THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE FIRST LADY IN POLITICS (Where is Hope Uzodinma’s wife?)- by Adaku Quingist
I remain my humble self Miss. Eunice Adaku Duru (Quingist), a writer with Quingist Entertainment Empire (www.quingist.com.ng)
Who is a First Lady? the wife of the president of a country or other head of state. The leading woman in a particular activity or profession.
The Governor of any State is in the center of the political system. This institution, its development, its position within the polity, and its incumbents have been and still are subject to scrutiny in the field of political science. While a myriad of scholars studied the presidency and Governors, the ‘office’ of the First Lady has remained widely omitted from consideration.
This general neglect has prompted me to pay attention to the outstanding role of the Governor’s spouse which obviously holds an enormous potential of power. Being the person closest to the most powerful man in the State, the First Lady can exert momentous influence on her husband and, therefore, interfering in the public policy.
The institution of the First Ladyship has considerably changed during history. The governor’s wife’s role was largely limited to the hostess and ceremonial functions, but today her scope of responsibilities and duties has tremendously extended since then.
However, as the First Lady is neither an elected nor an appointed member of the Government, and the Constitution remains silent about her office, it is largely shaped and defined by its respective occupants. Consequently, the institution of the First Ladyship to be found today does result not only from changing societal and political developments and public expectations but also to a high degree from the way governor’s wives have carried out their office. With the emergence of a more active First Ladyship, the governor’s spouses were confronted with growing criticism on the part of feminists as well as traditionalists who disapproved of their ‘illegitimate exercise’ of power.
Yet it is not clear in how far First Lady can influence Nigeria politics and to what degree they actually make use of their power.
Today I will try to examine these questions, focusing on the potential of political influence the office of the First Lady contains. Since the major changes of the First Ladyship took place.
As indicated earlier, the role of the First Lady has always been a controversial matter. Undoubtedly, she occupies a highly powerful position since she is the person closest to the Governor of the State. However, she is neither an elected nor an appointed and confirmed officer of the government. There is no definition to find that determines what is appropriate or required to do and what is not.
Due to this freedom, the First Lady has in dealing with her office, she has always been under fire from many sides. It is no wonder then that every First Lady has been criticized for any more or less significant aspect of the way she fulfilled her role. During all tenures of Governors and their wives, there was a public discourse about what a First Lady had to do and what she was not supposed to do. Most people agree that she should be a supportive and caring wife and mother, but as soon as her engagement moves beyond this point, criticism arouses.
Although due to a lack of legal or constitutional guidance it is ‘hard to identify the formal or official roles of the Governor’s spouse, it is possible to conceptualize a ‘core set of duties assumed by first ladies.
First of all, the First Lady must fulfill her function as wife and mother. The exercise of these traditional functions under the public spotlight means a challenge that many people cannot imagine and do often not take into consideration while evaluating the First Lady. This aspect of First Ladyship also includes the requirement that the First Lady should not overshadow the Governor or disagree with him in public.
The second function to be fulfilled by a First Lady lies in being a public figure and celebrity. The media and ordinary people display a large interest in the best-known women in the country; she can even be called a ‘social and cultural trendsetter’.
Thirdly, In the capacity of a Douglas House manager, she overlooks social events, including the menu, guest list, entertainment, and seating arrangements. This role is not be underestimated for ‘social events are an important part of the political process, as essential to diplomacy as are the formal diplomatic talks themselves’. Therefore, just in acting as a host, the First Lady can exert influence on the Governor’s public image and even his agenda.
Simultaneously, the governor’s wife mirrors the stance of women in society and affects the experiences of women in the state make. Accordingly, she is expected to represent both – a modern and a traditional woman. She is responsible for the domestic staff and often presides over renovations, restorations, and refurbishments of the Executive Governors Mansion. This obligation requires a high degree of competence and time investment since the Douglas House is at the same time the official residence of the sitting Governor.
Another duty of the First Lady is serving as her husband’s campaigner. Especially with the emergence of mass media such as television, First Ladies are increasingly involved in campaigning which nowadays extends to several months.
The First Lady acts as a social advocate and champion of social causes. During the last decades, every First Lady promoted her so-called ‘pet project’ such as literacy, girl child or drug awareness. For pursuing her concerns, the First Lady has staff and financial resources at her disposal. As many Governor’s spouses focused on social and humanitarian issues and on the endorsement of volunteerism.
The First Lady is expected to appear at public events, thereby supporting her husband’s office and the whole State.
Functioning as a Governor’s wife and political party booster, many First Ladies supported their husband and his party by active campaigning, joining the party’s women organization or delivering a speech on a convention.
To different extents, First Ladies have functioned as diplomats. For the most part, they accompanied their husbands on official state visits abroad and welcomed visiting foreign dignitaries.
Finally, the First Lady takes or at least can take, the role of a politician and a Governor’s partner. This function implies a high level of influence and importance. The Governor’s wife has usually been with him through his entire career, his most trusted adviser, acts privately and publicly, and has a public as well a private relationship with him.
As this list of duties demonstrates, a First Lady has various possibilities to approach her office. Of course, not every Governor’s wife has fulfilled all functions on the same level or in the same proportion to other duties… But the truth remains that the Office of the First Lady is very important to the State.
Dear Imolites where is your First Lady or do we have to beg Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to borrow us his?