Nigeria’s First Lady Debate: Speaking for Myself

Bisi Fayemi

Three weeks ago I was at a meeting in Accra, Ghana, in preparation for the biennial African Feminist Forum, which is convened by the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), an Africa-wide grant-making foundation for African women which I co-founded twelve years ago.

I was told at the meeting that someone had made comments on Facebook during the fuel subsidy crisis, asking, ‘Where are the Nigerian feminists? Where are the voices of activists like Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi’? The Facebook comments implied that I had stopped being a feminist because I am now the Wife of a Governor.

Soon after I returned home, there was an article in the Sunday edition of one of the national newspapers that was serialised over a two week period. It was a blistering attack on First Ladies, and how they constitute a drain on resources while they conduct themselves in ways which raise questions about credibility and probity.

In the article, the writer also made reference to the fuel subsidy crisis and the fact that nothing was heard from any of the First Ladies in the country. The writer then went on to say, ‘anyway, such issues are probably beyond them’.

A third, and this time, more direct attack on my activities in Ekiti came from Steve Osuji, a columnist with The Nation newspaper unequivocally that my job as the wife of Ekiti Governor, was to look “after the home-front” rather than meddle in the affairs of state. I cringed reading through these articles.

Shortly after my husband became Governor of Ekiti State in October 2010, I spoke to Mrs Kemi Mimiko, Wife of the Governor of Ondo State. She said something to me which I have never forgotten. She said ‘My sister, whatever happens, never take anything personally. It is never about you, it is about the position you are in’.

Reflecting on the discussion with my colleagues in Accra about the Facebook comments and the articles I referred to above, I knew that the advice I had received would come in handy. I however confess, with all sincerity, it is hard.

I have often spoken and written about the fluidity of identities, and how important it is for us to invest in managing our various transitions from one identity to another, whether these identities are claimed by us or thrust upon us. From being a women’s rights activist, gender specialist and social change philanthropy advocate, on October 16th 2010, I became the Wife of a Governor. My own understanding of what happened to me did not translate into abandoning all the things that are important to me – my world view, values, affiliations and principles. I was aware that to make this work, I would need to strike a balance between the things I truly care about, and the expectations of the position I found myself in. I also knew that I would have to work hard at ensuring that my theoretical understanding of power and transformational leadership would be matched by sound, ethical practices.

For many years I have engaged in debates about the role of First Ladies and the pros and cons of the use of informal power structures. The historical use and abuse of non-accountable, unconstitutional power has fuelled suspicion and hostility towards First Ladies, and rightfully so. As a feminist activist, I have been very critical of the ways in which women married to men in power hijack the spaces, voices and resources of others, particularly civil society, and use this as a platform to dispense political favours and elevate other elite women. The abuse of the Office of the First Lady and the questions about its legitimacy are not a solely Nigerian phenomenon. These debates continue to take place elsewhere.

The problem we have in Nigeria is the unique ways in which this position has been so grossly abused that people find it hard to be objective or flexible in their assessments of either the position or the occupants. I have also always known that it is precisely because First Ladies wield so much power and influence that it is very dangerous for such power to fall into the hands of ignorant, uninformed and unethical persons. I have had the opportunity of working closely with such great role models as Graca Machel Mandela, who taught me that it does not matter if people are suspicious of you or your intentions just because of who you are married to – if there are things you feel strongly about go out there and get the job done. Till this moment, Mama Graca as some of us fondly call her, remains one of the most credible and consistent advocates of gender equality, children’s rights and good governance that we have on the continent.

I accept that because I am the Wife of a Governor, I can no longer go to Aleshinloye market in Ibadan (a favourite place of mine) or Balogun market in Lagos without causing a stir. I agree that it is not appropriate to stop the convoy just because I want to buy Gala. I however do not agree with the assumption that because I am the Wife of a Governor, my IQ has dropped to single digits. I do not agree that I cannot find a way of working with government officials without making them feel that I am bossing them around. I do not agree that working collaboratively and respectfully with people in government amounts to meddling. I do not agree that I cannot do things different from the norm. I find it hard to understand why people will believe that because my husband is Governor of a State, my only role now is to make his bed, wash his clothes, take care of the children, cook his food and rub his feet when he comes home. This is what is called ‘looking after the home front’, and it seems to be the preferred and only role for First Ladies. This is fine by me, as long as we can also accept the fact that ‘looking after’ and ‘home front’ means different things to different people.

