Asmau Yari and NGWF: Leading the War Against Drug Abuse and Early Marriage

H.E Haj. Asmau Abdulaziz Yari

Her Excellency, Hajiya Asmau Abdulaziz Yari is currently the Chairperson, Northern Governors Wives Forum. Haj. Asmau is a rare combination of beauty, brains, humility and has a heart of gold that has endeared her to the hearts of many people in her state. Her genuine love for humanity birthed a Non-Governmental Foundation called Hanun Taimako, which was established for the purpose of reaching out to the masses in her state. Her Excellency has also foot countless medical bills for the less privileged and organised free surgeries not only in her state but also across the nation. She seizes every opportunity to promote and support girl child education. She is presently working toward finding a lasting solution to drugs abuse or addiction among youths and children.

Despite her tight and busy schedule, the soft spoken and beautiful mother of four, found time to have a chat with us. She tells us what she does with her free time, her style, what she loves doing, and most importantly how to help the North to move forward. Excerpts:

Good day ma, please can we meet you?

My name is Hajiya Asmau Abdulaziz Yari, I am the wife of the Governor of Zamfara State. I have combined Honours in French and Linguistics; I graduated from the University of Maiduguri. I have four children, two boys and two girls. I also have a pet project and the name is in Hausa, “Hanun Taimako” which means “Helping Hands” in English.

What have been your experiences/challenges so far doubling as the First Lady of Zamfara State and Chairperson of Northern Governors’ Wives Forum?

My challenges so far as the wife of the Governor of Zamfara State, or if I will say as the First Lady of my State is so overwhelming, it is neither an easy thing nor an easy task. This is because you have to divide your time between family and the people around you such as the politicians, the people that have supported you and also that have voted for your husband to be in the office. And as always, my role as a wife is to support my husband.  I have to also support the women in my state. I make sure that whatever I do, I put in a lot so that it will be a success, be it Health, be it Education or Agriculture. And concerning my role as the Chairperson of Northern Governors’ Wives Forum, it’s so far so good because I don’t want to put it as challenges. The Northern Governor’s Wives Forum is a forum that has been in existence; and I think in 2011 when we came into power we met another Chairperson of the forum, that was Her Excellency Mrs. Suswam and I learnt a lot from how she carried out the affairs of the forum.  Later on I succeeded her. The challenges are a bit different in the sense that northerners are very conservative, and they are not as a group outspoken, or even active as a forum. But in so far as we came together as one big happy family, the number one thing I always try to ensure is that everyone is respected. We also make sure that we are committed to what we do and also communicate, which is very important.

The wife of the president, Her Excellency, Hajiya Aisha Buhari recently played host to the wives of northern governors and the meeting focused on some peculiar challenges facing the northern part of the country. What are the challenges peculiar to your state and what are your plans in tackling them?

I think after our meeting on the 31st October, 2016 we decided to go and visit the First Lady because she is our mother and our leader. We went to brief her on the challenges we are facing as a group from the northern side. And one of the things we discussed with her was the issue of drug abuse or addiction among youths and children; because this problem is a silent killer in the north. We noticed that a lot of people in the north are living in denial. If you have 10 households in the north, I think 9 out of the 10 will have a female or a male that is on drugs. We felt that because it is the north, we tend to keep quiet; we don’t talk about problem maybe because of the way we were brought up or our culture. So this problem tends to escalate and a lot of people are suffering from drugs abuse and nothing is being done about it. So this was one of the few challenges we discussed with the First Lady and she has a strong passion to fight against drug addiction.  She said she is ready to help us and see how we can come together and also bring the voice of the North together to see how we can tackle that problem. Concerning the issues facing Zamfara State, I think it is not only Zamfara that is facing problems, but a lot of other states are facing it as well. One of the first person to be heard during the meeting spoke to us about HIV among youths and adolescents. He said that the percentage of young girls is higher than that of young males. And I asked him, why it is so; is it because of early marriage or rape cases? He said yes, that there is an issue of early marriage in the north and if you are talking about this in the north then it is also happening in my state. But this is not the major problem that we are facing in my state now in terms of girl child education. And you know it is not just about enrolling them but about retaining the girl child in school. A lot of parents do enrol their girl child in school but the problem we are having sometimes is as soon as these girls get to probably JSS 2 or 3, they drop out of school. And even if they don’t get married, that is the end of their education. So we are trying to appeal to the parents of Zamfara State, especially the girl child parents, to keep their children in school and also to retain them.

Speaking of girl child education, what is the percentage of girls in school in Zamfara State?

I don’t have the figures correctly, but it is a bit low.

What is the mission of the Northern Governors’ Wives Forum under your care?

Our mission is to come together, because we believe that when we come together we will have one voice. And when you have one voice, you will have a stronger voice so that when you sit down to find solutions, or look for a way forward for the North in terms of girl child education, in terms of health issues and even mortality, when we come together, I think it gives us a wider or broader platform to achieving and making a difference in the North.

