Mrs. Zainab Adeniji
Mrs. Zainab Adeniji, a psychiatric nurse, is a returnee Nigerian who gave her all to local politics and lost everything, writes Damilola Oyedele
“I just want Nigerians to know that we do not have good leaders, we do not have people who have the heart to change this country. I am not the only one they treated this way, but I may be the only one who is choosing to speak out. They have warned me not to go to the press but they need to stop hurting people to make themselves happy,” said the broken hearted woman as she burst into tears during this interview.
Meet Zainab Adeniji, a Nigerian in the Diaspora who chose to return home and ventured into politics to contribute her experience in specialized healthcare to the recovery of drug addicts. But her experience in Nigerian politics has left her dejected, penniless and homeless with a broken spirit.
As most Nigerians dissatisfied with life in the Diaspora with zeal to return home, Adeniji returned to Nigeria in 2007 after decades in the United Kingdom. A consultant psychiatric nurse, she worked with the National Health Service and specialised in working with substance abusers. She had also done consultancy jobs in the United States and New Zealand where she lived for a while. The widow and mother of now grown children felt her working experience would be useful in her country and therefore tried to secure a job but to her surprise no one would hire her.
“I was told I was over-qualified by several doctors. One doctor used the word ‘unemployable’ and another told me to go and start a non- governmental organisation, but no single person can start a hospital of a special care facility that specialises in treating drug misuse patients,” she said.
While she continued with her projects in an already existing NGO- Family Health and Social Care Foundation which she founded years earlier, she mainly embarked on providing basic health related services such as free medical care in FCT and Nasarawa State. The NGO was also very active in her hometown; Ogere village of Ikenne Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Her proposals to the Ministry of Health under Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin to start small facilities that would basically handle the treatment of substance misuse did not yield any fruit. But as preparations towards the 2011 general election gathered momentum, her people asked her to join politics and represent them. She refused initially but was later prevailed on by some of her family members who convinced her that her kinsmen needed credible representation at the State House of Assembly.
Hence, her foray into the murky waters of politics as a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Senator Dave Salako representing her constituency also lent his voice to the rest and according to her, said she is the right candidate.
“The health care center in the village did not even have a basic blood pressure check machine; I had to give them some which was being used by my NGO. The innovation I had is that every village must have a health center with blood pressure machine, with a nurse manning it, and the community should donate money to run it themselves; it is achievable,” she added.
Trouble started when at the primaries, the ticket for Ikenne LGA Constituency was given to one Otunba because she allegedly refused to pay N250, 000 to the local PDP Chairman. She was however urged to hang in as she would be given an ‘appointment’ as compensation. She joined the campaign trail of PDP’s gubernatorial aspirant; General Adetunji Olurin (rtd) to traverse the 21 LGAs in the state and the constituencies and according to her, she used her personal funds to mobilize for the campaigns of Olurin and also that of Jonathan when the Presidential campaign train went to the South-west.
She continued with the project even as prominent PDP leaders assured her of compensation.
“I continued to spend my money not because I wanted to steal money in government, but because I knew I wanted to serve the people. One vehicle was already lost in an accident, I had one more vehicle here in Abuja, and I took it to Ogun. On April 4, 2011, I went to campaign for Jonathan/Sambo I was returning and I was hijacked at gunpoint. I pleaded with the boys not to kill me, but they took the car anyway. We reported to the police; that was the last piece of item I had left.
“I came back to Abuja by bus after someone gave me N10, 000, so I came back penniless. After I rested for about two weeks, I went to the PDP headquarters, they tossed me around, people were there lamenting and crying. I do not know what their stories were but I was dying inside, I was almost committing suicide. I begged them, I did not want them to give me money, but I needed a job. I wanted to be sent to a hospital to practice what I do,” she said struggling with emotion.
Eventually, she found her way to see the then Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Mohammed who gave her his complimentary cards and sent her to then PDP chairman, Kawu Baraje and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru.
“Kawu Baraje’s Special Assistant took my CV, there was no leeway there. I went to see Ashiru, I met him and he said since I am a nurse, they should put me in Technical Aids Corps, till this day, nothing. Iyabo Obasanjo learnt about what happened to me and promised to ensure that they helped me. The State PDP Chairman, Dayo Shoremi, also promised to help, he did nothing until the crash of the party in the state.”
Today, Zainab Adeniji is homeless as she has been ejected from her 12, Ona Crescent residence in Maitama, Abuja because the house has been sold. She could not afford the rent and defaulted for a year. Her property that was shipped into the country in a 20-ft container has mostly been sold or looted.
She was of the view that Nigeria is not ready to have women aspire for political power as the environment is not conducive. She claimed men disregard women and their opinions and even the women only respect those women who are already at the top. As a result of all that happened, her children with whom she left Nigeria after their father was murdered in Abuja, have vowed never to visit the country again.
Adeniji has decided to enter a seminary to undergo a deep healing process. She is leaving Nigeria, this time for good.