By Okuneye Moyosola
Khadijat Sheidu-Shabi is the Assistant General Manager, Environment with the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Department at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). In this interview, she reveals how she grudgingly joined NPA, her work experience with men and women at the Authority and stressed the need for women to take care of their health. Excerpts:
How do you feel as one of the women to be recognized in the industry?
The feeling is very good and I appreciate the fact that it’s hard work and dedication to the job that has warranted the award. I know this award must have been thoroughly done and there must have been a lot of checks and investigation on the personalities but after the scrutiny I was chosen.
From your profile, we gathered that you studied Health, Safety and Environment (HSE). What was the reason for choosing that discipline?
I started as a pharmacist and I got to a stage where I felt that I needed more in the health sector. Health Safety and Environment is a relatively new department in the science oriented world so I was curious to know more than just pharmacy instead of limiting myself to the medical department. That is what led to the decision.
What motivated you to join the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) as a health practitioner?
I actually didn’t want to join the Nigerian Port Authority; I wanted to be a business woman. But my father, late Alhaji Ahmadu Shiedu, a Retired Assistant Inspector General of Police figured that since he was a civil servant, he wanted me to toll his lane and he got the job for me. For three months I refused to accept the letter. After the 33rd month, I decided to accept the letter. Honestly, I did not regret taking that job.
As an Assistant General Manager, Environment at NPA, what have been your challenges?
The department is male dominated one unlike the medical department where you have a lot of nurses and doctors that are females. The transition from a female dominated division to a male dominated division was the initial adjustment. Thereafter, I realized that working with men is wonderful.
You seem to have made remarkable achievements in the health sector from being a pharmacist as a youth corps member to currently the AGM, HSE. You are also a member of various notable pharmaceutical associations. How have you been able to achieve this?
I became a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria early this year and it is very strict. It is similar to been Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in Law. You have to work for the association and if you work hard, your work will be recognized and your achievement in the field of pharmacy is also paramount. You also have to be dedicated as a pharmacist and make immense contributions which will lead to recognition. Another criterion for recognition is the years of service.
As the secretary of Fatima Charity Foundation, can you tell us about some of the developments of the foundation and its achievements?
Fatima Charity Foundation is owned by Alhaja Fatima Tinubu who is the ‘Iyalode of Lagos’. She is very passionate about giving back to the society and has been doing that on her own for quite some time. It became so large and she felt the need establish the foundation.
There are a lot of women out there who want to give back to the society. The motor for the foundation is “succor to the needy” and it is a predominantly Muslim association. More importantly, the foundation is about touching lives. By the time I was 2 years in the association, it was decided that I should be the secretary. I have been the secretary of the foundation for over 5 years.
The foundation has gone very far. At the beginning of the year, we usually do prayers for the nation. We also go to the motherless babies homes, Kirikiri Prisons, beggars. The foundation also organizes lectures for girls in secondary school and sensitizes them on sexual harassment. We mentor them on how to be productive women for the future. We have really achieved a lot and the organization is well known.
In 2018, you were honoured by Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) with the most outstanding performance award. What do you think prompted the award?
WiLAT was founded by Hajia Aisha Ali Ibrahim, a port manager in NPA. I am also the Public Relations Officer for WiLAT. I love working and I think that it is wrong for somebody to be lazy. I also do not believe that there is anything too big to be done or too small to be done. I give both big and small task my optimum dedication. As long as it is an assignment, it has to be done perfectly. I joined in the WiLAT Day activity and the following year I was told to chair the WiLAT Day which is a yearly event.
WiLAT is about 7 years old and has covered 17 countries in this short span. By virtue of the yearly activity that I participated in, I was made the Chairperson of the WiLAT Day for three consecutive years and handed over to someone else. The award was based on that involvement.
Women go through a lot trying to balance their work with their family and also pursuing their career. The society has also put a lot of pressure on women and sometimes they forget to take care of their body. As a health practitioner and a pharmacist, what is your advice to women on health?
I am of the opinion that women are stronger than men. We have been enabled naturally by God to be able to multi task. Firstly, a woman needs to discover herself as no woman is made to do one thing. We are mothers, sisters, wives, career women and that is why we need to discover who we are. You need to discover your talents. You have to ensure that you plan properly, be dedicated and honest because you never can tell who is watching you.
Secondly, as a woman, you must believe that you are multi talented person as this will make it easier to plan your schedule appropriately. However, if the job becomes too much for you, all you need is to take a break and rest. There is a limit to the extent at which you can stress the body and the day you die, somebody else will take your job even before you get into the grave. Discover yourself and know your limits.
Also it is imperative to do a lot of dieting, regular exercise, avoid late night meals, take a lot of water and sleep well. Don’t take life too seriously and do well to smile all the time as this will make you look younger every day.
What would you say to encourage young women out there who have an interest in the maritime industry but are worried because it is a male dominated sector?
Of course, it is a male dominate sector but I believe that women can do it, and even do it better. The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman is a woman and she has proved to the world that women can do it.
You can also see a lot of women coming up in the industry. There is no male or female in the advanced world anymore, it is called gender. Gender can be anything, so it’s not about been a man or a woman; it’s about what you can do.