What are the challenges and the achievements of the Northern Governors’ Wives Forum under your leadership?

I wouldn’t say it is a new forum, but I was elected as the Chairperson sometime back in January and the first meeting we had was in February and since then one issue let to another issue. We didn’t have any other meeting until October. What I will say so far as our achievement is that sometimes, when we come together as a group there is a lot of interest; there is a lot of things to look at, and when we sit together to discuss what everyone has in her state, this gives another person an insight on what to go back to your own state and probably tackle that same issue; to kind of emulate what others have done.

How do you get support for the forum?

That is one of the challenges we are actually facing, financial challenges. But we try to source  money from ourselves. We have some little dues that we pay amongst ourselves and we also support ourselves.

Don’t you reach out to see if you can get support from other agencies or groups?

Well, that is what we intend to do, to get in touch with international agencies to see if they can come and help us.

Pet projects and NGOs have become a common phenomenon among state first ladies in Nigeria. Your pet project, Hanun Taimako (Helping Hands) Foundation has come a long way. What will you say have been the Foundation’s achievements and challenges so far?

So far I have the Almighty God to thank.  The journey we began so far with my pet project, I am happy that the people, especially the women of Zamfara State, have acknowledged the fact that  Hanun Taimako is really out there to help them. We have done so much in terms of women empowerment, we have done skills acquisition, and we have taken the health sector and also done a lot of surgeries to women and men in the State. We have done free surgeries by taking like 200 people from each local government and we also took some people from Kaduna. After the surgery, we gave them money to go back home. They have various illnesses, we have people that have appendix, eye problem, there were just so many illnesses and it wasn’t just the people that were living in the state capital, but people from the rural areas that probably have no access to health care. And it was maybe difficult for them to go to the hospital, we had them screened and the doctors operated on them free of charge; and afterwards sent them back home. That was something that we felt the magnitude of the help we rendered to the people.

Where do you hope to see the foundation in the next two to three years?

I hope to see it prosper to greater height; I want to keep it flying. It is not just about the fact that now I am the governor’s wife and in few years I won’t be a governor’s wife. But I really want to continue with what I am doing, I want to continue with the humanitarian services because it is always good when you help other people and also feel good about yourself.

How do you juggle between being the first lady, a wife and a mother?

I think my kids are used to it now. So I divide my time between Abuja and Zamfara. My kids stay in Abuja and also school in Abuja. So what I do is, anytime I have a programme in Zamfara, I go back and forth, I will catch the next available flight from Sokoto back to Abuja or sometimes I go by road. I think I am managing it well actually.

What is your fashion style?

These days fashion is evolving. There are so many fashion styles; I just go for chick, classy and comfortable.

What is your best fashion accessory?

I love jewelleries,  I like wearing them. It could be something, if I am not at home, maybe I have a casual outing, it doesn’t have to be dramatic but outspoken. Like in an event, sometimes you want to stand out in the crowd, so it all depends on the mood.

How do you spend your 24 hours when you are not busy?

How do I spend my 24 hours? Well, I think I like to eat, not that I am the kind of person that eats too much. I just like to munch snacks and all these fatty things you can think of. I also like reading, I read all sorts of books like magazine, I used to read literature books, but not anymore. When I am not busy, I watch the television.

How often do you spend quality time with your family?

Most of the time when I am at home I spend quality time with them because they are always around me and whenever I have guests they are always barging into me, so I am always around them .

Haj. Asmau Abdulaziz Yari
Haj. Asmau Abdulaziz Yari

What are your hobbies?

I like listening to music because it calms me down, it all depends on the mood that I am in. I like reading and also drawing, like making sketches. I once ventured into the fashion industry too. But I think right now, my actual one number hobby is that I am always on my phone. I listen to people, I have become like their consultant. I listen to their complaints and where I can help them I do that, but where I can’t, I just give them a word of advice.

What do you want people to remember you for?

I just want people to remember me for a kind hearted, gentle, generous human being, the one that listens to her people, and the one that communicates well with her people with so much love and so much passion.  Someone who makes a difference, and the reason why I am so passionate with the women in my state is because I am from that state too. It is really difficult for woman that when you come out from the north there are so many issues, like culture and religion, and once you are educated you will have a voice. You should use that voice to become an idea to the young ones so that when they see you, they will want to emulate you and be like you. So these are really the kind of things that I want to be remembered for.

What message do you have for people in your state and Nigerians as a whole?

The message I have for my people in Zamfara is as always, we want their support and we also want their patience. Because things don’t just happen like magic, it is never easy when you are the leader, you need people to support you and believe in you so that the promises you made to them can be fulfilled. So I just want to call out to them to continue to support us and to continue to believe in us and I know that at the end of the day we have their best interest at heart.



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