Dr. Hajo Sani is a silent achiever in every sense of the word. She is an educationist, author and policy analyst. She served as the second minister in the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development from 1997 to 1998.
After that, she founded Women and National Development (WAND), an NGO that focuses on the education of the girl- child as antidote to the numerous problems and obstacles facing women.
She was elected Secretary General of the West African Women Association (WAWA), in 2003. She joined the Society for Family Health (SFH) in 2003, the largest NGO focusing on public Health issues in Nigeria since 2003.
While speaking on her childhood, she said, she had a humble beginning with sound educational background, very rare privilege for the girl-child coming from her part of the country. She enjoyed the love and care of her parents, Alhaji Umaru Maina- Danmalikin Mubi Emirate and Hajia Zainab Maina a prominent woman leader. Till today, her parents remain strong pillars in her life.
Her father was very concerned about her spending long years in school before getting married. But fate allayed those fears. She got married early and continued with her education to a very high level.
She started her education in Unguwan Sarki Primary school, Kaduna to class six. In 1970, her parents were transferred to Ankpa in the old Kwara State (now Kogi State) where she completed her primary education in a Roman Catholic Mission School.
Her secondary education was also in a famous mission school, Ochaja Secondary School still in Kogi State-Igalaland. She has so many childhood friends from there. One of them, Mrs Abeni Ilona from Idah has remained close to her from their first day in the college.
To be married and educated is a matter of determination on one’s part and spousal understanding and support on the other. In this century, women all over the world are doing well in all spheres of development. What is required is the enabling environment to excel to contribute more to national development.
She remembers with nostalgia how combining motherhood with her studies prevented her from enjoying the social aspect of university life like most of her contemporaries. But with her children, she feels blessed for having them early and thinks it was a worthy sacrifice.
As an author, she does not share in the view that Nigerian literature is going down. Her opinion is that new writers now are writing better works than their predecessors. “Why people are still valorising the canon is because we are used to them. But, to me, we have wonderful set of (especially) novelists and poets in Nigeria now. The only setback is that people are not reading most of them due to promotional and marketing impediments. Once the publishers begin to do what they are supposed to do, the writers will be widely read and appreciated more”, she said.
Sani thinks that Nigerian women are very resourceful; determined and committed to the course of the nation but lack goodwill from the men. “The political atmosphere is very tight and the men are very slow towards giving space in politics for women to go up.
“However, the women in leadership positions are striving hard and exhibiting such qualities that eventually will make it possible for power to come to us. However, sincerely speaking, I think it will take a while”, she said.
She believes that in comparative analysis, women in Nigeria face more challenges politically than those in Liberia where the scenario is different. “In Nigeria, there are credible women with such potentials to climb the number one seat but the ladder is still steep. It will only take a while but she believes it will happen.”
To achieve that, women need to come together, strategize and form a critical mass. This, according to her, one day; “a woman will lead this country and when it happens, the nation will attain the highest level of development.”
She is so particularly passionate about the issue of the girl child education because of the importance of education to women which is a direct beneficiary. As an educationist, she grew in the teaching career in an exclusive girls’ school and saw in these young girls the dreams and aspirations of future women leaders.
“The educational system should open up more opportunities for the girl-child to excel through gender friendly policies, implementation of policies that increases enrolment, retention and withdrawal of the girl- child for whatever reasons should be taken seriously”, she advised.
It was her desire to contribute in this area, that made her to establish a non-governmental organisation, NGO called Women and National Development (WAND) in 2001.
The focus of WAND is supporting girls’ education based on policy thrust: Education for Greater Participation. WAND has implemented a number of projects such as preparatory classes for certificate examination for girls, payment of examination fees, provision of uniforms, books and donation of teaching aids to female schools, among others.
Her interest in writing stemmed from that of reading. As a youth, she read a lot on fiction, history, current affairs, and books of different religions, everything on paper. She engaged in a number of literary works, presentation of papers, produced journals and edited magazines.
While in GGSS Dutse, she set up a literary society that produced the best school magazine: The Flash. In 2001, her first published book, ‘Women and National Development- The Way Forward’ was presented to the public. The NERDC of Federal Ministry of Education assessed and recommended it for use in higher institutions. It is also being used in two universities of Ohio and Illinois in the United States for African Studies.
“For me, this is a great achievement which has encouraged me to write more. I also co-authored many books on education. One was edited by resource unit of University of Jos, on Gender Mainstreaming in Higher Education. The main thrust of my writing is to make women’s work and achievements visible because with visibility comes power”.
“I always advise the younger generation not to (be in a) hurry in life. Slow and steady make a long journey (easier). To achieve that requires humility, commitment, determination and focus. Always aspire to be the change agent, to contribute your quota to national development”, she said.
She is a holder of the prestigious national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON.