LETTER TO HER EXCELLENCY, AISHA BUHARI
I write to congratulate you on your new position as “First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. This was after four years of hide and seek game, four years of shifting identity. That notwithstanding, in spite of everything, we see it as better late than never. Once more, congratulations, as we march forward to the “Next Level”.
Your Excellency, ordinarily we would not have contemplated writing you, as somebody’s wife, but now that you have freed yourself from the apron strings, we think it would be nice to share a little bit of our thoughts with you so we can reason together in the task of building our dear nation.
Your Excellency, you would recall that about five years ago when Oga Patapata was canvassing for votes, he told us that he was not going to have “Office of the First Lady”. This was because, according to him, that office was not known to the country’s constitution, and that you would simply be called “Wife of the President”.
We welcomed that position with mixed feelings. Not only that we admired your beauty, your charm, your intelligence and your vibrancy, we equally believed that you would have something positive to contribute to the building of our country, which we might lose if you were confined to the “oza room”. But since we were then in the era of “change”, we adopted the position of “Sidon look”, wait and see.
Of course, Your Excellency, we were aware that you never really acquiesced to that imposition, that awkward position, your unwarranted imprisonment inside the “oza room”, as occasionally you would break loose, to either register your displeasure about how the ship of state was being piloted, or to champion one noble cause or the other, to the discomfort and embarrassment of Oga Patapata.
Your Excellency, we know that in the past, we had had celebrated First Ladies, and sometimes, some Second Ladies, who made their marks in the sands of time, and who were generally adored or admired for their elegance, their brilliance, their splendour, their carriage and their glamour.
We had in mind, such First Ladies as the gorgeous Lady Flora Azikiwe, wife of the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe: the ebullient Mrs. Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, wife of the first Military Head of State, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi; the charming Mrs. Victoria Yakubu Gowon; as well as the vibrant Mrs. Beatrice Ekwueme, wife of Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
In course of time, some of the other First Ladies began to move out from their shells to try to compete with their husbands in project execution, through their different pet projects that run into billions of naira, and aimed at transforming the lives of the vulnerable or the downtrodden in society, even though we were never told how these billions of naira meant for the projects were captured in the national budget.
Accordingly, we remember the elegant Mrs. Maryam Babangida, with her “Better Life Programme for Rural Women”; the ebullient Mrs. Maryam Abacha, with her “Family Support Programme/Family Economic Advancement Programme”; the Hon. Justice Fati Abubakar, with her “Women’s Right and Protection Alternative Programme”; the beautiful Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, with her “Child Care Trust Programme”; the brilliant Mrs. Turai YarAdua with her “Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation” and, of course, the comic Dame Patience Jonathan, with her “Women for Change Initiative “.
Ironically, as we had observed, as soon as the husbands of these First Ladies were out of office, nothing was ever heard of these projects, and of course, the billions of naira expended in them. It is only in the case of Dame Patience Jonathan that they saw how the woman was being harassed, that they found money here, and found money there.
Your Excellency, we were not happy the way they treated you, denied you your merited position as First Lady of Nigeria, and prevented you from establishing your own pet project, just like the other First Ladies before you. At every layer of administration in this country, we have various First Ladies, each with her own pet project. Thus, we have State Governors, with their First Ladies and their pet projects; Local Government Chairmen with their First Ladies and their pet projects; Councillors with their First Ladies; the Town Union Chairmen with their First Ladies, etc., each trying to outshine every other one else at their different levels.
Your Excellency, it was not pleasant seeing you schemed out of the system. They said they were not going to establish “Office of the First Lady”, but they turned round to package what ought to have been your pet project and called it “Social Investment Programme”, and gave it to another woman to run! That was not fair.
Actually, we do agree with you, in your recent observation, that while billions of naira had been sunk into the “Social Investment Programme”, the impact was practically not therefore in the lives of the people, but we hope that you were not insinuating that the money meant for the project was being diverted or being cornered into some people’s pockets? We do not believe that this would be possible since Oga Patapata is charge, and he will never allow anybody to steal any money anywhere.
Your Excellency, now that you are no longer the “Wife of the President”, but the “First Lady of Nigeria”, we hope this will not bring “katakata” between you and Oga Patapata, who had told us four years ago, that the reason why he would not have Office of the “First Lady” was because it was not recognized by the constitution. We do not therefore know whether that Office has now been included in our constitution.
We would also like to know whether, as First Lady, you are going to package your own pet project, just like the other First Ladies before you; or whether you will take over the “Social Investment Programme”, whose impact is currently not felt, and give serious bite to it, or whether you will just be content in answering “First Lady”, without any project.
Until we hear from you, we wish you a successful tenure.