Friday, December 24, 2010

The Fury Of 'First Ladies'

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
We are indeed in very perplexing and stressful times. As a people trapped in diverse, debilitating contradictions, occasioned by obvious failure of leadership and character on the part of those directing the affairs of our clearly rundown country, the much we should expect from the growing tribe of First Spouses, First Concubines, First Children, and even First Uncles, Cousins, and Nieces, of our clearly unprofitable rulers, wallowing in flamboyant idleness and having all their unspeakable excesses serviced with state funds, is to, at least, allow some measure of humility and moderation attend the way they flaunt their sudden and limitless privileges before the rest of us.
Stella Obasanjo

It does seem that in these parts, we are most adept at creating grotesque legitimacy for the totally absurd after which we   advertise it with indecent fanfare. At the end of the day, we end up providing  delicious specimens for bellyful mirth for the civilized.

I would certainly not be bothered one bit if I never got to see the wife or concubines of any governor or president until the expiration his tenure. I do not edit a society tabloid whose passion it usually is to discover the current colour of lipstick that adorns Madam's lips or the latest revealing blouse with a plunging neckline she wears to dimly-lit balls.

*Mr. And Mrs. Obasanjo
My candid opinion is that we can do with one ruler at a time. Let the wives of our rulers spare us their clearly unappetizing presence and retreat to their houses and be good wives to their husbands and good mothers to their children. For the umpteenth time, they should please remove their mostly over-bleached, over-made-up and over-dressed selves before our faces so we can find the presence of mind to bear the pain and anguish their husbands are unleashing on us.

We are almost forgetting that the Constitution has no provisions for the so-called office
 of the First Lady.
*Lucy Kibaki

I am not bothered, for instance, if the president's wife has a battery of special assistants, senior special advisers, and even press secretaries attached to her "office", so long as their salaries and allowances are paid from the private purse of her spouse. The state can pay for her security, we can overlook that, even though her "office" is not backed by any constitutional provisions.

So when recently, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, issued a statement alerting the nation that the Publisher of Midwest Herald, Mr. Orobosa Omo-Ojo, whose paper had carried a story titled "Greedy Stella", had been arrested by detectives from the "D" Department of the Ondo State Police Command, on the orders of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, I almost thought it was not happening in real life.

*Mwai And Lucy Kibaki With George And
Laura Bush In Washington

Unfortunately, my desire to obtain a copy of the Midwest Herald that week to see how it looks like could not be gratified. The real tragedy in the incident, however, was that the mainstream media proved themselves incapable of appreciating the dangerous signal the ugly development portended and decided to treat the report with levity. Well, let's wait until a "First Son" or "First Concubine" decides tomorrow to seal off the premises of a "national" newspaper, and then, our eyes would then open to the street wisdom that every monster is the product of a gradual, undiscouraged evolution.

Incidentally, this new piece of scandal was treated with amazing seriousness by the foreign media, and I could imagine the well-remunerated 'experts' at the Image Laundering Project office submitting fresh, well loaded requisitions to enable them adequately whitewash the stain the sorry event might have registered on the "model" regime in Abuja. Indeed, Mrs. Obasanjo, like every other Nigerian, was perfectly justified to feel pained if she was unfairly represented in the media, but should an aggrieved person respond to a perceived wrong by perpetrating a more insidious wrong? Are the courts in perpetual recess in Nigeria, or are we just witnessing a raw exhibition of "my-husband-is-in-charge" mentality here?

*Unruffled? Mwai And Lucy Kibaki
Dance To 
Usher In The New Year 2007
At The State House, 

And the fact that the poor publisher is still in detention, nearly one month after his arrest, should alert us all to the devastating evil that is gradually taking root in the nation.

Now if this incident in Nigeria represents a huge baggage of shame, what happened in Nairobi, Kenya, during the same period, where this "my-husband-is-in-charge" mentality was raised to an insufferable level by Mrs. Lucy Muthoni Kibaki, one of the wives of Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, has no counterpart within the boundaries of civilized behaviour.

Mrs. Kibaki, with her ferocious body guards, had invaded, the Muthaiga residence of the outgoing World Bank country representative, Mr. Makhtar Diop, where a private farewell party was being held in his honour, to complain that the music was too noisy and was robbing her of her sleep.

*Festus Keyamo: Against Stella
Obasanjo's Excesses
Diop was a tenant of the Kibakis. They were still his neighbours, and probably often exchanged pleasantries each time they stayed in their private residence, next door to the one rented by Diop. And Kibaki's children were also guests at the riotous party that disturbed Madam's sleep.

