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Why I am vying for the Number One seat In Niger State

By Khadijah Abdullahi Iya

“Congratulations on clinching the ticket for the Gubernatorial seat”, a friend of mine called and I hesitated, trying to crack my mind on how to respond to that kind of energy! 

Congratulations she said to me again and I asked her what am I supposed to say and she said I should be saying thank you, I do not see that being excited about a huge responsibility should be celebrated. I am not also taking for granted the Priviledge to be a part of this process. 

After the 2019 elections, my plan was to sit and observe another electoral process and learn with my mind and soul the dynamics of what it means to be in politics; I needed to exhale, I needed to take a back seat. I didn’t plan to be a player, not now. I planned to simply observe and work at the background for anyone I think has the best intentions. 

But no, the youth who have been with me will not let me be and a particular one came all the way from the south to cajole me, and before I knew what hit me; I had people clamouring and pushing the same agenda and singing the same song. Well the rest is history. That’s a story for another day.

Many were shocked to see me back into the scene of politics after our journey in 2019. Shock wasn’t what hit me this time. The earnest need of my people was palpable, and instead of ducking under the sheets and thinking that this is not my problem, it is better to hold the bull by the horns again. 

There was this rankled feeling that permeates the air that says “how dare you” that was silently tangible from many in the state who frowned at my ‘effrontery’ that I have to contend with. Yet there were also a delighted bunch of people especially at the grassroots who are elated that a woman can change the course of their lives, they were intrigued at how this race was challenging the status quo.

My first assignment was to go and do more research on what my spirituality dictates about a female leader in a community like Niger State and what we are supposed to do. I bumped into a lot of literatures and one of them led me to this ayah(verse) which explicitly professed the equality of man and women:Quran:49:13

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.

In the scripture it has been explicitly stated that we are all equal in the eyes of God. Why should we be unequal in the eyes of men especially when it comes to the issue of leadership where women have to be able to represent their kind and also contribute meaningfully to a community, a society that they obviously exists in?

It is pertinent to clarify the Islamic perspective on women in leadership, as it is influential in determining public perceptions among Muslims even if statutory legislation may have rein on the rights in question. Yet, one of the nuances that challenge a broad-spectrum of concern is also that the Shari’ah positions on women’s rights are often conflated with patriarchal customs that undermine women’s rights. 

But the reality of our situation in Niger is another reason that strengthened my drive to go ahead with it; it pushed me to attach the degree of purpose that generated the drive for me to run.

How long are we going to continue to complain? How long are we going to sit on the fence and point fingers?

My father of blessed memory was one of the heroes of my life. What he has left for us is a huge legacy of kindness and social impact; a man who always put his people first and ensures that everyone is well taken care of. I asked myself would he be happy? Would he like that I am on a journey to continue his legacy of service and selflessness? 

All these were deep mental sessions I had to process to finally accept the call. In accepting the call to serve, I also asked myself if this is about the people or about me; if this is about dignity of purpose and fulfillment to serve or if it is about status and recognitions? 

Another thought that also reinforced the drive to move on is about the 35% affirmation action which we have been bandying since the Beijing conference since 1995. Now I know that many women because of the vilification, avoided coming out to run. I am hoping that my coming out will encourage more women to also come out and be part of the process. I have known that the seat will not be handed to you on a platter, you’ll have to take your own chair and sit at the table. 

Niger State is our home, our pride and it behooves everyone to make it their business, it behooves every stakeholder to begin to see clearly that this is not about them, it is about the greater good. It is about who truly cares to right the wrongs in the state and reposition the state to the direction it ought to be and not because of what is there to gain as spoils of office. This spoils system is partly responsible for the stagnation that our dear state has been suffering. 

This guber race is about our children whose education has been epileptic and compromised; it is about our grassroots people who have been reduced to penury, kept in the dark about what development truly is. Every election cycle for them is another round of grand promises but after, they are served tokenism. Many of them only see tarred roads in the cities, only hear of pipe borne water and has never enjoyed good health care service. I am not deluding myself that the job is going to be easy, what I know is that with all the issues in the state we need people with capacity, people with competence and Character crowned with substance to serve and change the lives of our people.  

We need people who care genuinely, deeply and can deliver compassionate leadership to change the status quo and tighten the noose on the crony elite system that leaves majority of the people in abject poverty and dehumanising existence. 

I am glad to see that, for the first time, more people have come out with real intentions to salvage the state from its stagnation. Never before have we seen more people vying for the Number one seat in Niger state like we are witnessing in 2023 elections, and for me, it means that we are heading somewhere. It is also interesting to know that many youth are getting involved too and demanding accountability, showing more interest in the 2023 political process. The interest is an elixir in itself, given that makes the system robust and inspires performance. 

My prayer is, that more women and youth come out to assume their rightful place to contribute meaningfully to the processes of governance and what section 14(2- b) of the constitution stated clearly that the primary purpose of governance is to care for the welfare and wellbeing of our people. We know this cannot be achievable without the collective participation of everyone; diversity of intellect, of gender, of demography both the young and the old, of ethnicity, of skills and talent and most importantly, the diversity of knowledge and wisdom to act and be proactive in situations that need urgent leadership which can be amalgamated and codified as resources of value for meaningful growth and development.

We must all hold hands together and ensure that we save the state from total collapse. It takes every one of us; men and women, young and old. We are not lone rangers in this, it will be foolhardy to assume that we know it and can do it all alone. 

That is why all Niger state stakeholders will have a part to play. We run Niger’s first government “by the people, for the people.” We therefore, invite all well meaning Niger people to support our intentions to take Niger State to its destined greatness.

Khadijah Abdullahi Iya 

APGA Gubernatorial Candidate

Niger State.

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