Be Inspired! Hajia Gambo Sawaba

Hello Guys!!!

Its another Monday, so what better way to get you to kick start the week but by sharing with you inspiring stories of ordinary people who became great just based on their decision to never allow their circumstances define them.gambo-e1417547781858

Hajia Gambo Sawaba, is a household name. She was born on the 15th of February 1933 to the family of Fatima and Isa Amarteifo, a Ghanaian immigrant.  She was named Gambo because she was born after a set of twins. Gambo at a very young age manifested certain character traits, which came to be associated with her. She was involved in street brawls and often went out of her way to seek whom to fight. In her reminiscences, she rationalized what she did as standing in defense of the weak.

An immediate result of her fights was the fact that her clothes, almost did not last long. Her mother had to stop buying ordinary cotton clothes for her dresses. She resorted to tarpaulins, which withstood the rigors, which her restless nature necessitated. She was educated at the Native Authority Primary School Tudun Wada, however her education was cut short after the death of her parents.

During Gambo’s time the North was dominated by the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). The NPC had the support of the Emirs in Northern Nigeria and the British Colonel Authority. Other Political groups such as the Borno Youth Movement, the United Middle Belt Congress and the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) believed NPC was taking advantage of them and oppressing them.

Gambo joined NEPU whose early message was to rally round the Talakawa in their fight against the colonists and for their empowerment in a region dominated by elites. Gambo quickly rose to become the female leader in the NEPU Zaria branch.

Gambo admired Funmilayo Kuti so greatly that she left Zaria to meet her in Abeokuta. When she returned to Zaria during a political lecture dominated by mostly men and people refused to speak due to their fear of political victimization Gambo climbed unto the podium to speak, challenging her male colleagues. The NEPU leader was so impressed that he nicknamed her Sawabiya (meaning “the redeemer”), which was later shortened to the masculine Sawaba.

With her rising political profile she advocated for women who were prevented from attending political activities because of the Purdah. The male dominated political groups did not appreciate this fearlessness and courage therefore she had to endure humiliating punishments from political thugs for her fight for women’s rights.

Her first political incident with the law occurred in Kano where she was sent to help NEPU with canvassing for women support. Reports of her activities got to the Emir who arrested and tried her. She was convicted and sent to jail. After her release, she advocated against the poor state of the prisons and this got her arrested again! Which later led the Emir to ask her to leave Kano.

During the Second Republic, Gambo served as the National Deputy Chairman of the Great Nigerian Peoples Party. Gambo also taught leaders like Aminu Kano.

Hajia died on the 14th of October 2001. Despite her low education she became an activist in an era of emirate hegemony that represented male chauvinism where there was no place for the Muslim woman but in the home to serve as a child bearer and a home keeper. She struggled through these challenges and became a Nigerian hero. Like Gambo would say “If I don’t know book, I know rights… I have not been a member of any House of Assembly (legislature). I have not held any office except that I was a member of the House of Prison.”

So on that note I declare to you YBAs, Go kick ass this week!!!



The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s) – and, since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold us to them in perpetuity.

Feel free to challenge us and disagree with us in the comments section – but we reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, etc) – so keep it polite and relevant. Please!



One thought on “Be Inspired! Hajia Gambo Sawaba

  1. Pingback: Hajia Gambo Sawaba Survived Forced Marriage At 13 To Become A Fierce Political Activist In The 1950s – Women Africa

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