This government took over power from a sitting governor. This is not a mean fit. Women played a strong role in ensuring that. For instance, the immediate past governor’s wife used to intrude in the activities of other ministries and that made a lot of women to dislike her and if women dislike a particular government, then there is problem. So, women came out in droves to vote for this government. If you recall when attempts were made to subvert Governor Mohammed’s victory, women slept at INEC office, on the streets, crying that they should not subvert the will of the people as Kaura had won the governorship election. This goes to tell you that women played a strong role in the coming of this government. Now the government is passionate about women and their appointments have reflected it as I explained earlier; if the government is not interested in carrying women along, the governor would not have given us appointments into sensitive and important places. He would look for positions that will also project our competence and readiness. The newly created office of Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs and Community Development was given to a woman!
This is because of his belief that women can no longer be seen as second class. Once they are qualified and deserving, they should be given the chance to contribute their quota. The new office will assist women that belong to groups and non- governmental organisations and ensure that they are carried along properly in terms of empowerment. So, the governor did not forget that women were instrumental to his coming to power and as a man of integrity, has kept his campaign promise by rewarding them.