By Mairo Muhammad Mudi
Dr. Amina Abubakar Sani Bello could be rightly regarded as one of the very few individuals on whom God has showered His favours. Many equally favoured take undisguised delight in ostentatiously adorning themselves with this gift and treating others, not so favoured, with condescension. But Dr. Amina stands out as a remarkable exception. She, despite being so richly blessed, chose to be lowly about everything, especially her personality.
Today marks yet another milestone in her existence as she adds another year to her life. Dr. Amina from Niger State was born 48 years ago in Benin to a military father and a mother who was a judge. If you should interview her on her personality a hundred times, this is the answer you will get. She would neither tell you the name of her father nor that of her mother, who both happened to be well known even beyond the shores of this country.
For the past three years that I have known her and monitored her birthdays, I have never seen her have a publicised or preplanned birthday celebration, what many in her class would so readily, eagerly and gladly do. It has always taken the form of one surprise celebration or the other by her staff and members of her NGO. In their constant search for memorability, they kept coming up with different ideas to make the event surprising.
Last year’s was really dramatic as she came to her office and met AFAWSON members (an association of wives of political office holders in the state) with cake and some little gifts here and there. She was overwhelmed and couldn’t hold back the tears of joy that flowed freely from her eyes. She was so full of gratitude that some of them were stunned beyond words by her reaction towards the effort they regarded as insignificant because they felt it was incommensurate with her status.
These and many more reasons are what endeared her to many around her. She is not the type to raise her voice, barking orders at her staff, neither is she abusive towards her staff and those around her. She jokes and laughs a lot even with those she is meeting for the first time.
I believe there are a lot of reasons why Dr. Amina should be celebrated, and the fact that she opts to go lowly shouldn’t be a reason for us to keep mute. The fact that she refused blowing her trumpet and kept seeing her achievements as nothing special is what keeps giving me the courage to celebrate her.
Anyone who knows her would congratulate me for having a field day on her without being interrupted. If I was holding a mic and saying all this in the public sphere, she would have protested, but now it is just me, my pen and my editor.
You are a daughter to the much respected former Head of State, General AbdulSalam Abubakar and a retired Chief Judge, Justice Fati AbdulSalam Abubakar. Even though you take exception to this being considered an achievement and not worth mentioning because it is something very private, I beg to differ because a child’s attitude is always seen as the parents’ handiwork.
You are the wife of the Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sank Bello, the First Lady and mother to all Nigerlites. Many others and I are celebrating you today because you are a medical doctor. Doctors, especial females, are usually celebrated considering the fact that it is not easy becoming one and we have a short supply of them in our region.
You are not just an ordinary doctor but a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with a Master’s degree in Public Health and an advocate for the reproductive health rights of women.
She is also the founder of RAiSE Foundation, a nongovernmental organisation whose vision is of a Nigeria where no woman dies from pregnancy related causes. Her work at the foundation has led her to become intimately involved with plight of women with varying reproductive health issues, especially women with obstetric fistula, breast and cervical cancer.
My reason for celebration is because she has organised several Vesico Vaginal Fistula camps where 226 patients in Niger state have had free repairs and have been reintegrated into the society. The flagship intervention for the foundation is ensuring women deliver safely in the hospital. She does this by advocacy, sensitisation, intervention, training of skilled birth attendants and providing safe delivery kits for pregnant women.
Her Foundation unveiled a cancer screening centre, the first of its kind in Niger state dedicated to early detection and preventive therapy of breast and cervical cancer. She has conducted free breast cancer screenings for over 5, 229 women and 4, 076 women for cervical cancer. Her foundation has helped with treatment of those who require further diagnosis and treatment.
She is also involved in cancer awareness programs with series of events that include public lectures on cancer and awareness treks to raise funds for the treatment of cancer patients. Her foundation is set to create mini screening centres across the three senatorial zones of Niger State.
