Hon (Dr) Hajara Danyaro, a top female politician in Nasarawa State, a three – time State House of Assembly Contestant under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) to represent Nasarawa Central Constituency, who is currently the Special Adviser to Governor Abdullahi Sule on Special Education, in this exclusive Interview with The Voice Correspondent, ESTHER AKAA, narrates her experience as a woman politician and stresses the need for inclusion of more women in governance. Excerpts:
What are you known for, within and outside Nasarawa State?
I am known for politics. I am also a business woman and a philanthropist who has concern for the less privileged within and outside the state.
In what way(s) have you assisted the less privileged in the society?
The way the world may see it will differ because the world is our mirror but in my little way, I believe I have touched the lives of the less privileged. I have sympathy for people in need since my childhood and I have been known for that but it became well known since 2012 till date due to the different kinds of charitable activities that I have been able to carry out. In 2012, I empowered 100 less privileged people including those living with disabilities where I empowered each of them with N10, 000. The second part of it was in 2014 which was the training and empowerment of women on poultry farming where I trained 70 women in my constituency. I also empowered them with four weeks old chicks so that they will be able to rear them within another four weeks and sell them. I also employed a veterinary doctor who was checking the chicks weekly to make sure that the birds were growing fine and where there was casualty, I made replacement. Another one is the empowerment of orphans and widows. I do this every Sallah and Christmas festivities .The churches in Nasarawa can testify to that, the Catholic Church, Ecwa Church among others. I do that to felicitate with the orphans and widows. So these are some of the things I do to support the less privileged in the society.
What is your take on women participation in politics?
Generally, women participation in politics in Nigeria is a bit encouraging now unlike before when we started. I could remember when I started contesting for councillorship position in my local government area , one of my fellow women asked me this question: Why are you doing the schedule of men? According to her, councillorship position was for the men and I wanted to compete with them. People have that notion about women participation in politics but now there is much improvement as most women are going into politics though, some of them are not into active politics since most of them just stop at the level of campaigning for men to achieve their political desires while most of the women are afraid of going into politics for the fear of marginalisation, name calling , intimidation, among others but there is much improvement now because if you look at the 2015 General elections, about six or seven women in Nasarawa State contested for the State House of Assembly unlike before when I used to be the only one contesting for the State House of Assembly seat.
It has been asserted that women are enemies of themselves given their low participation in politics.What is your observation?
That assertion could be 50 to 60% true. Women are the enemies of themselves. That is the truth of the matter because if you look at it , the highest population in Nigeria is women going by the Population Census of Nigeria and if you go to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s records, you will see that the highest number of voters are women but why is it that when a woman contest for election, she doesn’t get elected? You can see that the problem is from the women and from my experience, we have certain number of women even at the party exco that participated at the primary elections and we did not only stop at having a woman leader we had women ex-officials , women financial secretaries and so on and the minimum number you can get from the party executive is seven women but at the end of the day when votes are cast, you hardly get one from women. Most times after elections, I interact with women. My interactions with them give me the impression that women are not supporting themselves because they end up giving me reasons why they did not vote for women. Some will say their husband said they should not vote for a woman, others will say their sons requested them to vote for their friends while others give various excuses. Some of them are just jealous of their fellow women. So I think we need serious sensitisation on this.
Can you share your experience as a three – time contestant for the position of State House of Assembly member with us?
My experience is not that favourable because I contested three times for the seat in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly and presently there is no single woman in the State House of Assembly which is very bad for the womenfolk. There is an adage that says, “Only a woman knows the pains of a fellow woman” and now if you look at it, for a man to be the chairman of House committee on Women Affairs, he doesn’t know the pains, the psychological trauma women go through in the process of conceiving a baby. He doesn’t know the pains women go through within nine months before child birth. He doesn’t have the experience of child birth. He doesn’t know what it takes a woman to breastfeed a baby, the joy or pains that comes with it. No matter how you describe it for him, he will only listen but cannot feel that pain or joy and when it comes to making law on issues that concern women, be it on the rights of women, pregnant women, free maternal care for women, health services for children from the ages of 0- 10, a man will not understand all these issues. It is a woman with the passion and natural feeling that will be able to push very hard for a law that will give women and children a sense of belonging in government. Whatever men do, it will just be a partial fulfillment .We can’t get an average fulfillment of what the children and women of Nasarawa State actually deserve. Going back to what I said earlier, we need more sensitisation for women of Nasarawa State to know the importance of voting a fellow woman in an elective position even if it is at the councillorship level, it will help a lot. Also, the way a woman feels free with her fellow woman is not the same way she will feel with a man. If a woman frequents the house of a male politician as our politicians do, their wives will begin to feel uncomfortable but if it is a woman, you will feel free to go to her at anytime and she will welcome you.
Many people are of the opinion that women should be given adequate support such as sponsorship to contest for elective positions. What is your view on this?
