BARR. AISHA MUHAMMAD ABUBAKAR
Career background I was with D.D. Dodo (SAN) Chambers. We spent two months or thereabout in his chambers and then after my law school I served with M.A. Abubakar & Co (Fortuna Chambers) and I also worked in Mahmud Magaji & Co (SAN) as a junior councel.
Can you tell us where your passion for law started from and did you as a young woman see yourself becoming a lawyer?
I always dreamt of becoming a diplomat. But as you grow older, you begin to change views, so when I was in SBRS, after our exams, (they usually give you a form where you fill in what course you want to study), I filled in international relations as first and second choices and law as third choice. At the end of the day, the best for me was chosen. Challenges Being a junior lawyer; those were the periods when you were groomed to know how to handle cases. I can remember there was a time our head of chambers asked me to stand in for him in a case. I was so scared because I didn’t know what to do, and I was alone, so I went to him and asked, “Sir, what am I supposed to do.” And he replied, “Am I supposed to teach you what to say? You’re a lawyer. You should know what to do.” I left. But I still had to ask some colleagues what I was supposed to do when I got to the court and they just explained some things and ended telling me, “Aisha, you can do this.” At the end of the day I had the courage to face the judge and mention my case before her and afterwards, I was happy I overcame my fear. Fond childhood memories When we were growing up we were very keen of our parents because we were always together. Every night my father took us out. We used to go to the famous Agura Hotel. There’s a video club in the hotel where we usually went to rent films. So he rented a lot of cartoons like Lion King which was a very famous cartoon then. He did a lot of things for us, but as time went on, those things stopped.
I can’t say I was daddy’s girl, but I can say that our father is a type of person that likes everybody; all his children. You can’t tell who his favourite is. Maybe he has his favourite, but he never showed any difference or preference. He carried everybody along.
One very good thing that sticks to my head till now is, it was after I wrote WAEC and NECO, I brought back my result and it wasn’t too good and he said, “What the hell? What did you bring home? You have to stand up for yourselves. One day I’m not going to be there for you so you have to stand up and ensure that you get this right now. If you don’t get it, what’s going to happen to you?” So the way he spoke that day kept me thinking. I think I grew up with it because he made it known to me that life is challenging and if you don’t get yourself educated, you can’t be anything in this life. Life lessons In every stage in your life, you learn lessons. When growing up, there’s a lesson that one has to learn that you have to be focused. This was what I wanted; to be a graduate and become somebody someday.
Secondly, when you end up in the university, you find a lot of people. If you think you’re beautiful, you find a lot of people that are more beautiful than you. If you think you are brilliant, there are people who are more brilliant than you. So you have to be determined and know what you really want in life. That’s also a challenge because sometimes people get afraid of having an opponent or a competitor.
I have also learnt that you can never predict people. So never expect too much from them. The stage that I’m in now has taught me never to predict people. People can disappoint you at any time. So just have it at the back of your mind that whatever you’re doing, this person may end up disappointing you; fine, if they don’t; good for them and not for you. Tell us about your pet project My pet project is all about the girl child education and also helping prison inmates. The name of my pet project is called Brilliant Girl Child Initiative (BGCI) where we want to give girls an opportunity to realise their potentials and become somebody tomorrow. We have toured most of Bauchi. We have this advocacy tour where we create awareness about how important it is for the girl child to be educated. We have gone to the six emirate councils in Bauchi State. We had two emirs who went to the class with us, and they taught students, because we want those students to emulate these leaders and make them understand that if they are not educated, they cannot be like these emirs because the emirs are educated; that’s what brought them to where they are today. So they have to sit up, focus and learn that education is key to success.
We have also visited girls’ schools where you find out that some girls are facing a lot of challenges. For instance, you have a situation where they don’t have good sanitary facilities. That is a big challenge to girls because it can stop them from attending school. So we have been able to put up a toilet facility in one of the schools because we want our girls to go to school and become good people and also give back to society.
Is there a particular instance that made you decide on this initiative?
When you look at the northern part of Nigeria where it’s dominated mostly by Muslims, you realise there is this belief that because of Islam, there should be a barrier for girls to be educated. So because of this, you realise a lot of families will not allow their girls to go to school. I was very fortunate that I went to school without any difficulty. Because I had the opportunity and education has brought me to where I am today, there is need to give back to society so that we can have better girls than me. So that is the main idea as to why we brought up this initiative. Like I said, in northern Nigeria, we need more educated girls and women.
What have been the challenges so far?
We have limited resources; which is a big challenge. You find there are a lot of things you’d want to put in place or people; especially our girls to enjoy these facilities, but because of the challenges we’re having with resources, we can’t do those things. So it’s one of the major challenges.
I remember when we were picking up some girls that we want to support. We picked up some that had never been to school and we went from house to house in order to inform their parents and seek their permission to allow their wards and children to go to school. One family turned us down, saying their daughter would never go to school.
However, we tried to encourage them that there was need for their daughters to go to school.
For instance, women that are not educated, especially widows, become a liability to the society because now that their husband’s are dead, and they have children, who will cater for the children? I can remember one inmate, who is now an ex-convict, simply because her husband died, she went to borrow money, about N50, 000. She couldn’t repay and she got locked up. We had to go and rescue her. She’s not old but she couldn’t stand up for herself. Because she’s not educated she couldn’t understand the consequences of her action, so we had to bail her out and give her some support.
Sometimes we also want to work hand in hand with government to ensure that it does projects like renovation of schools. You find out that because a classroom or school doesn’t have roof, it’s not conducive for students to study. We can’t do it but we can call on the government to help build or renovate classes for these children to have conducive environment to study.
With funding being one of the major challenges; do you have plans for international collaboration?
We are looking forward to having collaboration with international donors. We have also approached two agencies, but I believe every organisation has its own activities. And what we’ve been made to understand is that if an organisation has its own activities for example, are you going to work on child mortality or girl child education? If they don’t have anything like girl child education in their programme, there’s simply nothing they can do for us. We’ll have to wait for when they have such a programme before they can intervene. We’re still working on approaching some agencies in sha Allah because the secretary of our group, who is the wife of the Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Hajiya Amina. She worked with NGOs; so she’s giving us a clearer picture. Growing up I am sure if you approach someone from my family today they’ll tell you Aisha has changed because I was on the quiet side. I minded my business. I was not the talkative type. I did things the way things were supposed to be done. That was growing up for me. Joys of motherhood I’ll say Alhamdulillah, Alhamdullillah and Alhamdullilah. How I met my husband I met him when I was posted to his law office as a NYSC member. I was the only a corper in that office. That’s how we met. I never thought that something would happen and