She is passionate about projects that directly affect women positively and is involved in empowerment schemes for women and education for the girl child. Her Foundation has empowered about 500 women cooperative groups that are involved in agricultural activities in Niger State. Her Foundation has procured and distributed multi-purpose crop milling and threshing machines to 50 women co-operatives. I am a witness to where many women from my local government who I identified myself benefited immensely. I am also a case study where she keeps pushing and encouraging on my write-ups and broadcasting. I can’t remember the last time I published a new work but because of her push, five of my books will soon be on the shelf. This is how she gives push to women around her and the entire state.
Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello’s Foundation has provided emergency tricycle ambulances to the 25 Local Government Areas of the State to convey pregnant women to the hospital to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.
In collaboration with some partners, she has trained women and youth in tailoring, decoration, embellishment and briquette making.
She has also established RAiSE Foundation skill acquisition centre where women and youth have been trained in tailoring, embellishments, bead work and leather work.
Her Foundation has conducted free Medical outreaches across Niger State where over 17, 338 people were treated for different ailments while those who required surgeries or further medical attention were referred and their bills paid by the Foundation.
She has done several research works on several aspects of maternal mortality and reproductive health. She has done some work on unsafe abortion, family planning and primary health care centres. She further strengthens her knowledge by undertaking courses and attending seminars around the globe. She holds membership of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) and Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria (SOGON), she is also a Member West African College of Surgeons and a member of African Institute of Public Health Professionals (AIPHP).
She serves on the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group for the cervical cancer elimination initiative.
She is the Chairperson Northern Governor’s Wives Forum.
Dr. Bello still works twice a week at the General Hospital Minna.
When in an interview, I asked her of her ambition considering the many calls by women for her to join politics, she said she can’t join politics because she doesn’t have the patience which she said she lacks. She said she is just looking forward to going back to work in the hospital and improve her foundation where its services she hopes to reach all the remote areas of not only Niger state but the whole nation.
I beg to disagree with her Excellency on her reason against joining politics because I was one of the attendants at a town hall meeting organised for her to meet with women politicians and wives of politicians in the state. One woman leader from one of the local governments took over the stage and talked very disrespectfully to the first lady while accusing her of being partial against the women leaders who worked to see them there. The hall was silent and some of her colleagues tried to take the mic from her but Her Excellency insisted that she should be allowed to say what was in her mind because as she put it, that was why she called for the meeting. When that woman finished talking, the embarrassed women leaders went to the first lady to apologise for what their colleague did but she told them she was not offended rather grateful to the woman for saying what she said there which would give her an opportunity to explain the rationale behind her decision to help those women that the woman leader felt they were favoured by the first lady against the women leaders. She explained that, the women were the ones that actually worked at the pulling unit and she promised to see that, they were not forgotten after the elections were won. She described what those women were getting as stipends as against the women leaders who were even on monthly allowances. This was news to most women, most especially wives of the politicians who got tired of hearing that nothing was being done for those who worked tirelessly for their husbands to succeed. For me it was not the grievances forwarded by this woman but how she had the audacity to face the first lady which sat quietly with expressionless face listening until the woman had her fill.
I came out from the hall to get fresh air and saw two women who called me to join them. They asked me of my opinion against what that woman did since they were aware that, I was close to the said woman. I told them I would talk to her on how to treat people with courtesy.
One of them said, the woman was lucky, the first lady is patient and could tolerate such behaviour pointing out that was not the first time she was being rude to the first lady.
The other one said jokingly that the first lady was behaving as if she is not the daughter of a General.
I brought this scenario to dispute your point of not being patient enough to get involved in politics.
At the risk of trying hard to convince you to join politics which I myself don’t like, I will, your Excellency point it out to you that through politics in an executive or legislative position, you can easily achieve your ambition of seeing that, no woman’s life is lost during pregnancy or labour throughout the Nation.
You can turn against politics for some reason but definitely not on the basis of lack of patience.
As I wish you many happy returns in good health and more record of successes, I pray for God’s abundance blessings and reward for the heart of gold you possess.
Happy birthday Ma.