By Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The First Lady, Aisha Buhari, and the wives of the 36 states’ governors have canvassed policy and administrative measures at the national and state levels to formally accommodate the existence of the office of wife of the president and wives of governors as a complement to inclusive governance. This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of a summit on “Emerging Trends in the Role of the First Lady in National Development”, organised by the Office of the First Lady of Nigeria, in collaboration with Women and National Development (WAND), at the Conference Centre, State House, Abuja.
In the communiqué signed by First Lady of Edo State, Dr. Batsy Obaseki, and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Women Affairs and Administration, Dr. Hajo Sani, the summit said despite limitations, first ladies in Nigeria had contributed significantly to national development. It said Nigeria needed to move with the time and formally acknowledge the critical role of the first ladies.
The summit encouraged every first lady to champion an issue or cause, and be more visible in order to highlight their contributions and showcase how important their leadership was at national and sub-national levels.
The communiqué said the dismal number of women in leadership and decision-making in Nigeria was discussed with a challenge to the first ladies to serve as mentors and champions in order to open doors for more women in public life. It pointed out that projects implemented by first ladies should not be referred to as “Pet Projects” because such terminology trivialised the importance of the initiatives.
According to the communiqué, “This will enable more accountability and provide an opportunity for worthwhile initiatives to be sustained for the benefit of the people. Meanwhile, Nigerian first ladies will stay focused on their respective roles and responsibilities, engage in peer learning and collaborations, build coalitions, and continue to support their husbands to achieve their governance goals.”
Other recommendations included that the ”Summit raised the importance of first ladies as role models for women and youth. To this end, and in order to avoid negative perceptions and stereotypes, First Ladies were encouraged to live up to expectations by being approachable and inclusive.”
The summit urged first ladies “to support advocacy initiatives that will facilitate laws and policies to ensure lasting institutional change to tackle key social issues, such as Gender-Based Violence, health, education of the girl-child, and other important issues. It called for partnership with government agencies, civil society, and development partners to strengthen and scale up the work of first ladies.
The summit appealed for a culture of continuity in governance. “Efforts should be made to sustain worthwhile social intervention programmes initiated by first ladies, not everything needs to be thrown away when governments change,” the summit stated.