Mrs. Kibaki had reportedly stormed Diop's house in pyjamas, with boundless rage, demanding that the music must stop. She charged ferociously at the man, as she attempted to unplug the electrical connections supplying power to the sound systems. According to The East African Standard of Monday, May 2, 2005, a day after the incident, "the party was graced by the top cream of the diplomatic, donor and private sector circuit."

As would be expected, the Kenyan press were unsparing of Lucy Kibaki in their reports the very next day after her disgraceful outing. The East African Standard captioned its report on the incident, "The Shame of First Lady." The report in Daily Nation was no less-scathing. Angered by these reports, Mrs. Kibaki dressed in a pink blouse and blue jeans trousers, jumped into her 4WD, a Toyota Prado, and raced down to Nation Centre, the corporate headquarters of the Nation newspapers, accompanied by body guards and the Nairobi Provincial Police Chief, Mwangi King'ori. Her anger had received additional fuel with later reports that she had visited the Muthaiga Police Station to report the Diop's incident dressed in casual white shorts.

And so as she stormed Nation Centre by 11.30 pm, she was clutching a copy of the Standard where she had earned a front-page lead due to her embarrassing action. Her photograph on the front-page as she raged and raved was very unflattering. Once she got to Nation Centre, she headed upstairs to the editorial department and disrupted operations for five hours. She announced that she had come to protest the unflattering reports about her in the press.

"You reported that I went to the police station wearing shorts, what is wrong with the First Lady wearing shorts? I put on skirts and even bikinis when I go swimming. We are a decent family, humble and Christian. You have tried to discredit me since I became the First Lady," she yelled. 

*Meanwhile, A Man Looks For
Dinner From A Lagos Dustbin
Complaining about how the media refer to her husband in their reports she charged: "In the news you call him Kibaki as you did when he was campaigning, when will you learn to call him the President, [and] start respecting him?"

Then she turned and yelled at the provincial police boss that came with her:

"Does the Police Commissioner (equivalent of Nigeria's Inspector General of Police (IGP)) know that I am here protesting? Call him. He should be here with us."

And immediately, the officer went out, radioed his boss, and within some minutes, the Commissioner, Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali, was there with them. Indeed, Mrs. Kibaki was an unmitigated nuisance. She went from table to table, shouting, complaining, threatening, and even occasionally laughing.

Suddenly, she noticed the KTN cameraman, Clifford Derrick, recording her and she went berserk. Said Derrick later: "She just walked up to me and slapped me hard. I was terrified."

Yes, she attacked him and attempted to take away the camera from him. As this went on, none of the police chiefs moved an inch. According to the Standard, the "Central Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD), Julius Ndegwa, watched from a distance, as he communicated on his pocket radio." 

Mrs. Kibaki's action has been greeted with unsparing condemnation. Derricks is considering legal action, especially, against the police, for failing to protect him from the angry woman.

Lucy Oriang, a Daily Nation columnist, called on President Kibaki the following Friday to save Kenya's honour by curtailing his wife's excesses.

I agree totally with Ms. Oriang, because, till now, Kibaki is yet to make any comment about his wife's unedifying outing. It does seem that for his government, what his wife had done was acceptable. The only reaction I have read from the authorities in Nairobi was the one some days after the incident by Dr. Alfred Mutua, government's spokesman, who was quoted in Kenya Times as dismissively saying: "The Kenyan government and its people is known for many things and a particular incident cannot cost the country's image."

If you ask me, this is the most unfortunate statement to come out of Kenya since the Mrs. Kibaki affair.

I also must add here that as much as I condemn Mrs. Kibaki's crude behaviour, I must admit that I was thoroughly sickened by the nuisance constituted by Diop's party. They have no right to rob Mrs. Kibaki of her sleep. But her reaction to the inexcusable disturbance caused by Diop and his guest has now overshadowed what was clearly unambiguous advertisement of irresponsibility on the part of the World Bank staff. His action is as detestable as that of Mrs. Kibaki who has vowed to fight her own battles and confront those who disparage her and her family.

"Every day you write lies about me, I will come to the newsrooms and you will see me in my true colours. I'm annoyed beyond control," she bellowed at Nation Centre.

Somebody should please advise Mrs. Kibaki to rather deploy this energy to keep herself away from behaviours that embarrass Kenya boundlessly.

--First Published May 2005


  1. This so-called first lady stuff could be an aggravated nuisance. Since it has been grossly abused in Africa, time has come for stringent measures to be taken to halt its menace. Moreover, I am not aware of any country where it is constitutionally approved, at least, not in Africa

  2. A drainpipe in most countries - an avenue for squandering money and getting away with it, it should tackled once and for all.First lady my foot!


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