Hon. Fateema Mohammed was the campaign manager to Lagos State governorship aspirant, Jimi Agbaje, during the last election. A single mother in a male-defined world, Mohammed has not given up her dream to lead in her state as a House of Representatives member at the federal level. In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, the Borno-born businesswoman-turned-politician talks about motherhood, her business and challenges of women in politics.
Give us a little insight about your background.
I am Hon. Fateema Mohammed. I am a politician and businesswoman. I love business a lot. I am into events; I actually have a drinks company. My company’s name is Unstoppable Handlers. I am gradually delving into bread business that everybody is doing, though I am putting together a bakery, it is still under wraps now. I am basically the director-general of the Atiku Nation. One man, one nation; it is all about Atiku.
Which party were you with?
I was with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I contested for the House of Representatives to represent Ifako-Ijaiye Federal Constituency. I was robbed of it; my name was removed from INEC after I won the primaries.
Do you feel your political achievements are constrained by your gender?
In Yoruba they call me a woman like a man. I am not limited by my gender; I am somebody who knows what I am about. I am not of the school of thought that women politicians sleep around. The Bible says a man’s gift makes a way for him. I didn’t and would never let my initial foray in the electoral process deter me or constrain me.
What challenges do you face, especially with a seemingly early campaign?
We are not campaigning. I am a politician, I contested election for House of Representatives last year, so I know what the electoral law says, and there is no campaign yet. And there is no law that says that you cannot clamour for somebody to be elected to a position. Atiku Abubakar has not come out to declare but we believe in one man and one nation; that is what the Atiku Nation is about.
What is your take on leadership?
I believe leadership should be about all-inclusiveness. It should be truly democratic; it should be about the people and for the people. This is why our slogan in Atiku Nation is ‘it is about us.’
How do you balance politics and motherhood?
Fortunately for me, I started politics when my kids were very young. My youngest child is 16 now. It was rough trying to juggle motherhood and politics. Today, it is a lot easier because they are grown. They are comfortable that their mother is doing well in her chosen field.
What advice do you have for women who want to go into politics?
My advice is that women should stop complaining, come on board and show them how to do it right. I know that there are inhibitions, cultural and religious inhibitions. And that is why the first thing that I started doing was creating awareness and changing the mentality of women. I am from the North, from Maiduguri, and I have had the opportunity to speak with women from that part of the country.
Are you a Christian?
Like I said, I do not like to talk about God. But I am somebody who believes in God and I serve God because I have found out that we don’t have religious tolerance. It is so sensitive and, since we believe that both religions are same, then we don’t have a reason to fight ourselves. I read the scriptures a lot, it is my very wonderful pastime and whatever I take out, I do so from the scriptures.
Did your upbringing influence what you have achieved so far in life?
Not really. My father is a military man and my mother is a businesswoman from Delta. You know how they train their kids; they practically control their lives. And it was such that, growing up in the barracks, you dared not come out of the door, you could not even see the gate. My mum was really stern and I think I took that from her. I think I am a difficult mother but it is better to be very difficult to straighten the children, especially if you have a partner that is very soft.
My son is practically a graduate but I say, you know what, young man, if you live in my house then you live by my rules. If by 6pm you don’t come home, my doors will be locked till the next day. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, I will not listen and he will not leave the compound, he will sleep right there. They live by my rules and they follow them word for word. I have just a daughter but she knows she cannot do certain things her generation does, partying, skimpy dressing, make-up, etc. She knows I will not approve of it.
How has it been as a single mother?
It has been really rough, challenging, but for me I just set a goal and run to it to ensure that I achieve it. Like I have said in several interviews, I am going to get married again in my 50s. I am going to get married for companionship but, for now, I am married to my kids and it is fulfilling.
My kids are my friends; we travel, talk, relax and read together. Yes, my world revolves round them.
What drives you?
The quest for success drives me. I am somebody who does not give up, even if I am the only one standing. I just never give up.
When I am not doing politics, I am handling my business. When I have events, and I know my staff cannot handle it alone, I am there serving. When my kids are on vacation, they come along and work for me then I pay them. I am about to complete my bakery and, of course, I would be working there too. I am a hands-on person.
What are your success tips?
My very first one is from the book of Habakkuk, Chapter 3. Keep moving and chasing your dreams. I say to single parents, do not lose it, and don’t let a man take your glory.
What is that mistake you made that you would advice your daughter against?
Do not be gullible and get your priorities right. My daughter knows that the only person she can trust is herself.
What does it take to be an achiever in a world dominated by man?
Know God and do not be afraid of anybody.