Need for constitutional role for First Lady – Syffiya Abubakar

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DEAR Mr. President,

We are concerned women in Nigeria, who have decided to write you on behalf of 69,086,302 females (women) estimated to be the population of women in Nigeria, according to the 2006 population census.

The overwhelming support you got in this year’s Presidential election to emerge as President of this most populous nation in Africa is an indication of the yearnings of citizens for change. Alas! That change is here. We are indeed happy for this.

As women, we were particularly inspired by the strength of character, beauty of heart and intelligence of our dear Wife of The President Hajia Aisha Buhari during the campaigns and thereafter.

We had therefore hoped that given her pedigree of respect for all, education and compassion for the plight of women and children, this administration would do the women of Nigeria and indeed women and children of Africa a great amount of good by giving her an opportunity to function as First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But no, that is yet to happen. For this, we, the women of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, are unhappy.

We acknowledge that there is no constitutional provision for the existence of such an office, but we also know that necessity which brought about the creation and existence of such an office in the past has helped in no small measure to augment the activities of the Federal Government, particularly in the areas where women, children and disadvantaged citizens are concerned.

Apart from her several donations of food items, medicines, toiletries and other valuables worth millions of naira to Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps and orphanages in various parts of the country, Hajiya Buhari has carried out many life- saving health intervention programmes, especially in the screening and prevention of the deadly cancer disease. Hajiya Aisha Buhari had so far carried out the screening of over 10,000 people in about five states within one year.

For instance, 2000 women benefitted from her cancer screening and general health assessment programme in Cross River state. Similarly, in Yola, Adamawa state where the First Lady hails from, another 2,000 women were screened for cervical cancer in addition to testing for other health conditions like blood pressure, diabetics, hepatitis, kidney, liver and dental examination.

In Enugu, more than 2,000 women also benefitted from her cancer screening programme and medical examination for other disease conditions earlier enumerated. These various humanitarian gestures came under her Women Health Initiative Programme.

In a concerted effort to garner international support for her Health Intervention Programme in the country, Hajiya Buhari unveiled her vision and mission for Nigerian women and children in one of the United Nations side events in New York titled “Future Assured held on 30th August 2015. There is no doubt that the First Lady will do more for millions of Nigerian women and children if her office is given a constitutional role and strengthened with the needed funding support and legal framework. Her Excellency has also supported the Medic Aid Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) dedicated to promotion of cancer screening, prevention and treatment. The Medic Aid Foundation has lined up a number of activities like free cancer screening and one million man walk against cancer during this year’s International Cancer Month which started on 1st October and ends 31st October, 2015. It is also pertinent to note the following points:

The United Nations, development partners and donor agencies recognise the roles of First Ladies in the past and have collaborated with them on their pet projects.

The benefits of these pet projects are too obvious and numerous to mention.

The presence of our First Lady in a gathering as important as the just concluded UN Summit would have created an additional opportunity for networking and building relationship between Nigeria and other countries of the world.

The African First Ladies Peace Initiative is no doubt, a laudable initiative. Nigeria can’t afford to be left out of this humane effort.

As an able representative of Voices of Women in Nigeria (VOWIN), I plead with Mr. President and other leaders who have served this country to urgently intervene to allow the office of the First Lady to function. The advantages obviously outweigh the disadvantages. Mr. President’s fear of excesses and abuse of office are issues we understand very well. We assure our president that the complimentary roles that will assigned to our amiable Hajiya Aisha will be discharged effectively and responsibly.

Mrs. Syffiya Abubakar, is Director of Public Awareness(Arc Devlopment Iniatiative)

This article was originally published on Vanguard

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