Aisha Gambo: In Pursuit of Sustainable Development
Words By -Yemisi Suleiman
Wife of Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff and current president of the Naval Officers Wives Association, NOWA, Nana Aisha Gambo is poised to create an absolutely better life for members of her association.
Since assuming office in 2021, Mrs. Gambo has embarked on major projects, aimed at bettering and enhancing the organization by supporting military wives whose husbands are often absent on missions or stationed far away from their homes. Apart from her duties at NOWA, Aisha Gambo is also a philanthropist, who prides herself on a lot of philanthropic activities such as providing access to clean water in disadvantaged communities, empowering young and upcoming women in the business world, and offering scholarship opportunities to indigent students; a feat which, recently, earned her a spot as an inductee into the United Nations Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Gambo who holds a degree in Geography and Regional Planning from Ahmadu Bello University is also CEO of Framazaz Resources Limited, with several subsidiaries. The businesswoman also has her hand in properties and interior decoration.
As president of Nowa, what major initiative have you embarked upon to improve the lives of members of your organisation?
Since assuming office, we have done several projects geared towards improving the lives of our people. We have done seminars and training to expose and enhance their livelihoods such as entrepreneurship training to enhance their business skills in topics like negotiating, marketing, profitable pricing, etc. We have held cybersecurity seminars to expose members to the effects, impacts, and detection of cyber fraud. Our members have been engaged with an African study tour that exposed NOWA executives and members to empowerment and welfare programmes, employed by other countries to improve the lives of women and children.
Are you having the impact you hoped your initiative would have at the outset?
I feel very good and blessed about the initiatives I put forth because the impact is felt across the board. There have been an increasing number of participants joining the skills acquisition training center for example, and we have a lot more clamouring for new centers to be built in more states.
Often, we hear and see on TV wives of late military men lamenting that they and their children have been neglected after the death of their husbands.
What does Nowa do in such circumstances?
There is always room for NOWA members in the NOWA organization. We understand that the circumstances are extremely painful, but in our own organizational capacity, we continue to provide opportunities and support for those whose husbands are late and died fighting for our country. NOWA in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy organizes sensitization workshops to sensitize the officers on the benefits of appointing their spouses as next of kin to enable the receipt of benefits and entitlements.
In what ways do you cater to both the developmental and moral growth of women and children left behind by late officers?
One of my core beliefs is that we don’t leave anyone behind. We make sure that support is available for widows and their children. We also give work opportunities when the chance arises. In addition, we also offer opportunities for women and youths to learn vocational and entrepreneurship skills, at our skills acquisition centres in Oghara and Lagos. NOWA sponsors the children of late parents through primary and secondary education
You were inducted into the United Nations Humanitarian Hall of Fame some time ago, what does this mean to you?
The induction into the Humanitarian Hall of Fame about six months ago means a lot not because of the award itself, but because it means the work I have been doing behind the scenes has been impactful on so many lives, and my efforts have been recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. With or without any awards, it’s in my heart to impact lives and I will continue to do so in any way I see possible.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” How do you factor this in achieving your goals with regards to Nowa?
NOWA is a strong women association made up of many strong and smart women and that is a vehicle for any initiative regarding the growth of women globally. We align with the International Women’s Day theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” because the celebration of women who have done what we aspire to do, encourages more women to push the boundaries for gender equality and a more sustainable future.
How do you balance being at the head of a property development and interior decorating company at the same time?
By the Grace of Almighty Allah, I am at the helm of a few different businesses and it can be challenging balancing different businesses in such an environment. I make sure I work with trustworthy people. I also train them and employ those who are willing to work hard and be rewarded accordingly.
Have you always been entrepreneurial? What led you to take that first step in setting up your own business?
Yes, by the Grace of God, I have always been entrepreneurial from my childhood days. I got interested in my father’s business ventures; he was also a builder and I noticed how he went about his work. Again, I always assisted my mother in getting things done, whether it was following her to the market, or just handling things around the house. I believe this upbringing grounded me to understand that success in life is a process and a journey.
Over the years, have you encountered any barriers to your success or growth as an entrepreneur?
Everyone experiences challenges in business but, that of a woman can be very different because there are many aspects involved. I had three young kids to take care of while also starting and running my business. Balancing the time my business needed to grow and the amount of time devoted to raising good kids posed a challenge. But with the wisdom and blessings I acquired as a young lady, I was able to make both works and by the Grace of God, raised three beautiful young adults. Another challenge I faced was the thought that business is supposed to be left for men to do. Early on in my career, when some of the men did not understand my passion and capacity, they thought the opportunities I was vying for were too big for me to handle until I was awarded the job and executed well. Consistent delivery was how I was able to continue to build credibility over the years and oftentimes my old clients would refer me to the next client.
What event in your childhood years shaped you into the woman you are today?
No particular event but as mentioned earlier, watching and being involved with my parents activities gave me the courage and confidence to work hard and reach new heights over time.
As a businesswoman, leader, and philanthropist, what is your vision?
My vision is to be an inspiration to many people, especially the young and up-and-coming businesswomen in our society. I believe my actions, my stories, and my work, will help motivate and inspire them.
How does your business experience benefit your current position as president of Nowa?
Well, I can look at the problems we face from a private sector point of view. This allows me to be a bit more hands-on and less bureaucratic in providing solutions to the organization.
What are you most passionate about?
My big focus is on the sustainable development of the less privileged. It has been a passion of mine even before I became the NOWA President. I have taken pride in doing a lot of philanthropic activities such as providing access to clean water in communities, empowering young and upcoming women in the business world, scholarship programmes to mention a few.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?
One of the biggest projects I would like to accomplish in the next year is the hospital we plan to build for women and children. This would be a specialized 200-bed hospital that would be equipped to handle all the necessary care for women and children. We plan to build it in three locations (Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt).
You look very fashionable. What’s fashion like for you?
Well, fashion is also an expression for me, it can be therapeutic to wear nice clothes and feel confident in them, and so I am intentional about that. I like my clothes simple but elegant.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Because I am extremely busy with a lot of engagements with my different businesses, I enjoy resting, sleeping, and taking time for myself whenever I get the chance. I don’t compromise on that and I think it’s an important aspect that many busy people should focus on. I also enjoy listening to music and The Holy Quran.
What is the one piece of advice you would give any young woman reading this?
The one piece of advice I would give any young woman reading this is, to understand that success is a process, there’s a journey to it and it doesn’t come as fast as social media might want to make you believe. Work hard, develop yourself because no one can ever take that away from you, be confident, and associate with the right people.