The  First Ladyship Confusion

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One thing many people admire about President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha Buhari, is her boldness to speak out on any national issue that interests her without minding whose ox is gored. Often such action had incurred the wrath of some people in government towards her, who believe that, as the president’s wife, she ought not to hold contrary opinion to those of the government or the ruling party. But she has remained resolute and unruffled.
Not long ago, she uttered what could be considered as the mind of many Nigerians on the federal government’s Social Investment Programmes (SIP). She fiercely criticized the programme, saying it has failed, as there was little or no evidence to show that a good chunk of its budget was judiciously utilized. She reechoed many peoples’ opinions that the SIP, particularly the tradermoni and school feeding programmes are more of a political gimmick aimed at convincing the populace that the government in power is working to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor masses, when in reality,  little or no evidence of such is seen.
I recall how in 2017, she raised alarm over the lack of facilities at the State House Clinic, Abuja. She revealed that the clinic lacked syringes, drugs and equipment needed for saving lives, despite the huge annual budgetary allocation for the clinic and demanded for a probe into the running of the clinic. Mrs Buhari also alerted the nation about the existence of a cabal  which she said was frustrating the President’s efforts to function as expected.
Where I’m I going with all these? Just trying to establish that Mrs Buhari is fearless, outspoken and wants the right thing to be done at all times. In view of that, one will, therefore, wonder how thoughtful was the recent pronouncement of the First Lady. At an event at the Presidential Villa last week, she announced her decision to be addressed as the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria instead of Wife of the President that has been her title since her husband assumed office in 2015.
Hear her, “When my husband was elected newly I personally chose to be called the wife of the President.
“But, I realised that it causes confusion from the state as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the first ladies or wives of the governors.
“So, forgive me for confusing you from the beginning, but now I choose to be called the First Lady,” she said.
Though there ought to be no big deal about the change in nomenclature, the First Lady’s decision and the reason for that came as a surprise to some people, particularly as there is no record of any state where there is confusion as to the title of the governor’s wife. Besides, during the 2015 election campaign, Mrs Buhari’s husband promised to abolish the Office of the First Lady.  He said the office was unconstitutional and that the Ministry of Women Affairs should be allowed to play its role unhindered.
The questions then are, has there been any law legalizing the Office of the First Lady? Is the position now recognized by Nigeria’s Constitution? President Buhari is a man seen by many as a man of impeccable integrity. Is the First Lady now telling us that such belief must change because her husband cannot even keep his campaign promises? Apparently, this is the main confusion. The First Lady is confusing us on what to believe about her husband and his ability to keep his words.
So, in as much as one  agrees that Mrs Buhari has the right to bear whatever title she chooses, it will be proper that, in her usual way of doing things, she should work towards the legalization of the office.
As a new National Assembly has just come on board, she should sponsor a bill seeking for the legalization of the office so as to lay to rest all the legal issues surrounded the enviable, prestigious and privileged position. No doubt, such bill will be given speedy hearing and express passage into law, coming from Buhari’s wife.
Alternatively, she can convince her husband to make a pronouncement on the matter, stating that though the office is not known by our constitution, if a president’s wife prefers to go by the title, as is the case in many other countries, she is free to do so.
But be that as it may, it is hoped that the First Lady and the ones coming after her should really use that position to better the lots of the masses as is being done in other climes. She should faithfully and dutifully carry out her function as a wife and mother not only to her immediate family, Adamawa and Katsina but to the entire nation.
She should spread her humanitarian activities to other parts of the country. There are poor people in every part of the country, both North and South; they all should feel her impact equally.
In the past, some First Ladies, like late Miriam Babangida, through her pet-project, Better Life for Rural Women, made a great impact in the lives of both urban and rural women across the nation. The project was a household name that has not been forgotten by many women till date.
That is what is expected of Mrs Buhari’s pet-project, Future Assured. Let the citizens know about this project and what it stands for. Let the handlers of this project reach out to the target beneficiaries, which should have a national spread and let the project come alive. As it is today, only a handful of persons who are most likely from one section of the country can boast of knowing about Future Assured.
So, although the position of the first lady is not elected or constitutional but seen as an appendage of her husband in most jurisdictions, many of these women perform invaluable and indispensable social functions. Our President’s wife and governors’ wives should not slack in performing these duties which will better our society irrespective of their titles, be it First Ladies, Wife of the President/Governors or whatever.

 

Calista Ezeaku