Since October 2010, I have been spending my time ‘looking after the home front’ in my own way. I resigned from my full-time, extremely well remunerated position as Executive Director of AWDF in Ghana and moved back to Nigeria to be with my husband. I figured out how to run our own homes in Ibadan and Isan-Ekiti, as well as living in State House. My husband is adequately fed, healthy, well groomed, and on top of his game. I am involved with government agencies such as the Ekiti State Agency for AIDS Control which I Chair, as well as the Ekiti State Consultative Committee on Arts, Culture and Tourism. I also do a lot of work with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Empowerment, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Health to mention a few. My involvement with these agencies is mainly advisory and based on tremendous mutual respect. In addition, I have commitments to national and international organisations such as the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (as Chair), the African Women’s Development Fund and the African Grantmakers Network.

Over the past sixteen months, I have worked with various stakeholders to ensure that we have more women in decision making at all levels in the State. Before the April 2011 elections we had no women in the Ekiti State House of Assembly. Now we have four. Again, in June 2011, Ekiti State became the first state in Nigeria to domesticate the National Gender Policy. After being faced with a wave of violent attacks on young girls and women in the State, I pushed for the Gender Based Violence Prohibition Bill which was signed into law on November 25th 2011. I advocated for the establishment of the Multiple Births Trust Fund which is managed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. In order to bring back to Ekiti what I have done in the field of social change philanthropy, I launched the Ekiti Development Foundation (EDF) on June 10th 2011. Since then we have supported a range of women’s organisations across the state, reaching out to hundreds of women in remote places. We have also supported several government projects with funding we have raised from donors. The funding for EDF comes from collaborations with various institutions, corporate sponsorship, wealthy philanthropists and support in kind.

I have been involved in all these things because I want to remain true to who and what I am. I am acutely aware of the dreadful baggage my position carries, and how easy it is for people to cast aspersion on the motives of people such as myself, based on the experiences they have had with many spouses of occupants of State Houses at the national and state levels. I however know that I am in a position where I can make a difference in the lives of people and for once, allow myself to be held accountable, the same way in which as a member of many social justice movements over the years, I have demanded accountability from leaders across the African continent.

My main responsibility as the Wife of a Governor is to support my husband. The husband I have been married to for over twenty-two years needs me to work with him and his team to help build our beloved Ekiti State, the Land of Honour, and to make good on all the promises he made to the electorate who stood by us all through our legal battles to reclaim his mandate. That is the ‘home front’ support my husband needs from me right now. My husband will be very disappointed in me if I opt to spend most of my time sitting at home and attending social functions to show off my latest lace and head-ties. He will consider it a terrible waste of my experience, skills and talents.

Many commentators on the First Lady debate raised the issue of the ‘illegality’ of the position, since it does not exist in the Constitution. The fact that it is not written in the constitution does not make the office ‘illegal’. There is nowhere in the constitution where it is written that there shall be an Office of the Chief of Staff, for example. However, it is hard to see how a President or Governor can operate without appointing someone into that position, even if the designation is called something else. One of the problems with the Office of the First Lady is that over the years, we have allowed our experiences with power-hungry, unscrupulous women listening to poor advice to cloud our judgement.

In my own opinion, the question of legitimacy can be addressed if we can engage in conversations devoid of the usual venom, hypocrisy, sexism and ignorance which bubbles to the surface every time the First Lady question comes up. If there is legislation and a budgetary provision recognising the Office of the Spouse either at national or state level, then there will be more transparency and accountability around their activities. I know many people will raise hell at this suggestion of mine. The Office of the First Lady of the United States evolved over time. It is not in the American constitution, and for many years the Office was not funded, except for the use of seconded, temporary staff. All this changed in November 1978 when President Jimmy Carter approved Public Law 95-570 which provided for the First Lady’s budget and staff. Till today, debates still rage in the US about the various occupants of the office, their politics, choices, their value addition or subtraction and so on, but there is consensus that the Office itself has come to stay and it does have a vital role to play.

