Congratulations to incoming new First Ladies and the others who helped their husbands to get re-elected for a second four-year term. Indeed, in three days, a new chapter would open your lives as May 29 breaks into a new dawn, a new beginning filled with new opportunities. The new day, which once dwelt in the realm of probability, would become reality on May 29 after your husbands are sworn-in as the governors of their various states.
As the neck that holds the head, you must be getting ready for the task ahead just as the governors, their heads are also getting ready to assume their constitutional role. Appointments are going to be made based on various contributions on both sides. Some of the people coming into these high offices have been there before, while some others have not tasted this kind of power they are about to taste now. To some, it came as a child of circumstance, while some are not. Not everybody in all the states is happy about a particular candidate who won the election. We agree with what former American President Barack Obama stated in his inaugural speech on the steps of the Capitol: “Those who voted for me and those who did not vote for me, I am your president.”
Know it that those who voted for your husband and those who did not vote for him, you are their First Lady. A mother hen remains a mother hen; good or bad. There must be opposition without which the equation will not balance.
Once your husbands are sworn-in as governors, the people will definitely expect you to take up important assignments that will contribute to the welfare of the people. Certainly, several of you would announce one pet-project or the other. The late Maryam Babangida, wife of former President Ibrahim Babangida, created the era of pet-projects when she launched the “Better Life for Rural Women programme, which also inspired the Central Bank of Nigeria to issue the N50 currency note adorned with the heads of rural men and women and known in the Nigerian parlance as Wazobia or wazo for short. She was passionate about her project and lived up to it.
My dear First Ladies, before you announce your pet-projects, do background research and conduct proper need assessment. I expect you to be passionate about what you want to embark upon and live up to it just like Maryam Babangida did and got her name carved in gold in the hearts of Nigerians. She simply brought elegance, compassion and empathy to the office of the First Lady.
Of course, it is not compulsory to initiate a new pet project if your predecessor’s initiative is meaningful and yielding result. Sustain it for the overall benefit of the people because governance is a continuum. Continue from where she stopped and turn it around not minding the political affiliation of your predecessor. After all, you are working for the betterment of the people of the state. It is not about competition, rather great team spirit should rule. You can raise the bar by adding other things to make it a huge success. Agreed, office of the First Lady does not have any budget per se, but if one embarks on a meaningful project, financial support can come from corporate organizations and kind-hearted individuals to carry out a rewarding programme.
Unfortunately, do not forget the wife of the late Phillippine President, Imelda Marcus, whose name rings a negative bell whenever she is mentioned because she abused the highly rated office she occupied. A First Lady who owned over 3,000 pairs of shoes in different shades of the same colour and hundreds of packets of underwear she never wore or treated her underwear as disposable item consigned to the thrash after wearing it just once, is not a role model of the office. Now, some of the governors’ wives might not acquire shoes like Marcus, but expensive pieces that are not physical. A First Lady who owns a jewelry company in a foreign country while pensioners are owed in her state, is she worthy of the office? It is like a mother throwing away delicious and succulent soft chicken while her children are hungry. A First Lady who enriches herself, friends and family with government contracts while others wait and watch; one who promotes based on friendship and not on merit, one who sits very far from the women that should be her primary constituency, is she worthy of the office?
A particular First Lady came to the office and saw a staff who wore same kind of her fabric, she insisted the staff must go home and change her outfit. I do not know if she was right or wrong. It became a rule then that no staff should wear her kind of cloth, her hairstyle, slippers and shoes to the office. Before she steps out of the car, staff assigned to her peep to be sure they are free for the day. Hmm! Do not be a power-drunk First Lady because what goes up will surely come down.
The task before a First Lady is not to be a beauty queen in office, neither is she expected to be a dirty pig; No! Rather a modest mother of all like Senator Oluremi Tinubu, a former First Lady of Lagos State. It is not an office for the best make-up artist to show creativity on madam’s face, tie the best scarf and showcase the best apparel. No! Nobody has a stereotype of what a First Lady should be, but a simple adage says: “A good market sells itself.” A First Lady can give scholarships to outstanding students, both boys and girls, in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in her state. She can set up various competitions like educational, sports, arts and culture among students and youths and reward the winners openly to encourage others. In her time, Oluremi Tinubu created the Spelling Bee Competition and the overall winner was accorded honour as the One-Day Governor, who presided over the State Executive Council meeting on that day, driven in the official convoy of the governor to inspect projects and pay courtesy calls on notable personalities in the state and awarded a scholarship. Both Yoruba and Igbo children in the state school system have been bestowed with this honour till date. How that day shall be when you, dear First Lady, would find your way unannounced to a remote school, market, or public place to interact and create awareness among the people. Children seeing you one-on-one, and touching you with their dirty hands like they touched their mothers, that experience would remain indelible in their innocent minds and propel them to achieve godly success. Those children may never become kidnappers and armed robbers. Education, they say, remains the best legacy in life. A scholarship given to become a First School Leaving Certificate holder is no scholarship because half education is dangerous. But with proper education, creative activities and empowerment, you would be able to stamp out or drastically reduce unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). Empowerment should no longer be in the form of sharing of motorcycles to youths in rural areas, whose intelligence could be channelled into more meaningful schemes. Wives have the powers of feminism and can turn things around. Recently, a hairdresser bagged a Master’s degree in Communication Studies from the same Nigerian university. These things are doable. Look into the healthcare system to curtail both maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates.
Again, a First Lady has the ears of her husband who is the governor. When all government functionaries have retired for the day, remind your husband not do what he feels people would like, but to find out from the people what they actually want. A gigantic project that does not reflect and transform the lives of the people might not be right after all. Find out what the people need and do it for them because it is a call for service first. Thumbs will be raised for states which provided the basic needs that would put food on the table, uninterrupted power supply, security, good and accessible roads, functioning health care delivery system, quality education, clean water supply and others.
In addition, dear First Ladies, tell your husbands to effectively reduce the cost of running the government. Long convoys are not needed now. A certain governor moves with a 60-car convoy that must be fuelled and the occupants fed. There is hunger in the land. All should borrow a leaf from the former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, who brought his state to enviable height while in office.
Nigeria has enough resources to cater for all. Please First Lady, motivate your husband to use the resources of the state to build the economy and help the people to create wealth. The beginning is now, which will also end one day. Be a different First Lady and a great mother in your state!