By Remmy Diagbare
The news of the demise of Mrs. Maryam Babangida came as a shock. Although, there had been rumours of this a month earlier, which turned out to be a fluke, it still came as somewhat of a shock, that indeed, she has passed on.
Mrs. Babangida was a dynamic woman, very dynamic as a matter of fact. She was instrumental to the glamourisation of the First Ladyâ€™s office. Before her, First Ladies were barely seen and not heard. But, when she became First Lady in 1985, with the ascension of her husband to the seat of power, out went the conservative that was the first ladyâ€™s lot.
She brought verve, glamour and panache to the office. Suddenly, the First Ladyâ€™s office became an almost constitutional position. During the eight years she reigned, she was the most powerful woman in the country â€“ to the extent that it was rumoured â€“ anyone who wanted to be relevant at the time ensured they were in her good books.
Perhaps, the most significant spill over of her reign was the emancipation of the Nigerian woman. With her Better Life for Rural Women programme, Maryam drew world attention to the financial paucity of the rural woman; a situation she proceeded to change â€“ transforming the lives and self esteem of millions of rural dwellers and ensuring that the programme was replicated in all the states.
Late Mrs. Babangidaâ€™s singular focus for better life for women received the approval of many and changed the position of the office of First Lady for ever.Â Unfortunately, soon after she left, the Better Life Programme lost steam asÂ Â next person to fill the â€œofficeâ€ didnâ€™t fancy walking under her huge shadow. From that time onwards, the First Ladyâ€™s office and First Ladyâ€™s pet project syndrome took a life of its own.
While she brought a sense of purpose to her office, she also brought glamour to the front burner. Tall and slender, she was, indeed, a black beauty to behold; one who epitomised true African beauty.
Mrs. Babangida was not only a delight to style writers; she was also a quintessential trend setter. Many would race to their television sets, during news broadcasts, to catch a glimpse of yet another flamboyant ensemble.Â And Mrs. Babangida never failed to satisfy their curiosity. Foremost designer, Data Okorodudu,Â Â Â when asked to comment on her style, described the former First Lady as a natural African Beauty.Â On her style, she says â€™her style is what I will call understated eleganceâ€™
Although,Â Â Mrs. Babangida went quiet after she left the seat of power, her impact on the office of the First Lady remains larger than life. Nigerians loved her. And, she will be missed indeed. We join former President Ibrahim Babangida, her children and her entire family to mourn the death of a beautiful, impactful and dynamic style icon.
Mrs. Babangida was a dynamic woman