Hajia Gambo Sawaba (15 February 1933 – October 2001) was a Nigerian women’s rights activist, politician and philanthropist. She served as the deputy chairman of Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) and was elected leader of the national women’s wing of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU)
She was educated at the Native Authority Primary School in Tudun, Wada. She however had to stop schooling after the loss of her father in 1943 who dies complaining of headache and her mother 3 years after. She was married off at age 13 to a World War II veteran Abubakar Garba Bello who left and never returned after her first pregnancy.
HAJIA GAMBO SAWABA: BACKGROUND
Quite noticeable about her when she was a child, was her unusual interest in mad people. She spoke with them, accommodated some and gave the ones she could money, clothes and food.
As a child she was often described as stubborn and heady and almost always got into street brawls. According to her “I could not stand by to watch a weak friend or relation being molested.” She said used to take over such fights. Whenever she got to the scenes of such fights, she would immediately say “OK, I have bought the fight from you” to the weaker person and take over the fight.
HAJIA GAMBO SAWABA: POLITICS AND ACTIVISM
Gambo Sawaba was involved in politics since she was 17. During that time, northern Nigeria was dominated by the Northern People’s Congress, which had the support of the Emirs and British Colonial Authority but she joined the opposition group Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU). She was a campaigner against under-aged marriages, forced labor and an advocated for western education in the north.
Gambo Sawaba made a name for herself when at a political lecture during her career in the North, she climbed up and spoke out in a room full of men. She was mentored by Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and traveled to meet her in Abeokuta years later. She is widely regarded as the pioneer of fighting for the liberation of northern women. Sawaba was not her birth name. Meaning freedom or redemption, it was given to her by her political mentor, Malam Aminu Kano, after she had been elected president general of NEPU’s women’s wing.
A general hospital in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, was named after her. A hostel at Bayero University, Kano is also named after her.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi