My name is Mrs. Zainab A. Suleiman-Takura a civil servant with the Federal Government of Nigeria from the Idah Local Government Area of Kogi State. My father was Late Capt. Suleiman Ogbotobo and my mother is Mrs. Kaka Amina Suleiman. I was born in Bida Army barracks, Minna, Niger State, precisely on May 20, 1985.
What position are you in your family?
I’m from a polygamous family. My father married two wives. My mother is the second wife. I am the twelfth of my father’s 16 children and fifth of my mother’s.
Where and when did you school?
I attended various primary schools due to my dad’s military career as a soldier moving us from barracks to barracks. But I was able to finish my primary education at the Army Children’s School Bida from where I proceeded to Command Secondary School, Lokoja and still due to the transfers; I completed my secondary school here in Abuja at the Government Secondary School Gwagwalada.
I actually wrote JAMB five times, it wasn’t as if I failed, the system then was until you know somebody that know somebody you wouldn’t get admission, so I couldn’t get admission into any university until they began the post UTME system. When my admission eventually came to the glory of God, I had admission to three different universities but I chose the University of Abuja.
I was a sports person from time so I represented every school I attended from primary to secondary through university. At the primary school I was an all rounder in athletics and in secondary school I played football that I even had to represent Bassa local government. I represented UniAbuja in volleyball at the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA). These sporting activities made it a lot easier for me to secure accommodation in the university. While I was in school I learnt catering and also tailoring, today most of the cloths I wear are made by me, it even helps in the family. That was how I completed my university and with the encouragement of my husband I also got a second degree, a Masters in International Relations from Nasarawa State University.
When did you start building your career?
I had from a very tender age loved becoming a better person so I tried to do my best even from the sporting activities I frequently involved in. Today I am a civil servant with the same determination to do even better. During my service year, I served with Debt Management Office (DMO). I was opportune to work and learn from highly professional women, my director then was a very young woman from the core north and working with people like her made me begin to think deeper on how I too could add more value to my life. I began to emulate most of the ideals I saw in her to also carve a notch for myself.
Who taught you?
During my primary school days I remember Mrs. Ikushanu and Mr. Adams. Ikushanu is a Yoruba woman they both helped me understood the importance of education growing up as a child and that helped me to do well during my foundational classes.
Who is your mentor?
I have many mentors. My mentors are my mum and my elder sisters Mrs. Miriam Ibrahim and Mrs. Ramatu A. D. They both influenced me a lot as I usually looked up to them for guidance growing up.
What is your inspiration?
My driving force is my late dad and presently my husband. My dad used to teach us discipline and hard work as a soldier, it really helped me a lot growing up. My husband is a book worm, as a lawyer he reads a lot and also encourages me to do the same. So, this basically gave me the strength I needed to achieve great things in life.
What are your dreads and fears in life?
My fears growing up as a child in the barrack was seeing all that was going on in the barracks then; the girls dropping out of school, little school children joining dangerous gangs and so on. So my fear was just a general dread for failure. I wasn’t ready to be added to the long list of girls of my age bracket that dropped out of school for one reason or the other. It is not as if there wasn’t any thing good about the barracks but those were my real fears.
What were your challenges?
I think my greatest challenge then was that my dad when he was much younger he had all it take to train some of my eldest siblings, even sending some to study abroad, but some of us were not that lucky so we managed the level of education he could afford for us at his old age. When you have so much that you want to do and the means isn’t there, you are compelled to manage what you have. That sort of limitation I could go.
What are your regrets?
My regrets are basically some of the things I failed to do. Because of fear I didn’t do some things I was supposed to do and that was because I didn’t have proper guidance. Now that I know better, I regret not doing them then. Some negative people with negative mindset put a whole lot of fear in me at a much younger age that affected some of the decisions I ended up making in life. But all things being equal we still give thanks to God.
How are you now different from other women?
When I look back I see a whole lot of people that we started together, so many dropped, so many didn’t make it up to where I am today. Other women my age are still wallowing in illiteracy. I know I am better because of my decision to go to school and study regardless of the odds against the average girl child in the North and that alone makes me give thanks to God for it.
What is your future plan?
I aspire to go further and even get better; I aspire to pursue my career as a civil servant up to the zenith of it. I actually do aspire to set up an NGO in the future to look into the challenge of right abuses especially like the ones facing the girl child in the North hoping that it will help correct the situation some day. A lot of women today need this kind of encouragement at least so that they know they’re not alone in whatever situation they seem to be passing through.
How do you combine your business, work and family life?
I will say it’s not easy but it is all about determination. My husband, Barrister J. J Sukura, has been a wonderful person. He has been my friend all along. We started as friends and then went into a relationship and ended up marrying. He has really been helpful in my efforts to combine my work, family and career. None of these could have been possible without his support and understanding.
What’s your advice to fellow women?
Women need not wait for anybody; wherever you are you must make efforts to educate yourself. It is even very important in being educated to be able to raise your children in this modern world.
If you’re educated even if you’re not a civil servant you can at least pursue any ambition and become a better person in life or even in business. Even at home even if you need to advise your children. What can you tell them when you’re not educated?
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