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Rabi Sodangi… 60 cheers for quintessential officer of state

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Sodangi

Arguably, Hajia Rabi Umar Sodangi is literarily a quiet, shy and humble person.

Even when tested with the temptation of power, especially during her reign as the Acting DG/CEO of one of the nation’s most important agencies, the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, the soft-spoken Hausa-Fulani woman still didn’t lose her core principles.

Until her retirement from active service early last month (February 2019), Sodangi has proved her
leadership mettle in many facets of her endeavours, leaving behind an indelible inks on the sand of time.

Sodangi who has distinguished herself as an entrepreneur, activist, counsellor, mentoring coach and a proud ambassador of the womenfolk has impenetrable affinity with the poor and vulnerable youths, especially the young women of the northern extraction. The affinity, according to her, remains the driving force to invest in their education and economic emancipation.

Until her retirement from active service early February this year, she had served in various capacities and positions including being chairman of Nigerian Institute of Management, Kaduna chapter and later the Northwest Zone, reviving many branches and superintending the elections of Sokoto, Kano and Kaduna states, among others.

When asked of how she feel at 60, she replies with a smile on her face: “My dreams have been fulfilled. I’m really happy and satisfied at this age, Alhamdulillah.

At 60, I am healthy, happy and comfortable. I have reached the highest point in my career as a civil servant. I attributed my successes to my family, friends and colleagues for all the support I received from them during my career.”

Growing up for Sodangi in Katsina State, was quite a memorable experience. “I remembered how my other siblings, cousins and I, were always subjected to discipline and high moral standards. Growing up was full of fun.”

She recalled her upbringing with nostalgia. “We (my two siblings, a cousin and myself) were with our paternal grandparents in Katsina during our primary school days. We stayed in Unguwan Alkali. It’s a community that has produced all the judges in Katsina and we are all related. I grew up with many cousins, uncles and aunties.  We go to school together, we play together and there was always an uncle or aunt to scold you when you do something wrong. So there was discipline.”

As a victim of early marriage, a practice that is rampant in the north till date, her dream of becoming a medical doctor couldn’t be realised. “At age 17, after finishing my secondary school, I was shipped off to my husband, who, luckily, happened to believe in my dream of advance education and something much more besides being a full house wife.

I attribute my glorious life to my husband’s support and God.

“My challenge would have been that I got married immediately after my secondary school at age 17. And of course I couldn’t go to ABU to study medicine as I wanted because I had to live in Kaduna with my husband, so I went to Kaduna Polytechnic.

“And yes, as a child, I wanted to become a Medical Doctor.  But God knows the best for our lives. Though my dream of becoming a doctor became a mirage, yet, I thank the Almighty Allah for the way things turned out for me.

“I am happy eventually. My daughter is now a medical doctor and also moved on to become the CEO the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency.”

I wouldn’t’ have amounted to much if not for my husband.

“I’m happily married with a very supportive husband and wonderful children. My Husband supported my studies a great deal. He would sit and read with me and explain whatever I had problem with. He assisted with the children and even in the kitchen.  He has always supported me in whatever I want to do.  That contributed a lot to my success.

Discussing her Marriage life further , Sodangi said her marriage has been very fruitful and interesting.

“I met and married my husband, Engr. Sabo Ibrahim Sodangi, a man who happens to be a direct member of my lineage.

Interestingly, my husband, who studied Chemical Engineering in Budapest, Hungary had a stint as  Deputy General Manager at Ajaokuta Steel Company, worked briefly at the National Mining Ore Company in Itakpe, Okene; was the Pioneer Director General, Katsina State Gidauniya Foundation, Director/CEO of National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency and he is also a member of my bloodline.

My husband is actually my cousin and I’ve known him long before the courtship. His mother and my daddy are from the same father.”

She however explained that the practise of marrying one’s first or distance cousin is a permissible act in Islamic religion, according to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

“Everything is about mindset. Of course, as a Muslim, I believe in the decree of Allah. I also believe that Allah will always direct one towards ones decree but you just have to pursue it ethically and with prayer.”

Does she has any regret at 60, she enthused, “My life’s regrets were my inability to live my childhood dream of becoming a Medical Doctor and when I lost one of my children, Zaki Sodangi, who died in an accident when he was in his second year studying Chemical engineering.

