Her Excellency, The First Lady

By Ikenga Chronicles December 12, 2019

Her Excellency, The First Lady

–By Epa Ogie Eboigbe

Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (and First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria depending on whose camp you are in) has been in the news lately.

Actually, she seems to be in the news either for doing and saying something or for not doing and saying something about something.

However, the current storm has to do with her allegations that one of her husband’s spokesmen is taking orders from powers outside the seat of government to whittle down the Office of the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – her office.

Mrs. Buhari said in a statement yesterday that the spokesman was ordered to issue a statement to say that the office of the First Lady had been scrapped. And she is very, very upset at this insinuation.

A few months back, her news was trending seriously when a video went viral showing her appearing to be very angry and speaking in a raised voice about living conditions at Aso Rock Villa. She was said to have confirmed that the person in the said video was herself.

When Muhammadu Buhari came to office in 2015, it was announced that his spouse would be referred to, not as First Lady, but as Wife of the President. It looked then that madam concurred with that position.

However, when the President was re-elected earlier this year, Aisha Buhari obviously opted to be called First Lady in the new dispensation and it was reported at a time that she expressed gratitude to the President for assigning staff to her office.

There are those who agree with her position because there is no indication that our Number One citizen has another wife, unlike some State Governors who, because of multiple wives, have had problem designating one wife as First Lady, to the extent that some Governors are said to have listed their wives as First, Second, Third and Fourth Ladies with different portfolios. Some of us can even understand her new stance, when wives of governors and local government chairmen are also being hailed as First Ladies in their domains.

In the real sense, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an informal, but accepted title, held by the wife of the President of Nigeria.

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria does not create an office for the country’s First Lady or potential First Gentleman if we do have a female president in future.However, official funding and staff have always been allocated to the First Lady of Nigeria and even in the States of the Federation. The First Lady is also addressed by the title Her Excellency, HE, even in the States.

Previous First Ladies of Nigeria include Flora Azikiwe from 1963 to 1966; Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, Jan. to Jul 1966; Victoria Gowon, 1966 to 1975; Ajoke Mohammed, 1975 to 1976; Esther Oluremi Obasanjo, 1976 to 1979; Safinatu Buhari, 1983 to 1985; Maryam Babangida, 1985 to 1993; Margaret Shonekan, 1993; Maryam Abacha, 1993 to 1998; Fati Abubakar, 1998 to 1999; Stella Obasanjo, 1999 to 2005 – died in office; Turai Yar’Adua, 2007 to 2010; Patience Jonathan, 2010 to 2015.

There was no First Lady during the Presidency of Alhaji Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983. Also note that Buhari’s late wife Safinatu was First Lady during his first coming as Head of State in 1983 to 1985 while there was no First Lady from 2005 to 2007 after Stella Obasanjo died while her husband was President.

The term ‘First Lady’ originated in the United States of America as the title of the wife of the President in office.

Although the First Lady’s role has never been officially defined, FLOTUS, as she is popularly known, figures prominently in the political and social life of the US and she has always been assisted by official staff in the Office of the First Lady which is located in the East Wing of the White House.

The current American First Lady Melania Trump is very visible and seems to go with her husband everywhere, especially on foreign travels.

In the UK, the Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the wife or husband of the Prime Prime Minister of the UK. Not First Lady. Or First Gentleman. So the term can refer to both the wife or husband of the PM.

Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson is married to Marina Wheeler, but she did not join him in Number 10 Downing Street, due to their separation in 2018. So he is more or less a single PM.

The role of the British Prime Minister’s spouse is not an official office and, as such, she or he is not given a salary or official duties. Over time the position has evolved and some spouses have gained public attention through their own independent careers and achievements.

The last has not been heard of Aisha Buhari’s position as First Lady or Wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; but it may just be an unnecessary distraction that can be avoided or disposed of by the President who is both Head of State and Head of the Homefront.

  • Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.