A versatile journalist, columnist, journalism ombudsman and later civil society activist, Hajiya Bilkisu mentored a lot of journalists for about three decades.
Bilkisu was born in Kano, December 2, 1952 and had her primary education at Ansar Primary School, Kano in 1964 from where she proceeded to the Government Girls College, Dala, Kano for her secondary school education. She studied obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and a masters degree degree in political science and international relations from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.
After her return from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she became the first female editor at the Sunday Triumph, Kano 1983. She later acquired an advanced degree in journalism from the International Journalism School at Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Moscow, Russia, in 1986 after which she held the title of editor at the New Nigerian Newspaper in 1987 and Citizen Magazine both in Kaduna, in 1990. Which automatically made her the first woman known in Nigeria to direct a National Newspaper Operation.
Being a Hausa Muslim woman; feminist, a pioneering journalist, and an advocate for interfaith society, she broke down barriers in a patriarchal society by thriving in the midst of a worrisome situation in the North where religious and cultural restrictions are imposed on a woman. But with determination, education, commitment, dedication and doggedness and refusal to accept the norm, she excelled not only in journalism; but she develop her own versions of it.
The times of Hajia Bilkisu were much more difficult for women from this part of the country that is obtainable today; yet she carved a niche for herself as a reputable and respected Journalist all over the world.
Her fortitude and social skills was well-suited in her careers and media other than being a notable women’s right’s activist, She founded several NGOs, such as Women In Nigeria (WIN), which was one of the earliest feminist organizations in Nigeria, the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association Against Malaria (NIFAAM), and Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON). She was also executive director of Advocacy Nigeria making her loved in Nigeria and Beyond.
Bilkisu Yusuf is the definition of Nobility at its simplest, She begins whatever she preached with herself; she lived a modest and virtuous live and gave her all to every tasks she gave herself or was been instructed. Self-imposed or given, the assignments were so numerous her friends always wondered how she found the time and energy to cope as well as she always did.
Notable among these assignments were her role as two-time Amira of FOMWAN (the Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria), arguably the most organized and effective Muslim organization in the country, her role as a pioneer road marshal along with the Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka, her role as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations headed by Chief Emeka Anyaoku; and her role as a member of the fact-finding committee, headed by retired General Ibrahim Sabo, on the abduction of Chibok Girls by Boko Haram which provoked so much global outrage.
This is not to mention her co-founding of, and active participation in, many human rights and civil society organizations and associations like Nigeria’s chapter of Transparency International under the incorruptible retired General Ishola Williams, Accountability for Maternal Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Vision Trust Foundation (VTF), and CISLAC.
But in all of these, Hajia Bilkisu gave more than she got; unlike many public figures who took more and adept at polishing their public images. Bilkisu Yusuf had a positive and outgoing personality which made her popular and appealing.
She was first married to Alhaji Sanusi Ciroma Yusuf, who eventually became the Chief Judge of Kano State and had two children; a son Moshood Sanusi Yusuf and a daughter Nana Fatima who all bore them two grand children each.
Alhaji Sanusi Ciroma Yusuf died at the age of 73 in Kano April 15, 2012.
She later got married to Mustapha Bintube, who left Fidelity Bank as a well-respected General Manager for his insistence on ethical banking and later became the pioneer managing director of Ja’iz Islamic Bank.
While Hajia Bilkisu considered her duty as a wife above her commitments to Journalism and civil society and human rights activities, her Husband gave her ample time to attend to those commitments. The result was one great and happy family.
Hajia Bilkisu Yusuf died on the 24th September 2015, in the stampede that occurred during the Muslim’s holy pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.