Jaruma Exclusive! Hadiza Bala Usman’s first Interview As Chief Of Staff:”Stereotype?What Stereotype?”
By Fatima Zahra and Nafisa Umar
There are so many ways I can describe Hadiza but I still wouldn’t do justice to the essence of the woman. She is a devoted mother, a wife and a trailblazing ceiling breaking activist.
I must admit I was blown away by her humility and warmth. So many times during the interview, we took breaks to enable her attend to her children. From feeding them, to hugs and kisses and “I love you’s”, we could see that her core values are family oriented. Naturally one wonders how she juggles all her responsibilities with motherhood and marriage:
“ Running your home when you’re not around is very difficult. I do as much as I possibly can. I drop them off at school every morning, I bathe them, and put them to bed”
Born in Zaria to the family of revered historian and activist Dr Yusuf Bala Usman who was vocal, fierce and fearless in speaking and protesting about problems of Nigerian Society during his lifetime. In Civil Society circles, Dr Bala Usman is remembered as a legend. Hadiza grew up with 7 siblings in the Ahmadu Bello University Campus, Zaria and that shaped her mindset quite early on.
“Growing up we mingled with people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds , mixing up with them from an early age made me see everyone as the same. I see people for who they are and I embrace everyone and judge everyone on the same field. I just do what I think is the right thing to do”.
I asked Hadiza how much of his legacy has affected her life and career:
”My Father taught us a lot of things,he brought us up to understand and ask questions, not just follow blindly and his name has always been a huge weight that I have to live up to, I have just instinctively learned to carry it on knowing that I have to live above a bar put by people because I am being judged and looked at twice.From the mention of my name people put me on a pedestal,they fail to see that although he is my father,I am me and I define myself along my own capacity”
Hadiza has been in active politics since 2011 when she contested for the House of Representatives for Musawa federal constituency of Katsina State. Hadiza is an active member of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress. She worked on the Presidential Campaign Committee as well as Kaduna State Gubernatorial Campaign Committee.
“I have always been one to promote good governance and adding value to the society. I realized that I can join politics to represent people and ensure that I work for the change I wanted, instead of sitting and challenging the people in power. I decided to run for the House of Representatives in 2011. At first my immediate family were not in support of my decision to run for office especially because I was pregnant then with my first child, but I was determined and eventually they understood where I was coming from.
It was very trying time for me but i remained resolute with my decision to run.I believe we have to bring what we’ve learnt, our experience and our education to contribute and better the community, that was what kept me going. Contrary to the belief that women politicians are loose with no values, don’t come from a respectable family, I was married and from a respectable family. Some accused ‘She doesn’t know our culture and our language’ I happen to speak Hausa very well .Literally all the boxes that are problems for northern female politicians I couldn’t fit in
By the time we were going to run for the primaries I had put to bed and so I disappeared for the 40 days. People thought i had disappeared and abandoned the campaign. That experience made me realize that when people attack you with something they think is a disadvantage to you, you can always flip it round.
When it was time for me to take my poster I took a picture with my baby on my back which earned me the name “mai goyo” and I got a lot of local women to accept me because they felt I was one of them. All the women just connected to it. They saw that I was like them. That became my brand. Mai Goyo. They were surprised ‘Ashe ta iya goyo’.
I have been very lucky to be blessed with such a supportive spouse who has been there for me from the beginning, he understood me and gave me advice constantly. He pushes me to be the best version of myself. During the long Campaign period in 2015, he would even drive me to APC Convention in the middle of the night and stay there till I was through. In fact he would insist that I go because he believes it is important for me to participate.”
“The society always puts us in a box and labels us, we are constantly reminded of our limitations and because of this we don’t get to achieve our dreams. As for me I do not typically recognize stereotypes, I just do what I have to do because when we constantly remind ourselves of our limitations we limit ourselves and confine ourselves. I don’t even think about it because I am mostly about doing my work as best as I can to add value as much as I can use my intellect. I think when you constantly remind yourself of the limitations society imposes on you, those limitations eventually become a part of you and then they define you. Keep doing what you have to do without worrying about the boundaries and limitations and you would excel.”
“When you constantly remind yourself of limitations and the limitations becomes part of you.”
Career Woman vs Wife
“For me, having a career is more about my self-actualisation not about earning a salary. Being able to add value, to change lives, to contribute to humanity is my creed and that makes me feel good.
I was at a secondary school in Kawo recently and the girls were looking at me in awe, like ah she’s a woman with her atampa and veil. When I see that look on their faces, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. I told them they could be anyone they wanted to be and the sky is their limit; Being a working mother is hard because I have to work extra hours and so on. I need to wake up early and take care of the kids before leaving for the office and I come home to continue looking after my family but it can be done and it is worth it.”
Malam Nasir El-Rufai
Hadiza worked with Malam El-rufai at BPE and also when he was the FCT minister. She took a break and contested for House of Representatives in 2011.
“After I lost the election I went back to work with the Good Governance Group (3G) where I had worked with him again, we have had a long working relationship. During his gubernatorial campaign in 2015, I was his returning officer. He trusted me and was confident I would do the job; he knew I would protect his interest and deliver well. Although there have been times I do not agree with him, I would state my concerns and sometimes he would agree with me. In the end he knows I am dependable and hard working.
Chief Of Staff
“As chief of staff to the governor, I face challenges every day, people remind me that I am a woman and not fit to be here, some even complain that I am not approachable but this only makes me work harder. Especially since my boss is oblivious of my gender, he has expectations that must be met and he doesn’t want any excuses.”
‘I almost gave up my career to marry someone once, Thank God my mother was there to remind me that this person was trying to turn me into someone I was not. Marriage is good and deeply satisfying and its a part of our religion but in the north once a lady is not married, society makes you feel incomplete. Our families, our friends make us feel like we need to be in a marriage to be complete. Not being married doesn’t make a woman less of a human being. Our ladies need to realize that you will find someone who will embrace you and love you with your career and all of what you do. Many men out there appreciate women who add value to the society. We are getting to a point where a woman is going to be with a man because she wants to, she loves him and not because he can look after her or pay the bills. We need to work towards being in a marriage because we are caring and loving and we are companions and less to do with the man is the boss and is in charge. If a woman can look after herself, then a man would have to be kind and nice for her to stay with him. ‘
BBOG so far
So much time was wasted by the previous administration before any real effort to rescue the girls was made. It is a huge tragedy which has had a negative effect on the girl child, especially because people were afraid to send their daughters to school. As for me the campaign was beyond the chibok girls it was for every child ,woman or man that has been abducted, killed or abused.It’s been 2 years down the line and nothing has been heard until the recent video clip where some of the girls were seen and this has rekindled our hope that they will be rescued soon.”
”I don’t really think about legacy because I do things one day at a time, although a woman works twice as hard to achieve anything but I was able to because I don’t expect anybody to cut me slacks or treat me differently so I just try to be good at what I do to be dependable, consistent and reliable. It takes constant hard work and dedication for people to appreciate why you are here, one has to be capable and ready for the challenges.”
Women have always had the ability to multitask so we should use it for our own benefit, harness it and put it into work. We shouldn’t expect any favours, shortcuts or opportunities; we need to rise above the boxes we are checked into to prove our worth.