… Aisha Yusufu, a rare gem, and Asset to Nigeria
By Mercy Hill
This week on Inspirational Personality page, we are excited to be able to show the world the variety and many sides of what it truly means to be a Nigerian female.
Unlike what they used to be known for, Nigerian women all over the world today, are in politics, human right activism, business, social enterprise, public policy, the corporate space, the creative sector is present, and are redefining what leadership and excellence mean.
This reflects that diversity and acts as a spur to inspire a new generation of female changemakers, visionaries, and pacesetters. This year, we have seen and heard of women who have created their niches and are actively changing the status quo, fighting biases, and expanding insights.
This same year we have celebrated and recognized the contributions as well as the impact of Nigerian women such as Rita Orji, Busola Dakolo, Adeola Olubamiji, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala etc., who had made us proud not only locally but making landslide achievements on the international sphere.
Yet again, we have of recent heard of a young enthusiast, Nigerian woman, social and political activist who came to prominence for her role in speaking up for the abducted Chibok schoolgirls in 2014- Aisha Yesufu. Aisha Yesufu was the co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girl (BBOG) campaign that tirelessly held protests demanding for the rescue of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists in Chibok. She also began the #Endsars, #Endbadgovernance peaceful protest that exploded in Nigeria.
Aisha Yesufu’s Childhood (this interview was culled from Guardian and Business.ng)
Aisha Yesufu was born in December 1974, and raised in Kano State, though she is originally from Agbede in Etsako West of Edo state. Her parents were poor. Aisha described where she grew up as a ghetto.
She said: “Where I grew up in Kano State can be compared to a ghetto. In fact, some people call it the Ajegunle of Kano where you have a lot of drug users, street children, Almajiris, and using drugs was very normal over there. If you were not into drugs in that area, you were an odd person.”
Aisha Yesufu’s Education
Aisha Yesufu said she was determined to go to school despite how difficult it was for girl children living in northern Nigeria to go to school. She said: “By the time I was 11 years old, I did not have any female friends because all of them had been married off but I wanted to be educated and leave the ghetto.”
She initially got admission into the Uthman Dan Fodio University in 1992 but later left the school after a crisis and enrolled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to study Medicine. Aisha Yesufu left Ahmadu Bello University again after the school was closed following the murder of a professor in 1994.
Aisha Yesufu finally completed her tertiary education at Bayero University, Kano, where she graduated with a degree in Microbiology. Yesufu won the award for humanitarian services during her Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1999 and she also emerged as Guardian newspaper’s voice of humanity in 2019. Aisha decided to give back to her society in 2014 and the protest at the Nigerian National Assembly in Abuja on 30th April 2014 was just her starting point.
Aisha Yesufu’s work profile
Aisha Yesufu is a businesswoman and married (to Mr Aliu Yesufu) with two kids. She said she has never worked for anyone and do not intend to. She said: “After my schooling, I went into business, I have never worked for anyone in my life and I never intend to.
I have been doing business since 2000; I started my business after school, and it became my focus.” Currently, she is the founder of Citizens Hub, a non-for-profit organization that seeks to build a solution driven and dynamic approach to building a financially independent, active, and responsible citizenry.
Aisha Yesufu’s work on Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG)
Talking about her involvement in the Chibok girls’ campaign, Aisha Yesufu said she saw her speaking up for the kidnapped Chibok girls as an avenue to give back to her society.
She said: “I remember that I was at the gym with a friend who told me that later that day, she was going for a protest because of the abducted Chibok girls. I asked for the colour they were wearing, and she said red. Since I did not have a red hijab, I decided to buy one that day.
I called my husband to inform him of my decision and he supported me; that was how it started. When the Chibok girls’ incident happened, I was already set to give back to my society and I saw that as an avenue.”
Yesufu has organized and led over a hundred protest marches in Nigeria, demanding social justice, respect for the rule of law, respect for democratic norms and Nigeria’s constitution, an end to endemic corruption and political persecution of dissidents.
She has endured persecution by security agents and other government agencies for these actions, but she believes that Nigeria is worth fighting for. In her words, “I would never give up on Nigeria no matter what it throws at me. I owe it to unborn generations on their way to Nigeria and I will continue to fight for Nigeria just as I wished others had fought for me before I came to be Nigerian.”
Yesufu’s utmost desire is to see Nigeria become a country where ‘’the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody’’. When asked about her opinion on being able to lend her voice to issues around the country, she had this to say, “Is the opportunity worth it?
Maybe it is because I have no attachment to anything, even life itself. What I am never ready to lose is my worth, dignity, integrity, and character. If I lose everything and must sell pure water, I will carry it on my head with dignity, and character intact.”
She also said, “I want a level playing ground for everybody where the woman who sells groundnuts or is frying akara or the motorcyclists that are working hard to send their children to school should be able to get jobs based on their capacity and ability and not on who they know.”
Now to our readers, what captures me most in Mrs Yesufu’s story is the fact that she is from a background where women are given little or no opportunity to gain formal education, denied opportunity to participate in matters that concern politics and activism but she had gone against all odds to single herself out in ensuring she makes a difference. We are convinced that she is achieving that already.
Her pictures of her hand up, her fist thrown to the air and strong activism from the protests have earned her the respect of many Nigerians and many have tagged her pictures as ‘the Nigerian statue of liberty’. We at Inspirational Personality Page, tag her “our woman crush for the week” because, for us, her story tells of the typical and super Nigerian woman, who is always ready to defend what she believes in.
Dear Inspirational Personality page followers, do you know that there is something you can do, to better the cause of positivity in Nigeria?