The ayes have it is old fashioned – Rep Dukku
Rep A’isha Dukku (APC, Dukku/Nafada Fed Constituency) is a member of the House of Representatives. She was once a minister of state for education. In this interview, Dukku shares her experience as a former member of the federal executive council and now a legislator. Excerpts:
How is it transiting from being a minister to a member of the House of Representatives? It is really what I would say two worlds apart because, being a minister, you are appointed by president. And you represent the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a minister. As a minister, you are in charge of policy formulation and implementation, and whatever the government goes with, is what you are expected to go with hook, line and sinker. You mean no objection? No objection because you are part of that executive arm of government. You cannot make policy and then be seen to be going against that policy. Now, to be in the legislative arm of government, first and foremost, to get there is a big task because you are dealing with your constituency. And when you win the election, you now become a legislator and that means you are a representative of your people. Even at then, you have to think the way your people want you to think. This is in terms of what you are supposed to do to them- giving them the right, quality representation, and then helping them to achieve their own objectives as it relates to the political scenario. And unlike in the executive arm, in the legislature, you are free to express yourself, you are free to criticise.
You are free to criticise even the executive?
Yes, giving good constructive criticisms is the responsibility of the legislator. Also, it is your responsibility to go for oversight function to ensure that policies and budgetary provisions are implemented.
Can you tell us what really inspired you to go into politics?
(Laughs) This is a big question to ask because coming from a Fulani background, from an Islamic background and as a woman, it’s always difficult, very challenging, it is a herculean task, if I may say. But, it is very simple on the other hand, it’s the wish of the people and that is the virtue of democracy. My people want me as their representative and I am here (House of Representatives).
It is difficult, especially in northern Nigeria, to see a woman battling with men for an elective post. What unique thing did you do that endeared you to your people?
I think this question should go to my constituents. But I believe that in whatever capacity I have ever been, whether as a teacher, vice principal and an inspector of education and then a minister, I always carried my people along. I believe whatever opportunity Allah gives me, is an opportunity to do good. So, anywhere I am, and in whatever capacity, I carried my people along, may be that is what endeared me to them.
For some obvious reasons, very few women excel in northern Nigeria. How did you find your way to be where you are today?
I am a privileged girl-child. I came from a humble family of an educated father who feels that if there is anybody that should go to school, it is the girl. That is what my father believes in because he says the girl is created weak, she needs support, care and protection. And when all of these are not there, what happens to her? She becomes vulnerable. And if the father is not there, you assume the husband is there, but what if the husband is not there? As women, we are supposed to complement our husbands. Islam does not want the woman or the girl to be victimised in any way. And that is why for a girl to go to school, it has to be close to her home and the school must have privacy, so that there is no way she can be victimized.
Did you do something to attract women to go to school when you were a minister?
Yes, the first thing you do as an individual is to serve as the right role model. Being a model is enough for any girl seeing you to feel that when I grow up, I want to be like Mama Aisha Dukku. Secondly, you can also do what we call ‘guidance and counselling.’ You collect a group of girls and encourage them to be themselves. And how do they become themselves? It is through acquiring education. We also call this mentoringwe mentor the girls to know that they are equal to the boys and can even perform better than the boys. We encourage them because most of the times, the girls are treated as if they are weaker siblings. If you look at the UBE laws, there is a punishment for any father who refuses to send his girlchild to school.
But we still have millions of parents that don’t send their daughters to school.
They refuse because the laws are not implemented properly.
Some parents complain that the facilities you mentioned to secure their girls are not there. Yes, that is true. Does that mean you did not provide the facilities when you were the minister of education?
Of course, I did. We constructed fenced in many schools and toilets for the girls. Many schools were established so that even at the neighbourhood the girl will find a school to attend.
How did you feel when you entered the House of Representative chamber for the first time?
(Laughs) I found myself in a very strange place and I asked ‘is this the way we are going to seat and conduct ourselves?’ Then I saw others sitting and I sat. Then the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker came up. Thereafter, I saw the speaker hitting the gavel… with the ‘ayes’ have it and the ‘nays’ have it. And I felt that this is something that needs to be changed because we are in the 21st Century. More African countries are now turning towards the e-parliament system. You vote electronically, instead of saying ‘for this motion, say aye and the loudest have it, whereas may be the nays have the majority. But if it is electronic election, it is the votes that would be counted. For now, if my bill or my motion is rejected, based on the highest noise made, not the highest number of legislators, it means I am being disenfranchised.
When you entered the chambers, did you see other women like you?
Of course, I came from the North-east and we have two female representatives from my state. I and Rep Binta Bello are here. There is Rep Asabe Vilita Bashir from Borno State and Rep khadija Bukar Abba from Yobe State. We also have the only female senator from the North-east, Senator Binta Masi Garba, from Adamawa State.
This means you are satisfied that women are well represented?
No, I am not satisfied at all. This is too little a number. We need to have more women in the National Assembly because in the 7thAssembly, we had more female representatives.
May be they were voted out because they did not perform well.
Where ever you find women, be it in the legislature or executive, they perform very well. It is not because they didn’t perform very well but it is because of the male factor. What is the male factor? Where ever the males are, they try to be over bearing, whether through legal or illegal means. How can that be changed? It must be changed. With the new voting system and card readers in place, things would change.
Rep A'isha Dukku