The First Ladies, I: Nigeria’s “First Ladyism”: volcanoes waiting to erupt

February 22, 2012 

by Tola Adenle

When Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka first used “first ladyism” in reference to the excess of the position during the time of the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, we did not envisage the further stench the position was still to bring to political governance in the country. He, like most Nigerians was simply fed up with the retinue of governors’ wives at the beck and call and at receiving end of a supposed Senior First Lady who was territorial. Readers of this column are familiar with the countless times I’ve written about Osun State’s ill luck in the hands of the Oyinlolas, including the missus who, after collecting tons of money for her “pet project”, including N50 million donated by her husband, retired Brigadier Oyinlola “on behalf of Osun State, declared that a rental hall she built from the proceeds is “the result of [her] sweat”. With the exceptions of a first lady or two since 1999, I am not aware of such women whose so-called “pet projects” have not become personal businesses during and after leaving office. A lot of collected or coerced funds out of state contractors or intending contractors are promptly exchanged and carted abroad or kept in Nigeria for personal uses – building huge mansions, etcetera.

That is no longer news or looked askance at in these parts where corruption is the norm. What is new, however, is the multiple-wife “first ladies-ism” (!) in one state. Nigerians continue to be regaled with the Adamawa fiasco where a former navy officer now ruling the state wants his harem to partake of state’s largesse so that the elusive “dividends of democracy” can permeate down. Pray, what is “Abuja Affairs” for Adamawa; ditto “Health”; “Political Affairs and Mobilization”, and what in the world is “Home Front” that have been allotted to each of this man’s wives? This would be funny were it not tragic.

As these absurdities and taking the masses for big empty rides were not enough, here comes Kebbi embroiled in a first lady pass first lady fiasco with no less a personality than the daughter of Alhaji Yar Adua right smack in the middle of a plot that cannot thicken further. The first Alhaja Gari would lick her wounds but she should accept her “relocation to Lagos” and “relegation” to the background as a good Muslim in the interest of the Kebbi masses who will be hurt by two first ladies’ profligacy. In Nigeria, I can already see people telling her it’s God’s will just as amazingly, embattled Speaker, Mrs. Foluke Etteh was reported in newspapers as saying the killing of Federal Representative at Ibadan recently was God’s will. The kind of god worshipped by men – and women of Nigeria, Inc. – is definitely not God Almighty.

It may be uncharitable to say that marrying Yar Adua’s daughter AFTER the swearing in to the presidency of the bride’s father was grist for Governor Gari’s mill because marrying into powerful political or royal families have always been steps in the right directions all over the world! As if to show the older wife who really is first lady, Alhaja Turai Yar Adua reportedly chose Kebbi to launch her own project on HIV/AIDS. Is the North her husband’s constituency? The new Bride, Yar Adua, now reportedly has her portraits displayed in some places as first lady – a new one on Nigerians – someone who occupies an unconstitutional position.

From Maryam Babangida who strutted her stuff as the first huge first lady to late Stella Obasanjo who told governors’ wives of her being the only first lady – and to most state first ladies, there has been nothing but double waste of resources by husbands and wives. Now, with the new turn of events, can it be long before Nigeria would have wives of Nigeria’s president meeting at foreign gatherings to duke it out and embarrass Nigeria – if not the husband who has relegated five and promoted one over and above her “wife-mates” in the harem?

In spite of my disdain for the way Yar Adua got imposed on Nigeria, I had a feeling – now baseless – that he would be in President Shagari’s mould and would face Nigeria’s problems without the fund-wasting and vainglorious post of active “first ladyism”. There is a Ministry of Health; there is NACA, the Aids body headed by a medical person, etcetera. Nigerian first ladies have proved without a doubt that most are as thieving as their husbands. They cannot carry such non-governmental positions as first ladies in the United States from where the idea originated with late Eleanor Roosevelt. To her and her tribe, especially Lady Bird Johnson, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, etcetera, rendering service through public use of private donations is the issue but to their Nigerian imitators, first lady is an avenue to empire-building and wealth.

Whatever happened to Babangida’s Better Life for Rural Women; Abacha’s Family Support or Obasanjo’s Child Trust? It is time Nigerians will these positions out of existence through protests. I know; these people got into offices WITHOUT needing masses’votes and protests matter not to them. These women – past and present first ladies should have to answer for what they did and are doing with monies collected purportedly to provide public services.


Weep not for Nigerian women, Hajia Dogonyaro

Reports in the news have Hajia Laila Dogonyaro and Sarah Jibril – among others – regretting the supposed set back that Mrs. Foluke Etteh’s alleged gargantuan renovations have caused Nigerian women’s emancipation. One can appreciate the fears of Hajia Dogonyaro, an old warrior for women’s rights from the days of revered Aminu Kano. I feel Sarah needs not worry because no man can be plastered with the deeds of men who have always stolen Nigeria dry.

While I’m not saying women should ape what males in powerful positions have always done, nor am I supporting Etteh, I believe neither sex can take the moral high ground. I do understand where the two warriors, like many other women who are offering apologies left, right and center for this male-like greed, are coming from: women are nurturers, etcetera but if – and we must await findings – Etteh is found guilty, she and the evil system that foisted her on the House are to blame. Did men have to cover their faces in shame at the Tafa Baloguns, the Alamiesghas, the Abachas, the Turakis, et al? I read Adedibu’s harangue that if Etteh is tried, Yorubas are being tried and that this [Etteh] is the only one we have in the West”! I think reporters have wasted enough newspaper spaces on these PDP megaphones and enforcers who regurgitate ill-formed ideas and even less-understood [by them] ideologies.

Not me, not Hajia Dogonyaro and definitely not my Youth Corp mate, Sarah who, even back in 1975, already showed the stuff she’s made of – need weep for Nigeria over Etteh’s alleged actions. I am sure like most “elected” politicians, she represents herself and PDP interests that are meant to entrench the status quo.

The Nation on Sunday, September 2007



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