There are many historical, cultural and social reasons why we might never do this in Nigeria. When I have raised this in private discussions, people ask about those who have more than one wife, and how this will work? My response to this is – let the laws provide for one spouse and let the husband and spouses concerned figure it out amongst themselves! Please note that I am asking for recognition for ‘Spouses’ and not ‘Wives’ in anticipation of when we will have women in these key positions. As I agree that this is not something people are prepared to countenance at a time when we have serious debates around the cost of governance, what I am calling for is for us not to conflate our apprehensions, no matter how legitimate they might be, with the reality that this despised ‘Office’ cannot be wished away. First Ladies are not a homogenous group. We have different contexts, interests and abilities. Just as is done in other places like the US which we are often fond of quoting, why don’t we try separating the Office from the individuals who transit through it and allow for processes of accountability, monitoring and assessment based on individual merit?

I often tell people that we can have lengthy debates about the constitutionality or otherwise of my office but the fact remains that if you have been trying to see my husband for three months and he will not return your calls, I can arrange for you to have breakfast with him tomorrow morning. Now you can debate the constitutionality of that! Just because we have had Presidents who have fallen short of our expectations or Governors who cannot govern does not mean we should stop having them. It means we should ask hard questions about the quality of leadership we need in our country right now and ensure that we stop scratching the bottom of the barrel. It is true that we have experienced First Ladies at all levels with little or no understanding of strategic thinking, good manners, decorum and protocol. This however does not mean that we should not try to learn how to do things differently. We simply need to add this to the long list of good governance issues we have to grapple with. There is no point electing a saint as a leader if he is going home to the warm embrace of a dragon.

I now believe that some of the things expected of people such as myself is silence on things that matter and invisibility in things that can truly make a difference. For those who would like to know, I do have an opinion on the fuel subsidy crisis. I do have an opinion on the gap between the kind of leadership we deserve in Nigeria and the kind we have right now. I have an opinion on the breach of the social contract between the leaders and the people. I have an opinion on the kind of legacy I would like to bequeath my children. I have an opinion on the conduct that is expected of Wives of top government officials, particularly First Ladies. I have strong opinions on our national and human security challenges and the implications for women and children. All my opinions are channelled through my work as a pan-Africanist, political activist, human rights advocate, women’s rights defender, social change philanthropist and being the Wife of a progressive, brilliant, visionary Governor. Every day I work hard at ensuring that I exercise my informal power and authority with the utmost discretion, respect, sensitivity, and integrity. I might not always get it right, but I try.

I did not decide to write this article to appeal for sympathy for First Ladies. I needed to find my voice and speak for myself. I wanted to let people know that things are not always what they seem. The few First Ladies I am close to work extremely hard. People see the glamour, the glitz, the fashion parades, the perks, the gaffes, the slights—both real and imagined. No one ever talks about the loneliness, the vulnerability, the toll on relationships, the hard work, the unbearable pressure from family, friends and political associates, the sacrifices, loss of privacy and the claustrophobia. As a Governor’s wife I don’t have the luxury of thinking or talking about these things. I am too focused on not taking things personally.

. Bisi Fayemi is wife of the Ekiti State Governor.


  1. Knowswell Josh






  2. Olakunle

    The article was well-researched and full of grammar. However, it portrays Her Excellency (?????) as full of self-guilt. She might not know me but we were recently together in a party.. She came with a retinue of convoys etc with cars, buses, police, etc with some buses bearing ”OFFICE OF THE FIRST LADY OF EKITI STATE”. The buses were with no number plate but only the inscription. I shook my head that day for Nigeria especially for ACN that should know and do better than PDP – if what we all believed about them was correct. Few people that are in line with her articles are yet to fully grasp the problems that Babangida created with the First Lady syndrome. For your info, she’s more ”powerful” today in Ekiti govt than the deputy governor. She’s not the only person, it’s a national tragedy. She has nothing to defend, she can just go on – afterall this is Nigeria. First Ladies spend more money than some ministries. So, she should shut up and continue with the mess while we all pretend that it is well.

    1. Gbenga Fagbemi

      I think all of us deserve the right to our opinions and comments, but it is not fair to dredge up lies just to prove a point. For those who care to know, Mrs Fayemi is extremely popular in Ekiti, especially with the masses and the women. It is unfortunate that these pople do not have access to these kinds of spaces to air their own views.

