************** Part 1 ********************
Some years gone, when I was in college, an interschool debate was organized by some National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members. This was the first time [to the best of my knowledge] that my College was cajoled into defeat. As usual, I was representing the College. The biased leader of the organising team got our points through sham and gave them to his favourite school - his primary place of assignment (PPA). As our points were gone, the alternative was fabricating lies in our defence. Although my classmates could not believe it; yet it was real that we did not win the competition. This was because I will not fabricate any lie.
On a subjective recommendation, this should be a universal maxim for every 'Transcendental Being'. A being that has a moral ego to protect. A being that will follow the compass of morality: no matter the pressure of modern mentality.
Democracy has been injected into almost all political circles by the cataclysmic forces of globalization. Whether it pays us or not is now out of question: for it is too late to cry when ones head is chopped off. Rather, what is of relevance is that if a toad is necessary for supper, then let it be a fat one. If Democracy is what is really embraced then let it be practised without dilution.
Like my college days, I remain a non-liar. The apparency is objective that current Democracy is a nominal one and not democratic enough in practice. Nigeria [the speculated giant of Africa], like other African nations, has many shadows bedevilling her democracy. Democracy has been diversely misrepresented.
Corruption, hooliganism, god-fatherism, ethnicism, redtapism, terrorism, political kidnapping and maiming are undemocratic; but they are consistently identified in our democracy. With all these inconsistencies one is forced to seek what real democracy is.
Democracy is straightly understood from its etymology - 'Demo Cratia.' The Latin words connoting rule of the people. A development from Old Abe's point of view is that Democracy is a political process whereby the led pre-guides their leaders in the leadership processes. This article will simply identify Democracy as a government whose governing process is based on franchise. This is plain and lawful. A Hadith goes that, "that which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain...." Things are similarly plain here; for we all can distinguish a spade from a spoon. In fact, the identity of democracy is an issue for states whose autocratic governance has just been toppled by unsolicited intervention of some world bodies. A six year democratic rule is enough to make a rooster out of the egg. But why do we still democratize like novice?
Too many bumps and gallops though; but this article wishes to graze, level and put laterite plus asphalt on the most generally celebrated misrepresentation in our invalid democratic setup.
This celebrated misrepresentation is an undemocratic attachment which has been brought about by hyper-courtesy. Despite its numerous demerits, its foundation is still being made solid. It is reasonable to note, before consequent explanation, that this celebrated misrepresentation of democracy is undemocratic; it is a sign of political immaturity, being a political odd: it is unconstitutional. Disorderliness in political unit of the society (family) is usually encapsulated in this misrepresentation. However, it is economically challenging and fosters corruption and unwarranted influence with benefits.
Without being mealy-mouthed, most of the elections organised by (Independent National Electoral Commission) INEC were for political offices like that of councillor, local government chairperson, state house of assembly, governor, national assembly as well as that of the president. Entitlements to posts in political environments are usually through election, selection, promotion, succession and sometimes coup d'etats. These are usually referred to as due process. If any post will be legally recognised then it must be acquired through due process.
A sane understanding of the above will surely put the existence of the "Office of the First Lady" into askance. Democracy is far from knighthood or domains of naturally necessary polarities. It is a recherche for there to be such polarities in the animal kingdom: when the lion reigns the lioness rules. But animals are not democratic! An authority may have it that human beings are political animals but that does not license our politicking like animals.
The INEC has never for once organised an election into the so called 'Office of the First Lady.' So what warrants its explicit existence? It is outrightly a big shadow of democratic representation. The sign of a pure democracy is the constitution and rigid adherence to it. It is of great importance to include the first-ladyship into the constitution for it to have any democratic legality. It will then be a mature practice. If not, first-ladyship will develop to be a cloud of contention especially since it cannot be constitutionally categorised into any of three tiers of government. It cannot be placed in the executive neither the legislative nor the judiciary. It is not even having full affiliation with public service and the civil service. One will thus call it an economic leakage or national theft if any financial benefit is accrued to such office.
First-ladyship, on the long run, is also not an advisable practice for a developing community or a society whose economic leakages are being impotently patched with 'castrated' subsidies. A pronouncement from the Auditor General of the Federation is not needed to validate the tautologous truth that 'coins' and 'papers' from the Federation Account are being disbursed into this illegal office. There are commonsense premises validating this conclusion.
It is a natural habit nowadays for wives to stop working whenever a political office (i.e. presidential, gubernatorial, local councils) is occupied by their husbands. This has been a social cancer that has spread from the presidency to the local government level. Corruption becomes inevitable as voters are thoroughly cheated. Candidacy in political systems is a personal challenge. Mr A was the one voted for and not Mrs A. There should be no reason, therefore, for Mrs A getting unwarranted benefits by virtue of marital affiliation. These lazy women, in order to cover up their dubious roles will now be setting up foundations that create invisible impacts in the society. Why should we be deceived? These foundations are not funded from the 'first purses' of the first lady - the money is from the Federation purse. There is no reason why the spouse of a politically elected fellow should cease working: she should rather be a full-fledged house wife.
