The Parliament Diary

An exclusive interview with Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Maryam Sani Abacha, former First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Excellency, pardon me; you are no longer seen in the public space…

Answer: I don’t understand exactly what you mean by that. I can say that I’ve retired, yes, but I’m still my usual self; I go out only when it is necessary.

So how is life with you in retirement Excellency?

Answer: Well, as the saying goes: We Are Retired But Not Tired. Even at home here, people from all works of life, creed, and tribe come knocking to see us; the young and the aged-all need one form of help or the other; and we can’t turn our back on them. We have to keep on reaching out because there always will be women or men, girls or boys, or entire communities that need help. This is unfortunate, but the number of people that are in need of help continues to grow.

Without any doubt, Excellency, benevolence is one of your greatest attributes…..

Answer: Allah is the Most Benevolent. I tell you that the entire world is in turmoil. What is the cause of the bloody sectarian fights, the contestations, the noisy wars of words, and the ethnoreligious conflicts in Nigeria? Today it is this religion against the other, Southerners against Northerners, Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo against each other, and so on. Why are we allowing the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ syndrome to take preeminence in our national life, which blights our progress as a nation? I say it is the failure to promote national integration and foster good economic progress through thoughtful and deliberate policies that have resulted in massive poverty, unemployment, and the accumulation of a pauperized citizenry. There are no vehicles of social control. Broken families are on the increase. The inability to make ends meet in many homes has led to an increase in the level of immorality. And these provide a reservoir of youths who readily take up arms to execute conflicts, and so on, and so forth.

With all due respect, Excellency; the issues you have raised activated long ago; you cannot say some of such issues weren’t there while you were, at that time, Nigeria’s First Lady in power; the germane question is: what practical action or actions did you take to stop these problems which, over the years, blossomed and have become this terrible plague on us? 

Answer: You are right to some extent. We saw it coming…and that was one of the major reasons why we introduced the Family Support Programme (FSP) with its diverse components for the benefit of the Nigerian people. The FSP in general was established to forestall some of these problems. We looked around and agreed that social welfare programs especially in the areas of health, education, and income generation were the best for the people. The projects and programs we, therefore, initiated made useful contributions to saving Nigerian Society from suffering and hopelessness. We provided support for women and heads of families whose homes were overwhelmed by poverty and who wanted to reduce suffering. This reduced the level of crime and criminality. A number of the now pronounced and rampant social malaises were near absent. There was moderate peace in the society.

Excellency, what is your current assessment of the projects and programs you have left behind since 1998?

Answer: We really stepped out in faith when we began the FSP National Hospital for Women and Children. We started the hospital project with “informal” assistance from oil companies.

Today, if you look around, you will notice that most of the projects and programs we implemented no longer exist. A good number have been scrapped. The projects and programs were not only enduring, they were sustainable. So, why throw out the baby with the bathwater? Something very small or minor can be indicative of something much more important. In other words, the scrapping of our projects and programs, minor unto themselves, suggests a much deeper, more dangerous issue in society. A Straw Will Show Which Way the Wind Blows is all I’m saying.

Are you affected by that?

Answer: I am grateful to Allah who gave us the ability to prosecute all that we achieved.

Without his divine help, we would not have been able to achieve any success.

I recall how when I had the blueprint of any of our projects or programs drawn up, we would go about their implementation with great commitment, harnessing every resource available and sacrificing all our time towards achieving the set goal. We explored and exploited all appropriate avenues to ensure things worked. I can tell you that we really stepped out in faith when we began the FSP National Hospital for Women and Children. We started the hospital project with “informal” assistance from oil companies.

People still count our efforts as beneficial; the driving force behind our achievements and accomplishments was the passion provided to us by Allah who gave us the idea to contribute as our own quarter of the service to our Fatherland Nigeria, Africa, and indeed humanity in general. And to Allah, the Most Magnificent and Most Beneficent be all the glory. I can recall also those who participated tirelessly, one way or the other, to help us achieve success with our projects and programs.   May Allah accept our services from us and forgive our shortcomings. My husband, General Sani Abacha was the major pillar of our success. He contributed a lot. May Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Wise bless him with Jannat ul Firdaus. 

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