      The reasons for her popularity in Ekiti are simple – she is very smart, kind, simple and a great asset to her husband. She is also extremely close to the Deputy Governor, they are like sisters. Let us be very careful how we spew out informaiton that is misleading and can cause problems. I wish other First Ladies where like Mrs Fayemi.

  3. Bode Olugbore

    I now believe that some of the things expected of people such as myself is silence on things that matter and invisibility in things that can truly make a difference- Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi.

    Unfortunately, when Nigerians decide to be biased, they wouldn’t even read a simple article literarily. They will read unjustly. I think that Mrs. Fayemi has shown her concern more for the Readers than for herself by responding at all. The question is, HOW MANY NIGERIAN LEADERS WOULD RESPOND AT ALL? To such a matter that she heard in Ghana?
    This is the danger of generalizing people. A common Yoruba saying ‘Bi aba ni kaa diju, k’eni buruku koja, eni rere amaa koja naa’
    Translated, ‘if we decide to shut our eyes when a wicked man passes by, a good man, even an Angel may pass by us too’. That implies that we should be so biased to select who may be good today and who may be wicked to us. Infact, don’t be so loatheful or unforgiving that you shut your eyes at the passing of your offenders.
    You are castigating and judging the BEST FIRST LADY that Nigeria has had. What i might suggest is that you search deeper for her personality, then her office! Selah!

  4. Taiwo Aiyerin(@yomi_ta)

    Hmmmm!! Interesting!! Kudos to her excellency for this wonderful one, I gues this is a continuation d lectures am getting on The Danger of the Single Story started by Chimamanda Adichie But!!! but i wish I can see her write this again as an Activist rather than a first lady… Pls PM news let her get these feedbacks

  5. bobby

    She has made her point! which is very interesting, if the woman refused to come back from Ghana to join her husband in developing the state people will talk, is it possible not to give any recognition to the wife of a governor? you deserve it. whatever you do people will definitely talk.

  6. Baba Agba

    I feel it is time a law is enacted to define and regulate the functions of the office of the first lady. Bisi had made good points to justify the recognition of the office.

  7. Bonnie, Ado Ekiti

    the public perception on the first lady cannot be dismissed by whatever logic advanced by Mrs Fayemi, not even her advertised profile, pedigree and role modelling link. Mrs Fayemi may be an exception equipped with four digit IQ but even some of their so called husbands had made the position a 1 digit IQ. The issue is Mrs Fayemi should remain focussed and do her best. Let her leave the rest for history to judge.

  8. joe

    Leave the poor girl alone.She is doing her best,celebration of excellence and great exposure .What can we say of Patience Jonathan? Time will judge them all. To Bisi Fayemi though I don’t know you and am not interested in meeting you, keep doing the good job you are doing, time will judge you all whether good or bad. I rest my case.

  9. jimo owoseni

    Puerile in its totality. Direct opposite of how the Governor usually puts accross his ideas.

  10. pastor segun-olufemi

    The most imperative thing in life is to, with clear conscience, seek to please God in all you do and nt to pls any mortal being. Just like Biblical queen Esther, who knows whether God has brought you to this position at such a time as this (as a help meet for your hubby) to add value to the well being of, especially, the down trodden ekiti women in all ramifications. Be godly, modest, focused, courageous, strong, steadfast and do the work and your work shall be rewarded (2Cronicles 15:7)

  11. Francis

    Brilliant piece and rather deep for some people commenting here! Kudos Bisi. Go on with the brilliant work you are doing! Whether you act or not, people are bound to talk anyway, Act anyway!

  12. sunnee dee

    Kudos to Erelu Bisi Fayemi, have heard about you when yow were working with the NGO,S in Ghana.
    Pls keep the good work flying.
    After the tenure of your husband, Ekiti people will surely celebrate you.
    Good luck Madam.

  13. yemi ogundipe

    Is it possible for pple like Yinka Odumakin to be Governor today without seeing Joy Okey Odumkin? Envy and Jealousy!

  14. Miffed Nigeria

    Those criticising this woman are products of our failed educational system producing graduates who cannot comprehend logic. At least, this one can write and well too unlike that amoeba of person, aka “Umblerra”

  15. Ramon

    Nigerian poor administrators and poor leadership are subjected to the lack of public finance trust, abuse of public offices and mismanaged of public funds, either we like it or not every nigerian are seen corruption as legal entity, most of NGO in nigeria their primary objective for engage in government critisims is to enrich their organisation and their various pocket………….. they all making noise for their families benefit, engage themself in media like television and radio make unneccassiry.