Unfortunately, the issue of first ladyship becomes more economically challenging when the illegally-benefitted funds are also extended to relatives and friends. This illegality is usually packaged under the general understanding of personal assistants, advisers, aides, security assistants. The legal office of the ministry of women affairs is starving while this one is getting constantly chubby with revenues from Consolidated Revenue Fund. This article is not saying political office holders should not have beneficiaries. What is emphasized is that the 'purse' of the political holder is large enough. These improvised beneficiaries should hold no plate for direct inflow of national cake. Although omelette is tasty but there should be sympathy for the bird laying the eggs.
Disorderliness in families can also be attached with this issue. A rough survey in Africa should bring at least a 50,000 estimate of local and national politicians who are having 'political wives'. Political wives might sound strange but it is just the hasty wedlock often embraced by some of our politicians in order to acquire some favour in their political bids.
It can also be the engagement of politicians with some daughters of political lords or spiritually powerful women; so as to cover up some political flaws and acquire an extension of influence. Without scanning the inhuman results that this political polygamy has turned womenfolk into commodities exchangeable for friendship or political truce; there are several other obvious ones. Unfortunately, these beautiful women are intellectually ugly to understand this mysterious relegation of their personhood. In this regard, the world still waits to see a woman of sincere difference.
A family is usually regarded as a cornerstone in societal edifice. It is the tiniest miniature of a political setup. But most politicians are without a good family. Some were having a good family but their political stance contaminated the family's good reputation. Some of these politicians force strangers into their home circles just for political advantage. When politics is enthroned to guide the relationship in a family; the love in the family is already admitted for an unsuccessful surgical operation.
Apart from this breeding of conflict, there is also the fostering of deadly competitions. Not quite a few persons have lost their lives in their competitive bid to acquire favour in the sight of their politically esteemed relatives. Just like the mechanism of magnets, the people are bounded in family ties but they are like-poles that constantly repel. The first wife will be struggling to outsmart the newly acquired wife in the race to occupy the office of the first lady.
A gradual move in to the society always posits this sort of family as that which is pompously bitter and dangerously volatile. Their relationship with other members of the society is usually unethical. One is forced to see political power as a gene that is acquirable through family ties. This is as weird as the term bio-politics. The social conduct of these people easily signifies the existence of first son, first daughter, first father, first mother, first grandfather, first grandmother, first cousin, first nephew, first niece, first step-mother, first concubine and not only first lady.
The political office holders now place the steering of the society into the hands of their mendacious menage. Is this still Democracy?
************** Part 2 ********************
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 requiring government funds for her private organization 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) to unknowingly reiterate a theme in Plato's Republic: that "a politician ought to be born a foundling and remain a bachelor." It is of no use to state ostensively that family influences in political setup of any country is a dangerous augury.
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 issue of First lady is outside necessity. There are positions in political circles whose vacancy can procure a fatal state of emergency or a national deadlock.
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 to be accompanied by a body-guard queen. Even if it will be likened to a chess board; the dearth of the queen is not a proximately conclusive for a checkmate.
13th of October, 2005 to 29th of May, 2007 should have about an interval of seventeen months. That is one-year plus! Seventeen months without any disorder in the governing system just like previous months. There was 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 misogynous intent; but it simply re-emphasizes the truth that the office of the first lady is as good as not existing at all. Two more counterexamples will be viewed to finalize 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 work 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 one hand it is matriarchal and on the other hand it is patriarchal.
On the matriarchal side the office of the first lady is biased for it re-echoes the natural fragility of the feminine gender. Women are conceived as impotent to contend for 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) when she said 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 in this modern period (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 is based on gender injustice and should be done away with before crises erupt.
Before the pen will take a bow, 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 condole; it denies."
It is indeed historical that the office of the first lady has been granted liberties despite being informal.
There is the view that: "The first lady has no assigned duties or responsibilities, so the role is really hers to craft as she chooses. (Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Curator of the First Ladies collection at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History)" John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying a similar thing that: "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. According to Mia E. Casey of Hofstra University: "[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 surely has its own national impacts; 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 the deletion of the office or its formal inclusion into the constitution.
In the context of Africa (especially Nigeria) the office should even cease to exist on the basis of being economically burdensome. The ministry of women affairs is enough to give the Nation its feminine impacts or receive funds for the creation of such impacts. It is considered illegal for an unconstitutional office to receive constant funding directly from government in virtue of salary or any emoluments.
It is with ease that developing nations in the lanes of democracy can counteract this democratic misrepresentation. Most of the countries whose democracies have grown grey hairs still 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 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 to God. Let us look at the feminine leak that we have voluntarily allowed in our purse.
With the rate of radical developments now: electorates 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 this issue is left unaddressed, soon or later, the concerned Nations and the citizens will have a deuce to pay for it.
About Author / Additional Info:
Femi Omotoyinbo is the author of this article!