My zeal for social justice began early in life, thanks to the freedom fighters and men of renown that I met in the pages of the books I read as a child. I found myself resisting the norm and speaking out against oppression wherever I went. As I entered my twenties, much of my activism had become very gender centered. So it was only natural that I began to look for women who espoused the same ideals I was beginning to embrace as a young woman.
Among these women was Her Excellency, Chief Mrs. Titi Abubakar, whose organization–Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF)–had made countless headlines in the fight for the rights of young people ferried across outside the country into a life of prostitution and forced labour.
Recently I had the privilege to travel with Chief Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar on her campaign trail for the presidential bid of her husband, the PDP Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar along with her 40-person strong entourage. As I journeyed with the entourage through different towns of the South West and listened to Mrs. Abubakar speak, most times without the assistance of a prepared speech, I began to understand more about the woman who had dedicated her resources to fighting for the underprivileged of the society.
Next to her impressive quest for fairness and correcting societal ills, was her dedication to her husband’s campaign. As a daughter of the South West, the doors of many palaces opened to receive Mrs. Abubakar and she regaled them of her husband’s agenda for the country if elected.
What struck me most about these visits was her endurance and willingness to withstand the rigours of the task before her. When some around her showed signs of weariness, Mrs. Abubakar would carry on the day with energy and agility that belied her age. She was graceful and respectful in paying obeisance to the royal fathers, sometimes standing for hours on end as she addressed them. When she spoke, it came from the heart and most times I found myself enthralled by her passion. It was easy to see the activist side of her.
On the 25th of January, the entourage made their way from Akure, the capital of Ondo State to Joseph Ayodele Babalola University (JABU), a private university located in Ikeji-Arakeji, Osun State for the conferment of the Doctor of Entrepreneurship (Honoris Causa) degree on Mrs. Abubakar. In the hall packed with graduands, their parents, guardians and guests, we all listened as Mrs. Abubakar’s achievements were reeled out. When she took the stage, it was to take us back to her journey in Rome in the 1986-1987 period where she had gone to further her studies.
She recalled her covenant with God to start an anti-human trafficking advocacy after learning about the plight of human trafficking victims, and her role in rehabilitating the victims once they were free of the clutches of their ‘madams’. Decked in her robe of black and red behind the lectern, Mrs. Abubakar was once again the activist and the lecturer as she extolled the benefits of hard work, discipline and service. The students listened with rapt attention as she urged them to be good ambassadors of the university.
The entire entourage would proceed to Okitipupa, Ondo State again for the last leg of our trip where lively crowds of support groups headed by the PDP South West Chairman, Dr. Eddy Olafeso waited for her. Greeted by a rousing welcome and songs from the crowds, Mrs. Abubakar was her usual energetic self. Nothing about her visage suggested that she had undertaken a grueling three-hour journey to be at the reception. It was not long before the darkness closed in and we were once again on our way to our hotel in Akure. The visit to Okitipupa was the last as the PDP temporarily suspended its campaigns due to the constitutional impasse that had arisen from the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.
My impression of Mrs. Titi Abubakar’s campaign in the South West is that it was a success and Mrs. Abubakar exhibited the traits that make her stand out as a mobilizer par excellence. Her ability to rouse the people towards a cause is worthy of admiration. Her impassioned speeches, spoken straight from the heart, galvanize you to action. She speaks with an intensity that etches her message on your mind. Little wonder she was able to convince the executive and the legislature on the need to institutionalize the fight against human trafficking during the tenure of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. It was easy to see why her husband trusted her to convey the message of hope to the people of the South West.
I also witnessed the warmth with which Mrs. Titi Abubakar interacted with everyone around her. She is the veritable mother hen, constantly looking out for others. I am sure there is no doubt in the minds of those that interacted with her in the two weeks she toured the towns of the South West that she is a woman who cares about the masses. This is what makes her a force. She has lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation and continues to make a difference in society till this day. The 10,600 trafficked victims who have enjoyed her generosity, and the continued success of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) are testament to the epitome of selflessness that is Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar.
–Ayim (Barr.) writes from Abuja
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