This is a welcome idea because election is capital intensive. Politics is capital intensive; printing of posters alone is expensive. Looking at our societal and religious beliefs, especially the African culture, women have not been given fair chances to excel so we need financial, moral and social support from our society , our immediate families and whoever is concerned. Some men are already into different kinds of businesses. They are established and even if they don’t have, their fellow men that God has elevated do help them but on the side of women, you hardly get a sister that will say my sister is contesting for an elective position so let’s assist her. Even the so – called female Non Governmental Organisations( NGOs) that we have, they don’t contribute anything. Some hardly call or send a text message to you when you are contesting or when you loss in an election to either rejoice or console you. At least, these emotional messages go deep to console someone but we hardly get such messages from the women organisations . We are only good at lip services.
What do you think can be done to enable women speak with one voice and form a formidable force, especially during elections?
First, as I said earlier, we need sensitisation. Women need to come together as a body and form a strong force that will unite us, then we will be able to speak with one voice. Women will stand for fellow women, that strong unity will be there. Women should start contesting under the platform of any party. It mustn’t be the ruling party and let all the women organisations like NAWOJ, NCWS, CAN , FOMWAN and whatever kind of group that carries women’s name come together and support them. If the women contesting in a constituency are more than two, let the women groups come out and call them, talk to them and select the best among them considering credibility. They should appeal to others to withdraw so that the chosen ones will be more saleable so that we can see how we will mobilize our women to succeed. If this women groups again come together, follow the stakeholders one after the other, appealing to them to give women chance to hold elective positions, it will help. It will encourage men, especially those of them that have sympathy for women. They know that we truly deserve this because if a woman is there she will make a difference. Women perform extremely well if given the chance to do so. Women groups must play active roles not mouthpiece role. We must work hard to achieve our goals. We must be able to convince the men to allow us contest for elective positions.
You are one of the few women advocating for more women to be given elective positions in Nasarawa State. Do you believe in the capacity of women to deliver if given a chance?
I so much believe in that. The Nasarawa woman has that capacity and ability, the Nigerian woman has that capacity and ability to deliver. The Nigerian woman is intelligent such that if given opportunity she will perform wonders. You can see from the past regime where certain number of women was given opportunities to serve as ministers. Since the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo , Finance Ministers of Nigeria have been women and you can see how they have been able to manage the economy of the country. You can also see the performances of the present Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed. You can even see from Benue State, the time they had the first Female Speaker, Mrs Margret Icheen. She performed extremely well. Even during the time of Mrs Patricia Etteh, she did well although, the men didn’t allow her to finish her tenure but the difference was clear. Look at what the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq is doing in terms of Npower and Humanitarian Services. She seems to be the most active minister among all the ministers in the country. When women are given the chance, they perform but what we need most is encouragement and support from our fellow women because before a man criticises a woman in position, more than 100 women would have criticised her. Women don’t support one another which is very bad. I am sure if Nigerian Women are given chance we will perform. Look at Kaduna State now where the deputy governor is a woman. Look at what the deputy governor of Kogi State has done for us. He insisted that every deputy chairman of all the local government areas in Kogi State must be woman and today we have about twenty- one of them. He said, in every local government, three councillors must be women. No governor has done that in the history of Nigeria. If Nasarawa State governor will do same in the forthcoming local government elections by saying that in each local government area, the deputy must be a woman and in each local government, at least five women must be councillors, honestly we will have more women in government. We have to start from somewhere and that is the only way we can start if the government assists us by saying this particular position must be allocated to the women, it will do us good. If our Governor, Engr Abdullahi Sule, will do that for us, more women will come out during his second tenure and I am sure he is going to listen to the pleas of the women of Nasarawa State.
How would you assess the level of girl-child education in Nasarawa State?
My assessment of the level of girl- child education in Nasarawa State, I can say, is average because today we have female professors who are daughters of Nasarawa State. We also have female academic doctors in the state. We have a lot of them with masters’ degree and Bachelor degrees. However, we need to do more but averagely, the girl- child education is okay because government has done alot in this area.
Do you think government is doing enough to encourage the girl- child, especially the less privileged to go to school?
Well, government is doing its best but there are some areas that government needs to do more. They need to pay for their final year examinations such as WAEC, NECO, JAMB and IJMB, if we really want the girl- child to move into the educational arena, especially the less privileged because most of them, their parents are very poor and what to eat is a problem so if government will look at this category of less privileged and pay for their final year examinations just as the state government is paying the school fees of people living with disabilities. The education of the people living with disabilities in Nasarawa State is free, so if they will also extend that good gesture and assistance to the less privileged, it will go a long way in attracting the girl- child to school.
In the next five to ten years, where do we expect to see Dr. Danyaro and the place of women in Nasarawa State?
In the next five years I wish to become a deputy governor and in the next 10 years I should be able to become a senator or vice president of Nigeria. Then to Nigerian women as a whole, in the next five to ten years, we should be able to have a female vice president in Nigeria just like America who recently elected Kamala Harris as the first woman and the first black as America’s vice-president-elect.