Date Published: 10/21/09
FIRST LADYSHIP: A DANCE UNKNOWN TO NIGERIA By Emmanuel Akhigbe
Over the years, the Nigerian Society has constantly and consistently been made to welcome and accept the Wife and Wives of Government Officials as “First Lady and First Ladies”.
This helpless but hopeful start of affairs have permeated every level of Government from the President to the Chairmen of Local Governments and even to Heads of Federal and State Ministries, Parastatals, Departments and Agencies, from one tenure of Government to another.
Nigerians, including the writer of this piece are increasingly and unpleasantly informed through the print and electronic media of the activities of the Wife and/or Wives of a Government functionary at various levels of Government, all at the expense of Tax Payer’s Funds, Our Collective Wealth.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learners English Dictionary, 6 th Edition, page 442, the term “First Lady” means “the wife of the President or the Leader of a state”. This term is no where defined or mentioned in neither the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Interpretation Act of Laws of Federation nor any other legislation made by either the National Assembly or any of the States’ House of Assembly.
But Nigerian Leaders at various level whom the people have entrusted their sovereignty by the process of election and the institution of the state, have continue to create and sustainably fund, at the various levels the office of first lady, with protocol officers, special advisers, special assistants and various list of officers.
The appellation of the office of first Lady is at Best a copycast of the American system and only Honourary. More and most worrisome and unpardonable is the violation of our constitution by the diversion of state funds into the misconceived and deceptive pet projects of these “First Ladies”.
Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the Billions of Naira sunk into the better life programme of Mrs. Maryam Babangida, wife of Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd), and the very recent child care trust foundation of the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo.
These projects have either become moribund or converted to form part of the Estate of their founder, whereas they were funded by and with public funds.
The Drums have resumed again and even faster this time. Spouses of members of the National and state Houses of Assembly, Permanent Secretaries, Ministers and Commissioners of Federal and State Ministries, are drumming for seats in their respective positions of influence.
The mother and father of these are the pet projects of the wife of the President and the Wives of the various State Governors being lamentably commissioned across the country. Theses “First Ladies” are sponsored on their Intra-National and International Trips at the expense of Government Funds budgeted for infrastructural development. These funds which are supposed to be used to guarantee affordable and qualitative Healthcare and Education for the people are now being used to mobilise and pay contractors for projects, that would be converted to the become the personal property of these First Ladies when the Tenure of their Husbands expires.
Nigerians must rise up and fight against the monumental waste of public funds and manpower through the creation and more than sufficient funding of the illegal and unconstitutional office of First Lady. The Constitution only recognises the substantive Offices of President, Governors, and others as the case may be, but not the office of first lady or the spouse of any incumbent government official. Perhaps, we should ask ourselves what would be the case where the occupant of the constitutionally recognized office is a male or a celibate like we had in Benue State in 1991 under Reverend Father Moses Adasu. Your quess is as good as mine. Another illustration of this shameful act and disgraceful violation of our constitution which our President and Governors swore to uphold was at the Swearing –In Ceremony of Ibrahim Idris as Governor of Kogi State, following his Victory at the polls. Mrs Good luck Jonathan, was present. As I watched the Live Telecast of the ceremony on AIT, I continue to ask myself “in what capacity is this woman here, is she here on behalf of husband?, when did wives of State Officials begin to represent their Husbands at State functions?. Was she their in her personal capacity or as an ordinary Nigerian?. I quite agree that the two are one, but there is a clear cut line of symmetry between the person who occupies a particular office and the man who is the Husband of the Wife.
State Funds should not be used for frivolities such as hosting the Wife of any Government official as they perform no statutory function relating to the state other than ensuring that the Husband is in a balanced state of mind to govern, QED.
If we must advance as a Nation such things frivolities like first ladies spree are capable of putting our Vision 2020 in trouble waters, if at all we any vision you might say.