Saturday, 12 January 2013

Katsina’s Rampaging First Lady By Ahmed B. Kaita

If newspaper reports about the sacking of a Matazu Local government supervisory councillor by Katsina state first lady Hajia Fatima Shema, are true, then it is time to have a clear explanation about the role and status of first ladies. It is no longer speculative that first ladies are becoming an excessive liability on an already stressed system. Gone are the days when ladies, whether first, second or last used to represent hope, discipline and decency. These days, a new menace; "first ladyship" is threatening to take value out of womanhood by the unruly behaviour of few women who fail to harness their natural instincts of motherhood to help build a decent society. Yester years’ women libbers’ battle cry “what a man can do, a woman can do even better”, has been turned into “what a man can do, a woman can do even worse” by first ladies. This much was proven correct recently in an altercation involving two "first ladies" in Katsina state.

Reports have it that the Katsina state Governor's wife ordered the sacking of the female supervisory councillor through a letter of "termination of appointment" dated 27th Dec, 12 which was confirmed by the Chief Press Secretary to the first lady, one Mallam Abdulazeez. The letter was emphatically clear about its source of authority. Part of it, signed by one Bala Lawal Yaro, a staff officer of Matazu Local Government reads: "I am directed by the office of Her Excellency, Hajia (Dr) Fatima Ibrahim Shehu Shema, to issue you this letter of termination in view of your unkindly like misconduct and behaviour."
Yaro, obviously confused about the constitutional powers (or lack of it) of the office of the first lady to engage such lawlessness in a matter that is strictly covered by adequate rules and regulations may have a hectic time explaining his stand or living with the government denial.
It is noteworthy that this "unkindly like misconduct" was brought about by the local government equivalent of the Katsina first lady, the wife of the Matazu transitional council chairman. Obviously drunk from her new found power of "local first ladyship" without definitive demarcation of limits, the Matazu first lady barged into a meeting that was entirely administrative but was resisted by the supervisory councillor for which she (the councillor) earned a slap. It was the revolt by the councillor against this excessive and unruly anti-social behaviour of the Matazu first lady that earned the councillor the anger of the "senior first lady" who deployed her illegally acquired powers to terminate an appointment that followed constitutional due process.
It is apparent that the executive recklessness with which many governors rule their states is beginning to rub off on their families. Numerous reports of lawlessness and flagrant abuse of power are common with the "first families."
From billboards of "Yinin Biki" in Niger state to terminal pet projects of "first ladies" in various states that usurped the functions of constitutionally backed government ministries and agencies in an ingenious schemes to siphon public funds, the stories of first ladies always leave a bile test in the mouth of any sensible Nigerian.
It is not by accident that this phenomenon keeps waxing stronger. It does so because it massages the ego of our governors (most of whom were accidental by the way.) It gives them feeling of importance to see the fiery escorts of their wives' convoys; complete with blaring sirens harassing the public. This is a clear indication of poor grasp and careless attitude to leadership with which these modern day "Pharaohs" approach governance having secured it unprepared.
How else does one explain the Katsina state first lady's attempt to usurp the instrument of leadership by crossing the fat line between ceremonial and executive roles? It is clear these "excess liabilities" are fixated on destroying every structural arrangement designed to ensure modern communal existence through governance even when they know their relation to power was entirely marital and should be treated as so.
Without a doubt, the next few days would see torrents of attempts by government and self appointed Public Relation specialists to manage this scandalous constitutional aberration by the Katsina first lady, but the fact remains nobody is in doubt about the unconstitutional interference with governance by the self appointed 4th arm of the government - "office of the first lady." No matter what, this horrifying impression has been etched on the psyche of the nation.
In itself, "first ladyship" is the first sign of the inherent weakness in our leadership structure, and the moral make-up of our leaders. This could be glimpsed from their poor inability to control their spouses from wrecking havoc on the system. It is clear that most "first ladies" are the next most powerful figures after their husbands in various states and different government arms. Our moral degradation has sunk so low that even sensitive government policies and decisions are taken at home front between the two first "soul mates" regardless of the security implication and illegality of such action.
Many great leaders have passed who made their marks without turning their wives into "public idols." Not many people would remember the names of the wives of Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir. Ahmadu Bello Sardauna, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mallam Aminu Kano, Alhaji Shehu Shagari etc. Yet these are people who built Nigeria from scratch without having to suppocate the public space with the ungainly presence of their wives. These are people that our present crop of leaders cannot even dream to match in performance and humility because they lack the discipline and sense of right and wrong. It is in this context that I accept a befitting expression which adequately describe an average modern day Nigerian governor - "KUN KORO MAZA, MATA SUN KOROKU."
Ahmed B. Kaita, is of the House of Representatives representing Kankia/Kusada/Ingawa Federal Constituency in Katsina state

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