  16. Yinka Akintunde

    Whao, a sensible and well articulated piece for once from a political office holder or the spouce for once.
    Void of name calling, venom and usual panoria rethorics of “our political enemy”.

  17. concerned citizen

    Hahaha! activist indeed, at times i wonder if we really have true activist in this nation or money/Political monger that when you wave naira at the face or judt one political function their tone will change.

  18. ayekooto

    Olodo gbogbo, half of the foolish men casting aspertion on this woman do not know a third of what she is alluding to in this article! Bad bele people……….who said you should go and marry women who wil be “taking care of the home front”.Bullies and morons,it shows how you treat your wives at home, I am sure they cry and suck their thumbs to bed.

  19. Boko Haram

    This article is too deep for some people that have commented above;Brilliant logic, brilliant article, brilliant woman.

  20. Kunle

    Honestly I have always wondered why someone who voted for a man as governor doesn’t know that he has also voted for the wife! This is common sense and the reality of the case under consideration. Why the fuss about first lady title and influence? Must the position be in the constitution? Are all position in government in the constitution? Rather than expose our envious hearts, what we should demand is accountability. Simple. Whether in the constitution or not, there will always be a first lady whether you like it or not. We are talking about the wife of a governor for example please!
    Mrs Fayemi’s piece is very brilliant and a knock-out for that matTer. Perhaps this is why a lot men are angry and throwing stones at her. Our society still lacks the understanding that there is gender equality with different roles. Ignorance is pervasive here.
    Dear Mrs Fayemi, don’t mind your critics. Some of their wives are just like furnitures at home without necessary exposure. Some of them will not deliberately send their girl child to school. After all she is just a girl! Foolishness at first class level. Mrs Fayemi, pls ride on, we love you jare!!!

  21. femi

    This is a brilliant essay from a brilliant mind. However, the problem with our first ladies syndrom is accountability. I would have loved my first lady to tell us how much resources (financial and kind) have been received since October 2010 and how these been managed and expended. A simple income and expediture account will suffice. I know this on the way because I trust Bisi and Kayode. God bless our Ekiti.

  22. james

    A Call On Mr. President To Scrap The Office Of First Lady And Matters Arising
    Posted: February 15, 2012 – 13:33
    By Zik Gbemre, JP
    Dear Sir: We find it appalling to notice the way some issues of lawlessness, shameful public shows are being practiced in Nigeria as if such practices are enshrined in the laws of the country. It has gotten to the point where the people, have been made to swallow and accept whatever rubbish being dished out by the government, to be accepted as a norm, and therefore, nobody should question its relevance or importance. This is the exact problem with the title; “First Lady,” with its flashy trend and public show, that is ascribed to the wives of the Presidents, State Governors, Local Government Chairmen and even Councillors. What started as a way of exuding influence and power beside the man on the Executive hot seat, has now been turned into an avenue of wealth accumulation and waste of public funds.

    The rate at which the office of the First Lady, that has no iota of constitutional backing, is used by the government of the day to carry out some “sensitive government function,” is becoming a serious source of concern and nobody is asking questions. We were taken aback when recently, the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan was said to have commissioned the newly procured warship from the United States of America, by the Nigerian Navy; NNS Thunder, at the Naval Base, Apapa, Lagos. We could not help but ask: Why should the Office of the First Lady be the one to commission a sensitive national asset on Security? What constitutional bearing does the Office of the First lady have, to be given the responsibility to commission one of the country’s warship?

    Since when has the office of the First Lady, which is occupied by the wife of the President, assume the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria? If Mr. President is indisposed to commission the said NNS Thunder (as the Commander-in-Chief), we believe other government officials like the Vice President, the Minister of Defence etc, whose offices are recognised by the Nigerian Constitution; are there to appropriately represent the President in Commissioning the said warship. For us, the whole scenario is simply an abuse of power/office and misplacement of priority.

