Just recently, Hajiya Ireti Heebah Kingibe was declared the winner of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT Abuja) senatorial election, thus making her the second female senator-elect of the FCT. The 69-year-old civil engineer will replace the multiple-term Senator Philip Aduda at the Red Chamber.
If you think her surname sounds familiar, you are right. She was married to Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (2007-2008), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1993 – 1995), Minister of Internal Affairs (1995 – 1997), and Minister of Power and Steel (1997 – 1998). He was also running mate to Chief Moshood Abiola in the annulled 1993 presidential election.
Birth and education
Ireti was born on June 2, 1954, in what one might call a colourful and rich cultural ‘Nigerian’ family. Her father, Abdulkadri Lanval is of Fulani and Yoruba ancestry, while her mother traces her roots to Asaba and Bonny. She had as her elder sister, Ajoke Mohammed, the wife of former Nigeria head of state, Murtala Muhammed.
As a young girl, Ireti attended Emotan Preparatory School, where she had her elementary education. She then started her secondary education at Queen’s College in Lagos and concluded it at Washington Irving High School.
The next stop would be the University of Minnesota where she bagged a degree in Civil Engineering in the 1970s. Even now, Engineering is one of the few professions dominated by males, so one can only imagine how much of a rarity it was at the time, to have a female child study Civil Engineering.
Her professional career
Ms Kingibe started her career in 1978 as a Quality Control engineer with Bradley Precast Concrete Inc. She left in 1979 and joined the Minnesota Department of Transportation Design unit as an engineer. She stayed at this job till she took a break in 1981 to return to Nigeria for the one-year mandatory national service. She worked as a Project Supervisor with the Directorate of works, Nigerian Air Force base in Ikeja, Lagos till 1982.
From the 1980s till 1990, Ireti Kingibe worked with the New Nigeria Construction Company, Kaduna as a planning engineer; and later as a consultant for Belsam Limited. By 1990, she joined Lodigiani Nigeria Limited, Lagos as a regional engineer.
She is a Senior Partner with Kelnic Associates, an Architectural firm in the FCT Abuja.
Her foray into politics
Ireti Kingibe has had a political career that spans over three decades. She joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1990, and at some point, served as the Adviser to the party’s national chairman. Like several other Nigerian politicians, she had to take a break from the political space during the military era that lasted till 1998. When the country returned to civilian rule, she resumed her political career by joining one of the newly formed political parties – ANPP.
She first contested the FCT senatorial election in 2003 on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP (now defunct). She joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2006, and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2014. Kingibe was to have contested in 2015 on the platform of APC, but she did not go through with it.
She joined Labour Party in 2022 and contested in the just concluded general elections on February 25, 2023, as the FCT senatorial candidate. During the campaigns, she pledged that if she should win, she would donate her basic salary to a special fund to tackle infrastructural deficits in the rural communities within the nation’s capital. Some said her mixed cultural background made her the perfect candidate to represent the interest of all concerned, particularly minorities.
On Tuesday, 28 February 2023, The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Ireti Kingibe the winner of the Federal Capital Territory as announced by the returning officer Sanni Saka, amid protests from other party agents. She received her Certificate of Return from the commission some days after and was congratulated by Mr Peter Obi, Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party.
He had tweeted via his official handle; “A very hearty congratulations to Senator-elect Mrs @ireti_kingibe; the second elected female senator for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Her election is in keeping with our commitment to women and youth.”