Drama Trails Scrapping of First Lady Titles, Offices in States

Wives of Polygamous Governors to Row Over First Lady Title?

The president, governors, senators, House of Reps and State House of Reps members all took their oaths of office in the past two weeks. These elected political officers have wives who will, in most instances, be given special recognition. But the battle, for wives of governors with more than one wife for a title and office, is raging.

The title of ‘First Lady’ has been a controversial one, as many argue such offices or titles are not recognized constitutionally. President Muhammadu Buhari first said he will not have an office of the first lady in his administration, even if women would play a major role in his government. That seemed to set the ball rolling, as many states are adopting the stand.

Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said via a press statement that he has abolished the title. The statement said the proper nomenclature will be ‘Wife (or wives) of the Governor’ as the case may be. He has two wives, Hajiya Aisha Bagudu and Dr. Zainab Bagudu. This has drawn praise from various quarters, saying the decision will go a long way in curbing rivalry.

Some other governors have also decided not to make official the title of first lady. Katsina State has also followed suit by ditching the title. Speaking to Daily Trust on Saturday, Malam Abdu Labaran, Special Assistant to the Governor, said there is no such office in the state. “The governor has said they will be addressed as ‘Wives of the Governor’ since there are three of them. Secondly, they will be shielded from the press as much as possible. If anyone has anything official to do with any of them, he or she has to get clearance from the governor of the state who is their husband.” He is married to three women namely, Binta, Hadiza and Sakiya.

Yobe State under Governor Ibrahim Geidam has never recognized an office of the first lady. Governor Geidam, who is serving his second term, has made it a point of duty not to have anyone address them as that. He has kept his private life private, likewise his three wives’, who all attend official functions as Wife (or Wives) of the Governor.

Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, is obviously toeing the line of his predecessor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, who during his eight years administration never gave credence to any of his wives being called First Lady of the state. Governor Tambuwal is also said to be shielding his only wife, Hajiya Mariya, from the public eye. “This administration in Sokoto does not intend to have an office for the first lady,” said Imam Imam, Special Adviser on Media to Governor Tambuwal. But in his inaugural address, the governor acknowledged the role women played in the emergence of political office-holders and assured them that they would not be let down.

In Kano State, the scenario playing out is interesting, as it’s been an off and on status. Between 1999- 2003 under the first Kwankwanso administration, the title was abolished but bounced back under Governor Shekarau’s administration in 2003-2011. It again got rested in 2011-2015 under Governor Kwankwaso even though he had only one wife. He declined the use of the title or any office for it. In line with the tradition, there will not be an office of first lady under the present administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. His wife, Dr. Hafsatu Umar Ganduje, is not known to the public as even though her husband has been in the corridor of power for decades, she hardly attends public functions. She is his only wife.

Apparently following suit, Kaduna State’s Governor, Malam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, who has three wives (Hadiza, Aisha and Asiah), will not have an office or title of first lady. Hajiya Hadiza, who has been in the spotlight right from her husband’s campaign days, told Daily Trust on Saturday that she believes the office of the first lady should be purely ceremonial. The architect said: “I don’t believe that as the wife of the governor, you should dabble into running the government. It is your husband who was elected, not you. Your role as the wife of the governor is to support. Moreover, Baba Buhari has said that there will be no office of first lady in his administration.” Special Assistant to the Kaduna State Governor on Media, Samuel Aruwan, could not be reached for comment but a source who pleaded anonymity said there are plans by the government to abolish the office and title as the governor has three wives. He added that, however, women will play major roles in the administration.

Different strokes for different states

Though some states have abolished the title – in some cases including the office – some states are still maintaining both the title and office. In Nasarawa State, where the governor is on his second tenure, the office of the first lady is still running. Though he has two wives, Hajiya Salamatu Almakura and Hajiya Mairo Almakura, the first who held the position in his first term seems to be in the position still.

Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State is also serving his second term and his only wife Hajiya Adama Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo also served as First Lady. It is reported that she had aides attached to her in his first tenure, which is likely to continue in his second term.

Niger State, in the past, ran an office of the first lady but it is unclear if it will remain under the present government of Governor Sani Bello, who has one wife, Dr. Amina Abubakar. The spokesperson of Niger State government, Dr. Ibrahim Dooba, said the title in the state will be retained.

Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar is yet to appoint any one in any political office, including the office of the first lady. A reliable source at the Bauchi Government House told Daily Trust on Saturday that the governor has two wives, one of them a retired Central Bank Director and the other a lawyer.

For Governor Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa State, our correspondent confirmed that he is yet to move into the Government House but Hajiya Maryam Umaru Jibrilla, his only wife, will be handling the office of the First Lady. She was very visible during his campaigns.

Little is known about the wife of Governor Badaru Abubakar Muhammed of Jigawa State, and so not much is known if there will be an office or title in the state.

Governor Abdulaziz Yari, serving his second term, has three wives to whom during his first term he allocated different portfolios. They all had the title of First Ladies but designated to do different services. The three wives were engaged in various activities, especially in the areas of girl child education and women empowerment. The coordinated offices of the three first ladies of Zamfara State would continue in the state, Daily Trust on Saturday confirmed. The three first ladies are Hajiya Fatima, Hajiaya Hadiza and Hajiya Asma’u, who are said to be coordinating themselves to work harmoniously with each other taking an area of particular interest.

In Borno State, the wife of Governor Kashim Shettima, Hajiya Nana, has been “cautious” in using the title, even during the first tenure of her husband. A credible source said Governor Shettima wanted a situation whereby his wife will touch the lives of the people without necessarily being in the forefront. At the onset of the administration, her media aides told journalists that she prefers to be called “wife of the governor” instead of “First Lady”. Further findings reveal that there is no specific budget for her office, despite the fact that she has a pet project which caters for underprivileged women, children and Internally Displaced Persons.

In Taraba, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Silvanus Giwa, said he could not tell whether the First Lady’s office or title would be abolished or maintained, saying it is only Governor Darius Ishaku who can tell. The wife of the governor is Bar. Annah Darius Ishaku.

Behind every successful man…

The dust-raising about offices and titles for wives of elected officials led to all kinds of scathing media attention. The Kebbi State saga remains fresh, as the drama of how late president Yar’adua’s daughter who married ex-governor Dakingari was automatically given the title and office, causing much drama. Likewise in Adamawa State, where all four wives of the ex- governor then all bore the title and held individual portfolios. In the present dispensation, however, it is said that the politics of who gets recognition as the governor’s wife is getting fierce.

Past the drama, however, is a heartening undertone that women – wives of elected officials or not – will play pivotal roles in building the nation.

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Source: Daily Trust

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