    Since 1999, we have in countless occasions called on the Presidency to scrap the office of First Lady. But it appears we have been talking to brick walls, as the said office of the First Lady is daily gathering more storm that are obviously out of place, especially with the present government led by President Goodluck Jonathan, whose wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, is the number one culprit with others behind. However, we hope this time around, Mr. President will heed this genuine call and take the appropriate steps to have the supposed Office of the First Lady scrapped completely.

    For a start, maintaining the so called Office of the First Lady is not a child’s play. They wield much power, wealth, and influence and access to them could open the door to unimaginable rewards. Although unelected and without any role in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they strut the landscape with large convoys, complete with a retinue of aides. They are usually accompanied by officials on the payroll of government, and they have unfettered access to state funds property such as presidential jets, vehicles, buildings furniture etc, and perks like overseas travel.

    As earlier noted, the wife of President Jonathan, Patience, is the ‘Chief culprit’ as she currently parades herself as the ‘First Lady’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And at the State levels, the wives of the governors take the lower step on the ladder, a function which is replicated at the level of the local governments.

    The crux of the matter is that the Office of First Lady in whatever levels of government is not enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and is not known to Nigerians as being a legitimate constituted and accepted Office. Yet, public funds are daily wasted through this office. His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to uphold the Rule of law and respect the Constitution as a cardinal principle.

    Like we said, the so called “Office of the First Lady,” which President Jonathan’s wife occupies, has no place in the Constitution or on the list of the Federal Executive Bodies. It therefore stands to question where President Jonathan’s wife derives the powers to issue statements, commission sensitive security assets, and make pronouncements from an illegal office. It also belies good reasoning that Mr. President would attach Senior and junior government officials to such an office, even though he is well aware that this is in clear contravention of the constitution he swore to defend and obey.

    For those of us who do not know, the so-called Office of the First Lady was made popular and known in the late 1960’s when Gen. Yakubu Gowon was Head of State. His wife, Mrs. Victoria Gowon, who was a trained Nurse, portrayed a lot of influence beside her husband, the General. This made her noticeable in the public’s eye, coupled with her various disguised philanthropic activities. Then came Gen.Murtala Mohammed (late), who had no time for the frivolous activities of the ‘Office of the First Lady,’ but was more interested in the acts of good governance. Gen. Mohammed, a no-nonsense brave soldier with the passion of improving the standard of living of the ordinary citizens paid no attention to the ‘Office of the First Lady’ and this relegated it to the background, making it nothing to write home about. Upon his calculated death, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) took over from his then boss and never gave impetus to the ‘Office of the First Lady,’ but rather strictly followed the footsteps of his predecessor, and ultimately handed power to a civilian, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Shagari, being the first Executive President on 1st October 1979, did not take note of the ‘Office of the First Lady.’ Although some say this is as a result of his having many wives to contend with, however, the ‘Office of the First Lady’ remained dormant throughout his stay in office.

    Then during the time of Maj. Gen. Mohammed Buhari (rtd), who toppled the civilian government, there was nothing like the Office of the First Lady with its attendant ceremonious activities. It was all military affair. But everything concerning the so called Office of the First Lady was revitalized and given more muscles to operate (much more than Gowon’s regime), when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) came into power in August 27. 1985. His wife, Miriam Babangida (late), carried the First Lady status on her shoulder as if it was a crown, and toured most parts of the world, living an affluent and flamboyant lifestyle, wasting public funds on disguised government activities said to help the needy in the society. Then came Gen. Sani Abacha (late), with his stringent autocratic selfish policies/degrees that brought untold pain to the masses, just like his predecessor had done while in office.

    Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar’s brief stay in office, did not give much room for his wife as the First Lady, to be noticed by the Nigerian Public. And when former president Olusegun Obasanjo came back in 1999 as a civilian, he promised Nigerians in the first week of his administration that he was not going to be wasteful like the military regimes, and that he was going to scrap the Office of the First Lady since the position does not exist in the Nigerian Constitution. But surprisingly, as time passed by, Obasanjo swallowed his words like others and allow his late wife, Stella Obasanjo, whom he preferred to be first amongst others, to carry the First Lady status to another dimension with different NGOs. And of cause, the wives of the State Governors and Council Chairmen towed the same line through these years till today.

