First Ladyship: A Democratic Misrepresentation (2)

(By Femi Omotoyinbo)

On the matriarchal side, the office of the First Lady re-echoes the natural fragility of the feminine gender. It positions women as sterile to contend, win and occupy such posts of colossal responsibility. They are not fit to be local councils’ chairperson, governors or the president. Women are, therefore, fashionable attachments in political circles: they are the “second sex” and will always play the second fiddle.

Continued from yesterday (8-4-2014)

THIS family democracy has gotten to a perturbing extent that the ‘rulers by-blood-ties’ are now having the audacity to influence things in the national polity. The Nigerian saga of a First Lady putting the whole nation into ignorance on the health status of the President is one. Another instance of a First Lady demanding some national funds for her private organisation gives no little credence to this.

   Perhaps, this frustrating puppet-control of a whole nation by family ties or wedlock influence was what led Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007) of the United States to unknowingly reiterate a theme in Plato’s Republic which says, “a politician ought to be born a foundling and remain a bachelor.”

   Another thing to consider about this ill-phenomenon is that it is naturally unnecessary. It is clear enough that necessity overrides capacity. But unfortunately the office of the First Lady is outside necessity.

   In any democratic setup, the absence of President or the totality of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) spells doom for the nation. This is due to the necessity of such positions. The office of the First Lady, let alone being unconstitutional, is unnecessary and thus warrants no investments in virtue of national regards or funds.

  Gender polarity is of little importance in any modern system of governing. The nation is far from a chess board where an almost immobile king needs an accompaniment of a body-guard queen. Even if it will be likened to a chess board; the dearth of the queen is not proximately conclusive for a checkmate.

  The 13th of October, 2005 to the 29th of May 2007 should have about an interval of 17 months. That is one-year plus with no sound political upheaval; but loo, there was an absence of the office of the First lady in Nigeria.

   It is highly probable that the President then might not even select anyone for such office if he was allowed his prehensile third term bid.

   This article is having no political or misogynous intent; but it simply re-emphasises the truth that the office of the First Lady is as good as not existing at all. Two more counterexamples will be viewed to finalise this part of the discussion.

   Since the formal recognition of the Citta del Vaticano (Vatican City) in 1992 the Popes have been successful in their position without being flanked by any feminine attachment.

  Even in Nigeria, there were monumental achievements during the tenure of Moses Adasu as the Executive Governor of Benue State in 1992: whereas the state was without any encumbrance of a First Lady. All these simply connote that the office is not necessary.

   To put the last straw on the camel’s back; this article will assert that the notion of First Lady is gender biased. It is in every way antithetical to the feminist concept of gender equality or the noble ideal of gender advancement. The notion of First Lady is gender biased from two perspectives: On the one hand, it is matriarchal and on the other hand, it is patriarchal.

  On the matriarchal side, the office of the First Lady re-echoes the natural fragility of the feminine gender. It positions women as sterile to contend, win and occupy such posts of colossal responsibility. They are not fit to be local councils’ chairperson, governors or the president. Women are, therefore, fashionable attachments in political circles: they are the “second sex” and will always play the second fiddle.

   This probably gives reason to the view of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929 – 1994) (wife of a U.S. president) that: “The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse.”

  On the patriarchal side, the office of the First Lady is gender biased because no such office exists when the role is to be played by the masculine gender. Even if it exists it does not have much affluence like the feminine counterpart.

There are female presidents and leaders in this contemporaneous times (instances include: Argentine Isabel Peron, the German Angela Merkel; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Indian Pratibha Patil, Austrian Julia Gillard and the Joyce Banda of Malawi among others) and it is possible to have gay presidents in the nearest future. None of these can be predicted to produce an office of the first gentleman as compared to the office of the First Lady. This simply shows that the office of the First Lady should be done away with before crises erupt.

  It is important to express the truth that this article has no derry on anyone. Its truths are veridical and obviously universal. This article stands on the Nichomachean ethics of Aristotle that “what the law does not expressly condone; it denies.”

  It is indeed historical that the office of the First Lady has been granted liberties despite being informal.

  John F. Kennedy was once quoted as saying a similar thing: “Each president’s wife, since she is not bound by constitutionally defined duties, should fulfil her responsibilities according to the dictates of her own temperament and capabilities.”

  But the fact stands that the office of the First Lady is not the post of a class captain of a primary school that needs no check and balances.

  According to Mia E. Casey of Hofstra University, New York: “The office of the First Lady is sensitive because of their unsanctioned status they have had the difficult task of defining a position that is not official, but that remains one of the most integral parts of any president’s administration.” The office of First Lady may have its own national impacts; so the duties should not be left in the hands of individuals to craft or define. Since no principles guide the existence of the office, the occupants are silently licensed to be detrimental to the unity in the families, the economy of the nation, the justice in the political circles and even the constitution. That is why this article advocates for the deletion of the office or its formal inclusion into the constitution.

  The Ministry of Women Affairs is enough to give the nation its feminine impacts or receive funds for the creation of such impacts. No other bodies should receive perpetual funding directly from the government in virtue of salary or any emoluments for similar reasons.

  Most of the countries whose democracies have grown grey hairs tacitly bear the scars of this democratic misrepresentation till this hour. It may be an immense debacle if the galloping horse will not learn from the pitiful strides of the preceding horse.

  If the conscience of the Nigerian House of Assembly supports that the reduction in their emoluments is not necessary to revamp our economy; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should leave them to God. But let us look at the feminine leak that we have reflexly allowed.

  With the rate of radical developments now, the electorate should strive to oppose the status quo before the occupants of the unconstitutional office began to benefit from Section 84, subsection 5 of the honourable 1999 Constitution. If we genuinely love our country, it is important for the electorate to also observe the home circles of any political candidate before they are deemed fit for a political mandate.  If this issue is left unaddressed, sooner or later, the nation and the citizens will have a deuce to pay for it.

Concluded.

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