Barrister Naymarie Franceska Musa-Akande is the Special Assistant to the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on Political Matters. She took SEGUN KASALI through her life journey so far.
You have a reputation for being fearless and confident, how is this?
You are correct. Actually, people mistake my being confident and fearless for arrogance. I could match up to anyone. For instance, I used to have a family friend who lived with us and somehow was beaten by her boyfriend. So, I wondered why a man should beat up his girlfriend. I boarded a bus to the market and called him out despite being so huge. And I told him ‘the next time I see you lay your hands on anyone again, I am going to deal with you’.
This was someone that could beat me or do anything. So, he was taken aback. He was wondering where I got this courage and was talking to him that way despite being friends. I told him ‘I can’t tolerate anyone beating up someone’. Afterwards, he came to my house to report me to my mum. So, I think I am not one that gets easily intimidated either by a man or a woman. I am very confident when it comes to addressing issues, regardless of who you are.
Did you get your current job mainly by being fearless?
You are very right. I would say my confidence earned me the job of a political aide to the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
I had known him for years. I had a challenge and had reached out to him and he was there for me. That was the moment I was really depressed and he was able to talk me out of my depression over 10 years ago.
Yes. I had a wonderful childhood. I went to the best of schools where people like the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and wife of the former head of state, Abubakar Abdulsalami, attended too. So, you can imagine what I meant. Everything went well in my primary and secondary schools until I wrote my West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination. I wrote the examination with the intent of going to universities outside the northern region, such as University of Lagos, UNIPORT and so many others without thinking of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) or University of Jos. Despite feeling like a university student already, I had a good result, passed all the subjects except Mathematics. I think I was the second set that wrote WAEC and NECO examinations. So, I had D7 in Mathematics in both and that was the beginning of my predicament sort of.
Really, what then happened afterwards?
Yes. So, I started looking for admission in the University of Jos, but was being offered Urban and Regional Planning, which I was not comfortable with and I did not want to go to Jos as a matter of fact. In-between, I had to write WAEC and NECO again three times each, making it six attempts at those examinations after the first one. So, each time they released the result, it was always cancelled or the paper withheld. I was really frustrated and depressed. I eventually went to Madonna University, but later left and my mum complained, asking what the problem was. I started there with pre-Medicine but left. So, my mum said ‘if you don’t want to go to school, probably you want to get married or go to the village to sell firewood’ and I was like ‘marry ke? Firewood ke?’ So, I got really frustrated.
So, what was your next option?
Some of my friends who came to my house were talking about the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and buying a form for Maritime Academy of Nigeria. I was like ‘what is that?’ Then I was told it is a school for sailors. As a child, I had always wanted to either be a sailor, doctor or pilot. I said instead of staying at home, why not just apply to become a sailor. As at that time, the forms were N1,000. Having gone for the examinations with five of my cousins, I was the only one who passed. So, I had to travel to Akwa Ibom where I had not been before, for about two weeks. I never knew it was a military setting. I never knew I had to skin my hair. So, we had to go jogging at 4.00 a.m. daily. While I went through the training, I had a challenge.
The academy did not give me my certificate because I still did not have a credit in Mathematics at O’ Level and I could recall that it was a provisional admission that I was given. So, until I provide a proof of a credit in Mathematics, I would not be given a certificate. So, I could not get any job because I did not have anything to prove I had been to school. I got more frustrated. It was a man called Mr Chibueze, who was in the school I wrote the examinations three times but was cancelled that called me one day and said: ‘Are you going to write examinations this year?’ And I said ‘Sir, I cannot write any examination because after writing three times in your centre, they were cancelled. So, why would I write again the fourth time?’ But he kept insisting and I said ‘I am not going to do that’. I have a younger cousin, who persuaded me to give it another trial. Infact, he told me to go and that he was going to pay for me, but I still stood my ground. So, he had to go look for a photographer to come to the house and snap me passport size photograph for the examination registration. He took the passport to Mr Chibueze with my details and he told me ‘all you need you to do is to go and write your examination.’ So, I finally wrote it and eventually passed Mathematics.
So, Mathematics eventually came through?
Yeah. Even now that I am talking to you, I am crying because it was really a tough one for me, as if I did not know Mathematics at all. So, when I saw a credit in the Mathematics, I picked up my phone immediately to call my mother, ‘Mama! I passed Mathematics’ and she said ’praise the Lord!’ I was really crying.
Thereafter, I went back to the academy to present the result with a Credit in Mathematics and was given my certificate. As a result of the delay, I was not interested anymore in studying in Nigeria. I could recall that as a young child, I loved the story of the popular novel, ‘Mills and Boon’, where they talked about England and many lovely places. So, in my head, I thought I have to be there someday. So, I think my going to England was borne of that childhood novel. I eventually studied abroad, which made me more tolerant and accommodating. It was a wonderful experience studying there.
Then you returned?
Yes. I did not meet Governor el-Rufai until 2018, when I invited him for my mother’s 70th birthday after talking me out of my depression then. In fact, he was the one who said if I invite him, he would come despite his busy schedule (laughs). So, he actually came to the house even though he could not make it on that day. So, he wished my mum a happy birthday and asked her what she wanted. She told him ‘Well, a mother cannot tell a son what she wants but that the son should think for what is best for the mother.’ So, he turned to ask ‘Naymarie, are you now ready to work with us?’ I went ‘Oh my God. Yes, Sir’. So, I never wrote any application. He just offered me the job. It was just my mother’s blessings following me (laughs).
How then did you meet your husband?
Awwwn (laughs). Social media, Facebook, precisely. We were supposed to face our books, but we were doing Facebook (laughs). We have been friends on Facebook since 2008. I think one of his friends, Lekan, did his Masters in Newcastle with me. So, he is our mutual Facebook friend. I actually commented on a post he made and he responded to my comment. He later made his way to my Facebook messenger and started to chat with me, asking ‘how are you and everything?’ We kept on chatting, chatting and chatting. But one day, I told him ‘I actually have a phone, you know? (Laughs). I was not cool with chatting. So he asked, ‘can I have your number?’ I answered ‘you look for it’. There was a time he called from America while I was in Abuja. In the midst of the conversation that day, he said ‘I am going to marry you’, and I replied ‘you would marry yourself, not me’ (laughs). We got talking and eventually got married in 2015.
What got you interested?
He was and is still so fine and very intelligent. I have a flair for very brilliant people. I like very decent and good-looking people. He is very kind because even on our wedding day, when the priest asked me ‘why did you decide to marry him?’ I said ‘because he is kind’. This is because when love fails you, but you are humane and kind, he will always be there. He was very interesting. So, what really happened? We never met and I just finished Law School, and he was like ‘I am quite busy with work. Would you like to come to the United States?’ I had been to New York and other places, but not Chicago, where he was living. I answered ‘okay, that would be nice, because I was thinking of vacation myself.’ So, he said ‘just check the ticket and choose whichever one you like and I would buy you the ticket’. So, he sent me $2,500 to buy the ticket, and I exclaimed ‘oh wow! That means this guy is serious. I could as well just collect his money and block him on social media’ (laughs). But he was interesting and I eventually got to like him.
Anything you want him to stop doing?
Yes, I want him to be very successful. But then, too much of everything is bad. He is a workaholic. He probably sleeps two to three hours a day. I have to force him to sleep. You know the way you force a child to sleep. So, my husband loves work to an extent that even in his sleep, he is working. I don’t have a problem with a workaholic, but think he is extreme. And he eats too much of amala and ewedu, although I like them too (laughs).