Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dr. Hajo Sani: Literary Giant Of Our Time

Dr. Hajo Sani: Literary Giant Of Our Time

Sunday, 26 September 2010 04:11
Nigeria Leadership

Dr. Hajo Sani OON is an excellent woman and silent achiever in every sense of the word. An educationist, author and policy analyst of a rare style, she served as the second minister of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development from 1997 to 1998. After her national assignment, she founded Women and National Development (WAND), an NGO that focuses on the education of the girl- child as antidote to the numerous problems and obstacles facing women, and was elected Secretary General of the West African Women Association (WAWA) , in 2003. She joined the Society for Family Health (SFH) in 2003, the largest NGO focusing on public Health issues in Nigeria in 2003. In this interview, she bares her mind on the issue of girl child education and her new book to be launched.

Tell us about your educational background?

I had a humble beginning with sound educational background, very rare privilege for the girl-child coming from my part of the country. I enjoyed the parenthood of my parents that brought me up, Alhaji Umaru Maina- Danmalikin Mubi Emirate and Hajia Zainab Maina a prominent woman leader in Nigeria. Till today, they remain strong pillars in my life. My father was very protective about my spending long years in school before getting married. But destiny played a part; I got married early and continued with my education to a very high level. I started my education in Unguwan Sarki Primary school, Kaduna to class six. In 1970, we were transferred to Ankpa in the old Kwara State (now Kogi State) where I completed my primary education in a Roman Catholic Mission School. My secondary education was also in a famous mission school, Ochaja Secondary School still in Kogi State-Igalaland. All my childhood friends are from there and we are still very close and relate well! One of them, Mrs Abeni Ilona from Idah has remained close to me from our first day in the college. In fact, we are more of sisters now. Yes! I still understand Igala, that's my childhood gift. I feel nostalgic.

To be married and educated is a matter of determination on one's part and spousal understanding and support on the other. In this century, women all over the world are doing well in all spheres of development. What is required is the enabling environment to excel to contribute more to national development.

What challenges did you face while growing up?

You call them challenges but I call it fun! In life every person is faced with challenges in one form or the other depending on the circumstances. For me, I had a humble and eventful upbringing. One of those I recall with nostalgia was combining motherhood with my studies which prevented me from enjoying the social aspect of university life like most of my contemporaries. It is amazing to remember such moments and the success that accompanied. In as much as I missed a lot, I got equivalent rewards. For example, I missed the funs and university social life enjoyed by my friends. But whenever I see my children, I feel blessed for having them early. It was a worthy sacrifice.

As an educationist, what is your assessment of the Nigerian literary scene?

Unlike the view hawked in certain quarters on this issue, I don't share in the view that Nigerian literature is going down. To me, new writers now are writing better works than their predecessors. Why people are still valorizing the canon is because we are used to them. But, to me, we have wonderful set of (especially) novelists and poets in Nigeria now. The only setback is that people are not reading most of them due to promotional and marketing impediments. Once the publishers begin to do what they are supposed to do, the writers will be widely read and appreciated more.

What experience have you had in the course of your current book?

A world of difference: In this project more than anyone else, I have had the privilege of tapping very closely professional guidance of a lot of Nigerians who are at top places whom ordinarily, I didn't think of ever meeting them in this life. It's a great experience. You know, the topic of this new book is something no one has researched into, so it is difficult to come by information easily. For me, it is a challenge and I took the bull by the horns.

Talking about your book, what is it all about?

You see, it is on record that the first ladies at various administrations have created one Empowerment Programmes or the other world over particularly in Nigeria. Having undertaken an academic work on the same theme at a doctorate degree, she deemed it necessary to write and share the knowledge on the subject matter.

All over the world, there is relatively absence of information and documentation on First Ladies as abundant as such materials for the president. Part of the problem can be attributed to lack of scholarly interest in the wives of presidents and largely problem of omission of women in the pages of history.

Women and hence First Ladies are diverse and some with their activities are more likely than others to contribute to policy agenda and work solutions to societal issues and problems especially those concerning women.

First Ladyship and Empowerment Programmes in Nigeria is an effort to contribute to the move to formalise the study of First Ladies and analysis of existing literatures that create informed ideas about empowerment programmes by First Ladies in Nigeria.

Do you forsee a scenario where Nigeria would have a female president like Liberia has?

Nigerian women are very resourceful; determined and committed to the course of the nation but lack goodwill from the men. The political atmosphere is very tight and the men are very slow towards giving space in politics for women to go up! However, the women in leadership positions are striving hard and exhibiting such qualities that eventually will make it possible for power to come to us. However, sincerely speaking, I think it will take a while. In comparative analysis, women in Nigeria face more challenges politically than those in Liberia, the scenario is different. In Nigeria, there are credible women with such potentials to climb the number one seat but the ladder is still steep. It will only take a while but I believe it will happen. To achieve that, women need to come together, strategize and form a critical mass. I strongly believe that one day; a woman will lead this country and when it happens, the nation will attain the highest level of development.

What is your opinion on girl-child education?

I am so passionate about the issue of the girl child education because talking how important education is to women is talking about me. As an educationist, I grew in the teaching career in an exclusive girls' school and saw in these young girls the dreams and aspirations of future women leaders. The educational system should open up more opportunities for the girl-child to excel through a gender friendly policies. Implementation of policies on increase on enrolment, retention and withdrawal of the girl- child for whatever reasons should be taken seriously.

To contribute in this area, I established an NGO called Women And National Development (WAND) in 2001. The focus of WAND is supporting girls' education based on policy thrust: Education for Greater Participation. WAND has implemented a number of projects such as preparatory classes for certificate examination for girls, payment of examination fees, provision of uniforms, books and donation of teaching aids to female schools etc.

You have also authored various outstanding publications, can you mention them?

My interest in writing stemmed from that of reading. I read a lot on fiction, history, current affairs, and books of different religions, everything on paper. I engage in a number of literary works, presentation of papers, produce journals and edit magazines. While in GGSS Dutse, I set up a literary society that produced the best school magazine: The Flash. In 2001, my first published book, 'Women and National Development- The Way Forward' was presented to the public. The NERDC of Federal Ministry of Education assessed and recommended it for use in higher institutions. It is also being used in two universities of Ohio and Illinois in the United States for African Studies. For me, this is a great achievement which has encouraged me to write more. I hope to present two other books soon. The first one is titled; First Ladyship and Empowerment Programmes in Nigeria which actually is a by-product of an academic work. Women and Leadership is the second book. I also co-authored many books on education. One was edited by resource unit of University of Jos, on Gender Mainstreaming in Higher Education.

The main thrust of my writing is to make women's work and achievements visible because with visibility comes power!

What parting shot will you like to give to those who see you as their role model?

I always advise the younger generation not to hurry in life. Slow and steady make for a long journey. To achieve that requires humility, commitment, determination and focus. Always aspire to be change agents to contribute your quota to national development.

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