Aisha: Nigeria’s activist mobilising northern women for Tinubu




The motorcade was long, comprising mostly SUVs and trucks, and when it finally snaked its way into the soccer field filled to the brim, there was thunderous applause, followed by a trending song: “Jagaba shi ne gaba…,” a political song that has since become a signature tune of the Nigeria’s ruling party’s presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Women – house wives, widows, divorcees, market women and spinsters – had converged on the field in Jiwa, an Abuja suburb, earnestly waiting for the commencement of the event – a sensitization program for women on the need to collect their PVCs- a sine qua non for every eligible voter in the national elections fixed for February next year.

Tinubu’s campaign song reached its crescendo when the organizer of the event and convener of ‘WIFE for Tinubu,’ a political advocacy group, powered by Women Initiative for Family Economy (WIFE), alighted from her car. Ambassador Aisha Abdulkadir, an activist, philanthropist and grassroots mobilizer and recently a political campaigner, has spent more than two decades empowering women – mostly housewives, divorcees and widows. She is now a leading campaigner for APC’s candidate Tinubu in her traditional constituency of Kano, and northern Nigeria, in general.

Hailed from Kano state – Nigeria’s most populous state and country’s pendulum that determines presidential victory because of the political savvy of its 6.02 million registered voters – Hajiya Aisha is poised to swing the political pendulum in favour of Mr Tinubu in 2023 – a feat, she said, she will leave no stone unturned to accomplish as a way of deepening the socio-economic and political inclusion of women, her immediate constituency.

An alumnus of Bayero University Kano, and University of Abuja, with degrees in Education Management and Political Science, Hajiya Aisha’s women advocacy and philanthropy, started right from her adolescence under the tutelage of her father, a businessman and philanthropist. Through these years, Ambassador Aisha has kept a database of hundreds of thousands of women who benefited from her self- financing empowerment programme across 19 northern states and the federal capital Abuja.

  • How it all started –

It took many weeks to pin down Hajiya Aisha for a media interview. When it was finally done after many postponements, the media-shy activist requested for “unrecorded discussion,” instead of a formal interview. Her reason is: “all I do is simply to better the lives of women, particularly, house wives who are not opportune to work or run businesses outside their matrimonial homes.” She added that, “through these modest efforts, spanning over two decades, I have succeeded in saving hundreds of marriages, mending broken homes, and rescuing women from the lethal fangs of drug abuse and depression.”

As a teenager, Hajia Aisha started as a petty trader from her family house in Kano city, even though her father was already an accomplished businessman travelling all over the world. “From my primary school days, I produced zobo drinks, a local candy, sweets, among others. I take it to school while children from our neighborhood come to our house and buy it,” she said. Years later, her business acumen blossomed and she ventured into clothing line, brocade trading, importation of second-hand refrigerators and other electronics, furniture making, interior decoration and real estate. “I ventured into dozens of businesses to finance my philanthropic activities,” she said.

Her passion for women, she said, prompted her to study law after she finished high school. “I hate injustice, I hate seeing women oppressed, I hate divorce, I hate domestic violence. I thought then, as a lawyer, I could should be able to help women in need. That didn’t happen. I didn’t study law. My background is Arabic and religious studies,” she said.

Despite that, Hajia Aisha didn’t relent in pursuing her dream of bringing succor to women in an environment often suffocated by some ethno-religious and cultural practices.

Her father, she said, mentored and encouraged her to start this philanthropic odyssey. “From savings from my petty businesses, I bought stuff like wrappers, children’s wear, shoes, among others, I take it to a village and share it to women. When he realized that I was serious, my father who drove me in his car to these villages on weekends, began to bring more wrappers, slippers, drugs, food items and took me to these villagers to share. I was just a teenager then. I was really enjoying what I was doing, particularly when I saw the excitement on the faces of the beneficiaries.”

As years went by, “I diversified. In my neighborhood, I began training young girls on some skills that include zobo drink making, soap and pomade making, knitting baby sweaters, among others.” These continued for many years, the activist said.

  • Birth of WIFE –

While pursuing her businesses in Kano and Abuja, the activist expanded the scope of her philanthropy. “Aside giving empowerment materials like money, delivery kits to pregnant women, paying for drugs of indigent patients in public hospitals, I started engaging these women in my business lines,” she said.

Through this, she said, she trained hundreds of women in interior decorations, sewing children’s wear, and flower vests. “That is how we started the Made-in-Nigeria cloths, among others. We do in batches. We picked 50 women per batch, trained them and gave them capital to start. We just don’t abandon them after that. We supervise them and facilitate the market for their products. We organize a Made-in-Nigeria mini fair in Kano, where the beneficiaries showcase their wares,” she said.

What started in Kano state for years was later expanded to cover the Northwest and later to 19 northern states and Abuja.

Aisha said with these self-financing efforts, many women were better off today. Aisha said, “we live in a society where women are not allowed to work or run any business outside their matrimonial homes. The result of this zero economic activities on the part of women, can be seen in massive divorces, gender-based violence, drug abuse and depression.

“I have interacted with women who were divorced because they couldn’t buy N10 Maggi seasoning, firewood or kerosene, or even salt. Since the husband didn’t provide these items as little as they seem, the woman is penniless, and couldn’t afford it because she is just idle. The women provide zero economic support to their husbands which has become a recurring source of conflicts,” she said. She said that was why her empowerment programme targeted women who could learn skills and engage in productive activity and earn money while operating from her matrimonial home.

The activist said she did all these informally, without soliciting any support from public, foreign or government agencies. “The idea of registering an NGO as an umbrella body for these activities was muted five years ago. And by 2018, I registered the Women Initiative for Family Economy (WIFE). We have branches in all the 19 states and FCT. And we are already establishing contacts in southern states as well. We equally have diaspora partners who have keyed in in programme.

  • All women for Tinubu –

Amb. Aisha said, ‘WIFE for Tinubu’ is a political advocacy group working for the realization of Tinubu as president.

She said, having been in the trenches providing financial inclusion for women, “the emergence of Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu will consolidate our efforts and provide more economic power to women.” She said ‘WIFE for Tinubu’ has over two million women registered as members. “We ensured that they all have their PVCs ready. We were in Katsina state last week, where we launched the organization. Next is Jigawa state. We are sensitizing our members to get their PVCs and vote for the Tinubu/Shettima ticket,” the activist said.

“The role of women in politics can’t be overemphasized. It is on record that during the 2019 general election, women accounted for 47.14 percent (39.6 million) of the 84 million registered voters nationwide.”

She said the official data from the just concluded INEC fresh registration indicate that of the total 10,139,247 new voters, women accounted for 5,116,855, with 1,190,017 of them housewives.

That is the language we are speaking. Women are our constituency. “We have spent years empowering women financially, and it is only good if the same women are politically empowered by encouraging them to fully exercise their civic responsibilities by getting Tinubu elected in 25, February 2023. We are working round the clock. We are mobilizing women and still empowering them,” she said.

She said, WIFE for Tinubu, has recently organized an interfaith national prayer at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, to pray for its candidate and also for peaceful and transparent elections in 2023.

In a low pitch voice, Hajiya Aisha expressed her optimism thus: “We accomplish whatever we set to achieve. Mobilizing women, particularly in the north, for Tinubu, is our singular agenda and mission. As usual, we have put all hands on deck and left no stone unturned to achieve that.” Immediately after that, SDGs and Peace Ambassador dashed out to join the waiting motorcade that will take them out for another WIFE for Tinubu’s event.

Muhammad writes from Abuja

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