Amina Yahaya is the first female Students’ Union Government (SUG) of the Usumanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto and second in Northern Nigeria after 30 years. In this chat with ENE OSANG she expressed disappointment over female students’ acceptance of stereotype positions in politics.
Amina Yahaya, a Sokoto state indigene, born in the 90’s is the third child in a family of four children. She attended the Federal Government College Sokoto (FGCS) Staff Primary School, and afterwards moved to FGCS for her secondary school education.
She was a member of the Nigeria Children’s Parliament as a Senator representing Sokoto state before she turned 18.
She studied English language at the University and graduated in 2016 after her reign as the first female students’ union government of the institution and second in Northern Nigeria after 30 years.
She is on her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Abuja. She is an ambassador and volunteer of MMAWT Legacy Initiative, a member of the Young Women in Politics Forum among other organisations.
According to her, the experience at the International Republican Institute (IRI) Academy helped her realise that complaining and refusing to participate does not change anything, rather it makes an already bad situation worse.
She decided to take issues of governance and leadership more seriously because it affects everything around her, the budding politician stated.
“My interest in politics grew gradually. it was triggered by an event actually because back in school (university), I was involved in campus politics but not Nigerian politics.
“In fact, politics was a topic I always avoided because I just wasn’t interested and it all seemed like a waste of time to me because I felt that at the end, our leaders will still do as they please.
“However, my interest in politics grew after my participation in IRI (International Republican Institute) Women and Youth Political Leadership academy.
“I learnt a lot of new things about the dynamics of Nigerian politics; the political process, internal party democracy and even the party politics. These things were all new to me and I found them very interesting,” she said.
“I started updating myself on news in the political realm, reading books and doing researches. When I heard about the launching of the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign, I immediately keyed-in and supported the move. As it is now, politics is one of my favourite topics of discussion,” she added.
Experience as SUG president
“The experience was overwhelming. it tested my patience on different occasions and my ability to multi task and not lose track of my academics.
“Often times, the challenge was between doing right by the students and at the same time trying to maintain a cordial relationship with the school authority.
“I have never believed in using force and sometimes it is difficult to convince fellow students that you are working towards bringing solution to an issue.
“Most of them prefer a fire-brigade approach to every matter which is not my style because it often leads to regrettable decisions.”
Speaking further on her experience, she said: “I also had to deal with the issue of inferiority complex from some male students as they never failed to make me know that they were unhappy to have a female president.
“Combining campus politics and academics is truly not an easy task but it is possible. In all, it was tough and fun at the same time. Tough because a lot of things were involved.
“I was in my final year in school, I had my project to work on and I didn’t want any of the areas to suffer, so striking a balance between when to study, when to do project work and still attend to student issues was a challenge.”
According to her, the experience, “However, helped me learn a few new things about working under pressure and multi-tasking and time management. Trust me without these it would have been bad.
“I think I did well in all areas at the end; I completed my project successfully, graduated with a second-class upper honour and still completed my tenure without issues.
“On the other hand, being president was fun because it came with a lot of recognition, from the school, my friends, family, organisations and even people I didn’t know.
“I became some sort of celebrity doing interviews on TV, newspapers and more. Most importantly, I am glad that my story became an inspiration to many within and outside my vicinity.”
Mentoring female students
Amina, who expressed optimism that more female SUG would emerge in various institutions, however said, “there is a limit to what I can do as a person.”
The student union activist further stated, “Taking my own institution as a case study, I had thought my emergence would pave way for other females in the school because many of them showed that they were proud of me and congratulated me then.
“However, close to the time of the election, it was still the same SUG Vice President 1 and Treasurer that the females contested for. In fact, both came out unopposed.
“Though there were some other factors that contributed but it makes it difficult to pin down the exact cause of the lack of interest.”
She maintained that, “For any female who wants to be a leader on her campus in any capacity, I am ready to fully support such aspirant to the last day.
“All you need do is be focused, arm yourself with information and see it through to the end.”
Plans for politics/leadership
On her plans for politics and leadership, he said, “For now, I am more interested in how I can help towards ensuring that more women and youths get a place in leadership of this country.
“I do it because I am passionate about the issues that affect these groups. If I am going to contest or not whether soon or in the future, you will definitely find out.”
Challenges of cultural and religious inhibitions against women
On issues of cultural and religious inhibitions against women, she said: “I don’t believe in always conforming to the norms especially when it is harmful to those who follow.
“Being seen and not heard means you can’t speak out for yourself or others, even on issues and decisions that affects you. I think for me it’s just who I am by nature, I may take time before making up my mind on issues but once I do, I see it through to the end.
“I am persistent when I want something and I don’t stop until I get it as long as it is not something bad or that is against my beliefs and principles and doesn’t involve being disrespectful. I am not saying that it is a completely smooth ride but as long as you know where you are going, society shouldn’t decide on your behalf.”
Girl-child education in northern Nigeria
Accessing girl-child education in northern Nigeria, Amina said: “It has been difficult but I think there has been a lot of improvement over the years.
“Gone are the days when people held on to the story of education being for the boy alone. Many have come to realise its importance and significance to our country.
“So, even though the enrollment could be low compared to other parts of the country, I think more girls are in school now compared to some years ago. As it is now, the issue of girl child education is global and every nation is taking it seriously.
“For example, in Sokoto state where I come from there has been special emphasis on the girl child education drive from the government and even international and local organisations. No nation can prosper without quality education for both boys and girls.”