Auwal Ibrahim Musa who is the executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Chairman of Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), is a human rights activist with several feathers to his cap. In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, he talks about love for his work, his challenges, passions and lessons learned among other things.
Take us through your journey of success?
I am full of appreciation to Allah, my parents, teachers, activists, mentors, friends and colleagues who provided me with the great upbringing, support, knowledge and resources to be one of the civil Society leaders in Nigeria and west Africa leading serious organisations like CISLAC, Amnesty International-Nigeria, Transparency International-Nigeria, Zero Corruption Coalition(ZCC).
My successful leadership within Civil Society Community gives me the opportunity to expand and replicate creation of CISLAC in USA and the Great Britain by carrying my work in a very credible and accountable manner which continues to encourage more donors and partners to work with us.
I am also happy to mentor other people in a very transparent and accountable manner by giving opportunities for many Nigerians to work with the various organisations I am leading. CISLAC is one of the few organisations in Nigeria that started within two months of its formation and got funding from donors and still continues to access funding, being welcomed by both the people, government and development partners.
Currently both local and international staff contribute to support and strengthen our institutions for effectiveness. But importantly helping Nigerians and Nigeria to overcome its developmental challenges with a desire to have good governance and responsible democratic institutions where rule of law, transparency and accountable leadership is the norm.
What inspired you into this great work as an activist?
I was inspired by Mallam Aminu who fought for social justice and inequality and democratic values championing the downtrodden masses to have decent living conditions.
This is what inspires me to continue with such a noble cause from my student days from the University where I was elected as one of the student leaders in Bayero University Kano Executive Committee Members and subsequently got elected into the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS ) in 1991/1992 as Assistant Secretary General, where we continued to fight for students welfare, funding for university, improvement of our University lecturers conditions of service, military rule termination and democratisation of Nigeria.
Thereafter, when I left the university I was invited by our mentors in the university and Human Rights movement particularly Comrade YZ Ya’u, Late Emma Ezeazu, late Chima Ubani, late Bamidele Aturu, Professor Attahiru Jega the immediate INEC chairman and Chom Bagu who were very supportive to our students struggle in the university.
They formed an organisation called community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP)and Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) they got us to continue to work on Human Rights and social justice. Some of us were sent to CAPP like myself, Hussaini Abdu, late Joseph Mamam, Adagbo Onoja and late Reuben Ziri. Other activists like Naseer Kura, Steve Aluko, Omolade Adembi , Mamud Aminu were sent to CLO.
What are you most passionate about?
I am very passionate about my work which is struggle for social justice, human rights and Anti-Corruption, good governance, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nigeria as well as Africa.
If you can change anything what would it be?
I want to change the level of violence, corruption, human rights violations/abuse of rule of law, poverty, unemployment and lack of equal opportunity for Nigerians. Equally important, I want our public institutions to work including quality healthcare, educational and other social services with strong security and safety for Nigerians.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am from Kano city, I am happily married with three kids. My wife is very supportive and hardworking, she provides moral upbringing in the family.
What genre of music do you listen to and why?
I do not listen to music often but from time to time I listen to the legendary Fela. I love Fela’s music because his songs are more of preaching, his songs remind us to be more responsible in our obligations as citizens and as government.
What major lessons have you learned so far?
One of the major lessons I have learned is being honest, sincere, committed and always speaks the truth to power and also lead by example. Being consistent and doing the right thing gives you credibility and acceptance from the general public and I am glad that my mentors have helped to direct me into what I am doing since my university days. My involvement in some of the mass democratic organisations like Women In Nigeria (WIN), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Campaign for Democracy (CD)Democratic Alternative and United Action For Democracy now Amnesty International-Nigeria And Transparency International, have fully prepared me for the credible and transparent leadership in Nigeria and at the west Africa where I led west African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) a regional organisation created by Heads of State of West Africa ECOWAS.
My immediate organisation where I also invited to Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) under the leadership of late Dr. Tajudeen AbdulRaheem ,late Professor Abubakar Momoh, Dr. Kayode Fayemi the current Ekiti state Governor, Dr. Kole Shattima , Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, have equally led to what I have become today as a development activist.
And my eventual formation of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) which is non-governmental, non-profit legislative advocacy, information sharing and research organisation, arising from the need to address defects in the legislative advocacy work of civil society and open the window through which legislators can also access civil society groups. It aims to strengthen the work of Civil Society on Legislative Advocacy and bridge the gap between legislators and the Civil Society.
The formation of CISLAC arose from the context of the fact that the return to civilian rule in Nigeria was achieved largely by the struggles of the organisations of Civil Society especially the Human Rights and pro-democracy groups. Many activists lost their lives in the demonstrations, and sometimes, violent eruptions which characterised agitation for democracy and the opening of the democratic space in the context of authoritarian military rule and dictatorship.
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is currently one of the major civil society organisations in Nigeria with a primary focus on legislation and legislative processes. CISLAC is also engaged in policy/legislative advocacy, civil society capacity building and media engagement.
CISLAC works to train and enlighten civil society on policymaking, the responsibilities of the legislature, and the existing policies and legislations affecting Nigerian citizens. It also aims to ensure that the legislature at local, state and federal levels are aware of their relationships with other government bodies and have a responsibility of acting as a voice for the people.
As a renowned CSO in Legislative advocacy in the region, CISLAC has on several occasions shared its experience on best practices for legislative advocacy on invitation from its international partners such as the World Bank Parliamentary Forum and the United Nations Millennium Campaign/Sustainable Development Goals in African countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Similarly, Ghana, Kenya, and Democratic Republic of Congo have also requested support from CISLAC for replication of its work in Legislative advocacy. In many West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, Niger, Togo and Benin Republic, CISLAC has carried out experience sharing and advocacy exercises on the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative processes through supporting the passage of extractive industry initiative laws in these countries. CISLAC also undertakes capacity building for legislators, CSOs and Media on policy engagements in the above countries.
What has been your biggest challenge since you became an activist?
Dealing with state impunity, poor and bad governance with bad leadership at all levels.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
This is very difficult to achieve because of very high demands of my time and attention from researchers, students, some government officials, development partners, journalists, my staff and family members. But I am very conscious about my family who also need my attention and time.
How do you cope with multiple challenges/responsibilities?
Dealing with multiple organisations, staff and people, can be very challenging and stressful. But it’s my passion and I am committed to doing it for the sake of my country and African people.
What is your philosophy of life?
Living a decent and peaceful life supporting others.
What is your typical day like?
From morning to night busy with official work, colleagues, partners, diplomats, journalists for interviews and people looking for jobs or help. This is in addition to numerous phone calls, emails, reading and making presentations at workshops or conferences.
What is the secret behind your urbane look?
Hhhhhhh happiness, peace of mind, love and contentment from Allah!!!
What do you usually want people to walk away with after meeting you for the first time?
I want people to know that they are meeting with a committed, patriotic, honest human rights, Anti-Corruption and social justice activist willing to help and support the poor and victims of injustice.
What are your fondest memories as a child growing up?
The most memorable things for me as a child is good upbringing from my parents who loved and cared for me. They gave me opportunity to learn and lived a decent life. Therefore I forever remember this good upbringing which made me to be caring and supportive to others.
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