Mama Taraba: The Curious Case of Nigerian Women’s Ceiling Breaker
By Hadiza Ibrahim
Senator Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, popularly known and addressed as Mama Taraba, has grabbed the headlines in Nigeria’s socio-political hemisphere in recent months and for all the right reasons. Born on 16th September 1959 as Jummai Ibrahim Abubakar in Jalingo, Mama Taraba’s political clout has been on the increase and went even several knots higher since the last general elections in Nigeria when she contested for the office of Governor of her home state, Taraba.
She was tipped to win the election and become the first democratically elected female Governor in Nigeria’s history, but that glory was derailed briefly through the election malpractices antics of the People’s Democratic Party. That election has since been overturned by the Taraba State Election Tribunal, and pending the judgement of the Appeal Court, Mama Taraba’s history-making ascension seem to be on course again.
The tribunal nullified the election of Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku as governor of Taraba, stating the he was not validly nominated as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the April 11 governorship election in the state. The tribunal chairman Justice Danladi Abubakar then declared the All Progressives Congress candidate, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, as the winner of the election, having polled the second highest number of votes cast in the election, while equally directing the Independent National Electoral Commission to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ishaku and swear in Alhassan.
While being the first female Governor of Taraba State would undoubtedly be the icing on the cake of her political career, Senator Jummai Al-Hassan has her resume littered with a number of equally enviable feats. Perhaps from her first foray into politics as an 18 year old student of the School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, she has distinguished herself as a woman who wouldn’t be limited by gender, religious, class or social factors in her quest to serve and contribute to the development of her immediate constituency.
She contested for and won the election for the post of the Vice-President of the Student Union Government of ABU in 1978, making her the first non-undergraduate to scale such heights in the political history of the illustrious school. Since then she hasn’t looked back. She was the only female in the ABU SUG Exco of the 1978-1979 set, and indeed ended her tenure as Acting President after the then President and other exco members were expelled from the university.
Senator Jummai Al-Hassan joined the Kaduna State Judiciary in 1988 as a Magistrate Grade II and rose through the ranks to become the first female Chief Magistrate in the FCT in 1996. A year later she was moved to Judicial Administration and became the first female Deputy Chief Registrar and Director Litigation, High Court of the FCT. That same year 1997 she became the first female Attorney General of Taraba State. She then went back to Abuja in 2002 as the first female Secretary of the FCT Judicial Service Committee, spending just a year in that role before being appointed the first female Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court in December 2003.
Mama Taraba retired from the civil service as Chief Registrar of the FCT Judiciary in 2009 and has excelled in politics since then as she did in her professional career. Aisha Alhassan became a Senator of the Federal Republic in 2011 when she won the election to represent Taraba North Senatorial District in the National Assembly on the platform of the PDP. Her victory was even more remarkable in that she defeated a former Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame. It was from the Senate that Mama Taraba took on the daunting task of governing her state and emerged as APC’s flagbearer for the April 11 election.
While the tribunal case was ongoing, Mama Taraba was nominated and confirmed as a Minister for Women Affairs by President Muhammadu Buhari. As we await the resolution of the legal tussle at the Appeal Court, it seems inevitable that Mama Taraba will be the one to shatter the glass ceiling for Nigerian women in politics. However it goes, the story is nonetheless remarkable that a woman from Jalingo would in the space of 5 years have been a Senator, a Minister and a Governor all in the space of 5 years.