By Henry Ojelu
FORMER Nigerian First Lady and wife of ex-Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Justice Fatima Abubakar, (retd) was born on April 12, 1951, as the second child of Alhaji Umaru Audi, the late first Waziri of Minna, and Hajia Nana Asmau (daughter of the late Sarkin Hausawa of Minna) in Minna, Niger State.
Her Lordship is the eldest daughter of her parents. Following Hausa tradition, she was taken away from her parents and brought up by her father’s elder sister, Hajia Hadiza. Her father was a highly educated administrative officer who ensured she got the finest education.
She began her early education at Christian Missionary School, Kaduna before proceeding to Queen Elizabeth School, QES, Ilorin in 1965 and later to Federal Government College, Sokoto from 1970-1971. After finishing high school, she gained admission to the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife to study law and graduated in 1975 with her LLB. Justice Abubakar began her career in law as an Inspector and Senior Counsel in the Niger State Ministry of Justice. She was named the Solicitor-General of the Niger State Ministry of Justice in 1985.
Three years later, she was appointed as a judge of the High Court in 1989. On June 15, 2013, the Niger State House of Assembly confirmed her appointment as the Chief Judge of the state. She held the position until her retirement in April 2016.
Like some other first ladies before and after her, she had her pet project too but unlike the others, her foundation has not died out. In 1999, with just eleven weeks left for her husband in office, she established the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, WRAPA, Nigeria as a registered and non-governmental organisation, NGO, non-political and non-profit making charitable organisation for advocacy and mobilisation for the promotion, protection and realisation of women’s human rights, elimination of all forms of repugnant practices as well as violence against women and the enhancement of their living standards.
The acronym of WRAPA denotes the one or two-piece cloth worn by Nigerian women irrespective of age, tribe or religion, thereby underscoring the national coverage of the organisation. WRAPA enjoys considerable support from various bodies and agencies: National Commission for Mass Literacy Education, the National Directorate for Employment, NDE, the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, the National Human Rights Commission, Nigeria Legal Aid Council in addition to corporate bodies in the finance and media sectors.
Described as a distinguished jurist who dedicated her life to advancing the cause of the justice system in Nigeria, and in Niger State, in particular, Justice Abubakar remains a shining and brilliant example, not only among Nigeria’s First Ladies but among all Nigerian women. She has managed to carve a niche for herself in her own right, instead of confining herself perpetually beneath the shadows and wings of her husband. For a woman coming from Northern Nigeria where women are disadvantaged by tradition on many fronts, this is a woman who truly deserves to be celebrated.