Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Zainab Sulaiman Umar, 26, is a one time Student Union Government (SUG) Vice President of Bayero University, Kano. She is contesting on the platform of New Progressive Movement (NPM) to represent Kumbotso state Constituency of Kano.
She speaks on her challenges and her plans for her constituency if she is elected.
At just 26, what is your pedigree in politics that you decided to run?
Well I will start by saying politics is something I grew up to want to do because I started with school politics. One of the main reasons I decided to run is the way the youths and women are being left behind in terms of political participation in both my constituency in Kano and in Nigeria at large. In the history of Kano State there has never been a female state lawmaker, so I looked at those things and decided to run to change the narrative.
Why House of Assembly and not local government chairperson?
It was a deliberate decision to run for the state House of Assembly because I want to be closer to my constituents, those I call the grassrooters. It is also because women and youths are not represented in my constituency, like I mentioned earlier, in the history of Kano State there has not been a women state House of Assembly representative, which probably explains why we don’t matter in the scheme of things.
What will you do differently if elected?
On what I will do differently, I will ensure my constituents enjoy the full dividends of democracy in terms of lobbying to bring developmental projects closer to them. I plan to encourage Nigeria youths to make a positive stand in Nigeria political process, the not too young to run law has given the youths all the backing they need to be part of the process of building good governance. I plan to sponsor bills that will encourage increase in youth and women participation in political activities of state and Nigeria at large.
One of the bills I plan to sponsor will eradicate poverty, tackles unemployment, and discourage use of drugs and violence against women. I also plan to empower the less privilege, orphans and people with disabilities through partnership with other private organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). I also plan to sponsor and push for the passage of a bill into law that will ensure free social services for senior citizens that are 60 and above and free medical care for pregnant women.
People die of common sicknesses like malaria and typhoid just because my constituency lacks adequate Primary Health Care Center. So I will lobby the government to build more health care centers in my constituency among other things I will push for.
What are the challenges you face as a young politician and a female?
The main challenge is lack of funds, logistics and fighting Godfatherism in politics. But I am not deterred by all that despite being a female candidate and young too. I’m pushed by the desire to serve my people and to bring dividends of democracy closer to my people.
Your party, New Progressive Movement (NPM) is new compared to the ruling party and the main opposition party, what are your chances?
My chance of winning is 90 to 95 percent because of the way I have been doing my campaigns and the responses I have received. I have been going to the grassroots selling my mission and vision to them via the Door To Door Campaign and I can assure you that the women and youths have endorsed my candidacy.
What has been the response of your family to your ambition in a conservative and male dominated society like yours?
They are very supportive. They are very active politically in terms of voting. They have been part of campaigns, they have been supportive, prayerfully, morally and financially and they know I am serious about pushing for the development of our constituency because they believe I can deliver.
How politically aware are the youths in your state and how sure of their support are you?
The youths are very much aware politically. They are for office holders that will impact the people positively. Like I said earlier, they are very much involved in my campaigns and are supportive of a young person going there because they know their interests will be put on the front burner. They believe the earlier we start the much impact we will make. So I’m very sure of their support because we engage all the time on our expectations of our society.
What message are you sending to young people and women with your decision to run for an elective office?
I am telling the youths and women in my constituency that if we don’t get up and be involved, we will continue to lag behind in the equation of things. How can we make those in authority know how desperate we need education for our young children, proper healthcare delivery, basic amenities like clean water and motorable roads to aid our small and medium scale businesses, electricity, inclusiveness of people with disability in our community if we are not involved? We are tired of being the statistics; we matter in the scheme of things. If we matter enough to be voters, we should matter enough to be voted for.
The women and youths in my constituency have business skills but lack funds to do businesses, which is why I said earlier that I will partner with private organisations and NGOs to empower them financially to boost their businesses.
Most of the youths in my constituency are graduates but are unemployed, which is why my plans include skills acquisition programmes in partnership with relevant organisations to equip them to be self-employed.
During violence, women and children are usually the worst hit, which is why I have said I will push for the passage of a bill to end violence against women and children. We have the highest
Infant and maternal mortality rate and our senior citizens die just because they do not have money to pay for hospital bills. These are all the things I want to correct which is why I am running to be a member of the state House of Assembly.