Why I am bothered about poverty in Northern Nigeria — Hajia Zuwaira Gambo + “Dad ignored everyone to send me to school @ age 9”

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo to Asabeafrika….’My biggest worth is the worth of raising my children and seeing my grand kids come’
Borno state,
North Eastern Nigeria born Hajia Zuwaira
radiates excellence, joy and unlimited optimism but the founder of Hope Initiative for the Vulnerable and Marginalized (HIVAM)
is one woman presently sadden with pain as a result of the ongoing killings and
maiming in the North Eastern part of Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram
insurgence and thus her NGO, HIVAM
has been doing a lot in terms of alleviating pains and poverty among the
Internally Displaced People in that part of Nigeria. 

 Hope Initiative for the Vulnerable and
(HIVAM) was founded in 2010 to primarily look into some
strategic challenges and problems facing lots of women especially the girl
children in the north eastern part of the country. Hajia’s career both within
and outside the public sector centered mostly on empowering the vulnerable and
marginalized.  Having served under various
non-governmental organizations headed by great Nigerian women including First
Ladies and wives of service Chiefs and Inspector General of Police under
several regimes establishing HIVAM
did not come as a surprise to those who know Hajia Gambo. HIVAM was
indeed established to add value to the lives of vulnerable and marginalized
persons through planned initiatives and well coordinated interventions designed
to provide practical solutions and bring relief to the neglected ones
especially in her Borno state, North Eastern Nigeria and surrounding states
where the scourge of Boko Haram has rendered many people homeless and hopeless.
HIVAM’s targeted groups are the aged, the widows, the orphans, the itinerant
beggars (Almajiris), the Youth, the physically challenged and the women in

A beautiful and intelligent woman who blends her strict
Islamic faith with a strong sense of self enlightenment, recently Hajia who
clocked 50 (May 16) and who hails from the Babur
of Kwaya-Kusar in Biu LGA, Borno state, Northern Nigeria
gave asabeafrika some attention
inside her posh office inside Al-Maliha
on Ahmadu Bello Way,
Garki, Abuja. 
Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, a grandmother married to a Deputy Inspector General of
police took us through the story of her rare life which you will only find on
your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog asabeafrika. Enjoy the excerpts.

 “My father had a lot of people coming to him saying to him,
‘why are you taking this girl to the south? And I was so young then. I wasn’t
even ten years old. But he said ‘well, there was no problem that in Islam the
Quran says you can go as far as China to seek knowledge’. My dad was a very
enlightened individual”.

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo with the GDA @ her FCT, Abuja office

My name is….
With a smile playing on
her cheek, Hajia opened the
conversation with this blog by introducing herself after putting off all her
three phone sets to avoid any interruption “My name is Hajia Zuwairu Gambo. I am from Borno
. I did my secondary school education at the Federal Government Girl’s
College Benin City. I have my first
degree in Mass Communications from the Bayero
, Kano.
And I got my master degree in Public Administration from the University of Calabar.
I started my career as a features writer with the Daily Times of Nigeria
from there I became a columnist with Midweek Magazine Pullout (In Daily
Times) I also ran a column called life every Wednesday in the Daily
. At one time I was also the Deputy Editor of Poise Magazine, a
publication of the Daily Times, before I was moved to become the Group Supplement
editor of the Daily Times Stable when Daily Times was really Daily
. Well, in a nutshell that is a bit of my career background. But
before I moved to Daily Times, I worked with the Federal University of Technology
as an assistant editor in the Audio Visual department where I wrote for the in
house news letter and I also supervised students in their audio-visual
activities. But I am more or less a social activist. I am an NGO person because
I had to leave Daily Times at one point to concentrate on my children as they
were in their developmental years. They were very young then, I had to give
them full attention. So I really got involved with NGOs like NAWOJ (National
Association of Women Journalists); The National Council of Women Societies, the
Police Officer’s Wives Association (POWA) the Defense and Police Officer’s
wives Association, the Better Life Programme for the African Rural Women and a
lot of other non-governmental organizations. Since I left full time work I
realized that my association with non-governmental organizations became more of
a full time activity, and I was getting passionate about issues concerning the
less privilege members of the society. I discovered that for one to succeed in
touching the lives of the less privileged ones; you must have the capacity, you
must have the means. And that is why I used my business outfit Benazir
which I named after the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to aid the
challenges of the people. Benazir Bhutto is a woman I am so
passionate about; her belief in giving humanity a better goal was genuine. She
was a go-getter and despite the challenges she faced as a female politician,
despite what happened to her own father, she still went ahead to participate in
politics and in the end even lost her life to the cause of service. And that is
why I named my business after her. She is a rare heroin.
 “Always look down and remember people you left at the bottom
of that ladder, because no matter how long it takes, you will still come back
and meet them because there is no condition that is permanent in life”

