‘Dad is a kid at heart’

Barrister Zainab Marwa Abubakar, daughter of Gen. Buba Marwa, is the President and Founder of Aspire Women Forum (AWF).  In this interview, she speaks about her father being a kid at heart and how stepping into his political shoes feels like, amongst other issues.

Daily Trust: What kind of father was your dad?

Zainab Marwa Abubakar:  My father was extremely playful and friendly. When I say friendly, I mean he is always ready for a good laugh, a funny joke, and a great game. We played basketball and volleyball every evening when growing up. We wrestled, in fact, he was truly the best father to grow up with, active and agile and oh so hilarious. Dad’s sense of humour is the best.

DT: Growing up with him, you must have done a lot of things together, what do you miss doing with him as a child?

Zainab: Funny enough, there is nothing I used to do with him short of the physical running around that I don’t do now. Dad is the best storyteller, to this day he has a story for each good or bad day I’m having or passing through, he has an anecdote for every season of my life.

DT: Which trait do you think you inherited from him?

Zainab: Any trait I mention would be like boasting because he is a genius, spiritually sound, highly diplomatic and accepting, tolerant and so many other things. Let me say then that the quality in him I most aspire to inherit is his ability to always be calm and collected. He has this uncanny superpower as I call it, my dad can be cheated or mistreated, but he will always still speak and act with due respect and understanding. I admire that most about him and pray that one day God will avail me the same ability.

DT: Being his daughter, are you under any kind of pressure to always live up to the name ‘Buba Marwa’?

Zainab: I would say that I put myself under pressure because I want to continue within the wonderful legacy that my father has built. I come from a long line of achievers from both parents sides. But on my dad’s side, we have army blood to the 5th generation going back. The legacy is so robust that I would be a disservice to mar the name at this point. I am constantly conscious of building on the name and not scarring it permanently. There might be a societal pressure perhaps but quite honestly, I don’t feel it in the slightest.  So like I said, the pressure is self-imposed, the crown has been purchased for me, all I have to do is wear it.

DT: Has being a Marwa opened or closed doors for you?

Zainab: Bring a Marwa has definitely opened doors for me. The goodwill that my father has been able to redeem from people is amazing. For his sake, the favours and respect that I have been granted are immeasurable.


DT: Describe your dad in three words.

Zainab: Intelligent, caring, disciplined

DT: What is his relationship with his children like?

Zainab: His relationship with all of us is one of love and let live, he steers you in the right direction but doesn’t force you. He is able to brilliantly combine the role of supporter and cautioner. He has a relationship with his kids that is envious; every day I pray to be what he is to me to my kids, even half of what he is to me. The relationships are based on mutual respect, we don’t want to disappoint him, out of the great respect we all have for him and not based on fear.

DT: What other field/profession do you think your dad would have excelled in?

Zainab: That’s an excellent and unexpected question. Let me think, because I’ve never fathomed him as anything but a military/politician/businessman. I think he would have been an excellent counsellor or psychiatrist. He has the uncanny ability to calm me down and steer me straight, my dad puts the world in perspective like no one else. I think he would have helped so many people if he had chosen that field. Frankly, I feel like he would succeed in any field.

DT: While growing up, children tend to be mischievous and need to be constantly cautioned, so what phrase did your dad use to caution you or your siblings?

Zainab: All my dad had to say was my name in that tone of voice UWANI. Till this day, I can gauge his mood from the way he says my name.

DT: What actions or punishment did you dread as a child from your dad?

Zainab: My dad has never been hard on me; perhaps, because I’m the last born. My fear has always been of disappointing him, so I always check myself. That being said, I’m sure he might see it differently. I never lacked the urge to be mischievous.

DT: How does he relax?

Zainab: Daddy loves to be outdoors. He loves to sit and relax and take fresh air. He enjoys reading interesting novels, lots of Grisham, Sheldon, Patterson and the like.

DT: How would you describe your dad’s fashion sense?

Zainab: I’m pleased to say his fashion sense is age-appropriate first of all. He has changed ever so slightly over the years to suit his age and station in life. In English wear, funny enough his style is unexpected and eclectic; lots of patterned shirts and summer suits. My dad is always neat and understated. He has never been one to use material things to show off, he has always been modest and that also translates to his style.

DT: What is his favourite sport?

Zainab: My dad was a very active sportsman when I was young, he played squash a lot. As time passed, he moved on to golf though. I believe that golf would be his game of choice today.

DT: What is his favourite food?

Zainab: Daddy eats very healthily these days, but I believe his guilty pleasure would be butter pecan ice cream.

DT: What kind of book and television programme does he read and watch?

Zainab: For books, my dad enjoys history books and he always enjoys a good legal drama in the class of John Grisham novels. For TV, he favours news programs; always wanting to be abreast of national and international affairs.

DT: Tell us one positive thing people don’t know about your dad?

Zainab: He is a kid at heart. If you could see him playing or racing with his grandkids you would melt. He is so good with children; I really do try to be like him in terms of parenting.

DT: As a mother, what parenting method of his have you imbibed?

Zainab: I copied his excitement. When I tell him things he is genuinely excited to hear about what I have to say. Being a mother of five kids now, I can see how hard that truly is but he pulls it off seamlessly. I try my best to be the same way with my kids, to light up at the sound of their voice, to be eager to know how their day was. It all feeds into creating a life for your child where they feel loved and valued.

DT: What is one misconception about your dad out there you would like to set straight?

Zainab: Funny enough, I have never heard anything bad about my dad even in these days of media galore. So, there is no misconception I would like to correct.

DT: What would you like to say to your dad?

Zainab: There is a poem I always think about every time I think about my parents. So for my dad, I would quote Kiersten White from the poem ‘The Chaos of Stars’… And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you to be my father.

DT: How does it feel stepping into his shoes as a politician because many would have thought it would be one of his sons?

Zainab: It is indeed interesting to walk his path of politics being that one would have imagined the mantle would have been picked up by a male child but God has destined it this way. One of the most interesting and indeed transcendent points of my relationship with my father is working together through my campaign for House of Reps in AMAC and Bwari federal constituency, FCT. The moment I proved myself, I had his full support. It is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life and to step into this new season of my life with the wealth of experience to draw from my father is an added blessing.


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