My fellow Nigerian women, the worst has happened or so we think. In recent weeks, verbal and written sparks have been flying in the already heated Nigerian polity. The presidential candidate for the All Progressive Congress (APC) has stated that if voted into office, there would be no office for the First Lady.
As I came across this news, I imagined what Twitter or Facebook would be like… as regards the issue. I dreaded the brimstone and fiery comments, but I “girled up” and delved in. I read all sorts. “Are they sending us back to the kitchen?”, “I’m not surprised, his religion relegates women”, “I smell Sharia” “Are his wives dead?” “He has no respect for women” e.t.c. All hell was let loose.
I received this news as a well prepared mysterious meal. Even though I was hungry with feministic pangs, I held my intellectual cutlery for a minute, took in the savor of the new phenomenon and got to work. There is so much propaganda in the atmosphere, and it is easy to get carried away; but beyond religion, tribal brotherhood, gender or political partisanship,I implore us all to treat this issue in its real essence.
Unknown to many Nigerians, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes no provision for the Office of the First Lady (let alone the office of the son of the governor) So, for those spitting thunder, have you wondered how this has never occurred to us or our lawmakers to address such an issue or make such a law? Maybe we have been enjoying the impacts of the office of the First Lady – good or bad; maybe we weren’t aware of the lawlessness we dressed up in expensive clothes or maybe this issue is a case of Nigerians making a mountain out of a molehill. Whatever the case may be, Nigeria has been funding an unconstitutional venture.
You should know what is being cooked in the kitchen or you might eat a forbidden food- African proverb
This discovery, in hindsight, helps me to make sense out of some notable alarming actions coming from the office of the First Lady in recent times. There have been no defined roles or duties, so our expectations as a nation have been honestly unfair. I mean, when some years back a First Lady held the country to ransom even though the President was dead, she couldn’t have been out of line; she could have been Mrs President anyway. When a politician married a minor, we saw a Nigerian actress crying and pleading all over social media for help, the masses were signing petitions upon petitions yet the office of the First Lady remained silent on the barbaric act; they were not out of line, all our children could have become married anyway.
When our girls were abducted in the middle of the night from school, the office of the First Lady swung into the CIA-FBI-SSS mode and began searching for WAEC invigilators who could prove some exams were taken. I hope they find those two teachers who refused to attend that meeting since they hold the road map to finding the Chibok girls after more than 250 days of their disappearance.
When the country went agog over the allocation of N4bn for the construction of the first Ladies’ Mission house in 2014, we all could have sipped on cold glasses of herbs.
The office of the First lady does not necessarily represent the Nigerian women and their interests. It doesn’t mean anyone is sending anyone back to the kitchen (where we make sumptuous meals by the way). Beyond all the cooking and cleaning, a woman’s life must matter. Women in Nigeria are making meaningful contributions in various sectors and industries. You do not have to be the First Lady to make an impact. If women participated more in politics, we would have more female governors (kudos to Senator Al-Hassan of Taraba State), more than a miserly 35% ministerial appointments and probably a female Nigerian President.
THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK ON NIGERIAN WOMEN. Political positions are not transmitted by sex, the fact that ones husband holds a political office doesn’t automatically mean his wife is a politician. (I find it very funny when the wife of a local government chairman for instance, becomes a terrible force to reckon with).
If Nigerians want a first lady, then wake up your lawmakers, pass that bill into law, define roles and duties, nominate intelligent and qualified women and let us vote either en masse or through our Senators in the House of Representatives. We need accountable leaders. You can not question a man whom you never gave a responsibility. Nigerians, be objective.
Also, in the spirit of reducing national spending, let us take note of the luxurious expenses involved in maintaining a large entourage attached to the office of the first lady, the party is over ladies!
He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is taking a walk.