Blogger, Gbenga Dan Asabe presents a copy of Former Minister of Science
& Technology, General Sam Momah’s book ‘Nigeria

The northern woman with a southern touch
If you are lucky to
encounter Hajia Gambo you will
notice three things; her high intellect, her sense of association and a great
dose of self enlightenment, all this comes handy and equally differentiates her
personality from the average northern woman. She traced  the difference to her early education “Actually
what happened was that admission into unity schools of those days was purely on
merit and when we had our common entrance examination then, I was among the
first four in the entire north east who made good grade when my admission letter
came, I had quite a number of entries. First of all, I got Federal Government
Girls College Owerri, then Federal
Government Girls College, Benin
City. But I will only say to you that destiny took me to Benin City. My father had a lot of people
coming to him saying to him, ‘why are you taking this girl to the south? And I
was so young then. I wasn’t even ten years old. But he said ‘well, there was no
problem that in Islam the Quran says you can go as far as China to seek
knowledge’. My dad was a very enlightened individual. He encouraged me and that
was how I found myself in Benin City and I have no regret because since it was
a federal school, we had people from different parts of Nigeria and even in the
neighboring countries. And that has influenced my outlook and approach to life.
My approach to life is universal; I don’t care where you come from. I don’t
care about your religious affiliations. I see you first and foremost as a human
being and that really, really contributed to shaping my life, giving me the
opportunity to interact freely with anybody. That has also helped me in even
bringing up my own children”.

Hajia Gambo to asabeafrika….’I started my career as a journalist’

Was your dad polygamist?

This blog asked Hajia the above question and she
answered in the affirmative “Yes my father was a polygamist but believe you me;
we never knew who was who’s’ mother. And then in addition to his own biological
children, he had so many children from indigent homes. So we grew up as one. It
was totally different from what we see nowadays. To me, polygamy that time had
nothing like step brother or sister and up till today I am very, very close to
my half brothers because I happen to be the only girl(biologically) but I have
sisters from relations whom my father brought up”.  “Biologically, I was the only daughter my
father had but I have brothers and half brothers and up till today, we don’t
care whose mother gave birth to whom”.

Hajia Gambo to Asabeafrika….’The biggest legacy a parent can give the child is Education’

Why Dad allowed me to go to school…
Speaking further on why
her dad allowed her to get an education against the norm of her time which
forbade the girl child from being given a western education, Hajia Gambo gave kudos to her father
whom she equally described as rare specie “I think my father was a different
human being entirely. He was a down to earth person. He was the supervisor then
in charge of the Ginnery (Cotton
Field); in those days cotton was the mainstream business in the north east. So
he was exposed, he interacted with a lot of people and believe you me, he never
really care weather you were a boy or a girl. He made sure we all went to
school, even when I was taken to the south, he said no, no, no, it doesn’t
matter, that I should go, that God is every where. In fact my father was and he
is still my role model. His name is Shehu
of blessed memory”

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo in a rare pose for Asabeafrika

