When she first came into the scene; when her posters surfaced online many people felt she was just one of those persons who have come to test the waters. There are always persons who design and publish beautiful posters during election seasons and end up not even purchasing any party’s nomination form. Many people put Hauwa Nana Ibrahim in this category.
She has since dispelled that notion as she purchased the APC Expression of Interest and Nomination forms. She has also been campaigning vigorously, spreading her message of hope especially to the women and youths.
In this interview with Eric M Kuju she speaks about the contest and her plans for Lafia/Obi Federal Constituency.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Hauwa Nana Ibrahim, an Eggon girl from Agba village under Akurba Electoral Ward. I am married with three children. I am 36 years old.
I started my primary education at Baptist Primary School Chiroma Ward and from there I completed primary school at Model Primary School Assokoro. I then went to School for the Gifted, Gwagwalada Abuja, and had my first degree at Ahmadu Bello University. I studied Accounting. I am also a Chartered Accountant ACCA-UK, Chartered Tax Practitioner CITN. I have an MSc from the University of London in Accounting. And before this race, I did Public Policy Design and Delivery Course with the Harvard Kennedy School to enable me to prepare for this public service role I am about to undertake.
And I have also previously held leadership positions. In secondary school, I was the House Prefect. I was the President History Club. At my university I was the Treasurer Nigeria University Accounting Students Association. I was the Treasurer of, Creative Writers Club. I was the Treasurer and Vice President of, Nigeria Society for Capital Market Law and Practice. I was also Editor for several magazines. I use to be a writer but I have stopped writing for a while now. I also served as the President NNPC Retail Staff Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
I have worked in banking. I started my service with Central Bank and left for Zenith Bank. I worked with Etisalat – that is, 9mobile. I also worked with GTBank then Total Nigeria Plc and currently with NNPC Retail.
What brought about this aspiration?
Every young person will be bothered about the current happenings in the country. Not only the young people but particularly young people because it seems like the situation is hopeless for us. And we have many of us leaving the country to seek a more stable situation especially because of insecurity and the economic situation.
But if some of us leave, what happens to the rest of us here? Do we just watch? I have always been an active citizen so I don’t just work. I complain. I am an activist. I make noise about the situation when it doesn’t suit me. But then I am tired of making noise and just complaining and I am here to take action. And I am taking action on behalf of young people, on behalf of the women who are not involved.
I have seen that in Nasarawa South where Lafia/Obi Federal Constituency falls under, the women have never been given the opportunity for House of Reps position, for Councillorship position, for Chairmen, for Senate, for Assembly. And so the party I belong to – the APC – is a progressive party and we have this 35 percent affirmative action that women should be represented in all spheres. And we don’t want just appointments. We want representation in elective positions. And because women constitute more than 70 percent of voters, but we don’t get to be voted for if we are not presented as outcome of the primaries. So we want to be able come out and vote knowing that one of us is also on that list to be voted for.
The general thinking in Nigerian politics is that you start from the bottom – councillorship, chairmanship or maybe House of Assembly. But you are starting from House of Reps, why?
I want to ask, the people who have been House of Reps (Members) in this constituency, can you tell me what position they started from? I have started, like I mentioned in my leadership roles, the Nigeria Universities Accounting Students Association is a big body. I was in that association. I am also an alumnus of World Economic Forum Global Shapers. So I don’t see that I am just starting. I have always been a global leader on a higher scale. And leadership is about service really so it doesn’t matter where you want to start from. It is about the competence. Do you have the competence to start from that level? If you go to school and you are looking for a job in a – let’s say a hospital – you don’t have to start from a cleaner to get to the top. So it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is the competence. Do you have the competence?
And that is why if you look at my trajectory, I have held leadership positions and I have the requisite skills and experience. And then I have courses that I have taken in public leadership to also prep me for this role. And like I said, if you look at other constituencies not just here, people who have assumed this same position, you will find that they did not start from councillorship. So it shouldn’t be different with me.
I will ask you a question that is on the minds of many of your constituents. Are you not intimidated by those that you will be on the ballot with during the primary elections? Apart from the incumbent who is going for a third term, you also have someone who was there before.
I know where you are coming from. Probably I should be intimidated, but I am not. I am not (intimidated) because we all have one head. They don’t have two heads. We all have equal rights to vie for this position. It doesn’t matter.
And in fact, why I am even not intimidated is because they have the experience that they have done and people can judge. People can see and assess whether they have done well enough for them to want to represent them. But then again, I am coming from the strength that I am coming freshly and I know that given that responsibility, I would have to surpass every other person because first of all, I am a woman and a woman has never been given that responsibility before. I am young and no young person has been given this opportunity before. And if I fail, I will be failing young people and other women. So I am going to be in those shoes that I will have to surpass every other person that has been there. I will have to do my very best so that other women after me, other young people after me would ride on that pride that we are equal to this task.
