Role of first ladies in Nigeria and the West
Sir: The constitution of Nigeria didn’t make room for office of first-lady. That being said, the office is one that cannot be wished away. Women contribute to the development of not only polity but also of women’s causes. And these causes are legion. Despite the statistics of 1.7 million women living with HIV/AIDS, youngsters in my neighbourhood breed for different men whilst remaining in their girlhood homes and it is called culture. What culture? Are we in medieval times? Imagine the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and the debasing of the girl-child. Some women have been turned loose to be philoprogenitive without being useful.
First-ladies can help to change this tide and more.
By virtue of their position, first-ladies are powerful even when they are not elected officials. But many in Nigeria, have been characterised as power-drunk individuals who wield power not to love but to promote divisive tendencies. Pundits have said that as much as many women are victims of brutality, some are also agents of brutality.
In eras gone by, some first-ladies in Nigeria, helped in alienating their husbands from party machinery leading to electoral defeats. Many won for their husbands more enemies than friends. Others helped to cite state capitals in places not politically fit for state capitals. Some held these offices as fiefdoms without respect to constitutional authorities. Many stonewalled policies openly, engaged in brinkmanship to the chagrin of all.
Rarely have we had a first lady/ first ladies in Nigeria free from scandal. Many couldn’t tell the difference between denunciation and accusation targeted at their husbands and joined issues quickly whilst using The King’s profanity with reckless abandon. Aided of course by wooly- minded subjects whose level of loyalty could only be measured by an extensive degree of grovelling servitude and therefore championed the interests of their principals by praising and advising them wrongly.
I would like to see first-ladies who are heard for the right reasons and seen for the right reasons. Those ones who know how to listen to distressed persons, to their voice within and can avoid confrontation. First-ladies who can eat with kings and paupers, win friends for national pride and abhor the use of wrong adjectives to stereotype people.
Shouldn’t that be the norm? Generally in the UK and Australia, the spouses of Royalty, Prime Ministers and State Premiers keep a low profile. They do not seek to turn the limelight on themselves. They do not cast shadows nor diminish the importance of their partner’s positions as office-holders and leaders. They let them get on with the job.
This is so sad that our first-ladies do not behave like these spouses in the west.
All public women should be caring.
I hope that all Nigerians who are crushed by poverty are helped by the platform that the office of first-lady offers.
Simon Abah, Port Harcourt.