Life as a Borno, Edo & Kano babe
On how her stay Borno her place of birth, Benin (Edo state) her place of study
and Kano her first place of early
development  affected her world view, Hajia explained “When my father died I
moved to Kano where my senior brother who is a police officer took up the
responsibility of training me up. In those days we had a good culture as
regards this extended family thing. I had lots of uncles and aunties, so you
could spend your holidays with anyone of them. I had an interesting and very
rich upbringing from Maiduguri, Kano
and Benin.
I was able to grasp a bit of every aspect of those societies. It was a good thing
that one had that privilege”  “I am a Muslim
by faith but you wont believe I did Bible
for my WAEC and in those days they insisted that my dad must
agree to me studying Bible knowledge.
Our Islamic Studies teacher then in Federal Government Girls College, Benin City was a Pakistani lady and she was teaching us Islamic Studies not because
she was trained to be an Islamic teacher but I think because she was a Muslim.
And we understood the Bible knowledge teacher better than her. And I had a B2 in Bible Knowledge. I had a very excellent result in Bible knowledge and it is only now I am
beginning to forget all the quotes if not ….(laughter)  “My father said I should go ahead and read Bible knowledge that although he
brought me up as a Muslim child that I am not a Muslim for being one but because
I know the values of Islam. So my dad really, really made an impact in my life”

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo presents a brochure of HIVAM to Celebrity blogger, Gbenga Dan Asabe

Business Acumen mixed with sympathy for the poor…
Giving asabeafrika
an insight into her passion for eradicating poverty among the poor and doing business
as well Hajia Zuwaira Gambo said “My
early association with non governmental organizations brought me into  interaction With  lots of women, women of substance; women of
timber and caliber. I mean great women who made things happen behind the scene.
But I also loved doing business; even in the university I used to sell ear
rings and other little-little items of women’s convenience. I have always been
business conscious. I used to go to Cotonou
(Benin Republic) to bring in little-little wares for sale. I will move them
in the booth of my car, my sitting room, everywhere; there was always something
to pick and wear. So I said ‘very well, this might probably be my niche’. And I
was doing small, small jobs and what have you. But my greatest job was property.
So Benazir
is actually into property development very quietly, we don’t make noise about
that. But people know me more as a trader because as you can see in my office
here there is nothing you can’t get, from clothing, shoes and bags, kitchen
utensils, in fact that is my strongest area. I travel and bring in all kinds of
kitchen utensils. I even sell beds. It is more or less an outlet. I do a lot of
consultancy for non-governmental organizations as well because I have worked
like I told you with a lot of great women. I have served as secretaries to many
organizations. I have served as secretary to many of their NGOs. I have been to
so many international conferences which has exposed me to so many things. I
have been to Beijing in China and
many other great places. NGO is what I enjoy doing with passion and that was
why I established Hope Initiative for
the Vulnerable and Marginalized
(HIVAM) and we have really come a long way
since 2010 when we started. We have worked with great and philanthropic personalities
like His Excellency, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno state. We highly
appreciate the efforts of His Excellency, the Governor and Chief Servant of
Niger state and Chairman of the 19 Northern State Governor’s Forum, Dr.
Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu
and his first lady, Hajia Jumai
Babangida Aliyu
(Mother Chief Servant) the Emir of Biu, His
Highness, Alhaji Umar Mustapha Aliyu (CON), the Honorable
Minister for Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina, between February
27th  and March 9th
 I was invited as a resource person to
the  6th session of the UN Commission on the status of Women in
New York. The session focused on the theme “The
Empowerment of Rural Women and their Role in poverty and Hunger Eradication,
Development and Current Challenges”
I spoke from the Nigerian point of view
as related to our current challenges and I think that had lots of impacts on
the listeners and the international community. I met a lot of other female
dignitaries from across Africa.  It was a
thing of pride that our voice is heard”

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo….’My biggest passion is seeing ordinary people in the society happy’