“Well I did not become the medical doctor I wanted to be, but my daughter is a medical doctor now, alhamdulillah. And I’m really happy with the way things turned out for me.
For Sodangi, the most pleasant of her fond memories in life was when she had her first daughter. “The sweetest of my memories was when I had my first daughter after three boys”.

That I also get to enjoy my holidays with my husband and sometimes with the children, at different tourist attraction sites at home and abroad was memorable. The experience at places like Yankari games reserve, Obudu cattle ranch, all the beaches in Lagos, Pyramids, Museums and others. I have also visited Eiffel in Egypt Tower and Disney land in France, Madam tussauds and other attractions in the United Kingdom, Niagara Falls in the United States, Taj Mahal; others in India and so many sites in Dubai, Malaysia and other parts of the world.

Of what she would regard as the peak of her achievements in life, Sodangi fired back, “Three years ago, when I was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Acting Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Steal Raw Materials Exploration Agency, some persons objected it, claiming it’s “nepotism.”

But after two and a half years into the assignment, I managed to send many of my critics into a state of oblivion. My achievements surpassed all my predecessors and they are verifiable.

The milestones, under my watch, include “the successful execution of 22 Mineral Exploration Projects in various parts of the country; recovery of all the confiscated and abandoned equipment belonging to the Agency; acquisition of many heavy duty machines, project vehicles, laboratory and survey state of the art equipment; engaging the Mining Cadastre Office to cover all our areas of exploration; creation of the IT/GIS centre, including well equipped e-library.

My leadership at National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency was fun and largely successful despite the challenges from the professionals who felt and fought that I should not be the Chief Executive Officer because I am not a geoscientist.

“Surprisingly, I actually achieved a lot more than the geoscientists because of my managerial and leadership expertise.

As a Director of Finance and Human Resources Management, I was coordinating and monitoring projects. That was why I had an edge over past CEOs because I had the technical experience as well as leadership skills.

I joined the agency in 2003 as a Level 14 officer, and I steadfastly rose through the ranks to become a Director in 2010 with much dedication.

My integrity personae attracted other management positions alongside my official portfolio as the head of a directorate. This includes Secretary for top management meetings, Board Secretary, Reform Implementation Committee Secretary and others.

“So, I was always with the top management staff and that gave me a lot of exposures and experience in Exploration. For instance, “as a Director of Finance and Human Resources Management “I was also coordinating and monitoring projects.

As if she was never done, Sodangi also touched no fewer than 15000 lives as the president of AL-MANAR group. She said, like my verifiable track records at NSRMEA and NIM, my leadership tenure as the Ameerah/President of the Alm-Manaar Women Association (AMWA) was also another channel to impact lives and deliver credible leadership.

The AMWA group was established 13 years ago, with a’s sole objective of turning the tide in favour of every poor and vulnerable Hausa women and girl child.

And in administering this objective, since it existence, the group has directly rescued; economically rehabilitated and reintegrated  as many as 15,000 lives touched by insurgency, abject poverty and or victims/sufferers of HIV/AIDS, through its various restoration and rebuilding initiatives.

This figure is said to be besides the 1,500/2000 beneficiaries that have been attending the group’s Annual Ramadan Lectures since three years; where and leadership scholars engage teeming youths on moral rectitude and other socio-contemporary issues such as parenting/child upbringing, character formation, marriage counselling, conflict resolution, financial management at home, business in Islam, benefits of fasting, roles of spouses in the family, among others.

At AMWA, we realised that women empowerment is critical to the achievement of MDGs 1 to 6. When women are empowered, they take care of themselves and their children in terms of feeding, education, healthcare as well as moral development.

The sexagenarian feels there is more to life than reaching the peak of one’s career. She believes touching the life of the commoners is more fulfilling and rewarding. Little wonders, her major desire at 60 was to impact many lives even after retiring from the active services.

“Certainly, I’m done with the civil service. Going forward, I want to engage in mentoring the youth, junior one and empowering the needy, especially women, girls and vulnerable children, insha Allah.

At 60, her role models include Prophet Muhammad (SAW); her father, who was a philanthropist; Mrs. Sally Adukwu Bolukoko, former member of the Presidential Advisory Council and President/Chairman-in-Council, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and Indra Nooyi, the former chief executive officer of Pepsi

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