The wives of governors are living in a world, apparently different from that of the ordinary Nigerian. But much more, even among them, they are not living in the same world. This is what our window into their lifestyles has unveiled.
Clara Chime: A governor’s wife who loves gold but ‘hates politics’
One thing the people of Enugu State do not know about their First Lady, Mrs Clara Chibuzo Chime is that, although she is married to a politician, Governor Sullivan Chime, hates the game of politics with deep passion and her reason is not difficult to understand.
“She hates politics because it is full of intrigues and deceit,” revealed a close associate of the First Lady. “It’s just that she couldn’t help the situation when she realised that she was getting married to the governor in 2008 and there was nothing she could do to change the hand of fate,” Sunday Trust was told by the source.
A graduate of Marketing from the Abia State University, Uturu, Clara, 32, was born in Isiochi, Abia State, but grew up in Katsina State. Apparently, her northern Nigeria background must have informed her rather reserved nature and dressing style.
“She is a very pretty, elegant lady, but not ostentatious in any way,” said a close confidant of hers. “She likes dressing in shawl.” More so, Clara, just like some other women, can be said to be “addicted” to jewelry, which she wears with passion. “Her Excellency wears traditional clothes, but she loves jewelry. She buys gold, and she doesn’t joke with it.”
Perhaps, because of her disdain for politics, a habit she reportedly developed long before she met her husband, Clara keeps a distance from governance.
“Governance is a no-go area for her and that’s the way her husband made it. He doesn’t want her to come near governance at all. In fact, the governor draws a line for her, a line she must never cross, and she sticks to that,” according to an insider at the Government House, Enugu.
“Clara is not really influential in the government and she likes it that way. She is just supportive of her husband, and can be commanding, but not to her husband (in the home front) when she is really angry,” the insider added.
Unlike some of her contemporaries who travel overseas frequently to do their shopping, Clara does not travel outside Nigeria except when “it is absolutely necessary.” Since she became First Lady in 2008, she has not traveled outside Nigeria more than four times. “She traveled abroad when she was about giving birth to her child, a baby boy, and a few more times,” disclosed the insider. “ Most times, she orders things and they bring them to her in the house.”
Now, Clara is gradually turning into a prayer warrior, mobilising women in the state to engage in aggressive prayers for the smooth running of the Coal City State. She is the sole initiator, organizer and champion of the monthly prayer sessions attended by women from different denominations in the state. Besides, the Clara has a pet project, Child and Mother Empowerment (CHIME), which focuses on women and children.
Mrs Talatu Jang: Quiet outside but powerful at home
While wives of some governors can be accused of being celebrities on account of their constant public outings, the opposite could be said to be the case with the wife of the Plateau State governor, Mrs Talatu Jang. A nurse by profession, Mrs Jang, a Jaba by tribe from Kaduna State, is more on the conservative side and shies away from the public preferring to come out only when it is absolutely necessary.
At a recent event at the secretariat of her foundation, the Women in Agriculture and Youth Empowerment Foundation, in Doi, Jos South Local Government Area, journalists who thought that her reticence was more of an official impression, soon learnt that it was her very nature not to bask in the klieglights.
She was approached by newshounds as she was stepping out of the hall for an interview, but without pausing a single step, she brushed aside their demand with the wave of the hand, insisting all she wanted to say was contained in the speech she had delivered at the event.
But what Mrs Jang fails to do in terms of public outings, she more than makes up for it in the home front where she is said to exert a lot of influence over her husband.
A source close to the family said many have realized that a sure way to get the attention of the governor is to go through her, as most times when she takes up a matter with him on behalf of a third party, it is as good as done. She has also been described as very friendly and warm woman who does not harbour any bitterness, no matter how she disagrees with anyone on an issue.
Shortly after her husband was sworn in as governor in 2007, Mrs Jang started a pet project known as the Women in Agriculture and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYE), which she says is to help women and youths to be self-reliant.
The foundation has gone ahead to build a sprawling structure at Doi, near Jos which houses a skill acquisition centre, reproductive health centre, and a small scale agricultural unit.
She explained in a previous interview that her projection is that by the time the centre is completed, the people of Plateau State, especially women and youths, would have no need to go outside the state to seek knowledge on how to be better equipped to contribute to the economic development of the state.
