Sadiya Umar Farouk: A minister in her quiet ways, by Shuaibu Ajani

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Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development

It is often difficult not to stress enough, the complexity of the physical and socio-political realities of Nigeria, a nation prone to occasional missteps, disruptions and upheavals. But with the special and rare blessings of the Almighty, we have kept going.

Even as you read this, different camps of internally displaced persons, IDPs, dot many parts of the country, caused by insurgency, floods, fires, intra-boundary skirmishes, gully erosion, drought, banditry, and crop failures. Now, coordinating and delivering critically needed shelter, relief materials, medicines, medicaments and care, did remain a nightmare for past administrations, over the years.

By last year, Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, had decided to bring all these crucial and strategic institutional activities under one entity: he created the ministry humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, and appointed Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk to run the behemoth.

It was an intriguing match-up, for both the ministry and the minister, were new, fresh, and with no back-up legacy assets, infrastructure or personnel, to fall back on. But it fell on the young minister, [then 45], to breathe life into the newly created ministry, tasked to provide, console and comfort afflicted citizens.

But let us consider the scale of her assignment. To make the point graphic and practical enough, think about the logistics of sharing food items, cash and all such materials, to thousands and thousands of households, and tending millions of vulnerable IDP families, particularly in a season of a devastating Corona Pandemic, and most worryingly, amidst contrived distractions and intrigues around her! It is my belief that this sad setting would cow about just anybody.

But not this minister. Her disarming calm carriage, unobtrusive and self-effacing self, belie her stiff sense of focus and steel resolve, not to disappoint herself, family, the government and, of course the public.

One may then be tempted to ask, why is this minister of such intense interest to many people? Hard to say. But for me, I think it’s a case of, like Sadiya, like Fashola . . . in terms of the physical size and content of the federal assignment . . . when the former headed the defunct ministry of power, works and housing.

The minister’s mandate is pretty huge, the country too, is huge and the scale of disasters, natural and man-made, is equally daunting. And just to make the point also, perhaps the amount of resources allotted, so as to ensure up to date and sufficient containment and management of these disasters would thus, attract attention.

And yet, there is something unique about the ministry and its minister.

For example, it could well be the case that the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, is not a typical run-of-the mill beat for the regular newsman.

It may not have mounts of old files and trails, for regular productive muckraking. Or perhaps the minister is not given to needless dramas, elaborate display of self and theatrics. Just may be.

Let us therefore, at the point that this minister didn’t just happen upon the national stage. She has a background. Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk holds both bachelor and master’s degrees, in business administration, from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

She worked with the National Assembly Commission, and disengaged from there as principal administrative officer, to join politics. She was appointed a member of the presidential campaign council of the All Progressives Congress, APC, after which she became a federal commissioner in the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, from where President Buhari appointed her a minister, and assigned to the new ministry.

To be saddled with the responsibility of creating a new bureaucracy to start off a new government ministry, designed to handle so much of government responses to many of its disasters and victims, in the absence of current or relevant data, have made the job of this minister such a challenging task.

It is my view that Hajiya Sadiya deserves all the encouragement and support she can get to help in delivering her mandate. A large and strategic government ministry like hers is what this country would require to be able to address the current dire situations that daily spring up across our land.

Shuaibu Ajani, a public affairs analyst, lives in Abuja.

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