Hajia Jamila Suka was the Registrar Patent, Trademark and Design in the Ministry of Trade and Investment.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Hajia Suka who was also a former Permanent Secretary in the then Ministry of Commerce urged President Mohamau Buhari to appoint more women into sensitive positions in his government to help him achieve the Nigeria of his dream.
She added that women are more transparent than men and expressed regret that the men folks have messed up the political scene with money thereby make political contest difficult and expensive for women.
You have been out of circulation for a while after your retirement. Why have you kept so low?
I have been very much around. There have been some occurrences in the political sphere that didn’t go down well with me. And that is why often times, the women feel that men are sabotaging us when there is a position of competition between men and women either in appointive or elective positions.
I was a victim. After I had been nominated by President Buhari for an ambassadorial post, some powerful elements in the government removed my name for reasons best known to them. This was after serving the country for 35 good years in various capacity until I retired as a Director in the ministry of Commerce and Tourism now Ministry of Trade and Investment. I retired as Registrar of Patent, Trademark and Design.
Would it be safe to say, therefore, that this was the reason you did not join other women and the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen when they visited President Buhari and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila recently where they asked the President to give women more slot in federal appointments?
Even though I was not among the women in the entourage, I would say that the visit is a welcome development because women are marginalised in both appointive and elective positions. The Minister of Women Affairs has seen that we are indeed marginalised and has also seen our plight, hence, that was the reason for the visit and it was worth it.
To many people, this is not surprising because women are skeptical about political contest. Despite their large population, they still don’t vote or even voted for by their fellow women. What would you say is the reason?
All of us can’t contest for elections or vote in an election. It is only natural and as simple as that. Some of us are doing what I am doing now, by trying to seek to serve in other capacities.
On why women don’t vote for their fellow women, there are cases where we voted for our fellow women. After all there are women in elective positions, both in the National and state Assemblies while some are Deputy Governors.
How would you rate the ratio of women in this government as compared to President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?
President Muhammadu Buhari is trying for womenfolk and he has mentioned it several times that his administration will appoint more women into various positions. He did it in his first term and he has promised to increase the number, this time around.
Would you then say that Mr. President has been fair to women considering the fact that there are few women in his cabinet?
The President has just made few appointments. I think it is rather too early to complain because the process is still on.
When you were Registrar, Patent, Trademark and design in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, what was the turnout of women who came to register products?
The turnout was quite encouraging and as many as they came to register their products, I assisted and encouraged them.
Many of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and most businesses in Nigeria are registered and run by women. Women were given equal opportunity with men in terms business registration under my watch.
Under President Buhari, the office of the First Lady is not given prominence. Isn’t that an indication of gender inequality?
The First Lady, Her Excellency, Aisha Buhari was away on vacation and she had just returned recently. As far as I am concern, the office of the First Lady is still enjoying prominence. She is just like her husband. She is a quite person. The First Lady is not a loud person or an attention seeker like her predecessors.
There are less women in the present National Assembly as compared to the immediate past one. What would you say is the reason for low level of women’s participation in politics?
You know that in this part of the world, money is the determining factor in politics. Men spend a lot of money to get elected into an office thereby destroying the political scene with it. And because women don’t have so much money to spend, men dominate the political space. You know that without money, you can’t make meaningful impact in Nigeria political scene and men have so much of it to throw around and so their impact is felt everywhere.
And for this reason, some of us chose to seek appointive posts than elective position in order to make our own contribution to national development.
Don’t you think religion and culture are some of the factors limiting women from participating in active politics especially, those of you from the North?
No, it is not true. In Sokoto State where I come from, many women are engaged in active politics and they are doing very well. We are allowed to contest and participate in electoral process and so, there is no religious or cultural factor that hold women back from engaging in politics. And that is how it is in other parts of the country. With our population, men cannot underrate the capability of Nigerian women in electioneering.
Some of the Chibok and Dapchi school girls are still in captivity including Leah Sharibu. As a mother, do you have confidence in this government’s ability to rescue the remaining girls from Boko Haram’s enclave?
Yes, of course, I have confidence that these girls will soon regain their freedom because government is doing its best to secure their freedom. This is not a conventional warfare and as such, the government has adopted a strategic approach so that we don’t lose any of these girls while trying to rescue them.
Mr. President has emphasised and given assurance that very soon the remaining girls in the Boko Haram’s den will regain their freedom. It is a process and gradually the girls will be brought back to their parents. But some people want it to be done in a hurry and if we do so, it may be disastrous because the insurgents have nothing to lose, but Nigeria and parents of the girls have so much at stake. Therefore, I support whatever measure or means that the government decides to take in order to bring back them back safely. That is more important. There are different stages in the strategic plan carefully, mapped out to achieve the desired result which is, to ensure the freedom of these girls.
Nigerians are groaning under this government because of severe hardship. As one who is in the home front, are you not disappointed just as other mothers in the country?
I agree with you that things haven’t been easy for a while and this can be attributed to corruption in the system and decline in the price of oil which is the nation’s economic mainstay.
That is why the President is bent on reducing corruption to the bearable minimum, if not totally eradicated. I am happy the government is winning the war against corruption. I also believe that soon the economy will be stabilized.
You talked about corruption as if only men are guilty of corruption. Women have also been found guilty just like their male counterparts. Are you not concerned that women also dip their hands into the nation’s treasury?
Why are you people always particular about women in negative terms? Out of million cases of corruption, you could only mention three cases. Is that enough reason for you to say that women are corrupt? What of the men in whose pockets you find public funds? And I would say that concerning the few women you just mentioned, their cases are under investigation. So, you cannot conclude right now.
Women are wives to these corrupt men. Haven’t they failed in their responsibility if they cannot discourage their husbands from indulging in corruption?
You won’t blame us because most men don’t really tell their wives how they make money. They don’t tell us that they are stealing public funds or cutting corners in their respective places of work. And we women as their wives are not spirits to know that they are indeed, lining their pockets with public funds.
We don’t know and if we see them living above their means and we ask them about the sources of such income, they will give excuses and reasons. So, some of us would naturally caution them, but they won’t listen. When you talk to your husband about corruption, he will tell you that he is not corrupt until he is caught. So, that is the situation some women, find themselves.
Were you at anytime accused of corruption as Registrar in the Ministry of Trade and Investment and in the 35 year period you were in the civil service?
No, not at all because my job was open. It is a specified government fee you pay and you are issued a receipt. So, there was no room for corruption.
In all, women are transparent and dedicated to their duties more than the men. Therefore, I would advice President Buhari to appoint more women into sensitive positions if he must achieve the Nigeria of his dream.
In as much as you are advocating for more women to be given appointment, what about the role they play in the family which is the bedrock of any society. Today, family values are eroded as most children have taken to vices especially, drug abuse and trafficking. Would say women’s aspiration for public service has affected their motherly role?
The fact is that as the children grow, they are influenced positively or negatively by their friends. You can teach your children values that can guarantee good life and when they mix up with friends, they will do the contrary. So, before they leave to pursue education, you have to advice them to choose good friends and eschew evil. And you continue to pray for them and leave the rest to God .