from Africa in Transition

No "First Lady" for Nigeria

June 18, 2015

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For many Nigerian political figures, “too much of a good thing is perfectly wonderful.” Extravagant display, whether it be of honorifics, dress, cars, official residences, or entourages  is very common. The former first lady, “Dame” Patience Jonathan was a highly visible and controversial figure. Nobody was allowed to forget that she was “First Lady of Nigeria.”

The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is known for the simplicity of his personal style. His private house in Kaduna is plain in style and appropriate for a retired military officer who was not “in business” on the side. He eschews entourages, dresses plainly, and asked the press before election day to refer to him as “Muhammadu Buhari,” not “General Buhari.” Hence, it is no surprise that his wife, Aisha Buhari , has made it clear that she will not use the “First Lady” title: “I am not the First Lady. I am the wife of the President and will be addressed as such going forward.” Mrs. Buhari has not been a prominent public figure. She is the mother of five children, and according to the Nigerian media, while raising them, she successfully pursued an MA in international affairs and strategic studies from the Nigerian Defense Academy.

For a president whose campaign symbol was a broom, and who was elected in part because the electorate is fed up with self-serving corruption on the part of political leaders, the simplicity of style of the president and his wife is good politics. It is also their authentic personal style.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Elections and Voting

Heads of State and Government

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