I was born some 61 years ago, on March 5, in Jos, and was raised in Jos but we moved around a lot because my father was a policeman. We were moving from one state to the other, from Jos to Kaduna, Kaduna to Kano and all of that.
I started school at St Theresa Primary School, Jos, near the police headquarters, then went to St. John Primary School, Gboko, in 1963. I proceeded to Queens of the Rosary Secondary School, Gboko, in 1970. After my secondary school education, I went to School of Basic Studies, at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Samaru, Zaria, where I later switched to the College of Agriculture.
After graduation, I came back to Benue State and worked for two years at the Ministry of Agriculture, Makurdi, then I went back to school and studied Food Science and Nutrition at Clerk College, Atlanta University, USA, where I graduated with Bsc. in May 1980. I came back to Benue State and worked for another two years, then went back again to do a Masters programme in Athens, Ohio University, US. I actually ended up doing two Masters programmes between 1982 September and November 1985 in the US, on Food Science Nutrition and Educational Administration. It was after then I came back to Benue and settled down to work at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Makurdi. I was made a commissioner in the ministry and was also the chairman of Commissioner’s Forum for North Central States Commissioners of Agriculture in the country. I was posted to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Social Development and Child Care before my tenure elapsed, so I was commissioner there for one and half year under the tenure of Governor George Akume, the current minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, when he was the governor of Benue State. In January 2007, I was later appointed permanent secretary in the governor’s office, in charge of government parastatals. Then from there I was posted to the ministry of Commerce and Industries as permanent secretary. In 2009, I was posted to the Ministry for Rural Development and Cooperatives as a permanent secretary before I retired in 2010.
Also, recently, I contested for the House of Representatives ticket, zoned to my clan and sub kindred of Benue State, unfortunately I was not successful.
I have several women who have spurred me to keep moving. The first is the late Mariam Makeba. She was a singer, a politician and an activist. She made me see what a woman can do in her own right as a person to realise her potentials. Also, my academic supervisor, when I went to school in the US, Prof Prisca from Zimbabwe. She ran from the civil war and escaped to the US, trained herself and became a professor in the College of Medical Sciences. She was the only black and African woman teaching in the college at that time.
I came back and because I joined politics, I started looking at women who were in politics, Hillary Clinton, Mitchell Obama and a host of others. I devoted myself to reading about these great women. They are women who have struggled to be their own person and grown to that height.
My Inspiration is to see that everybody is a little bit self-reliant. We cannot all be at the same level but everybody should be able to do something they are proud of, let everybody fish by himself or herself, that is my Inspiration.
My fear is that as a woman in an African setting, for instance, Nigeria, when you start something, even if it is positive, you will see people opposing you just because you are a woman; these fears are always there. So if a woman tells you she doesn’t have them, she is lying.
I am not boasting but just to clear the air that not every woman that goes into politics is a blockhead. I am not, I try to maintain some level of decency and all that. But for some people, once a lady goes into politics, they think she is a woman of low repute.
What differentiates you from other women?
I have been able to gather some experience and exposure from my numerous trips and studies abroad. This has made me a little different than the regular Nigerian woman. I don’t really have the protocol that comes with being who I am. I am also a disciplined person, I like respect and decency, but at the same time, I am who I am. I am me and I don’t think holding a position of trust as a politician has affected my personality like some other people.
Also, I like young people, my children are my friends, I like old people and people of my age, I am able to come from the oldest, the youngest and all of that, to understand life with each category, and still not lose myself in the process. So that’s why I think I am a bit different.
You face a lot of challenges in life. When my husband went into partisan politics, he contested to be the governor of Benue State four times and he lost. I was less than 30 years old then, and I was following him closely, it wasn’t easy. He lost, all those times, not because he was not capable but because of intrigues in politics. So, as a young woman, that was very challenging. I even became the source of encouragement to most of his supporters who were crying up and down any time he lost an election.
Also, recently when I contested for House of Representatives ticket, some people in leadership positions started campaigning against me because I was married to a traditional ruler. They felt I should not be in partisan politics, that was also challenging. What they don’t understand is that we are two different people, the fact that we are married does not mean I cannot live my own life. I have contributions to make for the development of my area, so it is improper for anybody to maliciously think they can prevent me from realising my potentials as a person.
No, I have no regrets. If God gave me another opportunity to be born again, I will want to remain Elizabeth-Mary and would want to live the life I am living now.