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MICHELLE LAVAUGHN ROBINSON OBAMA AND OTHERS

By  Dr. Ignatius Odianosen Okosun (PhD).

Super patience is synonymous with composure, stability, self-possession; submissive-ess, sufferance. Patience, endurance, fortitude, stoicism imply qualities of calmness, stability, and persistent courage in trying circumstances. Patience may denote calm, self-possessed, and unrelenting bearing of pain, misfortune, annoyance, or delay; or painstaking and untiring industry or (less often) application in the doing of something: to bear afflictions with patience. Endurance denotes the ability to bear exertion, hardship, or suffering (without implication of moral qualities required or shown): Though Running in a marathon requires great endurance. Fortitude implies not only patience but courage and strength of character in the midst of pain, affliction, or hardship: to show fortitude in adversity. Stoicism is calm fortitude, with such repression of emotion as to seem almost like indifference to pleasure or pain: The American Indians were noted for stoicism under torture, indefatigability, persistence and  assiduity The Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia defined “Patience (or forbearing) as the state of resolution under challenging circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of deferral or provocation without acting on negative annoyance, anger; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when confronted with longer-term snags. Patience is the level of endurance one can have before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.”

Stoicism is calm fortitude, with such repression of emotion as to seem almost like indifference to pleasure or pain: The American Indians were noted for stoicism under torture, indefatigability, persistence and  assiduity The Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia defined “Patience (or forbearing) as the state of resolution under challenging circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of deferral or provocation without acting on negative annoyance, anger; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when confronted with longer-term snags. Patience is the level of endurance one can have before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.”

 

Against the foregoing backdrop it goes to reason that when the wives of our political leaders begin to exercise patience that they would never become overzealous by beginning to snoop into functions that constitutionally fall within the purview of their husbands. This meddlesomeness that characterized African politics was becoming worrisome in the past political dispensations especially in Nigeria until the present president on assumption of office in 2015 openly expressed his variance over the way the role was played by former first ladies. To this end, he promised there would be a clear difference between the role played by his wife during his tenure and that played by past first ladies. The president never hid his disdain for the unconstitutional position as he condemned the ostentatious, ubiquitous and arrogant display of activities it was characterized with.  First Lady is an unofficial title used for the wife or hostess of a non-monarchical head of state or chief executive. The term is also used to describe a woman seen to be at the top of her profession or art.

Collectively, the President and his spouse are known as the First Couple and if they have children, they are usually referred to as the First Family. The term is sometimes used, primarily in the United States, to refer to the spouse of other non-monarchical heads of state, even though they do not have that style in their own country. Some other countries have a title, formal or informal, that is or can be translated as first lady. The title is not normally used for the wife of a head of government who is not also head of state. The term first lady in the United States is also used to describe wives of governors and, less formally, to wives of college and university presidents. It has even been used in reference to female spouses of men who were chairmen of major corporations. While there has never been a male spouse of a U.S. President, “First Gentleman” is used in the United States for the husband of a state governor.

 

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama; a lawyer and writer is currently the first lady of the United States of America. She has become a fashion icon, a role model for women, and an advocate of healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls’ education. From the very beginning of the Obama administration, Michelle Obama made a decision to put family first. She brought her mother, Marian Robinson, into the White House and to ensure her daughters remained as humble and as normal as one can be while living in the bubble that is the White House. In 2010, she launched Let’s Move! bringing together community leaders, educators, medical professionals, parents, and others in a nationwide effort to address the challenge of childhood obesity. In 2010 she passed The School Lunch program with bipartisan support. Walgreens, Supervalu, Wal-Mart and several regional grocers announced a commitment to build or expand 1,500 stores in communities with limited or no access to healthy food. Darden, the world’s largest full-service restaurant company, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains, made a commitment to improve kids’ menus by offering a fruit or vegetable and low-fat milk with every meal.

She launched MyPlate and MiPlato, an easy to understand icon to help parents make healthier choices for their families. She worked with the US Tennis Association to build and refurbish more than 6,200 kid-sized tennis courts across the United States. She also launched Let’s Move! Child Care to ensure that young children are getting a healthy start. Wal-Mart announced a new Nutrition Charter through which they lowered the cost of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products by $1 billion in 2011. Through Chefs Move to School, 2,400 chefs and nearly 4,000 schools have signed up to work together, teaching kids about healthy eating and helping cafeteria staff prepare healthier meals. America’s largest food manufacturers pledged to cut 1.5 trillion calories from the food they sell by 2015 through their Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.  The American Beverage Association fulfilled their commitment to the first lady to put clear calorie labels on the front of their products to give consumers better information. Through her Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens, 597 participating institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia signed up to offer active exhibits and healthy food choices. In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. In 2014, Mrs. Obama launched the Reach Higher Initiative, an effort to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future. In 2015, Mrs. Obama joined President Obama to launch Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school. Michelle hosted a White House dinner to support mentoring programs for young girls, encouraging them to break the glass ceiling.

The American Beverage Association fulfilled their commitment to the first lady to put clear calorie labels on the front of their products to give consumers better information. Through her Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens, 597 participating institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia signed up to offer active exhibits and healthy food choices. In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. In 2014, Mrs. Obama launched the Reach Higher Initiative, an effort to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future. In 2015, Mrs. Obama joined President Obama to launch Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school. Michelle hosted a White House dinner to support mentoring programs for young girls, encouraging them to break the glass ceiling.