“Being a centre that mostly provides for women’s needs, it was capped up with a hospital that specializes in women medical needs, where women especially in the neighboring villages, can receive free medical attention from experts” she explained.
She said the pet project has empowered no fewer than 570 women and youths in different vocations.
Mrs Jang has, however, been faulted on the impact, scope and future of the project. The Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), in Plateau state, Dr Yusuf Kanam, while speaking with our correspondent on the pet project, said though the idea to assist women and youths is good, many are not exposed to the project and may not even be aware that such a project exists.
Other criticisms of the project stem from the fact that the foundation’s headquarters is deemed too large and bogus, and that it is venturing into too many areas that include skill acquisition, provision of free health care, small scale agriculture all at the same time, raising doubt that she would be able to sustain the project when her husband leaves office.
The head of TSL, one of the firm partnering with the foundation since its inception, Mr Audu Echono, when contacted, said the fear about whether Mrs Jang’s pet project would be sustained after her husband leaves office does did arise, as according to him, the project is not being sustained by the state government.
MRS EKAETTE UNOMA AKPABIO: Engine behind husband’s profile
The wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, is regarded as the engine room behind the soaring political profile of her husband. She is elegant, flashy and stylish in the way she appears at public functions.
During the campaign for the 2011 governorship election, Mrs Akpabio was the chief campaigner for her husband’s second term aspiration. She inspired the formation of “Uyai Iban Akwa Ibom” a women formation, which she used as a platform for the mobilization and sensitization of the women folk in the state.
Through this platform, she mobilized and sensitized them on the need for political participation of women. She carried this campaign to every nook and cranny of the 31 Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State. Her efforts paid off: out of the total number of votes cast during the election over 70% are women.
Her struggle for equal participation of women in the political and decision process has endeared her to the First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan. This special relationship perhaps could be the reason why Akwa Ibom State was chosen to host the first ever National Retreat on Women.
Mrs Akpabio is always there with her husband, seen in many public functions and always encouraging her husband and seeing him through in many respects.
But she is not without blemish. Mrs. Akpabio is criticized for her domineering influence over her husband, which most people complain about. “Her family life enhancement initiative” has not been extended to the rural dwellers, who are supposed to be the first beneficiaries, they said. But one of her media aides, Mrs Comfort William said “whatever one does in life, whether good or bad, must attract peoples reaction, either negatively or otherwise.”
Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio was born in 1970 and hails from Enugu State. She is married with four children, including three female and one male.
HAJIYA JUMMAI ALIYU: Conservative, unlike a First Lady
Hajiya Jummai Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu is conservative in nature, therefore not flambouyant in appearance as she is always moderately dressed. Considering her conservativeness, one may mistaken her for an introvert because she hardly talks in public.
Unlike most first ladies who wield enormous powers, Hajiya Jummai sees herself more like a mother than a power broker.
A holder of Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Abuja, Hajiya Jummai chose to go for charity and the rehabilitation of women, children, widows and people with disability, hence the establishment of ‘Life Rerab’ as her pet project in the state.
Giving his opinion on the role of first ladies in the country, Danladi Sani, a member of All Nigerian People Party (ANPP) said, all pet projects embarked upon by the wives of the state governors are just sources created with the aim of plundering the public treasury, adding that in Niger State, hardly would one identify a group which has benefitted from the pet project of the state’s first lady.
He added that even if there were those that had benefitted it must have been done in secret.
Contacted on the first lady’s pet project in the state, the spokesperson of the First Lady, Safia Sule Shehu said, a lot had been done.
OBIOMA IMOKE, a persuasive mobiliser
Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State is married to Obioma. Born in 1963 in Lagos to the family of Dr Thaddeus Eziashi and Mrs Grace Eziashi, the governor’s wife studied Law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu campus. The marriage has produced four children.
Like her husband who, too, is a lawyer, she is now practising the profession. Last Christmas, she told a crowd of women that she has always been an enterprising wife and hardly depended on her husband. “In Lagos, I remember in those days how I would always go to borrow my aunt’s car and carry goods in the car booth to Ikorodu for sale,” she said.
