In 1933, the Education Department of Northern Nigeria organized a competition for teachers who were interested in writing books of original thoughts in Hausa. The competition was sponsored by the translation bureau under Mr. R. M East. Among the competitors were Abubakar Imam, who wrote the legendary Ruwan Bagaja, Malam Bello Kagara, The latter’s brother, and Malam Abubakar Tafawa Balewa—future Prime Minister— who wrote Shaihu Umar. The competition was the first of it’s kind in the region, and it succeeded in bringing out some great literary works in Hausa. Sadly enough, no lady took part in this competition.
Who is the First Female Author From Northern Nigeria?
Some 30 years later in the early 1970s, another prose competition was organized by the Northern Nigerian Publishing Company in Zaria. This time around a teenage girl decided to enter. She entered a book she originally wrote in Hausa and only translated to English when she heard of the competition. The book—So Aljannar Duniya (love is heaven on earth)— came second in the contest. The name of the author is Hafsat Abdul Waheed. She was the first female author from Northern Nigeria.
Hafsat Abdulwaheed was born on May 5, 1952, in Kofar Mata quarters of Kano City in Northern Nigeria. She completed her primary education at Shahuci Primary School. Hafsat had her secondary school education at Provincial Girls School currently known as Shekara Girls Secondary School, in Kano State. Hafsat had been an avid reader and listener of folktales since childhood. When she started schooling, she developed skills of writing from the home-works and assignments she was given. She started writing in her primary school days and wrote her first published novel when she was in primary five. But this is hardly a problem for Hafsat as she was born into a family of writers. Both her father and grandfather were writers. She has since written more than 30 books, many of which have remained unpublished.
So Aljannar Duniya (Love is Heaven on Earth)
Hafsat’s masterpiece —So Aljannar Duniya— was published in the 1972 and republished in 1980. It became the first novel to be written by a female author in Northern Nigeria. It’s theme revolved around love and forced marriages, a subject considered a taboo and left unexplored by the predominantly male writers in the region. She was influenced by her sister’s marriage to a Libyan man. It instantly became a cult classic and was translated into Fulfulde and Arabic, even though they never got published. The book was later adopted by several schools and institutions as a study text.
Hafsat Abdulwaheed’s Works
While So Aljannar Duniya was her Hafsat’s first love novel, it was her also her last. She wrote 6 more books exploring so many topics including two nonfiction, that deal with day to day living while the others are stories that could be read to children, stories that teach morals, and one poetry book in English. Along with being a writer, she is also an activist and a politician. Her NGO —set in the early 2000s— assists women from Northern Nigeria in dealing with domestic violence.
Some of Hafsat’s published books include; Yar Dubu Mai Tambotsai, Nasiha ga Ma’aurata (advice to married couples), and Namijin Maza: Tauraron Annaba (The Courageous Man: The seal of the Prophets.) The writer is now focused on writing Islamic books. Authors who have influenced her the most include; Abubakar Imam and Sai’du Ahmad Daura, author of Tauraruwar Hamada. She has was a recipient of the British Council prize at that tender age and has been honored by numerous clubs, associations, and societies including the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and The Read Across Nigeria (RAN)
The emergence of the first female author from Northern Nigeria, threading on previously unchartered territories changed the dynamics of writing in Northern Nigeria. This led to the rise of popular female authors of the so-called Kano market literature popularised in the 1990s. It won’t be an exaggeration if it is said that she paved way for authors like Zainab Alkali, Bilkisu Ahmad Funtua, Talatu Wada Ahmad, Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, and others from the region.
Foray Into Politics
Her journey into politics was spurred by the lack of inclusion of females in Zamafara State’s cabinet, where she lives. The Governor at the time felt no female was educated enough to be in his cabinet. Of course, that wasn’t true as all the writer’s female children were educated enough. She decided to contest the gubernatorial elections herself. Even though she ended up being denied the ticket by her party based on cultural and religious reasons, her courage to challenge the incumbency resulted in more women being appointed to the cabinet subsequently.
Hafsat Abdulwaheed’s Family
Though her bid to contribute to society through politics was truncated, she got to achieve that through her children. One of her children includes Kadaria Ahmad, a prolific journalist who anchored both the 2011 and 2019 Presidential debates. She also created her shows; The Core on Channels TV and Straight talk. She is the founder of Daria Media Ltd, a company designed to promote public service journalism. Another, Zainab Ahmad, is the wife of the current Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-rufai. She had ten children, seven of whom are alive. She is happily married to her husband with whom she lives with in Gusau, the capital city of Zamfara state.