    Surprisingly, there is a Ministry of Women Affairs, staffed by a full complement of civil servants and headed by an Honourable Minister. Generally, President Jonathan’s wife public function, as the so-called ‘First Lady,’ amount to a duplication of functions of the Ministry. Mr. President’s wife has also represented Nigeria at high level meetings around the country and overseas. It is worthy to mention here that the outcomes of such interactions can be readily challenged in court as illegal and of no effect.

    Some have argued that the projects of first ladies and governor’s wives are non-governmental in nature. However, Nigerians would like to know who pays the Special advisers, Special assistants, Protocol Officers, physicians, security and Personal Aides usually attached to the wives of Presidents and Governors. At whose expense does President Jonathan’s wife travel around the country and overseas? This makes Nigerians worried about President Jonathan’s avowed commitment to probity and transparency. We believe Nigerians will be glad if Mr. President could publish the sources of financing of his wife’s activities as ‘First Lady’ since he succeeded the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. This would be a great achievement for his administration.

    Sometime late 2010, a national newspaper reported that President Jonathan’s wife accompanied him to the United Nations General Assembly with 23 aides. These included her steward, security aides, personal physician, protocol officers and four of her friends. In March 2011, an aircraft that conveyed her to Sokoto State for a visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, reportedly developed a fault. Another aircraft had to be flown from Abuja to Sokoto to pick her and members of her entourage. Mr. President, these are some of the things that constitute a needless drain on the nation’s resources. And like we said, it is not in the nation’s interest for President Jonathan’s wife to occupy an office that has no Constitutional or legal backing.

    We believe the wives of our Executive leaders can still be very powerful and influential at the home background of their husbands as leaders. There are Ministries and Commissions like we have stated, that are doing what the so-called “First Ladies’ are doing today, hence it is all duplication of duties. We believe whatever public services that are intended by the wives of the various Heads of government, such public services should be handled by these Ministries or done through the ‘Head of government,’ as long as the office is constitutionally recognised. The best place that the wife of Mr. President and the wives of state governors and local government Chairmen should be seen and heard are during ceremonies and occasions that requires their presence beside their husbands. Mr. President should not hesitate to have the so-called Office of the First Lady scrapped in its entirety, including their NGOs, Pet Projects and whatever Foundations (that are funded with public funds) under these offices.

    Nigerians are not happy at the flamboyance displayed by Mr. President’s wife and other holders of such offices at the state and local government levels. They are even given ample airtime on state-owned television and radio stations, at the expense of Nigerian tax payers. On our roads, the convoys of the so-called ‘First Ladies’ cause agonies for other road users. We all recall how horrified people were at the extravagance displayed by the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. Due to the absence of public records in Nigeria, it is difficult to know if the extravagance of our so-called first ladies is at per or has surpassed the record left by Imelda.

    Conclusively, we urgently call on President Goodluck Jonathan to consider it expedient to ask his wife to stop parading herself within the ambit of the supposed Office of the First Lady. Mr. President should withdraw all paraphernalia attached to this illegal office and direct his deputy’s wife and the wives of governors and their deputies and local government Chairmen to do same. If the President should feel a compelling need for such an office, it should be subjected to public hearing by the National Assembly where Nigerians will offer their views on the desirability of such at a time of competing needs and scarce resources. We know some of the aides of Mr. President may ask him to ignore this request but we can assure him that soon, Nigerians will demand scrutiny of the activities of his wife, in her capacity as the so-called ‘First Lady,’ through the instrumentality of the FOI Act. However, let us be truthful with ourselves and do the right thing as suggested. This we urge.

    Zik Gbemre, JP

    National Coordinator

  23. Ogechi

    A lot or words were truly spoken. ‘Twas quite a lengthy read too but you have to admit the writing prowess the first lady posesses. I just feel people in positions to make a difference, should just make a difference employing the least amount of resources that will not be seen by the public as a show flamboyance as she did hint somewhere up there. It was a pretty informative read. Kudos!!! help make not just Ekiti state great but Nigeria as well!

    Keep doing what you do to make that change and let God bless you!
    God Bless Nigeria.

