President Buhari’s burden and office of first lady

Every average conscious Nigerian knows the heavy burdens which former President Jonathan left behind for President Muhammadu Buhari. These burdens are so enormous that Mr. President should listen and copy from the voice of wisdom from Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who advised her husband, the one-time President of the United States of America, Franklin Roosevelt. She passionately but boldly addressed her husband saying, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right… for you will be criticized any way. You will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. As if in the shoes of Franklin who mounted the saddle of leadership when the United States was in total economic retardation and social degradation, President Muhammadu Buhari must feel the immediate impulse of Nigerians and the encumbrances militating against Nigeria’s progress.

G. Gregg Murray once proclaimed: “People are going to love you or hate you. Don’t waste your time trying to control that. Spend your days pleasing God – not people. I want to hear God say well done my good and faithful servant”.

Although Buhari is a well-known success-driven leader, his affinity to Nigerians of all walks of life, his trustworthiness, his statesmanship, his detribalized disposition, his focus, his courage, determination and candour which characterized his stewardship in the past, must be maintained. President Buhari must act with wisdom and distinguish himself in the list of Nigerian leaders. There are already green lights that he is going to be a huge success for Nigeria.

The proverb that behind every successful man, there is a woman comes to play here. Many would not argue that great men have existed without any women pushing them from behind or from around. In short, the greatest stories are of men who have fallen because of women. So the roles of women at home, at social places and specifically in politics are relative and can be fixed in between the extremes of morality. I can assure us that women are more intelligent than men in certain corners. Man is created to be hard in life including his decisions and relationships with other existences. Most men are of the straight and stringent decision makers. In dealing with people of diverse interests and nationalities, the intertwining of the hard and soft approaches is more fruitful than one side. That is why the stick and carrot approach to internal militancy is often employed by sensitive leadership. However, there are good and bad women and wives.

A lot of successful men depended much on their wives to face the reality of life before success. Lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped her husband to add value to governance in the United States of America. She stood behind her husband and encouraged him on the good path. In Islamic history, the roles of Khadijah and Aisha (may Allah be pleased with them) in the life of holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are manifest. In summary, the confidence which the prophet developed in his divine massage at the beginning of his prophethood was attributed to Khadijah. And the role of Aisha in organizing the women of her time was great indeed. Prophet Moses listened to his wife. Prophet Ibrahim did and all the exalted prophets of Allah.

What great men do is to listen and take what can be apt to the situation. There are decisions that need to be taken in the bedroom and there are others that must be taken in the office. In Nigeria, history shows that the office of the First Lady has been unofficially in existence, traceable to the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. History portrayed what Maryam Babangida, Maryam Abacha and the wife of Abdusalami Abubakar used their offices to do for the Nigerian women and children. It was all military junta, so the office was somewhat controllable. But since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999, the office has either been abused by its seemingly being independent government apparatus or being the main government office. Stella Obasanjo and the powerful Turai Ya’Adua were titans. Patience Jonathan was a superwoman Nigeria hadn’t ever before. They spent unknown amounts of money from unknown/unannounced source.

I am of the strong opinion that the office can be moderated to fit its operations. The office of the First Lady at the federal and state levels is so important especially at this critical moment that Nigerian women are becoming much more involved in politics. What I suggest should be done is to legalize it by an Act of the national and state assemblies. Budgetary allocations should be made to the offices. And since Mr. President is a man of justice and law, Nigerians would be sure that strict implementation of the budgets will be enforced while ensuring that the offices are not abused. Although Hajia Aisha Buhari is a humble and faithful woman, the possibility of abusing the office is virtually not there because of the kind of husband she has. She can use her own influence to control the state offices to guard against abuse by possible overzealous governors’ wives. I am sure that by doing so, we will face the reality that the advantages and output expected from the offices are much more than its demerit. The fear is only in the abuse of the office.

Nigerians are in need of development from their political fathers and mothers. Mr. President and the state governors and their wives should collaborate to deliver dividends of democracy to the yearning citizens. Already, many Nigerians are advocating for an all inclusive federal government that would reach out to the grassroots and minorities. The significance of women in governance cannot be underestimated. If they are given the guidance and limit – locus operandi – they will do better. There is no doubt that reaching out to women is easier through women than men. And the burdens on Mr. President are so enormous that he needs the wife to support him in the direction toward changing Nigeria to better, nay best in Africa, at least. But there should legal backing and budgetary allocation for her office and operations.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja E-mail: [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah