Patricia Akwashiki: Affecting lives through politics

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Nativity

senator Patricia Naomi Akwashiki (born 2 November 1953) was elected Senator for the Nasarawa North constituency of Nasarawa State, and took office on 29 May 2007. She is a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Early education and career

Akwashiki earned a BA in Education from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1982. She entered the banking industry, where she became a senior manager. She was elected to the 5th Assembly (2003–2007) of the House of Representatives on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform. She failed to win the PDP nomination to run for a second term, and transferred to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), on which ticket she won election in 2007 as Senator for Nasarawa North.

Akwashiki has done well as a politician but as a growing up child, she actually dreamt of a career in medicine. “I wanted to be a doctor. But I was ignorant about choosing the right path to meeting my career goals”, she revealed. “I didn’t know that by attending a regular secondary school, rather than a teachers training college, I would have wider opportunities with regard to choosing a career. I had the option of going to a secondary school in Yola or attending Madonna Teachers College. But I chose Madonna College. At the end I discovered that I had to start all over if I were to study medicine. So from Madonna College, I moved on the path of studying education up to degree level. But I am very grateful to God for what I turned out to be. I only taught as NYSC member after which I worked in the information ministry briefly before going into banking.”

After taking her seat in the Senate in May 2007, Akwashiki was appointed to committees on States and Local Government, Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Communications, Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions and Women and Youth. In a mid-term evaluation of Senators in May 2009. She sponsored a bill to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and contributed brilliantly to debate in plenary and committee assignments. In January 2010 she staged a come-back when she returned to the PDP, citing injustice and insensitivity of the ANPP national secretariat and factional infighting in the state chapter of the party as reasons.

On her banking career, she disclosed that hard work led to her quick rise in the financial industry. “When I converted from an admin staffer to mainstream banking, I worked in all the departments of the bank. The highlight of my career was my appointment as branch manager of Lion Bank. I was posted from Jos to Abuja to open the branch. We broke even in six months which means we were making profit by the middle of the year, even as a new branch.” Her helpful disposition as a banker led people to ask her to contest election.

“Even as a banker my people interacted with me and they had complaints about those representing them. At that time most of us professionals left politics to people who were uneducated and they just couldn’t meet the aspirations of the people. So the professionals later started looking at politics and we knew that we had to make a move. The good thing is that in my state people are politically active. They love to be involved in the political happenings. I got tired of criticizing people and I got involved to make a difference and I do believe that I made the difference.”

She believes that those that cannot ignite change have no business in politics. “Honestly, the most important thing for me as a politician is to make a difference in the existence of my people. I don’t like to see my people suffer or struggle with problems. I don’t like seeing people suffer. So, once I hear that you have a problem, I do what I can to solve it. I might not have solved all the problems, but I surely touched very many lives. I did a lot of lobbying to attract developmental projects to my zone. I built six health centers in my zone and I also conducted highly successful health outreaches. I assisted people that lived with diseases for years because they had help in the past. The joy and relief people got during these health outreaches made me vow that when I fully retire from politics, I will spend my time organising more of such interventions.”

Advice for female politicians

The ex-lawmaker who mentors young female politicians speaks from a position of experience with regards to advice for women wishing to mount the soap box. “I try to mentor young women because somebody, Mrs. Elizabeth Nyam also mentored and gave me the opportunity that changed things for me. Mrs. Nyam was chairperson of Lion Bank and she said that I should be given the chance to come to establish the Abuja branch of our bank. And from that job, I got lifted. I tell young women that politics is good.

But if you have a young family, wait until your kids are grown older. This is because politics is time consuming. It is even more tasking if you are to contest for office. Women must get the consent and support of their husbands. The good thing is that many husbands do support their wives. But there are some men that don’t want anything to do with politics. You have to know which category your husband belongs to.”

According to Akwahsiki, women have to match men word for word when it comes to smear campaigns. “I will tell women not to be intimidated by name calling, they have to boldly confront those who call them names and give them a dose of their own medicine. This is the only way they will think before speaking to you wrongly,” she advises.

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