But it seems she now devotes much of her energy to three of her pet projects: namely, Partnership Opportunities for Women Empowerment Realization (POWER), launched by the former First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar’adua in 2007. About POWER, she said, “In establishing this project, I envisage that the state will become a place where women are given equal opportunities to excel and maximize their potentials in their respective vocations. I believe that when a woman is empowered the whole family is empowered.” The second is the Destiny Child Centre.
Going by her carriage and speech pattern, Obioma can be described as intelligent, motherly, poised, smart and flambouyant. Many believe she has influence over Governor Imoke because at every public event she is conspicuously present. But, this, she has frequently disagreed. “I do not interfere in my husband’s government in any way, but I do offer my personal opinions on some issues at home. When he returns home, the governor becomes my husband and I address him as the man I knew many years ago before he becomes governor,” she told journalists when she spoke on Women for Change Initiative last year. She travels frequently with her husband to attend events within and outside the country.
The governor’s wife is a flashy dresser and a noted mobiliser. Before the 2011 election, she traversed the length and breadth of the state to speak and mobilize women to support her husband. She donated bags of rice, beans, chicken, turkey, groundnut oil, beverage, condiment and other food items and welfare supports to widows and married women in the hinterlands as well as those in support groups.
Opposition politicians have been bitter over her domineering and seemingly ‘extravagant’ nature. Governorship candidate of Hope Democratic Party, Dr. Theo Onyuku, once asked if the constitution now allows her special votes or if she was the ‘co-governor of Cross River State’! A former chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Cletus Obun, was another that said the state funds she accessed no other ministry, department or agency of the state government does.
One of her aides, Mrs Nancy Irek, commended her, saying as a result of her deep concern for the needy. She argued, “Many abandoned children and orphans in this state now have hope in life because the governor’s wife is sponsoring many at schools. Through her concern, many women have become entrepreneurs, providing lifelines for their homes.”
HAJIYA NANA SHETTIMA: A First Lady and farmer
Soon after she become the First Lady of Borno State in May, 2011, Hajiya Nana Kashim Shettima had told this reporter that she will not allow the fortunes associated with her position to weaken her conscience.
Nana said she did not have interest in having a pet project that would fizzle out after she left office: “I don’t believe in coming up with pet projects just to make a name. No, but, I always ask people to come up with useful thinking on how best we can initiate ideas or projects that will benefit them as a group or community. We also encourage women to form co-operative organizations to ensure I will extend my helping hand to them so that their dreams are translated into reality, with the help of professionals on the field,” she said.
Ten month into the present administration, Borno’s first lady still reaffirms her position and has endeared herself among hundreds of women that have become widows as a result of the precarious security situation in the state.
But the hallmark of the First Lady is that she is a farmer and is being spotted time to time visiting her farms. When asked how she is handling her vantage position, Nana said, “You see, there are many ways one can contribute to the development of his community or the state at large and I believe as the wife of the Governor of Borno State, I can contribute by providing succor to the plight of the poor and vulnerable groups in the society.”
The Borno State governor’s wife had opened a large farm along Damaturu road and another one along Biu road. “The essence is to engage rural women living around the farms to engage in meaningful endeavours,” Nana said.
“We are teaching them more than farming methods and how to use improved seedlings to multiply yields,” she said.
In a message to mark the World Women’s day, Hajiya Nana Kashim Shettima decried the alarming rate of deprivation among women, saying urgent steps must be taken to reduce the high rate of poverty among women, maternal and child death, denial of education among others.
Born in the early 1970s, Nana Shettima holds a diploma in Mass Communication and a Bachelor of Art degree in English Language from the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID). “I had no experience of public service, but I engaged myself in business and animal husbandry as well as fish farming. This is in addition to being a wife, taking care of my husband, children and other household challenges,” she said.
SOKOTO FIRST LADIES*: Hajiya Arziki and Hajiya Murja
Sokoto first ladies are full-time housewives
The two wives of the Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, are full time housewives, as such there is no office of First Lady in the state. They are Hajiya Arziki and Hajiya Murja. The later is the first wife. They don’t attend public functions, except weddings, naming ceremonies that involve their relations. The unconstitutional functions of the First Lady are performed by the state’s Commissioner for Women Affairs.
