It was not for nothing that her supporters fondly describe her as a bamboo because Bilkisu mai Kujerar Zinari was indeed like that deceptively fragile plant that symbolizes suppleness and beauty.
The newspapers report her emergence on the political scene as one that began with marital unhappiness. Immediately she declared her intention to run for the office of Governor of Katsina State, the attention of the press zoomed in on her not only because she was a Muslim woman, or even because she was running in the conservative North of Nigeria but especially because the incumbent, the one she intends to unseat, is her husband.
It is true that before he became the governor, Bilkisu was the backbone of her husband; always there to pick him up when the blows of life knock him down, never the kind of wife to complain on those days -and the days were many- when he came home with nothing for dinner. And why complain when she could feed her husband and their three children by selling for cheap some of the remaining jewelry her relatives gave her when she got married?
Years ago her mother was enraged with disgust the day Bilkisu chose Muzzamil, then only a poor school teacher, as her husband. Her blood boiled and her voice rose many octaves high so that all the neighbors heard her.
“You will never again eat chicken except on sallah days. Yan achaba will know you by name and face. And hear: after your current set of abayas fade, you will have only cheap rags to cover up your malnourished buttocks!”
But Bilkisu did not falter, not even when her mother knelt and wept at Bilkisu’s feet. So with only the blessing of her father she married Muzzamil and lived with him in a single room. He was the kindest of husbands, and Allah likes those who are kind to their women, or why else would He have blessed Muzzamil?
It was fourteen years ago when he began this journey to bring his people political salvation; to rescue them from the jaws of starvation. To the people, he was more than a dark-skinned, afro-haired young teacher chanting incomprehensible slogans of socialism.
That was what the people chanted the day he made known his intention to run for Member, State House of Representatives. He had nothing save the goodwill of the people –which proved to be enough.
“Yaro ne mai hankali da ilimi da natsuwa.”
The old men who said this understood little but they saw white light in his steps and perceived in him a promise of a tomorrow free of painful hunger and neglect. That was why they taxed themselves hard to obtain a form for him; that was why they lined up their women and children under the blazing gaze of a pitiless sun to vote for their son.
“I will never forget this. I shall employ my good office to ensure that the labor of you my heroes shall never be in vain.”
That was what he said when he was declared winner. So what was it that crazed and filled him with an insatiable hunger for money, power and women so that some of those he governs were now opting for his wife?
To be continued…