Hajiya Altine Abdullahi is the national president of the Kano chapter of Voice of Widows and Orphans. In this interview with ALIYU ASKIRA, she states why the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme should continue. According to her, this has eradicated prostitution and other social vices in the society.
Why are you advocating that the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme should continue?
I am not happy that some people are trying to politicise the programme aimed at assisting the less privileged women and men to settle down for a family life. It is one issue that is even of immense importance to the society because the rate at which number of widows and divorcees is increasing in Kano is very disturbing. Even though former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso tried to continue with the programme as part of his contributions to his constituency, some people did not like this and I am sure they must have misadvised those in authority to frustrate the exercise. But I can tell you, I will soon liaise with other powerful non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Ministry of Women Affairs in conjunction with Kano State Hisbah Board so that the exercise can be revived and if possible be conducted every quarter.
Well, to be frank with you, I am not happy that the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme which was started during former Governor Kwankwaso’s tenure and continued by his successor Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is no longer getting due attention by the state government. Former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso set up the Hisbah as a way of alleviating most of the dirty things that are happening in Kano which is one of the states that is implementing Sharia. Governor Shekarau came and continued to encourage Hisbah to function well, later, Kwankwaso returned in 2011 and the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme was revived and expanded. It used to be a colorful programme, and important dignitaries and the Ulama used to be invited to witness the programme; rich Nigerians some of Kano Origin like Aliko Dangote and Sani Yakasai Kwangila used to assist a lot for the success of the programme. And when Kwankwaso left, the present governor had the intention of retaining the exercise, but along the line, things were not working the way they were supposed to be, so, Governor Ganduje on his own has a foundation that is even assisting in converting non-Muslims to Islam, and I see no reason his government will not be keen on the issue of assisting the poor to get married.
It has been alleged that you are only using VOWAN as an NGO for personal gains, since you don’t participate in it; what’s your reaction to this?
You see, during festivities, I used to reach out to international organisations and on their parts, they used to assist my NGO with money, clothes and even animals, like cows, rams and what have you that we slaughter during Sallah festivities to put smiles on the faces of widows, divorcees and orphans. I am doing all these to ensure that I contribute my own quota in assisting widows or divorcees to re-settle. At times I go out on my own way to use my own resources and assist the less privileged, like paying for their hospital bills, school fees of orphans and buying clothes for those that cannot afford them. And since I started this exercise, I have seen a lot and no amount of criticisms will stop me from doing what I am doing because I was once married and I know the bitter side of being a married woman or a divorcee. Like you rightly pointed out, age is still very much on my side and I am not ruling out the possibility of settling down again, but not necessarily through Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme.
Is it true that some women who participated in the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme have been infected with HIV which has discouraged those who were interested?
So, because a widow or divorcee will be assisted to get married through Hisbah, she should not be subjected to HIV test? What we normally do is that if we identify those that are positive, we link them up with men that tested positive, those that are negative will be married to men that tested negative, this is normal and we will continue to encourage the issue of testing people by health workers for them to know their status; we advise them to go to where people go and take HIV drugs, in our major hospitals. If you see the volume of people that have the dreaded disease, you will honestly be surprised because they are no longer in thousands, but now in millions, but I am happy I was told in South Africa, they now have an injection that an HIV positive person will be taken once in a year which means very soon, the proper cure will be on the way.
We were told there are lots of changes going on at Hisbah board; what is actually happening?
Kano Hisbah Board is under Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and I am very much aware that the board is still functioning properly and the governor has the right to make changes from time to time. So, whatever is happening there is normal, whether those heading the place are there or not, the board will continue to function. My concern is for the governor to please continue with the Hisbah Mass Marriage Programme, the exercise is assisting our women a lot. In fact, even non-Muslims used to benefit from the exercise as such, it is my hope and prayer that it will continue for as long as possible.