Obstinately, it is germane to opine at this juncture that the political culture is somewhat a political taboo to Africa as it was replicated from the United States (U.S) where the use of the title, First Lady has been used to describe the spouse of an executive.  Constitutionally in Nigeria, the office of the first lady is not currently recognized. Despite its unconstitutionality and illegality, previous presidents and governors in the country have profoundly used the First lady’s office to add glamour to their administrations. Irrespective of its non-recognition in Nigeria’s constitution, the position enjoyed public acknowledgment and some perks which attracted lots of controversies among many Nigerians.  During the Second Republic in Nigeria, the first lady phenomenon became a recurring factor in the political equation of the country at the time. In fact, during the time of late Mrs. Mariam Ibrahim Babangida of blessed memory, the position was occupied with pomp and pageantry. During her time, the position was, more often than not, surrounded by an atmosphere of glamour, charm and fascination.  Without any iota of embroidery, she is more often remembered for the finesse she accorded the position than being the wife of a military president. With the style she deployed in managing the position, she no doubt made it to become part of the polity.

However, when the wives of consequent president occupied the position that they scarcely measured up with the style and complexity bequeathed to the office by the late Mariam Ibrahim Babangida. The magnetism and charisma that go with the office have undeniably become so powerful that there is hardly any woman in the country that would not encourage her husband to vie for the number one position in the country in order to have a taste of the office of the first Lady. Unfortunately, the glamour that the office was characterized with seems to have been watered-down as the president has changed its adoring nomenclature to Office of the President’s wife. The trappings of the office were so alluring and charming that even wives of local council chairmen also exuded the confidence and power that the office was characterized with. Currently, the razzmatazz that goes with the office seems to have ceased. To some extent, there is the reprieve, and even sanity as to the existence of the office.

Presently, first ladies both at the federal, state or local government level have to learn how to exercise patience as things have changed. They have been told in an unmistaken term by the Nigeria president that the kitchens and the rooms belong to them. Am I being misogynistic in the foregoing context or I am alluding to what was said by those in high places?  Someone should help me because I can hardly see myself in a situation that would make me to vehemently despise or strongly be prejudiced against women. As mentioned at the embryonic stage of this write-up and as implied by its title, wives of executives at any level of government in the country should begin to learn how to be patient. The reason for this view cannot be farfetched as it would do them a lot of good.  

The virtue of patience is needed so that it would not look as if they are competing with their luxurious husbands. Without over-emphasizing the fact, patience is needed so that they would not be misquoted or commit faux pas each time they grant interviews to the media, particularly foreign media. Similar to that is that granting interviews, regardless of the circumstances that led to it, would no doubt portray such first lady in the intellect of someone that is speaking on behalf of the country. It suffices to say that the personality of the first lady, if not well managed, can influence how people in other countries, particularly foreign journalists, perceive the country. Their responses to questions that border on the economy or their husbands’ style of administration has a way of subjecting the nation to ridicule or otherwise.

They should always exercise patience in accepting the fact that their husbands were elected into political positions by the people based on the confidence reposed in them. Also, given the political antecedents of most of these politicians, the people saw them as those who may be able to fulfil their promises to them; their wives were not elected into political offices. There is no denying the fact that the unrestrained manner first ladies are known to have arrogated constitutionally defined and assigned duties to themselves may likely usurp the functions of technocrats and professionals in ministries, departments and agencies that are duly and constitutionally charged with carrying out the responsibilities the first ladies are today meddling in. Though their intentions seem altruistic, it may become an avenue of looting public funds.

African first ladies should always exercise enough restrain as it would make them understand the fact that African is mostly operating democratic system of governments. Democracy, as popularly defined, is the “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Simply put, it is a system of government that gives people equivalent representation in government. It is a system of government that gives voice to the people. That fact that their husbands occupy political positions does not automatically make them assume unconstitutional responsibilities. Under democratic dispensations, a first lady has the fundamental right to tell foreign Journalists that she has no comment on issues pertaining to how well her husband is performing politically or domestically. The reason why cautious fortitude should be exercise before responding to the questions posed by journalists cannot be farfetched as every journalist needs a story that would make his audience to be adequately informed, polished or entertained and at the same time distinguish the medium he represents from others.

Even if the fact that the Office of the First Lady has been replaced with that of the Wife of the President, Wife of the Governor and Wife of the Chairman as the case may be, it is important for politicians across Africa to always call their wives to order and admonish them to always exercise patience. Politicians should always have it at the back of their minds that the people did not vote their wives into political positions. Therefore, our politicians need to literarily clip the wings of their wives, albeit not as a misogynist would do, as some of our first ladies are poised to fly beyond self styled political horizon. In the light of the saying that “Behind any successful man, there is a woman”, it also stands to reason that “Behind any unsuccessful man there is a woman.” Ironically, there was a woman behind Muammar Ghadaffi in Libya before he met his waterloo. There was a woman behind Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire. There was a woman behind Samuel Doe in Liberia before he met his demise. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth caused the fall of Macbeth.

The foregoing view-point becomes necessary in this context as there is every indication that our politicians do not learn from history. In the Philippines, Mrs. Imelda Marcos, was reputed to have acquired more than 2000 pairs of shoes by virtue of her husband’s political position. Her husband, Ferdinand Marcos governed Philippines with an iron fist from 1966 to 1986.  It would be recalled that Nigeria’s political history has it that a former governor’s wife was found guilty and sentenced as pronounced by a Court in United Kingdom for a monumental fraud committed by her husband while he was the governor of an oil producing state. If the former first lady in Nigeria Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan, had a persevering disposition and had also christened her husband to order, particularly without being his accomplice they would not have found themselves in the sorry state of affairs today. Lastly, I would like to counsel our political privileged, particularly those in the executive arm of government to isolate love from politics which impinges on the lives of millions of people and succinctly understand that luxuriousness and politics can never go together as exemplified by   American first lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.

 

Dr. Ignatius Okosun is a researcher, prolific writer on various national/global issues and a social commentator. From: Toronto-Canada.         Email: odyseries@gmail.com