Me, journalism, business and
Having been trained as a
journalist with experience in business and good habit for helping people, this
blog asked Hajia Gambo to name her best work choice among the three sphere
of interest and she gave her candid response “I think the humanitarian aspect
takes more of me. Journalism is something I developed in my secondary school
days because I used to represent old Bendel State in the state debate
and literary Association. In fact at a time, my self with another colleague won
the State Trophy for Bendel State. So, that was what
exposed me to broadcasting. I entered Print Journalism just by coincidence. But
I have always wanted to go into electronic broadcasting and even in the
university, that was what I read and I had a Second Class Upper. In fact I was
the best graduating student in Mass Communication in 1984 from the Bayero
in Kano so I had always had passion for journalism but along the line as I
started attending all this humanitarian activities I got new orientation about
everything; and my life in the barrack kind of exposed me to how you can reach
out to people that are not as privileged as you. So some how, I developed a
passion for humanity and to add value to my passion, my relationships with great
women like Dr. Mrs. Maryam Babangida, Dr. Mrs. Maryam Abacha, Justice
Fati Abubakar,
Mrs. Oghohi, Hajia Dr. Bola Shagaya, I
mean wives of former leaders and even present leaders have aided my reasoning
in the area of helping the less privileged ones. I worked with them on their
pet projects and I have soon realized that there are many ways you can touch
the lives of people not necessarily your relations. But my barrack experience
more than any other thing influenced my passion for helping people because I
grew up partly in a police barrack where my brother worked as a police officer
and I have lived most of my life in the same barrack because of my marriage to
a police officer, that is why people see me more in those areas. But actually
my association with the Better Life program under late Dr. (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida
exposed me to challenges of women’s lives in the rural area which up till now I
am still so much concerned about. I try as much as I can to share either in
terms of knowledge or physical offerings to aid the lives of these rural women.
It is a passion that is so emotional and I can’t stop it”.

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, MD & CEO, Benazir Bhutto Ltd

Me, ambition & Politics
Due to her love for
philanthropy, we asked if Hajia would mind going into politics
at a later date and this is what the 50 years old northern beauty said   “I won’t
say yes or no because every human being is a political animal and sometimes you
join politics not because you want to but due to circumstances; some
circumstances can make you go into political leadership. At some time people
could come around and say we think you can contribute better and with my
background and experience, I know the problem of the less privileged ones, I
know the problem of the people in the rural areas. I am very, very much at home
in any part of the country. I am not from Niger State
but I am very much appreciated there. In the Federal Capital Territory, we have
literacy centers in some of these communities and even in my village in Borno.
So I think it is a matter of time. If the condition is good and welcoming but
above all, I want God to decide for me”
Hajia Zuwaira Gambo to Asabeafrika….’I dont quantify wealth from the perspective of raw cash’
My kind of Politics
Will Hajia go for House of Representatives, Senate or her state’s house
of assembly to represent her people in the nearest future?  This is what she feels “No, I don’t think I
have made up my mind on where to go but I would like to be a part of whatever
positive change that will bring succor to the generality of Nigerians at
whatever level. You don’t need to even occupy a political position before you
touch lives. As I am right now, I run my NGO and I also partner with others to
bless humanity. So you can change lives at any level. It is an inborn passion
that could be done at any level. It is something I inherited from my father.
Because I know when we were growing up, my father never locked his gate. Those
days there were no robbers anywhere. So anybody that was coming from distant
places or neighboring villages that had nowhere to stay, they always ended up
staying in our house. And the women were always cooking. If you come to our
house then, in fact some people call it transit camp, because if you come
even at a very short notice or no notice at all, we try to accommodate you. And
that is how I have been running my life. I have a lot of children that are not
my children so it is a calling which you will never do without. My NGO is
passionate about rescuing rural people from their challenges and equally join
government to solve the problem of the mass of Internally Displaced People
which is the biggest problem in the north today”

