Sunday, 22 March 2015

Lesson from the conviction of the first lady


          It is official that Ivorian former first lady Dr. Simone Gbagbo is now a prisoner. Mr Gbagbo’s recently found guilty of subverting authorities, among others, and was awarded 20 years in jail. Mrs Gbagbo’s conviction's been received with mixed views and reaction. The beneficiaries from her stint in power were perturbed and wounded while the victims of her husband’s resistance that resulted in over 3000 innocent people were elated. For them – at least – justice’s done and be seen done. Wonder not. Sharing a crib with the big guy pays au siyo, hadi vihiyo wanaukata!
          Mrs Gbagbo – during her husband’s stint in power – was much more feared than the president himself – her husband who’s elected and sworn in –as if she were the one voted in and sworn in. She’s referred to as iron lady due to her stoutness in displaying and commandeering clout drawn from being just  the first lady. Yes, this is no longer an anomaly in Africa. Some of first ladies are displaying, characteristically the power of presidents as if the’y’re ones.  Mrs Gbagbo came to limelight for wrong reasons though when she’s allegedly ordered the massacre of French Canadian journalist investigating cocoa scandal Guy-Kieffer in 2004. So, too Mrs Gbagbo became famous after showing much more clout on how to use and abuse power than her husband who was a professor.
          As fate would have it, Mrs Gbagbo's fame traversed her countries borders on 11 April 2011 on the day her husband and her were dug out from the foxhole under the statehouse that marked the end of their presidency and prominence. For, thereof, and thereafter, the president was dispatched to The Hague where he’s been caged waiting for the court to decide his fate.  Mrs Gbagbo was home kept up till she was sentenced to 20 years in jail. However, she is renowned for having used, abused, misused and spent her husband’s power to become rich within a short time. She rummage-sold her husband’s high office to secure favours and deals for herself and friends. Differently from other corrupt first ladies, Mrs Gbagbo didn’t create any NGO to mint and print money. Instead, she applied pressure on her husband to use his office to enhance her networks to make money. Currently, many – though not all – African first ladies are using NGOs to print and mint money. If anything, this is the leitmotif many thinkers are pondering on vis-à-vis many current African first ladies. We need to educate them through analyzing what transpired to Mrs Gbagbo in that power does come to an end. It is easy to fall from grace.
          Again, Mrs Gbagbo’s unceremonious fall from grace’s a lesson for African first ladies using their relationship with presidents to become presidents behind the curtains. Sharing the bed with big men has become a good capital for first ladies, their families and friends. In some over corrupt countries; first ladies are treated like presidents while they actually are not. Many shrewd first ladies have cornered their husbands so as to force them to appoint their friends and relations. Others have gone further forcing presidents either to create positions for them in their ruling parties or governments. Recently, in Zimbabwe, the first lady became an influential office bearer in her husband’s ruling party ZANUPF while in Uganda the first lady is a minister in her husband’s cabinet.
          So, arguably, Mrs Gbagbo is not the first, or the last first lady to abuse her husband’s power, or face the consequence thereof.  Africa used to marvel at Philippine’s’ first lady, Imelda Marcos famed for her lavish spends. She now has a lot of Imelda’s.
          After the collapse of Gbagbo’s regime, many viewed it as the work of greed and myopic by Mrs Gbagbo who is said to have pressed her husband not recognize the results that showed that his opponent the current president Allasane Outtara secured victory in the 2011 general elections. The Gbagbo failed to divvy between government and public issues during their stay in power. It is sad however to find that the president, professor and his wife a PhD holder were unable to readings on the board. This shows how the current western toxic education espoused by the current grand narrative produces more illiterates than elites.
          The big lesson one gets from Mrs Gbagbo’s predicament-cum-plight is that abusing powers of the office of the president may turn out to be a dangerous thing for someone to embark on. So, too, sharing bed with president pays either way. Importantly, our first ladies need to be cagey of power lulls. They need to act as advisers to their husbands instead of acting as money makers using the banner of the state house. It is sad and bad to evidence the first lady becoming a prisoner though sometimes we need to underscore the fact that this is the cost of justice. The lesson learned is that power is a temporal refugee. So, too, power does intoxicate. Thus, used and spend power gingerly and cagily.
Source: Guardian March 22, 2015.

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