  24. Logic

    can someone please summarize this story because i cant find the purpose of the write up. Perharps am reading a gossip column in a celebrity manazine

  25. Wura

    Erelu Bisi Fayemi launched her self defence to promote herself once again. How come it was when she became wife of Governor, that she got the title of Erelu, in less than 6 months of her husband becoming Governor? Why didn’t she get the title whle she was still doing her “extremely well paying”v job in Ghana? The reality is that no matter how much she earned then, she must keep tab of her expenses, but now that she is First Lady, she does not need to count the money. There is illegal allocation of funds to her “Office of First Lady”, and if that is not enough, her husband’s Security Vite will guarantee her some cool millions on a monthly basis.

    Erelu Fayemi and her co-travellers (Mrs Mimiko, Mrs Ajumobi, etc.) (Amosun’s wife should be careful, and not join them), should not take Nigerians for fools. These very ‘hard working’ first ladies are doing what ambassador’s wives do as a matter of routine, without sticking it in our faces. We voted fior their husbands, or their husbands stole votes in their own names, and not in their wives’ names. They should let us know who we voted for.

  26. Tunde

    Kudos to her excellency Mrs Fayemi, may l title this beautiful piece….THE RESOURCEFULNESS OF AN INTELLIGENT MIND. A testament to Ekitiland as a Fountain of Knowledge. However, l hope this angelic brilliance translates to development in Ekitiland. God bless Ekitiland

  27. margaret

    Why is it that Nigerians always compare America and Europe when it comes to spending money? What about health and social care, looking after the old and the needy?

  28. Yomi Gbajumo

    Some men are yet to come to terms with the fact that women can no longer be related to the background and consigned to the kitchen. Criticisms should come with suggestions and I would have expected that suggestions would have been made on the expected role for the first ladies, as it were instead of outright condemnation.

    1. arrangee

      As Olatunde has expressed very well above – what is the status of that role that she plays. She has not been appointed to an official role neither has she being voted in by the people of Ekiti. I am at pains to understand what she is whinging about…

  29. Prince T

    Her new role is not to criticise but to perform. Chikena

    1. Pearl

      prince (or what sef?) she was not critisizing but responding to criticism. u r so ignorant i really dont know where to start with u but the article actually says it all.

  30. Prince T

    my job as the wife of Ekiti Governor, was to look “after the home-front” rather than meddle in the affairs of state

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH TAKING CARE OF HOME FRONT. SCHARZZINEGAR’s wife left her high profile to become house wife with her governor husband. To abadon home and the governor is like taking feminism too far and preparing for single motherhood. Na wa for we Nigerians.

    1. Olatunde

      Mrs Bisi Fayemi misses the whole point, and this is the tragedy that the so-called ,Office of First Lady’ has become in Nigeria. As she has correctly conceded the Office of First Lady does not exist and is totally not recognised or envisaged in our constitution. Therefore, she cannot to be pretending to be making ggod use of an illegal office.

      Mrs Fayemi can always influence her husband in her private capacity, to have an impact on public policy, as long as she does it in the privacy of her home(s). It is disingenious of Mrs Fayemi to compare the illegal office of first lady to that of Chief of Staff to a Governor. A Chief of Staff is basically a Commissioner or Special Adviser by another name. More often, they are members of cabinet, with discernivle job description, and their office can legitimately be appropriated for, by relevant legislature. Not so for the illegal office of First Lady.

      If someone like Bisi Fayemi does not know, and would take advice conveniently from Mrs Kemi Mimiko, then there is trouble. Why didn’t she take advice from Mrs Bimbola Fashola of Lagos, who does not wear First Ladyship on her sleeve?

      The best favour she can do her husband’s political career is continue with all the good work she stated to be doing, off camera, with funds raised from independent sources, and yes, be less glamorous. Are we richer than Britain, South Africa? How come Mrs fayemi thinks glamour and glitz should naturally attach to her, because she is wife of a Governor? She should spare us that righteous indignation and be real. Get humble. Take advice from Lagos, not Akure.

      1. Pearl

        Olatunde, go n sit down. u r talking nonsense. u now want to tell her where to get advice abi?

    2. Pearl

      Prince, i think u should reread the whole article with an unprejudiced mind. U didnt even get anything she said. And the wife of the former gov of california, ur role model wife, where is she today? the “home front”, how well did she hold it? if a womans place is by her husband’s side, and he is in politics, while she is in the kitchen, how, for heave’s sake is she helping him? The help will come from very personal secretary or special assistant, short skirt version and before u know it………….whatever. i cant talk to people like u.

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