A friend of Sokoto’s first family told Sunday Trust that the governor’s wives, most times, stay in Wamakko, the home town of the governor, which is about 20 minutes drive from the state capital. They were last in the news on February 18, this year during the governorship election. They came out from their country home, which is located a stone throw to the polling unit where they cast their votes. They voted in the same polling unit with the governor but at different times. They drove to the polling unit in a white jeep with two female police escorts. Sunday Trust observed that, that was the only time they appeared in the news in recent time.
“Here in Sokoto State, there’s nothing like office of the First Lady. The governor sees them has his personal affairs. As such, if you want their picture for your publication I need to seek for His Excellency permission,” one of the governor’s aides told our reporter.
During the eight-year reign of Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa as the governor of Sokoto, there was First Lady, in the person of Hajiya Jamila.
AL-MAKURA: Two wives, two pet projects
Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, the Governor of Nasarawa State, has two wives: Hajiya Salamat, and Hajiya Mairo, all well-educated, and pursuing business careers. As a businessman, Al-Makura shepherded his household, especially his wives in that direction.
“But all these have not entered their heads,” Malam Abdulkareem Mohammed Abdullahi, a close associate of the governor told Sunday Trust. “I am more than qualified to talk about the governor’s household, especially his wives. I am not only his relative, I am a close associate, and I can say that he and his wives are not living a lifestyle typical of Nigerian first families: the pretentious and exaggerated flambouyance seen around wives of governors.”
Sunday Trust spoke to a couple of critics of the governor, but all insisted they had nothing against the lifestyles of his wives and his personal person. “For me, I refer to look at what the governor is doing as governor, not what he and his wives are doing as private persons”, one critic of the governor said.
But he added “truly, I am yet to even know what they do because, I must be frank with you; these women hardly come out. They don’t make noise. I think the governor is blessed with good wives. Nasarawa is lucky there, except for the dictatorial tendencies of their husband as governor who has refused to respect the rule of law.”
The women are wealthy, Sunday Trust inquiries have shown. “But they are not arrogant; they are not flambouyant. They are simply homely. I can vouch for them all”, Musa Illu Mohammed, a childhood friend of the governor said.
Sunday Trust also made enquiries about their pet projects. Salamatu, the first lady, named hers: “Mother and Child Care Enhancement Foundation”, while Maria calls hers: “Tallasi Woman and Youth Foundation” (TWYF). Both are funded through their personal accounts, findings showed.
Hajiya Salamatu has said that through her pet project, she will bear the burden of women in the state by prioritizing development of their issues. “She has always sought her husband’s approval for anything the project is embarking upon”, her press aide, Safiya Mohammed said.
Hajiya Mairo, the second wife, has through her project, donated boreholes to communities, and incubators as well as beddings to Dalhatu Araf Specialists Hospital (DASH), in Lafia. This is just as she has sponsored Umaru Mohammed, a 13-year old boy with a strange skin disease, for medical treatment. “She goes to the husband for approvals’, Altine Jinawa, media aide of the second wife said.
They have no offices, other than their homes and private business places, Sunday Trust can report. They also do not move around blaring sirens, a popular paraphernalia of the office of the first lady. They both enjoy good connection with the Patience Jonathan, Nigeria’s first lady. “But that has not entered their heads”, Abdulkareem said.
AMINA YAKOWA: Still cooks husband’s soup; insists of family meetings
Lady Amina Elizabeth Yakowa, 59, is the wife of Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa. A teacher by profession, she’s a 1983 graduate in History from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1998, she left the services of Kaduna state to the Ministry of Defence from where she was posted to Inspectorate Division of the Nigerian Army Education Corp in Yaba where she became the first civilian Inspector of education.
When the ministry moved to Abuja, she was still in education but was given some administrative jobs and she was able to establish the civilian personnel unit of the Ministry of Defence as a director and unit head. At that time, all the teachers, nurses and other cadres who were civilians in all the military formations in Abuja, Keffi, Suleija were all under her office. Welfare, promotions, discipline in all the cadres were processed by her and forwarded to the headquarters of the ministry. Mrs Yakowa headed the unit for about 5 years between 2000 and 2005. In 2006, when her husband was appointed as deputy governor, she was posted to the Inspectorate Division of Education in 1 Division, Kaduna. She was there until she voluntarily retired last year June as Deputy Director, Education.
