Since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, several opinions and perspective have been expressed about the office of the First Lady. Some opinion moulders believed it was an aberration since the constitution does not recognize its existence and making such position operational was antithetical to democratic norms.
Some were of the opinion that such position had been found to be avenue through which public funds were being frittered and plundered due to the visible ostentatious lifestyles of wives of some of our Presidents and Governors.
As valid as the above opinion seemed to be an ardent and sincere follower of the politics of this nation would understand that some first Ladies had also proved to be above board and had deployed the position not only as a rallying point for the highly politically ostracized Nigerian women, but had also used the office to fight the scourge of poverty ravaging the gender.
A shining example abounds in Ekiti State, where the wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi has been found to be deploying her office to impact positively on the lives of the populace. Erelu Fayemi’s actions in the area of fight for gender equality, eradication of poverty, women empowerment, creation of opportunities for womenfolk, eradication of all forms of gender based violence and the protection of the rights of children have conviction the skeptics and made them shared the conviction that the office could be of tremendous benefits to our nation if used judiciously.
Mrs Fayemi’s exploits in the fight against poverty has rescued many families from squalid living. While those suffering from all forms of oppression in their marriages have been offered hopes and their lives have been bettered for it. In the first term of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s government, the first Lady pioneered the Ekiti Development Fund, which was favourably used to uplift the lives of the people in so many areas. The much respect multiple Births Trust Fund was an offshoot of EDF, where many families, who gave births to twins, triplets and more have benefited financial and material supports to take care of their God-given fruits. Today, the programme has helped in stemming the tides of child dumping and abandonment that was rampant in the past.
Before the advent of this government in 2010, the rate of violence against women in Ekiti was high. But Erelu Fayemi’s persistent efforts and sponsorship of the Gender based violence prohibition law has helped in resolving this problem. Today, it constitutes a great and criminal offence for women to be maltreated by their husbands and vice versa. Aside from this, vulnerable women are also being empowered through training and retraining for skills acquisition that could make them economically viable and break the culture of overdependence on men, through the magnanimity and instrumentality of the first lady. The widows, particularly the young ones among them are the chief beneficiaries of this lofty policy.
Erelu Fayemi has not also rest to ensure that Ekiti is not renowned for a state where child trafficking thrives. She took up this fight in 2011 when she called for the review and strict implementation of the Child’s Right Law to ascertain that no child is molested in Ekiti State through rape, slavery or deny access to school.
Today, it is now an offence punishable under the law for a child of school age to be hawking during school hours. Also, Erelu Fayemi’s synergy with security agencies, particularly the Nigeria Immunization Service (NIS), has changed the narrative of attempts to make Ekiti a transit State in child trafficking, prostitution and all forms of molestations. These actions have shored up enrolments in schools and reduce the incidences of slavery, rape and spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases in the state.
Also of interest was the virulent action the office of the first lady had taken to give the aged people succor at their old ages. In her first tenure in office, apart from the social security scheme that benefited 25, 000 elderly people. Mrs. Fayemi also used her office to establish the food banks, village Kitchens and other forms of empowerments for the vulnerable and poor old people. All these programmes are back in operation in Ekiti today. A couple of days back, Mrs. Fayemi rescued a 110 year old Mrs. Jolade Osho from squalor in Ikere Ekiti. The old woman was found to be living in a ramshackle building and due to the milk of kindness in her veins; the first lady visited the woman and relocated her to a better apartment with a promise to take up her up keeping hence forth.
Being a feminist of global reckoning, Mrs. Fayemi has always been a vanguard of advocacy for women’s recognition in Politics. Her insistence that the 35% affirmative action for woman’s appointments into political offices has started yielding dividends in Ekiti and other States of the federation are taking a cue from Ekiti. Under the present dispensation, woman is adequately represented in every facet of governance, including the state House of Assembly and the State Executive Council, Courtesy of the war against the subjugation of the female gender by the highly articulate and resourceful first lady.
Taking cognizance of the aggregate of the gains the office has brought to our people, I don’t share the emotional view that the office was an avenue to waste the public funds. Erelu Bisi Fayemi has set the pace on how to make good use of the position and her colleagues across the 36 States of the federation should toe her footsteps.
The viewpoint was written by Dalimore Aluko, Assistant Principal, Ikere High School, Ikere Ekiti. 08066181583. Pls include my phone no in the publication.