Aisha Alhassan hasn't always been known as 'Mama Taraba'. Here's how the nickname was born.
She can also be salty and very controversial when pushed to the wall. Ask the 'Bring Back Our Girls' group.
In January of 2017, I shared a hall with Mama Taraba at a valedictory dinner organised in honour of then Minister of Environment, Amina J. Mohammed at the Oriental Hotel in Lagos.
It was a night of decent speeches.
After the ceremony, I waylaid Mama Taraba at the hall entrance for a word or two. She was limping but still managed to radiate energy and passion as she answered my questions without scruples. She wasn't the type to evade a question, as I would find out.
It is that passion and energy that has come to define the Aisha Alhassan brand.
It is that passion and energy that went some way into earning her the sobriquet of ‘Mama Taraba’.
How did Aisha Alhassan become Mama Taraba?
At the 2011 PDP primaries, Alhassan squared up against then incumbent Senator for Taraba North, Manzo Anthony. A political neophyte at the time who had only earned her epaulet as a lawyer, Alhassan was the bookie’s favourite to lose the contest by a wide margin.
No one gave her a chance in a patriarchal field. Besides, defeating an incumbent in the Nigerian political terrain is sometimes akin to squeezing water out of a rock.
Alhassan was a then protégé of former Taraba Governor Jolly Nyame. Nyame was propping up Alhassan against Anthony for his own gains.
The permutation from Nyame's camp was that if he supports Alhassan to beat the incumbent Senator, he’ll return to beat Alhassan in the general election and become Senator.
Nyame considered Alhassan a weaker opponent.
He couldn't have been more mistaken.
Alhassan ran a spirited campaign against Anthony and managed to draw plenty of Christian support her way even though she’s Muslim.
She left the incumbent senator gasping for breath at the PDP primaries and earned the ticket for the general contest.
When the general election rolled by in April of 2011, Alhassan polled 114, 131 votes to beat Nyame of the Action congress of Nigeria (ACN) who had to make do with 92, 004 votes.
Alhassan thus became the first elected female senator from Taraba State and the nickname ‘Mama Taraba’ became hers to bear.
She is called Mama Taraba because she has become a big time political player in Taraba State, influencing political affairs in the northern State, one voting season at a time.
Mama Taraba was only one of four women senators elected on the PDP platform in 2011. The others were Helen Esuene from Akwa Ibom South, Nenadi Usman from Kaduna South and Nkechi Nwaogu from Abia central.
Mama Taraba would go on to represent Taraba North in the Senate from 2011 to 2015.
In April 2015, she lost the Taraba governorship election rerun on the platform of the APC.
However, in November 2015, a tribunal sacked presumed winner Darius Ishaku and declared Mama Taraba winner of the governorship contest.
The Appeal and Supreme courts would later reverse the judgment of the tribunal in Ishaku's favour.
Mama Taraba proceeded to serve in Buhari’s cabinet as Women Affairs minister and has recently stirred controversy for backing Atiku Abubakar for the top job in 2019 at her boss’ expense.
Back in January, when I asked Mama Taraba to describe the departing Amina Mohammed who was taking up a job at the United Nations, she looked me in the eye, before handing out another smile and a blush. “She has always been passionate about women advancement, women empowerment, gender affairs....
"She’ll always call me to say, 'come..let us collaborate to see what is good for Nigerian women. She’s my friend, my sister. I’m very happy for her and happy for Nigeria. She’s a good person and the world needs her", she offered.
You could tell that she shares a special bond with Amina Mohammed who was leaving the Buhari cabinet.
Will the world need Aisha Alhassan if Buhari hands her the sack on the back of her recent controversial comments?
Only time will tell.