Mrs Yakowa said she has a pet project but that she has not made it known to the public yet. According to her, the project is almost at the point of unfolding. “The name of the pet project is ‘Kauna Intervention Initiative’ and it has been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) while arrangements are almost concluded and very soon, I am going to officially unfold what Kauna Intervention will be all about in Kaduna State,” she said. According to her, the idea of this project occurred to her during the electioneering campaign in 2010 and 2011.
Kauna Intervention Initiative would be charged with responsibility of going to communities to know what their major needs so that it can intervene. On how far she has gone with the pet project, she said that a committee has been set up. It has also sampled some of the communities in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state.
From the committee’s report, she said it was discovered that every community has its own peculiar problems, but that almost all the communities’ lack water. “So Kauna Intervention Initiative could intervene in the area of education, health, infrastructure or empowerment depending on the need of the community,” she echoed.
Mrs Yakowa said her sincere prayer is that the project outlives her tenure in office because she is dealing with the rural communities.
“I want to see an instance where Kauna Intervention Initiative will live even after I have left office because I’m very mindful that most first ladies’ pet projects terminate with their tenure in office. I have carefully and prayerfully chosen the team, especially the Board of Trustees that are working with me.
Recently, Mrs Yakowa was made the chairman of Emergency Transport Scheme (ETS) in the state, a scheme aimed at significantly reducing maternal mortality in Kaduna. Commenting on this, she said “I also do a lot of advocacy campaigns and meetings with women and wives of local government where I encourage them to make use of the facilities they have, including the Free Maternal and Child Health Care (FMCH) for pregnant women and children from ages 0–5 years,” she explained.
Mrs Yakowa said that in spite of her office as the mother of the state, she still creates time for her husband and that she personally cooks his food. “I declare days in the week when I prepare all his soups and keep and I also make sure that everything that has to do with his food is under my supervision.”
She said her children are all grown up but her grandchildren stay with her. “I create time for them every day. Once I am at home, they are always with me. I am also always in contact with my children because I belief they still need us.”
As a family policy, she said that once in a while they hold family meetings together with His Excellency to discuss issues that of family interest. “It is a way of keeping and uniting the family because the family has to move,” she said.
DOOSHIMA SUSWAM: An Architect, Benue’s flambouyant First Lady
In Benue State, the wife of the Governor, Artect Dooshima Yemisi Suswam is one woman that her peers may take joy in gazing at her charming appearance in the course of her public life. Her glamorous looks coupled with her sophisticated ear rings with shoes to match and her smiles gives one an impression of how expensive the first lady’s lifestyle can be.
But she is instrumental to the 35% affirmative for women empowerment in the state, having influenced her husband to appoint three women into the state Executive Council as commissioners. Similarly, Arc Dooshima insisted that the only woman in the state House of Assembly, Mrs Hembadoon Amena from Katsina- Ala state constituency would be re-elected along side with Mrs Christy Alaaga in the House of Representatives for Gwer-west and Gwer- East federal constituency. It was also through her instrumentality that her husband elevated five women to the post of permanent secretaries in the state civil service of Benue among others.
Prior to her husband’s election as the Governor of Benue state, Architect Yemisi Suswam was practising her profession in Abuja on a very high pedestal. The first lady who bagged her first and second degrees in Architecture from the Federal University of Technology in Minna, Niger state is at present said to be a doctoral student. She is the Initiator and Founder of Sev-av Foundation, focusing on grassroots development. The activities of SWCHA in partnership with NACA (National Action Committee on Aids) and other stakeholders will help stem down the prevalence rates within the next 2 years and therefore encourage a unit to be set up in all the local government areas and chairpersons will be coordinating and working closely with her office.
In spite of these efforts, some critics see it as nothing to enough to write home about. John Ochigbo told Sunday Trust that the first lady would have been changing the lives of the rural dwellers, if she were serious.
Another woman, Mrs Pauline Gbatse, said the wife of the Governor is an absentee type, citing an instance where she left the state on January 4, 2012 and just returned at the twilight of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the state, a situation she said has denied Benue women access to her office.
But in a swift reaction, the press coordinator to the first lady, Mr Samuel Orbunde adduced many reasons why a first lady may be absent, including an invitation from the wife of the president or that of the state governors elsewhere in the country. According to Mr Orbunde, as the chairperson of the northern governor’s wives, she has to be up and doing so as to earn their confidence.