Barr Halima Alfa: Rooting For The Girl-Child In Kogi

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For Barrister Halima Alfa, a board member in the SURE-P committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan, emancipation of the girl-child is the driving force that has motivated her to venture into politics to show women the way.

By dint of hard work, determination and courage, Alfa, though a victim of early marriage, went to school from her matrimonial home, while accomplishing laudable feats as a northern woman in politics with the consent of her spouse.

As a typical Igala woman just like the historical Inikpi who laid down her life for the Igala Kingdom, her nationalistic spirit has never waned, hence her leadership role in the quest for the emancipation of the girl-child.

She sees politics as a tool for helping the people even though without being in politics she had been of immense help.

“I think I will offer more help if I go to the Senate. I will be able to complement the effort of government because this thing is not about the government alone,” she says, expressing the belief that the next set of people that can bring additional help to the people are those at the National Assembly.

Alfa pointed out that if she is elected, she would be able to influence certain projects for the people both nationally and internationally.

“I think I have gathered enough experience and contacts in the national polity that I can bring them to bear on our people for better dividends of democracy. I ventured into politics also to serve as an example to the girl-child in my constituency and Kogi State and Nigeria as a whole because I am from a humble background. I married just while I was waiting for my secondary school result.”

Although 18 when she tied the nuptial knots, she never allowed her husband any breathing space as she kept pestering him on her desire to further her education. Despite the challenge of going to school from the matrimonial home, she eventually wrote her final examination in the School of Nursing, carrying her second baby who is a Ph.D holder today.

After that, she secured employment with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). But not satisfied, she resigned voluntarily and went back to school to read Law, and is currently doing her Ph.D in Law.

“What am I saying? I am saying, for the girl-child, marriage is not an impediment to anything they want to achieve. What you need is perseverance, commitment, vision and then you get there.”

She said despite an assassination attempt on her life in 1996 when she almost lost her life, she was not deterred because if she had given up then, the girl- child from her place would say they had a mother who came and left and so the women cannot do it. She became a source of inspiration to them.

“You can see that most women in Kogi State are now coming out because they have seen a mother, a sister, somebody they can rely on”, she enthused.

She indicated that she fought for women in the last council election, by pleading with the governor and the state PDP executives, to allow for the emergence of women and for the first time in the history of the state, women were elected and appointed supervisory councilors.

“Next time, we will encourage them to gun for the chairmanship position and other higher positions based on merit not because they are women but because they deserve it and merit it; because they can handle it and because they are mothers as well.”

In a world of politics of hate and violence dominated by men, how is she going to cope? “When others are engaged in fetish activities, I rely on God. I have fasted four times in a week; Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for over six years now and that has been the source of my strength as it has been helping me. That is why I give my testimony to people.

“Even the accident I was involved in a few days ago, if you see the vehicle, you will not believe any of the occupants came out alive. But to God be the glory, everybody came out alive. They just sustained some degrees of injuries. So, my tool and weapon in the face of all you have mentioned is God. God has been faithful.”

She adds however that at the moment, based on her political profile, she is the one intimidating the men. “God said there is a season for everything under the sun. This is my season, and because God has seen that my season has come, he has completed for me all what I need; all the requirements that I will need to fight the men because yes, it is the men’s world but women are there also.”

According to her, looking around the world today, women have risen to become presidents of countries and the Nigerian woman also is not far from there.

“In a couple of years from now, a woman may become vice president and even a president of this country. We thank President Jonathan for giving strategic positions to women; positions hitherto exclusively meant for men.”

Alfa observed that Governor Wada has been a humble governor who listens to women, adding that he has succeeded in making the state free of thugs.

On the all important issue of the oil well in Odeke in Ibaji Local Government Area, she said: “For the issue of Ibaji oil, it is not for Ibaji alone, it is not for Kogi State alone, but for the entire North. You know I am the National Legal Adviser of the Arewa Consultative Forum. We have written a powerful memo to the President on the issue of the oil in Ibaji.

“The oil has been there right from time when I was a Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Kogi. Somebody drew my attention to it and we went far even then in 1999/2000. But let me stop at that because there is a lot of politics that is going on about the issue.”

On her family life and how she is coping having started early even when she was not equipped educationally, she said that continued to pester her husband that she wanted to go to school.

“He supported me and he was the one that sought for admission for me at the School of Nursing. He said he would not allow me to go to the university at that stage because I was, of course, a young, promising good-looking girl and he would not want to lose me.

“I was going to school from the house. He helped me and at times because as a graduate he was more exposed than me, while in pregnancy, he will even summarize some of my courses for me to read. So, he contributed greatly to whatever I have become today, and he was the foundation of everything because if my parents had wanted me to further my education, they wouldn’t have married me out so early.

“As I was going to school I was having children. I have five children that are well educated across the globe; they went to the best schools in Britain. Two have Ph.D, and two with masters and my last-born is in school.  I have three grandchildren; two are Britons and one American because that was where they claimed their citizenship”.

Of her husband, she said: “My husband, Alhaji Muhammed Alfa retired from the NNPC in 2006. He is from Okenyi and was a director in NNPC. He is very loving and tolerant because it takes a man with a good heart to allow his wife to go into politics where you meet with a lot of men. It takes a man with a lot of grace and patience and trust for him to allow me to go into the world, because going into politics is going into the world. So, I give a lot of kudos to him.”

On her attributes that tally with the historical Princess Inikpi, she said: “You know a typical Igala woman has the spirit of being a nationalistic person. Inikpi was just a teenage girl who laid down her life for the entire Igala kingdom.

“How did it happen? The Ifa priest came to the Attah and told him that the only thing that will enable him to win the war was if he could give his beloved daughter as a sacrifice. But Attah said he could not sacrifice his beloved daughter but Inikpi was standing by and she eavesdropped on their conversation and when the Ifa priest left, she went to her father and saw him looking gloomy and she enquired to know what was wrong, and the father said there was nothing.

“She told him she eavesdropped on his conversation with the Ifa priest, and ‘it is either you sacrifice me as the Ifa required of you, or you lose me. So, which one do you want? She had to blackmail her father to sacrifice her. So she was buried alive for the survival of the people and that was how we won that war between us and the Jukun.

“What I am saying is I am a woman from Idah married to an Ankpa man, and my mother also is from Ankpa. I am making this call on our fathers from the Igala and the Bassa race to have a rethink of what our fore-mothers did for the survival of the Igala Kingdom to appease their spirits with the emergence of a woman this time around on the corridors of power,” she said.

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