‘Unless We Take Family Responsibilities Serious, Social Problems Would Persist’
Out of 31 members of Bauchi State House of Assembly, Maryam Garba Bagel, representing Dass Constituency is the only woman, having defeated former deputy speaker of the State’s House of Assembly in the April election. The young lawmaker told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE that her major preoccupation is making herself a role model for future female political aspirants.
HOW are you coping as the only woman in the midst of 30 men?
As funny as it sounds, I am the only woman in the midst of 30 men in the State House of Assembly. Six of us contested the primary election. Five of them were men and I won the primaries. The delegates wanted me and they voted for me.
How were you able to finance your campaign and election?
Actually at a stage, no matter how small, you cannot do it without money because you need it for logistics. This is one of the issues affecting women in politics. People often believe in sponsoring male candidates because they feel that they will recoup their money when such aspirants win. Nobody wants to sponsor women because they do not believe women can win the election easily like men.
Nobody wants to invest where he cannot reap. But thank God because when no one comes out to sponsor you, they will not begin to issue instructions when you win. I think women group should do more to support women aspirants because it is not easy for women financially. No matter how small, they must spend money.
Were your husband and family members supportive of your ambition?
I never discussed my political ambition with my family until I got the form, filled and returned it. They know me as a determined person who always go for what she wants. So, I felt they would distract me. My family would naturally want to discourage me if I discuss it with them. It was after submitting the form that I told them and they were shocked. My sister did not speak with me until I won the primaries.
But I understand their fears. Whatever negative comments people make on the social media about me affects them emotionally and psychologically. And that was exactly what every other family are worried about and the reason you do not see many women in politics. Every family wants to protect their women from name-calling and others. But after winning the primary election, my family supported me fully.
Have you been in politics for long?
I have never been in politics until now, although I have been a development worker for the past 15 years. I have been in community health and education, working with international non-governmental organizations. I can tell you that those were some of the things that made me develop interest in politics because for long, I have been working and I have seen how things were supposed to be done, how government should be ran and what the people should expect from the government. So, I felt that with this experience, I could make a difference if I am on the other side.
How was the election won?
One of the reasons was that people were desperate for change because the previous government failed the people. So, people wanted to relax their tension by allowing change to take place. When I was campaigning, I was surprised at the level of acceptance. People were saying that as a woman, they were sure I would not fail them. It was the failure of the former government that gave people the idea not to stick to one side, to give room for change to happen. Also, because of my background in the NGO, they saw me as someone who has been contributing to community development. They saw me as somebody who can make a change.
Any plan to sponsor gender-related bills?
Definitely. Although there were many gender-bills passed by the previous Assembly, which were not assented to by the governor. This was generally due to lack of understanding of the content of the bills. People had mindset about certain things and unless you explain things to them, they tend to ignore such bills. Now, I feel it is my duty as a woman in the House and also the Chairperson, Committee on Women Affairs, to put my colleagues in my shoes to understand why some of those women-centered bills need to be passed and signed into law.