The charge by Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, to first ladies in states to provide unwavering support to their husbands in order to ensure the delivery of effective governance is not only apt but also timely and expedient.
Speaking at the induction summit of governors’ spouses in Abuja last week, Aisha Buhari emphasised the importance of building the capacities of the wives of governors to promote positive change in Nigeria.
Represented by her special adviser on African First Ladies, Mohammed Albishir, Mrs Buhari highlighted the significance of this initiative, stating that it marks a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s history.
Despite their differences, she encouraged the first ladies to remain committed to serving the nation and strive for excellence. The summit aimed to equip participants with the tools and strategies to achieve more impactful democratisation.
Expressing gratitude for the support and contributions of the governors’ wives to the development of Nigeria’s democracy, Buhari acknowledged their involvement in her foundation, the Future Assured, and the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), which she previously presided over.
She stressed the need for increased support from the spouses of governors to ensure good governance. Buhari reiterated the duty of first ladies to serve their communities and stressed the importance of promoting democracy and women’s participation in politics and governance.
She urged the attendees to translate the ideas at the summit into concrete actions that promote women’s rights and empowerment. Buhari said the vision of building a better Nigeria starts at the state level, urging the first ladies to lay a strong foundation for a greater nation.
Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal, acknowledged the influential role of first ladies throughout history, using their positions and platforms to effect meaningful change.
He commended their efforts in advocating important causes, promoting education and health, and empowering women and girls. Tambuwal thanked the outgoing and returning first ladies for their service and unwavering commitment to their respective states. He acknowledged the indelible impact they have made through their initiatives, programmes, and advocacy, setting the stage for progress.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, praised the governors of Sokoto, Gombe, Lagos, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, and other states for appointing women in their cabinets. Tallen called on the incoming first ladies to follow suit, ensuring that women are given appointments in their states as they represent a significant portion of the voting population.
Coming on the heels of the admonition by the Director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that Nigerian governors should avoid piling up debts on their states and to prioritise citizens’ welfare if they want to have successful tenures as governors, Mrs Buhari’s advice, if heeded, will, to a large extent, improve governance at the sub-national level.
In an address at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) induction ceremony at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, last week, Okonjo-Iweala emphasised the importance of prudent financial management for state governments and the need to sustain payment of workers’ salaries.
The former finance minister during the Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan administrations urged governors to prioritise the payment of teachers, healthcare workers, and pensioners, while investing in infrastructure, education, and basic healthcare.
Highlighting the need for increased internally generated revenue (IGR), Okonjo-Iweala told governors to focus on transparency and efficiency in their financial practices. She encouraged them to publish information about the federation revenue allocation and IGR, to enable citizens to have a clear understanding of their state’s financial situation.
She said, “Nigeria is a country with no social contract, meaning that Nigerian political leaders have never been able to agree with each other to stick to a common set of principles, values, and policies that consistently deliver for their citizens regardless of ethnic group or political persuasion.
“You have a lot of healing to do – within your states, and between them. Through your words, deeds, and policies, you need to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are equally loved; that they can settle and do business in any part of the country without fear.”
Okonjo-Iweala emphasised the importance of monitoring debt profiles and controlling expenditure. According to her, while investing in critical sectors such as infrastructure, education, and basic healthcare, governors should prioritise the timely payment of teachers and healthcare workers.
Citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and Budgit, an organisation dedicated to providing financial reports on the country’s budgets, Okonjo-Iweala revealed that a majority of states rely heavily on federal allocations for revenue.
It is noteworthy that although the expression “behind every successful man there is a woman” has been proven over time, the case seems to be different in Nigeria as governance across board is characterised by high profile corruption, which has stymied the nation’s socio-economic and political development.
It is on the backdrop of this absurdity that we implore the incoming and returning first ladies of not just governors but also all those saddled with the responsibility of governance and the management of the economy across all strata of the polity to heed Mrs Buhari’s advice. This is necessary to save Nigeria the agony of a failed state.