On a training visit to Cameroon many years ago, I had a good time sampling pubs with my hosts in the evening after work amid banter and laughter. On one of such occasions, we came round talking about our families, especially the influence of our wives in our lives.
One of my hosts said he had a woman who had given him four adorable girls and one terrific boy, “but I am now looking for a proper wife and I hope our guest can find me one in Ghana.”
Dropping his voice he said, “She should be tall, elegant, fair and the skin shiny like ripe tomato; she must speak impeccable English and French.” I burst out laughing but my Cameroonian colleagues kept quiet. To them, their countryman’s desire was the out-worn joke for specification for First Ladies in Central Africa and some Francophone countries.
Come to think of it. What do the following ladies have in common: Chantal Biya (Cameroon), Sylvia Bongo (Gabon) and Hinda Daby Itna (Chad)? How about Dominique-Folloroux Ouattara (Cote d’ivoire), Jeanette Kagame (Rwanda) and Zeinab Suma Jammeh (Gambia)? They are all stunning, regal beauties, very much addicted to fashion. They are averagely taller and much fairer complexioned than their much older husbands. They have so much physical presence that they could make heads turn and remark in Pidgin Twinglish English, “Yes, and your mother born you pa pa.”
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Some first ladies who are not frightfully made according to the Psalmist are nevertheless leading stylists with their headgears sweeping over a full six inches above their much taller husbands. They are fond of flowing robes of the latest shades of brocade. One such woman was alleged to have gone for a process of belly reduction called liposuction in order to fit into a new dress for her 60th birthday bash. Tragically, she died on the operating table.
Some African first ladies are credited with high intelligence and the skill to hide behind the curtains and exert tremendous influence on their husband’s state craftsmanship, especially in making public appointments. Others are simply dismissed as naggers and are cleverly avoided by ministers and top advisers to the Head of State.
A number of African First Ladies are very experienced politicians. Grace Mugabe is one such warrior, having stayed very close to the epicentre of power as wife of a long-reigning head. She is extremely powerful and fancies herself as heir-apparent. She occupies a place in the central committee of the ruling party and one shrugs to ask, “Who is running the show in the Presidency?”
Another such mighty woman is Aisha Buhari who stayed resolutely behind the husband while he endured three crushing defeats in his attempts to wrest the Presidency of Nigeria. Muhammadu’s fourth attempt has been successful. Now bringing all her credentials as the daughter of a former Defence Minister, her close observation of power play and the mechanism of makeweight political appointments, Aisha chastises the President for rewarding unsuitable people.
Then, President Buhari hits back in a quiet, metaphorical deadpan on the role of the First Lady of Nigeria. The response is an instant hit in many newspapers around the world. Though witty, it exposes President Buhari as the “colo” type that would still want to assign a First Lady to only kitchen and bedroom duties with a lot of philanthropic acts thrown in as a caring mother of the nation.
Some First Ladies have really developed moustaches and plenty of testosterone. They are the First Ladies of the revolutionary era when they stood in the trenches with their husbands and the boys who turned from the military to democratically elected politicians. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of former President J.J Rawlings, has seen it all. In the turbulent Peoples’ Defence Committees to Provisional Defence Committee and the two-term National Democratic Congress eras, Nana Konadu had the entire female gender agenda to herself with her brigade of red berets and now she forgets that the First Lady term runs concurrent with the President’s. Long after “AD Rawlings” she has been trying to become the President of Ghana. Hebeii!
Of course, it is no sin for a former first lady to attempt being President. The Philippines and Argentina have had their turn. Now the US may have Hillary Clinton as President some 48 hours after the publication of this piece.
Nana Konadu is becoming a big joke, a victim of illusions of grandeur.
Looking at the wives of the presidential and the vice presidential candidates for December 7, one can see some very gorgeous women who may fit the Central African specification. There is a lot of colour in there. But do they have the grooming? Indefatigable Lordina we know for her good manners and works of philanthropy with NGOs. Are the others only queuing up as trophies to be relegated to President Buhari’s other room?