Aisha Yesufu- The picture worth one thousand words
Sometimes, a picture is a powerful tool and a conveyor of a deep message
Throughout the week, one of the trending pictures was of a woman wearing a hijab with a bag hung across her chest, standing with her legs apart and throwing a fist in the air as a symbol of defiance and resolve.
In case you are wondering who she is, her name is Aisha Yesufu and she is a Nigerian socio-political activist and co-convener of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls-BBOG movement.
On the 10th of October 2020, 45 year old Aisha beat all odds, tear gas and police harassment to lead the EndSARS protest in Abuja and has remained at the forefront of the movement.
She took to twitter to narrate her experience that day, in which she said “I am okay. I refused to run. I walked with my fist high up and @PoliceNG were all shooting at me as I walked away. I came out of the fence they cowardly built around themselves and about 4 of them came at me at the junction throwing bottled water this time.”
“One of them had pushed me and the raised hand might be what some saw as a slap. No, I wasn’t slapped and I refused to cower and I turned and gave them a piece of what I thought of their pathetic selves and if I am going to die, it would be with my fist high up and my mouth open,” Yesufu said.
Her pictures and strong activism from the protests have earned her the respect of many Nigerians and many have tagged her pictures as ‘the Nigerian statue of liberty’.
Who is Aisha Yesufu?
Yesufu was born in December 1974 and she hails from Agbede in Etsako West of Edo state. Nonetheless, she was born and raised in Kano state, Nigeria.
From age 11, she has always been known in her family to speak against things that do not go down well her and though this earned her the ‘stubborn’ tag, it also propelled her towards her journey to becoming an Activist.
She however describes herself as lazy when it comes to house chores and in her words, “I set systems in place to work for me and I hire and pay people to work for me.”
In 1991, she had a desire to enrol in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), but this was cut short because the academy rejected her based on her gender.
She is a graduate of Microbiology from the prestigious Bayero University in Kano; where she graduated with a second class upper and went on to bag a Masters degree in Pharmaceutical Microbiology from Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria.
Yesufu defied all talks around her not finding a man to marry because of her supposed stubborn nature and laziness and got married to her husband Aliu in 1996 and they are blessed with two children.
Interestingly she said “as soon as I laid eyes on my husband, I fell over heels in love with him and went after him.”
In describing how supportive and amazing her husband is she said during an interview with Guardian newspaper that “being brought up to expect that a man is the one to take care of you, it was my husband that taught me to be financially independent so that I can have control over my voice and not be dependent.”
Yesufu is a business owner who has never worked for anyone and does not intend to do so. Currently, she is the founder of Citizens Hub, a non for profit organization that seeks to build a solution driven and dynamic approach to building a financially independent, active and responsible citizenry.
Although, she says that if she did not take up activism, she would have been a singer and dancer, living life to the fullest, travelling and acting goofy.
Aisha decided to give back to her society in 2014 and the protest at the Nigerian National Assembly in Abuja on 30th April 2014 was just her starting point.
The protest gave birth to the advocacy group that brought back attention to the 219 Chibok girls between ages 15 and 18 that were abducted from a secondary school on the 14th of April 2014.
Ever since, Yesufu has organised and led over a hundred protest marches in Nigeria, demanding social justice, respect for the rule of law, respect for democratic norms and Nigeria’s constitution, an end to endemic corruption and political persecution of dissidents.
She has endured persecution by security agents and other government agencies for these actions, but she believes that Nigeria is worth fighting for.
In her words, “I would never give up on Nigeria no matter what it throws at me. I owe it to unborn generations on their way to Nigeria and I will continue to fight for Nigeria just as I wished others had fought for me before I came to be Nigerian.”
Yesufu’s utmost desire is to see Nigeria become a country where ‘’the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody’’.
When asked about her opinion on being able to lend her voice to issues around the country, she had this to say, “Is the opportunity worth it? Maybe it is because I have no attachment to anything, even life itself. What I am never ready to lose is my worth, dignity, integrity, and character. If I lose everything and have to sell pure water, I will carry it on my head with dignity, and character intact.”
She also said, “I want a level playing ground for everybody where the woman who sells groundnuts or is frying akara or the motorcyclists that are working hard to send their children to school should be able to get jobs based on their capacity and ability and not on who they know.”
Yesufu won the award for humanitarian services during her Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1999 and she also emerged as Guardian newspaper’s voice of humanity in 2019.
Aisha’s bravery and courage in the war against SARS and police brutality would not be forgotten anytime soon and her story would be told to the next generation and generations after that.
In fact, a twitter user said “Aisha is a national treasure, a super hero and the Queen Ameena of our time.”