Nobel Laureate and human rights advocate, Wole Soyinka, yesterday broke his silence on the proposed N4billion First Ladies Mission Mansion in Abuja, describing First Ladies as constitutional ghosts.
He said first ladies, like ghost workers through whose invisible entrails billions have vanished into Nigerian burial ground, initiate pet projects of lofty sounding but undeniably dead on arrival.
In a statement entitled, Ghost Missions on the Gravy Train, Soyinka satirically questioned the legal status of the office of first ladies and accused ministers of elevating the culture of sycophancy to the status of governance.
He said the nation needed to know the chapter and verse under which the African First Ladies initiative was adopted, much less led, by the African Union. “It is time we confronted squarely those unctuous, self –righteous attributions such as “the legacy that the first lady would leave behind”.
Who says a first lady has to leave a legacy behind? Was she elected by the people? Is she constitutionally a public official? Does she have an obligation to render account of her “stewardship”? I have taken the trouble to study the Federal Territory Act, and not one paragraph, not one sentence specifies that the FCT minister’s functions include saddling first ladies with the responsibility of bequeathing a legacy,” he wondered.
Soyinka lampooned the two contrasting expositions of the minister of FCT and that of the minister of foreign affairs on the controversial issue. According to him, the FCT minister mission was an NGO, while the minister of foreign affairs expressed contrary view, describing it an “international obligation.”
The Nobel Laureate noted that “the ‘cult of first ladyism’ rose to obscene heights under the former maximum ruler, Ibrahim Babangida. He described the immediate past first lady as a spousal abuser of President Yar’Adua, as he related the battle for a luscious slab of real estate she had with her immediate successor. Soyinka noted that first ladies had the same right as all citizens to “leave a legacy behind” but they must source their fund in the private domain, not digging their hands into public funds. “Today, the obverse obtains.
The role which even ministers have played in elevating the culture of groveling sycophancy to the status of governance virtue has contributed in no small measure to the abuse of constitutional provisions and irresponsible budgetary attributions, he stated. See full statement on 45 Instead of remaining a dark, embarrassing secret, it is confidently aired on international media such as the Voice of America, turning this nation into a space of ridicule and self-inflicted disdain. It is not all sycophancy however, it is –projects! Projects with minimal overseeing and accounting, gravy trains with adept practitioners at the controls,” he said.
Soyinka further explained his belated reaction to the controversial issue, saying, “I had thought to leave this subject strictly to the discretionary power of the nation’s Women’s Organisations, as I did not wish to be obliged to counter the convenient accusations that we, the male chauvinist oppressors of womanhood in society, have merely seized upon a legitimate initiative of “public spirited” women elite to frustrate female advocacy.
However, as scandal surmounts scandal, it is more than likely than a mere “chicken feed” like N4b will become subsumed in public consciousness, overawed by egregious affronts such as the recent presidential pardons. The national; attention span-in the face of corruption especially-suffers from overload, and there are those who know it, manipulate and profit from it!”