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MRS Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi: Fist Lady of substance

By: Chris Onyishi  
 Published  May 2nd, 2012

When I insist that leadership should be left for brave, courageous, extra intelligent crafts men and women, who would be bonded in a social contract with the citizenry and, by extension, would deliver the dividends of an organized state to the populace, I had always known that I was not asking for an impossible gesture.

I have always said to my GOD to remove me from the surface of this earth any day I start saying things out of jealousy or outright indignation to constituted authorities. I have been concerned that leadership is what makes the difference between a civilized nation and an underdeveloped one.

I disagree with people who say that we must spend another 300 years before our democracy will match the democracy of the so called developed nations; particularly that of the United States. My argument has been that exposure, much more than number of years we spend on anything, is what is needed for fast-tracking any situation. When I was born, black and white TV was not so rampant let alone a colored one.  Today my children seat in the comfort of their sofa, to remotely tune to channels of their choice in a colored TV.  And when I inform them that there was no such thing during my time, they would not understand me. My guess is that they would upturn all my entire achievements before they get to half of my age, barring any unforeseen circumstances.  So, exposure rather than age is what is important in life in anything one has set out to do.

I must frankly say that Bisi-Adeleye Fayemi is one of the finest First Ladies I have ever listened to; articulate, well informed and woman that is of substance; an activist per excellence.  When you read people like Adeleye-Fayemi, one thing strikes you.  You have the feeling that this person is articulate, intelligent and civil.  She dismissed all the allegations and insinuations with the civility of an exposed person.  She did not take the part of quarrel as would many primitive people.  She took her time to put up convincing argument.  Even when you would not entirely agree with her on some issues such as legalizing first lady office in Nigeria, you would struggle to do so because she would present some compelling allegory.

Madam, I must say that anything you do not do to raise the bar for humanity for the period you stay in Ekiti house is what you do not want to achieve. But yours is a radical departure from what we have always seen in first ladies.  I do not want to think that the piece credited to you in was written by anyone else; even with your busy schedules.

One would admire when she said that “…all my opinions are channeled through my work as a pan-Africanist, political activist, human rights advocate, women’s rights defender, social change philanthropist and being the Wife of a progressive, brilliant, visionary Governor. Every day I work hard at ensuring that I exercise my informal power and authority with the utmost discretion, respect, sensitivity, and integrity”.

I agree with madam that expecting her to look “after the home-front” alone will be a disservice to womanhood especially to a woman of substance such as her.

But even though I did not read the Steve Osuji’s piece which was part of what madam was reacting to, I would also allude to the fact that most first ladies are a bunch of empty vessels just as their first men husbands.

Only a few governors know their onions in relation to what leadership should be.  Others just come in to continue the business as usual with little inkling of what responsibility to state means.

The few governors include Owelle Rochas of Imo State whose first salvo was to distance himself, partially, from the evil conduit called ‘security vote’ and his further demonstration that leadership should not be conceived and conducted in secrecy. When you watch Owelle Rochas Okoracha talk about governance, you begin to see an erudite and articulate leader who has a defined objective and huge sense of responsibility and understanding of social engineering for the benefit of mankind before even thinking of becoming a governor.  I cannot expect less from Madam’s husband in Ekiti State.

So the whole essence of what I am saying is that people at the corridors of power or at the helm of affairs should be people with sufficient intelligence and who have civilized demeanor such as Mrs Fayemi.  It is nourishing when someone leading you has good knowledge of what he or she is doing or saying.  I think it was Prof. David-West who once said that it is only a wise man who will identify wise counseling.

It should be emphasized that for a nation to move forward, it must have leadership whose idea of a Nation State should go beyond the number of cars they have, the number of houses they have acquired both locally and internationally, amount of dollars and naira in their foreign and local bank accounts.  They should not be religious bigots who use religion to hold down their people.

I think Nigerians will know when they have quality leadership as against arrogant adventurers.  Mrs Fayemi may or may not, at the end of the day, achieve anything different from what we have seen in “First Ladies” – both at federal or state levels – but the feeling that someone leading you or ruling you does not just stand up to abuse your intelligence is the beginning of a new era in Nigerian politics and the art governance.

But, I'm equally worried that for the first time we get powerful women in Petroleum and Finance ministries, Nigeria has continually drifted to abyss. They have stood firm in taking decisions that are incongruent with the God-given caring nature of women.  It is on this note that I would urge Mrs Bisi-Adeleye Fayemi not to allow herself to be consumed in the euphoria of first lady syndrome.  She should not let her zeal as a social campaigner be clouded by any form of embarrassing mien always seen with almost our current day rulers’ first ladies and their husbands. She could still stop at any point to buy her gala, if she chooses to do so, by rejecting the unnecessary convoy and deafening siren that has become a mark of being a governor or his wife in Nigeria.  

She should use her experience as a social campaigner to advice her husband that long motorcades and blaring siren and evil conduit baptized “security vote” are synonymous with inordinate and irresponsible rulers.  She should also retain aspects of her social activism and defender of women by advising some of her folks in the Ministries of petroleum and finance, openly, to honorably relinquish their positions in view of the embarrassing expositions associated with the oil subsidy scam and probe.  By so doing the respect and integrity of womanhood she has cherished to defend will gain a boost.  If women resort to sit tight as their men counterpart – even in the glaring case of gross perfidy – then, all efforts to dissociate them from obtrusive gluttony will become evasive.

 The other thing worth mentioning is that if Mrs Fayemi’s husband is as intelligent or articulate as his wife, then Ekiti state would be gangling for a new lease of life.  After all, if we go by Julius Caesar’s words, “The wife of Caesar must be above suspicion”. If Mrs Fayemi is this articulate and civil, then Gov. Fayemi should even be more articulate and pragmatic and this should translate to good governance for the people of Ekiti State. It would be devastating if after a shot or two in Ekiti house – with the people in the caliber of Dr. and Mrs Fayemi – and Ekiti state has not transformed into a modern state in Nigeria worthy of envy by all  critic and optimist alike. Let us hope Ekiti will re-establish its position as the Land of Honour.


Chris Onyishi (

Abuja - Nigeria

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