Ireti Kingibe: A Trailblazer in Nigerian Politics and the Senate

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“I see so much wrong; I see so much that can be improved on; and I also see that most of the people that have been in the National Assembly are more concerned about how much money they’re going to make as opposed to what can be done for the people.” These were the exact words of Ireti HeebahKingibe, the first FCT female Senator.

Ireti Kingibe is not your typical politician from Nigeria; she is a major mouthpiece of the people whose voices need to be heard.

As an elected member of the senate representing the FCT in the 2023 Nigerian Senate elections under the Labour Party, born on June 2, 1954, Ireti is a Nigerian civil engineer and politician.

Four years ago, the former minister’s engineer wife was thinking about relocating to the US or Great Britain, or at the very least, taking a vacation due to the self-declared idealist nature of how Nigerian politics was being run. “I told everybody I was done with politics and went indoors,” she said.

It was not long before Kingibe’s phone began to ring frequently as curious bystanders expressed interest in her sense of independence and resilience. She joined the Labour Party in 2022 under the leadership of presidential candidate Peter Obi, and in the elections recently, she emerged as the unexpected victor in the contest to represent Abuja, the nation’s capital, as a senator.

Career and Political Journey of Ireti Heebah Kingibe

Between 1978 and 1979, Kingibe worked as a quality control engineer for Bradley Precast Concrete, Inc. From 1979 to 1991, she continued working as an engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation Design Section. Between 1981 and 1982, she spent her one-year required service year in Nigeria. She was sent to the Nigerian Air Force installation in Ikeja, Lagos, where she will be working as a project supervisor.

She was hired as a planning engineer by the New Nigeria Construction Company in Kaduna in 1982. She left the New Nigeria Building Company in 1985 to work as a consultant for Belsam Limited.

Between 1990 and 1994, Ireti worked for Lodigiani Nigeria Limited as the company’s regional engineer in Lagos.

She is currently employed by Kelnic Associates, Abuja, as a senior partner.

In 1990, Kingibe was appointed as an advisor to the national chairman of the now-defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), which marked the beginning of her political career.

She ran as the All Nigeria People’s Party’s senate candidate for the FCT in 2003. In 2006, she joined the People’s Democratic Party. She did, however, join the All ProgressiveCongress (APC) in 2014 because she found the politics in the PDP to be too much for her. She applied to be a senator for the APC in 2015.

In Abuja, Kingibe joined the Labour Party in 2022, ran as its senatorial candidate in the 2023 elections in Nigeria, and unseated the incumbent, Philip Aduda, who had held the capital for 12 years, taking more than double his votes. She became the first female senator in the city in 20 years.

In August 2023, she was appointed to lead the 10th Senate’s committee on women’s issues. She is indeed a force to reckon with.

Kingibe had also pledged to donate her salary to an “emergency” fund to support her policies, which are focused on redistributing wealth in the city and its poor rural environs.

There were again plans to call for supplying water to Abuja’s poorer neighbourhoods, gaining access to government funding for healthcare and education, and assisting farmers—many of whom reside in the capital territory that serves as her constituency.

“My values are integrity, fairness, and that the more privileged should look out for the less privileged,” she declared. “I always say that the way society’s more privileged members treat its less privileged members defines society.”

Kingibe had assured and vowed to use her expanded authority to handle issues affecting FCT inhabitants in a cooperative manner while upholding an open-door policy to interact with them and gain their vital input.

Expressing her willingness to work, the engineer-turned-politician revealed that she will work with everybody, irrespective of party, to enhance the living standards of the people in the FCT and its environment. Also outlining her vision, Kingibe is committed to focusing on key areas of infrastructure development, education, healthcare, gender inclusion, and job creation in the nation’s capital.

Recently, at a media briefing in Abuja, Kingibe said aside from the highbrow areas in the FCT, there is “zero development” in Abuja, especially in the suburbs. “I’m running because I see a great lapse and lacuna in representation in the FCT, “I’ve lived in the FCT since 1988 and I’ve watched FCT grow from a place where people lived in life camps to a point where people developed, and FCT was number one and everybody looked at it to be the model and pilot.

“If you look at the FCT, if you remove Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse 2, CBD, and the airport road, there’s nothing. The development rate is zero. You can’t go to Nyanya and see decent roads. In 2023, there is no water and no light.

“One of the things I’m passionate about is violence against women. I’ll be creating what I call ‘Ireti Marshals, who are going to be in the wards.

“In your community, if there is a problem, we’ll get to hear it from the marshals. I’m working on it, and I’m going to fund it to ensure that violence against women is mitigated and eradicated.”

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