Buhari’s ‘Change’ Anthem: The place of women, children and the President’s wife

The change mantra of the All progressives congress at the 2015 general election may have indeed earned president Muhammadu Buhari and his political party victory at the polls, yet the principle of governance goes beyond mere celebrations and takeover of political power, it is also not just about who gets what position or appointment, but about implementing and fulfilling the electoral promises made to the people during campaigns and rallies before and after the election. It is clear that expectations are high and many Nigerians are eager to see the real change that the APC government has promised, especially at a time when Nigerians unanimously voted out PDP’s 16 years reign, to entrust the leadership of the country in the hands of a new leader that has pledged to fight corruption, provide better security, create jobs among other things. Implementing that manifesto is critical to the success and credibility of this government but what is more important is for the common man on the street to benefit immensely from the policies.
President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be starting on a good note, first, with his visit to countries bordering Nigeria in the northeast especially Niger and Chad which have become entry points and hideout for boko haram militants and then his and recent visit to the United States to discuss the country’s economy, securing its borders and fighting boko haram insurgents. However, the content of the manifesto include many other things even though it may be too early to begin to judge his government less than 100 hundred days after he assumed office.

Having analyzed the Buhari/osinbajo manifesto on profyemiosinbajo.com, it might just be right to conclude that a huge task lies ahead of these two leaders and their team especially on their bid to reposition the Nigerian economy. Another feature on that manifesto that calls for attention, but appears not to be on the priority list is the social aspect of it- women empowerment and the plight of children. Some of Buhari’s major critics tagged him a chauvinist but he has proved them wrong with the appointment of a woman to fill the big seat vacated by Attahiru Jega at the independent national electoral commission, even though he has yet to form a cabinet. President Buhari is not giving the unofficial office of the First lady a priority, his wife Aisha Buhari also prefers to be addressed as the wife of the president and not the First lady as adopted by successive governments. That still does not mean the unofficial office of the president’s wife should not be saddled with some responsibilities that would help to actualize the president’s electoral promises as contained in his manifesto. Without any iota of doubt the president, the vice president and other ministers would take up bigger responsibilities of running the country’s economy, suffice it to say that the social aspect or the humanitarian aspect of that manifesto can be handled by the president’s wife unofficially. Someone has to pay attention to the plight of women and children because they remain a vulnerable class of the population. In the United States for instance the First lady of the united states(FLOTUS) is an unofficial title and position traditionally held by the wife of the president, concurrent with his term of office. History has it that if an American president is not married, or if the president’s wife is unable to act as first lady, the president usually asks a female relative or friend to act as White house hostess. The role of the wife of the president has evolved over the centuries. She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of the president. Former first lady of the United States Dolley Madison popularized the first ladyship by engaging in efforts to assist orphans and women. President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor is remembered for authoring a weekly newspaper column and hosting a radio show apart from being fashion trendsetters. However, these roles should not be missing in the Nigerian political system, even though the president’s policy forbids it.

It is on record that the late wife of former Military president Maryam Babangida founded the better life program for rural women in 1987 and under her leadership, the programme raised increased social awareness, acceptance and widespread knowledge of issues confronting the Nigerian woman. It also empowered these women socially, economically and politically and has since achieved outstanding results that no wife of successive Nigerian presidents matched.

From findings, women and children form about 50% of the Nigerian population. This set of people may have not had the best of treatment in our great country Nigeria. They are confronted with problems of inadequate medical care during pregnancy and after childbirth, domestic violence and forced sexual labour.

It is obvious that any intervention, no matter how huge and spectacular, is long overdue. Many Nigerian children also suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect by the family and the society. No matter how many females we have in leadership positions today, the fundamental problems of the Nigerian female are yet to be addressed. Many Nigerian women are not safe. They are not secure. We live in a country where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their hostel in the northern part of the country and yet not much is done to protect the interest of others like them who remain vulnerable. Our society is one where a young girl is bathed with acid for daring to say “No” to a man’s advances, and the perpetrator walks free, even as the victim lives in daily mental and physical anguish. These people need a voice.

At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are the world’s time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions – income, poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, etc (UN Millennium Project, 2005).

This means that it is not out of place if the wife of President, Hajia Aisha Buhari comes up with programmes that would make life better for Nigerian women and children, that remains an aspect of the president’s manifesto that can be well handled by his wife of many years.

It is also on record that in 1999 when Nigeria returned to democracy, wife of the former president Olusegun obasanjo, Stella obasanjo set up a project known as child care trust. The trust focused on healthcare services for physically and mentally challenged children. One of the major achievements of the CCT was the establishment of a special children model centre in Bwari, Abuja.

Hajia Buhari’s track record is clear, she can help women fight their cause facilitate their empowerment through loans and financial support, ensuring that laws protecting the rights of women are enforced, provision of healthcare centres all over the country, where pregnant women can be treated and where they could go for post-natal care, ensuring and enforcing the education of the girl child, especially in the parts of the country, where girls rarely go to schools. So, why wait for the president or the vice president to take these bold steps to deliver this aspect of the president’s manifesto? The office the first lady of Nigeria may cease to exist but there sure exists the position of the wife of the president.

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