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We can’t be celebrating Centenary amidst insecurity – Rep Khadi

Vice Chairman House of   Representatives Committee on Marine Transport, Hajia Kaamuna Ali Khadi representing Jere Federal Constituency of Borno State, in this interview said it is wrong for the Federal Government to be celebrating Centenary in the midst of insecurity. Excerpts:

As a first term female lawmaker in the seventh House of Representatives, what is your assessment of the leadership of the House and what were your expectations when you came in?
I will assess the House leadership as a very participatory one. The House leadership is doing wonderfully well, and there is trust and confidence between the leadership of the House and its members. Besides that, we chose our own Honourable Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and we have trust and confidence in his capabilities. That is why we chose him. For that, he is very grateful to God and grateful to the members. He doesn’t do anything without consulting the members. Even if they have their meeting as leaders which leaders normally do in any organisation, they will bring it to the floor and we will dissolve into an executive session. They will now brief us on the meeting. We will rub minds, exchange ideas and then arrive at a better solution.
When you come to a new environment, people tell you about intimidating experiences. So, when I came to the House, I did not find it very difficult. There were no big challenges. Although the women are much fewer than the men, just 24 female members. We embrace one another like sisters. We work together. We speak with one voice. If any bill comes from anyone of us, we will rally round to support it.
You belong to a different political party from your governor. How are you managing this political difference?
Let me start by commending the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima. Although I am from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and he is an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) governor, we only differ during elections. Once the elections are over and it is time for governance, we all come together and see how we are going to move the state and our constituencies forward. The governor is doing wonderfully well especially in the areas of security and economic upliftment of the State.
 
There are mixed feelings as Nigeria plans to celebrate 100 years of amalgamation. What is your take on this centenary celebration?
I do not support this centenary celebration. My reason is because we are facing insecurity challenges in the country, particularly Borno State. My constituency (Jere) is the most affected in these crises. So, instead of the government focusing on the insecurity challenges and see what they could do to bring an end to the crises, they are talking about celebrating 100 years of Nigeria. For God’s sake, what are we celebrating? Even as an individual, if you are celebrating your birthday, you must make sure that your mind and house are at peace. Everybody knows that we are facing insecurity challenges, so, what are we celebrating?
 
Coming from a so-called conservative part of the country and being female, did your family really support your foray into politics?
My family has been very supportive of me. But to start with, my parents are deceased. I am not the only politician in my family. We are like four or five. But we all belong to different political parties and I like it that way because all of us cannot be in one party. Even in the family, there must be an opposition. We argue and reason together. So, I have a very supportive family.
Things have changed for women, especially in the north. I can tell you that every woman is interested in politics. Wait and see, our number is going to increase in 2015. You know, of course, that we women, are not economically empowered. That is what is drawing us (women) back. But every woman would like to participate in politics.
We have been hearing the comments about the few of us in the House and Senate. Honestly, they are quite proud of us and impressed by our contributions on the floor, in committees and even our constituencies. Gone are the days when a woman would say I want to get married, I want to stay in my husband’s house. There is nothing wrong in getting married or staying in your husband’s house. Islam does not discourage women from participating in things that affect them. What is important is how you carry and conduct yourself.
 
Was your being a politician accidental, or nurtured from home?
It is a combination of all. It was nurtured at school, at home and I also had the passion. Being a politician is not by accident neither a new thing to me. I came from the combined backgrounds of Islamic scholars and politicians. So, my interactions with people helped nurture my political instincts. I ventured into politics say like eleven years ago. I started with the ANPP. I was their women leader in the North-East and after that I joined the PDP in 2009, contested for election and by the special grace of God I won the election. So it is not accidental.
 
You have been known for philanthropy. What drove you into your constituency outreach programmes?
Basically, my constituency outreach is centred on poverty alleviation. But I must add that what I did for my constituency is not as if I promised them during my electioneering campaigns. I did not promise anything. They pushed me to make promises which I declined. I told them that once I win the election, all of us are going to be happy. And that is exactly what happened. So what I did in my constituency was not in competition with any other member or anyone else. I did it because they gave me their mandate. As a woman, they gave me their trust and confidence. I am going to make a difference and they are very appreciative. Many more are going to come, Insha Allahu.
 
What is your comment on the controversy surrounding the signing of the 2013 budget by the President?
The National Assembly submitted the budget to Mr President. He did not act on it. He did not sign the budget. It is only now that my colleagues are telling me that he has agreed to sign the budget. Nigerians are suffering. Without assenting to the budget, he is back tracking the economy of the country and they are now talking about centenary celebrations.  You know when they are celebrating the centenary, of course, we know how many billions they are going to sink into the celebrations. But is it worth it? While in your country, there are people who cannot afford three-square meals a day. You have to face these challenges before celebrating. I have nothing against the celebrations, it is worth it, but the timing is very wrong. That’s my opinion.
 
What do you see to the new opposition merger that has produced the All Progressives’ Congress (APC)?
I have little to say about the merger. There is nothing wrong about the merger. But how do they want to go about it and why the merger? Does it mean as a political party none of them can contest election and defeat the PDP? Must they merge as a group to fight the PDP? If so, then I wish them best of luck.

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