Hadiza Elrufai: Tackling North’s poor reading culture
By NASIR DAMBATTA
The breaking point between Hadiza Isma Elrufai’s pet project and those of other Nigerian governor’s wives is that it is independent of funding from the Kaduna state government. In the both the military and democratic history of the state, none of her predecessors ever launched a pet project without direct funding from the state treasury.
From the civilian era of former governors Ahmed Makarfi, through those of Namadi Sambo, late Patrick Yakowa and Muktar Ramallan-Yero, governors’ wives had operated pet projects under different names. And when all those previous pet projects are placed side-by-side, what obtains is an uncanny transposition. Their source of funding right from the onset was the state government’s coffers. At that time, the governors used all available legal instruments to lend massive financial support to jotheir wives – often exceeding constitutional limits. This was so because the “Office of the First Lady” was (still is) a borrowed symbol of authority from the American model of democracy.
Hadiza Isma Elrufai seems to have chosen to be different from her predecessors and current counterparts by rejecting offer of direct funding from public treasury.
She founded the Yasmin Elrufai Foundation, which is meant to immortalize her late daughter – Yasmin Elrufai – who had great passion for literature, creativity and knowledge. The young Yasmin reportedly died in November 2011 at her flat in London while undergoing a Law Conversion course. Before her demise, Yasmin had first degree in “Politics with Economics” from the University of Bath, United Kingdom and a Masters Degree in “Political Economy of Late Development ” from the London School of Economics.
The Foundation’s primary areas of concerned are namely, Creative Writing Program(CWP) and Women Literacy Program (WLP).
Speaking exclusively to the Voice of Liberty in Kaduna, Hadiza noted that the Foundation has gone very far in achieving its objectives “considering the fact that we’ve not been active for too long”. She continues : ” we did a lot of creative writing workshops for children; we have our library which, with the help of some benefactors, we were able to stock; we have children coming from neighbouring schools and even schools far away from our operational base, to read books”. Turning to the Women Literacy Programme, she said they have already identified the target communities that the Foundation intends to impact on and that they have gone very far with that.
Unlike some tax-exempt groups on the African continent, the Yasmin Elrufai Foundation has yet to start offering scholarship for for further studies, but offers good funding to its benefciaries after graduation and issuance of certificates. The beneficiaries choose the areas of skilled training they prefer to specialize on.
When asked about the long term goals of the Yasmin Elrufai Foundation, Hajiya Hadiza chuckled and said: Our long term goal is to extend our programmes to all the states in Northern Nigeria, which is the primary target of venturing into this charity in the first place”. She argued that Northern Nigeria was lagging “seriously behind in terms of reading culture” and that this is not helpful to the region in a competitive knowledge-driven modern world. How did she arrive at the conclusion that the Foundation must service Northern Nigeria? “Even before the official launching of this Foundation, we did a lo of groundwork, lots of research that took us over a year”. She went on to explain: ” We carried out needs assessment based on the outcome of the research and then identified which of the communities would be most-suited for our programmes”.
The Foundation reportedly got an award in Abeokuta. Confronted with a question on the significance of that award, she responded: ” it was all about our promotion of creativity in Northern Nigeria. I’m sure you would agree with me that the issue of arts and creativity have been pushed to back burner in the North by a combination factors. We were carefully selected on account of our efforts to confront the declining reading culture in the North, among other things”.
Since the Foundation can do without funding from the Kaduna State Government’s treasury, how does it intend to move on with its projects? Hear Hadiza :” During our official launching, we hosted a number of international donor agencies like DFID and many others; and they’ve all indicated interest in supporting us with funds,
to augment the meagre resources we set aside for take-off. And we have already got funding from Dangote Foundation and entered into talks with the Ford Foundation. We have, right from the official launching indicated that our challenge would remain paucity of funds for now.
Hadiza’s message for the North’s millionaires and billionaires was a straight one :” We have some of the best upcoming poets and other artists from this region but funding is turning them into wasted assets, please intervene to help the North gain its rightful place in a modern world”.