WHEN the present administration scrapped the office of the First Lady, mixed reactions greeted the move.
There were those who shrugged off the development as a slight on the female gender, while the more cheeky attributed it to a ploy by the president to protect the current First Lady from the ridicule that had bedeviled her predecessor, whose speeches had been turned into a national standing joke.
Others, however, loudly lauded the move as being long overdue, as the office of the First Lady was widely associated with feferity and fanfare at its best.
First Ladies’ projects were commonly regarded with suspicion; as being mere drainpipes through which vast amounts of monies are siphoned to the benefit of friends, close associates and the immediate family. They were seen as a nuisance in general, with a massive predisposition to expending vast amounts on clothes, travels, and other unnecessary expenses.
Of course that point of view should by now have become outdated, with several state executives having highly educated wives with accomplishments of their own. There have been First Ladies- particularly in more recent times- who have distinguished themselves as judges, respected medical doctors and heads of industries.
Wife of the Edo state governor-elect, Betsy Obaseki, is a well known financial professional and the Managing Director of BOI Investment and Trust Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Bank of Industry. Like the current First Lady of that state who had jumped on the humanitarian side of things no sooner had she entered the office, Mrs. Obaseki has been no stranger to creating and running non-profits and humanitarian organizations.“
“That controversy, however, had been before the recession, a phenomenon which has generally taken the mind of Nigeria off virtually every other issue including the controversial fight against corruption; and focused it on the economy alone.
This is perhaps the reason why the various perceived indiscretions of the Nigerian First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had created an uproar every single time. The dust had settled relatively quickly over the first uproar regarding her wristwatch and other accessories at the swearing in ceremony last year.
Within months, news of her launch of a book on beauty caused critics to pass caustic and uncharitable comments about the commitment of the president and members of his household to far more serious affairs of the state starring us in the face. The announcement prior to this that the book had been written to mark the second year anniversary of the kidnap of the Chibok Girls and the gruesome murder of the over 40 secondary school boys from Buni Yadi community in Yobe State had been mostly ignored.
The wife of the President has announced that proceeds of the book launch will be dedicated towards charities and bettering the living conditions of families of the embattled girls, parents of the deceased boys and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Getting bad press had in no way deterred the wife of the president from showing off her sense of style in the future, and she had rocked the public space carrying a Hermes Birkin purse, an accessory priced at between 12,000 and 150,000 US dollars, during an August 2016 visit to the United States. Next was her appearance in another designer watch, whose cost is still wildly speculated by the highly sophisticated Nigerian consumer audience.
The most recent scandalous accusation of travelling to the United Nations General Assembly with her make-up artist is the icing on the cake of the witch hunt, attributable more to the indiscretion of the make-up artist herself than any real wrongdoing on the part of the president’s wife.
While Aisha Buhari may well not be the flashiest Nigerian First Lady, her perceived ostentation within the context of Nigeria’s worst recession in recent times, has caused far more attention to be focused on her. There is the grave danger also, of totally destroying her husband’s politics, which is hinged in the main on his self avowed financial modesty.
For Anambra State governor Peter Obi who last weekend had a great day on the podium at a popular church conference where he attained superstardom by commenting on various national issues, the office of the First Lady is a monumental waste of resources. Going further to put a figure to it, the businessman described the office of the First Lady as being unconstitutional and something which can well be done away with in these trying economic times.
It is an irony of sorts that the trying economic times appears to justify rather than vilify many current First Ladies, who have consistently made provisions for the groups most hit by the recession- the internally displaced persons and children. While this role ought not to have been theirs but that of the substantive government in the first instance, it is also important to note that no country has achieved greatness in the fields of Education and Healthcare without the culture of active giving and the conscious transfer of wealth from the ‘haves’ to the have-nots’.
The current First Ladies might well serve as the sorely needed example to womanity and the society in general.For those who lauded the scrapping of the office of the First Lady, this is yet another evidence that charity work can be done without necessarily employing the paraphernalia of high office with all the attendant costs, particularly in this time of recession.
For others, the argument is that if so much can be achieved without the full weight of government support, how much more could be done with the advantages of power and government funding.
The debate continues.