As it is with politics, there may be pressure. Correct me if I am wrong, but has there been any pressure for you to step down for anybody? If there has been, are you considering it?
Stepping down has never been on the table for me. Stepping down is not an option. I just hear rumours. But it is part of the game. You hear rumours but I am not going to step down for anybody.
Nobody has approached me directly.
Beyond just the politics, if you get this opportunity, what are you going to do differently for the people of this constituency?
We understand that this position is about lawmaking. But apart from lawmaking, there is the constituency projects. And on this, we are going to focus on problems identified by each community.
Personally, I have a thing for basic primary education. I have a thing for women. I want to ensure that our small businesses are scaled.
But again, if you come down to communities, their issues can be different. Their priorities might be different. If you take one ward, for example Daddere, their own issue might be light. And then if you come down to Assakio, it might be water. So we are going to have committees in every polling unit that would gather these issues from all of these communities. We are going to draw up a time table. And according to the allowances we have, we are going to look at the basket of problems. We are going to analyse which is very urgent, which is very critical and solve those first because resources are usually not enough for all the baskets of problems on ground.
We are going to go further to lobby other ministries, departments and agencies, to ensure that they bring our communities into their own budgets. So that apart from the constituency allowances, we get other ministries to play a role in the development of our own constituencies.
We will get foreign grants as well. We are going to talk to all the NGOs we know. We are going to walk even to the private sector and try to get them to invest in our communities so that our graduates can be employed through that. We are not going to just sit.
And we also know that the politics doesn’t just stop at winning the primaries or even the secondary elections. It goes down to even the National Assembly. You have to lobby to find yourself in the right committee that will bring impact through a bigger budget that can support the activities you want to undertake in your community.
I’m sure before you came into this contest, you must have observed some pressing issues. So it is not like it is when you get into the position that you will start looking for them. What have you seen as a pressing issue in Lafia/Obi Federal Constituency?
There is the issue of light in many rural communities. There is also the issue of bad roads that cannot take you to these communities. There is the issue of low agricultural yield from our farms. These are some of the issues we have been able to identify as pressing. And there is also the issue of high unemployment. I am not going to lie, the issues are many. There is also high drug use among the youths in this community.
And for me I feel what drives abuse of drugs, what drives insecurity, is unemployment. One issue leads to another. If you have light in your community, people can have businesses around the availability of light. If you have water, it eases your living. It saves you time so that you are able to partake in other activities.
So we have identified these issues that are common. And you know Lafia/Obi is close to the FCT and you can see glaringly without being told, when you come to our communities and then go back to Abuja, you can see the wide disparity of underdevelopment. It is clear.
And in the global world today where there are IT skills, you don’t even have to travel anywhere. You can earn dollars while in Nigeria. So if we can have these youths taught how to code, they can export these skills even while they are in Nigeria. We need to develop the skills of our youths.
On the legislative aspect, is there any law on your mind, any bill on your mind that you intend to sponsor when you get to the National Assembly?
You may permit me to be a bit selfish; gender bill. We need to push for more female participation and involvement in politics in this country.
Then another bill as I have mentioned before, is the primary education is a thing for me. And in the North I hate to see children roam on the streets. Whatever bill we need to push to make sure these kids are out of the streets, we will do that.
What do you have to say to women and youths? You have spoke so passionately about it and you are now like a leading light. You saw a problem and you have thrown your hat into the ring to solve the problem. What do you have to say to others?
I am going to tell the youths and the women to participate more in politics, especially at the party levels. Because I did not understand the role party politics plays before I threw myself in the ring. I did not understand how delegates really emerge. At the end of the day, as an active citizen, I had my voter’s card and I ensure I participate in elections. But we are forced with choices from the outcome of primary elections.
So I am appealing to young people and women to take part in partisan politics. Register as members of any political party of your choice so that you ensure that the process of even bringing the delegates and party officials, you are part of that process. You will even be part of the process of producing the flag-bearers of these political parties. Because at the end, Nigerians will be making that choice from what the parties present to them. So, more of our participation is needed.
On a general note, what do you have to say to the people of Nasarawa State, especially as it concerns the election season that we are in?
Peace. Peace. Peace. I want to preach peace and unity. And we should not allow ourselves to be used for religious politics. We should not allow ourselves to be used for tribal politics. Our peace supersedes anything. One of the good things we should be grateful for in this State is that we have that cordial relationship. We should encourage that and we should continue to abide by that.