BY AMINA SALIHU
Dear Mallam Jibo, I feel particularly humbled writing you this letter, as my teacher at the Ahmadu Bello University, and my civil society mentor. I believe that there are two people in one’s life, that you could never grow up to; your mother and your teacher. How can you, when they were at your becoming, and molded you, providing the seed grant for your enterprise, however grand it may now be. Mallam Jibo, you have been a fantastic mentor, giving me the three key resources of knowledge, opportunity and the right values.
In 2003, you didn’t judge whether I could write or not, instead, you guided my hand, by setting me the task of coordinating the reflection project, which culminated in the landmark ‘red book,’ women marginalization and politics in Nigeria, which we co-edited, among other collaborations. That experience taught me what can happen when others have faith in you. Mallam Jibo, will always have my gratitude.
You are a friend of the women’s movement. You were, without a doubt, one of our friends on the Justice Uwais led electoral reform panel in 2008, through whom the Gender and Electoral Memorandum (GEM) platform, pushed for women’s rights responsive proposals. Your life is full of lessons for the movement too. You have shown that there is no substitute for nurturing early confidence in a younger person, especially young women, who must be enabled to try, and to soar, unhindered. Your ability to analyze in a clear, logical but straightforward manner; and to network, to persistently and passionately lend voice to critical issues; to be firm and yet fair-minded enough to weigh other points of view and to find the courage to take a stand with conviction, are invaluable lessons.
By far, your greatest gift is your wry sense of humor, evident in the witty way you summarise situations, with perfect cadence and timing, such that your towering intellectual strength and yet rooted humanness, can both not be denied. Life is essential you seem to say, but it must not be taken too seriously. It must be lived and savored. For example, your love for roast fish is legendary. One evening in Keffi, Nasarawa state, during the November 2018 Marxism conference, I saw you, changed into shorts and a shirt, heading away from the hotel. To my inquiry of ‘Mallam, where are going?’, You answered ‘the best fish in town is served not too far from here.’ I further asked ‘really, how did you find that out? You simply answered ‘research.’
How can I close without thanking you and my dear sister, Charmaine, for your profound kindness, 18 years ago? I was miles away from home with not one diaper when my water broke. Abuja then, was not what it is today. In 2001, it was hard to find and locate a good hospital, and when we saw one, it turned out I was given adulterated oxytocin, to induce birth. I languished for two days until the error was discovered. That is a story for another day, but I probably would not be writing this letter today, if you both had not come to my rescue. I came to Abuja to the first civil society meeting on the violence against women bill and went home with a tiny baby. That child Samir, would be 14 years old before the law will be passed in 2015. It became the Violence Against Persons’ Prohibition (VAPP) Act, in a watered down version of what we had initially advocated for. In our kind of country, that is still a victory.
Thank you Mallam Jibo for being you. May the years be long and even more vibrant, may your golden voice continue to unmake the barriers and open new pathways for more women and their communities.
Happy International Women’s Day. May every day be women’s day, someday. #BalanceForBetter. Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.