There are many interesting stories about Senator Aisha Al-Hassan, a lawyer and former minister for women affairs during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari who sadly passed away few days ago in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt.
One of the interesting stories about the former minister, popularly known as Mama Taraba, was when she almost clinched the position of Taraba State Governor during the 2015 general elections.
During the 2015 general elections, Al-Hassan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged as a leading candidate in the race for the Taraba governorship, making it one of the most contested polls in Nigeria at the time.
Many Nigerians thought voters in Taraba State would make history by electing the nation’s first female governor.
Al-Hassan, a Muslim, pooled a large number of votes from the Gasol Local Government Area and surrounding areas which gave her an early lead even as vote counting entered its second day.
The lead triggered early celebrations nationwide by those who expected Al-Hassan to become the first female state executive. But as the final results from other local government areas in the northeastern state trickled in, Ishaku regained the lead by nearly 64,000 votes, and the hopes of Mama Taraba making history melted.
She was later appointed Minister of Women Affairs in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari. She resigned on 27 July 2018 to contest for the 2019 elections.
Senator Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan has now taken her exit! However, the outpouring of grief-laden tributes from mourners across all walks of life, reveal the fond memories of the woman who until her death was a powerful force of unity. She was an excellent grassroots mobiliser and a strong reminder of the roles women can play if empowered to participate in governance. Her exploits in politics will remain a reference point in Taraba.
For her close associates, it is more about the foundation of Muri kingdom in Taraba State, now orphaned by her sudden death. No doubt, Sen. Al-Hassan until her very last moment was the most unifying force for the people of Muri irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation.
Her sudden exit shattered the hearts of her family, friends, close associates, Muri Emirate, Taraba State, and the country at large. Many of her admirers in Nigerians are really devastated by her demise.
Most people from the Muri kingdom wonder what becomes of the hitherto fragile foundation of Muri which she was able to support with her hospitable approach to leadership and an all-inclusive style of politics. Who can fill the huge vacuum that her sudden death has created?
Sen. Al-Hassan did not just wake up one day and claim the revered title of “Mama Taraba”, she worked for it, and deserved even more. She was most probably the only woman to have assumed the title of “Mama” for a whole state in Nigeria’s political history.
Mama Taraba was a woman of many firsts. She became the first female Chief Magistrate in the FCT in 1996; the first female Attorney and Commissioner of Justice, Taraba state in 1997; the first female secretary of the FCT Judicial Service Committee in 2002; and the first female Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court in 2003.
She was elected senator representing Taraba North senatorial district under PDP in the 9 April 2011 elections, making her one of the four women elected on the PDP ticket.
She met her first husband and father of her three children as a student in 1979. Her husband, Prof. Ango Abdullahi was the then Deputy-Vice Chancellor of her school and later became the Vice Chancellor three months after their marriage.
The former senator was born on 16 September 1959 in Jalingo, Taraba State. Her father, Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim, Sarkin Ayukan Muri, was a member of the House of Representatives in the first republic.
Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan attended Muhammed Nya Primary School, Jalingo and LEA Primary School, Tudun Wada, Kaduna, before proceeding to Saint Faith College (now GGSS) Kawo Kaduna where she studied between January 1973 and June 1977.
Her death has touched so many hearts but what is most vital is that she came, she saw, and she conquered. One major lesson from her life is the importance of living to ensure that we all leave a good legacy by having a positive impact in the lives of people like Mama Taraba did.