By Najeeb Ibrahim
In the early 80s when young Bill Clinton was elected as governor of the US state of Arkansas he was accompanied to the Government House by his wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton, who was brimming with ideas, initiatives and policies on how to take the state to the next level in the developmental sphere which led public policy analysts to hype that the state was paying one governor (Bill Clinton) and getting another one free, referring to his wife, Hilary.
The analogy aptly describes the synergy of ideas, initiatives and innovative policies, support between the leader and on the other side his wife which have been impacting positively in transforming the state’s socio-economic indices for the better.
Indeed, in the Nigerian political conglomeration, there have been various instances where the first lady of a state or the country has contributed quite immensely towards development, particularly as it concerns women and youth empowerment, girl child education and drastically reducing the rate of maternal and infant mortality across board.
Due to the delicate and vulnerable nature of women and children, it is not surprising that visionary first ladies have taken it as a priority to improve their socio-economic condition as a first step towards improving the welfare and well-being of the citizens of the state while their respective husbands are equally doing the needful on the other vital sectors of the economy.
One sterling example of a first lady or wife of an executive governor that has an ingrained passion for developing the mindset, orientation and focus of women and youth as well as improving their lot in society is no other esteemed personality than Her Excellency, Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar, wife of Governor of Bauchi state, Barrister Muhammed Abdullahi Abubakar.
An icon of compassion, generosity, and benevolence, Hadiza Abubakar, who is also the Chairperson of the Northern Governors’ Wives Forum, has always been involved in the women and youth empowerment cognomen for quite a long time even before her spouse assumed office on May 29, 2015.
While some first ladies are using the office as avenue for jamboree, as far as Hajiya Abubakar is concerned, women, youth and children from the very foundation of society and their welfare and wellbeing cannot be taken for granted and must be nurtured and developed from base to the pinnacle in order to have a well rounded, well groomed and progressively inclined state.
Her Excellency has never shied away from projecting the views and interest of this vulnerable segment of society. Even though certain traditional and conservative circles tend to frown at any attempt to uplift the status of women and the girl child, she established a pet project, Bauchi Sustainable Women Empowerment and Peace Initiative (BSWEEP). It is to give women and youths sound educational background and empowered with skills acquisation and schemes that would make them self-reliant and fend for themselves rather than relying on the menfolk or their male siblings to cater for them.
In many cases, when the husband or breadwinner of a family dies the widows and children of the deceased are thrown into financial and economic turmoil as they have no means of catering for themselves. In this regard, Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar’s BSWEEP has taken giant strides in empowering thousands of women, children, widows, the indigent, artisans and the physicallly challenged. She has lined up numerious skills acqusition programmes like hair dressing, tailoring, bead-making, soap making, tying and dying, confectionery, barbing which involves training the beneficiaries in those skills and providing them with tools and equipment as well as monetary take-off grants so that they can find their feet in the trading arena.
In a transparent manner, beneficiaries are drawn from all the three senatorial districts of Bauchi state without regard to linguistic, ethnic, religious or partisan consideration as the compassionate first lady believes that all eligible persons should benefit.
Equally, apart from the skills acquisition programmes, the benevolent Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar also donates cash gifts, provisions and household items to the needy and countless motherless babies’ homes as part of her emancipation agenda. She has traversed the length and breadth of Bauchi state in her mission of uplifting the vulnerable elements of the society. Recently, the highly respected first lady donated food items and provision to over 14,000 women, a feat unprecedented in the history of nation states.
Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar’s passion for the rapid and sustainable education of the girl child is legendary. It has formed a crucial plank of her developmental desiderata further invigorated by ceaseless campaigns, outreaches and community sensitization programmes urging parents and guardians to send their female children or wards to primary, secondary and even tertiary institutions.
It is apparent that BSWEEP has identified 6,000 children mostly girls who have pulled out of school due to poverty and other social problemmes. It is working with UNESCO to re-enroll them into various schools. In furtherance of her education development agenda, Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar’s pet project has awarded scholarship to 115 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable children to acquire education in various schools in the state apart from the regular payment of registration fees, purchase of uniforms, bags, textbooks, exercise books and many more.
In Bauchi state, maternal and infant mortality rate reduction is another pillar of Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar’s social development crusade. Increased enlightenment campaigns and accelerated training of midwives on safe methods of delivery have seen a dramatic drop in maternal-infant mortality cases thus boosting the healthy living index of the state for the better.
Therefore, as far as the visionary Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar is concerned, the best is yet to come for women, the youths, widows, physically challenged and other vulnerable segments of society.
Ibrahim writes from Kaduna