The Hivam Founder Hajia Zuwaira Gambo with Celebrity blogger, Gbenga Dan Asabe at a public function in Minna, Niger state
Auditing my worth…
What is the worth of Hajia
Zuwaira Gambo
? The question made her observe a minute silence before
she reacted “Let me tell you, my riches are limitless because it is God that
provides. I may not have solid cash, I may not have physical assets but believe
you me; I have lots of love around me. I have God’s love, I have people’s love.
I have wonderful children. I have a very handsome grandson. I think these
things you cannot buy with money; love is what makes the world go round. So I
am surrounded by people who love and care about me. There is no day you come to
my office or you come to my house and you wont find people. That is my wealth.
I will wake up in the night, one phone call; I am okay because I will talk to somebody
that will make me happy. In the morning you will come to my house, you will see
people. It is this people that give me joy. That is my wealth, not the physical
or monetary things we think of. Everybody wants to be comfortable but God has
given me a lot of love.  God has blessed
me in terms of people. That is my own wealth. I am comforted. I am okay”

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo with a Police officer

Starting a Day….
 “As Muslims, we rise up early in the day to
pray. Thereafter I scroll through the television and my I-Pad to get in tune
with what is going on around the world. I am a news person. I don’t joke with
news, no matter how boring, I read and share”
My hobby
“I am a voracious reader.
I read anything great especially autobiographies. I love to read about people.
That is why a woman like Benazir Bhutto means a lot to me. I
have read the autobiographies of great people like Hillary Clinton Barrack
, Maryam Babangida, Maryam Abacha, Justice Fati Abdulsalami,
all these are wonderful women and great patriots. Their lives have really
inspired me one way or the other”.

Hajia Gambo to asabeafrika….’My father’s decison to give me early education made a lot of difference in my life’

I am a Benazir Bhotto addict…
On which of the autobiographies
she read inspired her most, Hajia Gambo
who clocked 50 on May 16 2014 gave credit to the late Pakistani politician, Benazir BhuttoBenazir Bhutto’s
autobiography inspired me. That is where I saw commitments, where I saw
sufferings, and despite all, it did not stop her from getting to her
destination. And that is why nothing, nothing, no matter how big could pose a
challenge to my life. I don’t get scared. The more challenges I get, the
stronger I become. There is no obstacle that I have ever encountered that dusted
me. No. I always come out stronger”.

HIVAM Founder, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo

Secret of young look & Beauty…
I think it is contentment. I am a very contented person,
nothing gives me sleepless night. Anything that gives me stress I put aside. I
pray to God and sleep on it. That is why people keep on wondering what the
secret is? Contentment!

Gambo to Asabeafrika….’My experience with great women like Hajia Dr.
Maryam Babangida gave me an idea of how to run an NGO’

What I want from God @ 50
“Long life and the grace
and opportunity to serve humanity, especially the under privileged ones and to
help my people get out of their present misery which was solely caused by poor
leadership. On my 50th birthday, I was with elderly people in my
local government area in Borno that is how I celebrate auspicious days in my
life, with ordinary people, giving and sharing”.

Hajia Zuwaira Gambo with Best Friend, Barrister Hauwa Bukar Zargana

Advice to First ladies & Women in Power
That sometimes when they get to that position, they forget
where they are coming from. That is the mistake some of them do. Not only
women. It is general with people. They forget that, that ladder which they used
in climbing up will still be there when they are coming down. So, you don’t
need to be arrogant because at one time, you were at the bottom of the ladder,
God in his infinite mercy has lifted you up. You shouldn’t forget that. Always
look down and remember people you left at the bottom of that ladder, because no
matter how long it takes, you will still come back and meet them because there
is no condition that is permanent in life”  
(You can reach Hajia Zuwaira Gambo through www.hopeinitiative.info)
Hajia Zuwaira Gambo with some friends at a public function in Minna
Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, Founder, Hope Initiatives For The Vulnerable and Marginalized(HIVAM)