The fury of First Ladies

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


These are the most perilous and stressful times.
As a nation, pitiably trapped in very
excruciating contradictions, occasioned by
abysmal failure of leadership and character on
the part of those (mis)directing the affairs of
this bankrupt and famished nation, the much the
people should expect  from First Spouses, First
Concubines, First Children, and even First
Uncles, Cousins, and Nieces,  of  these
unprofitable rulers, is that as they wallow in
flamboyant idleness and have all their
unspeakable excesses serviced with state funds,
they should at least allow some measure of
humility and moderation to attend the way they
flaunt their sudden and limitless privileges. It
does seem that in these parts, we are most adept
at creating grotesque legitimacy for the totally
absurd, advertise it with indecent fanfare, and
in the process provide delicious specimens for
bellyful mirth for the civilised.

  I would certainly not be bothered one bit if I
never got to see the wife or concubines of any
ruler until the expiration of his tenure. I do
not edit a society tabloid whose passion it
usually is to discover the current colour of
lipstick that adorns Madamís lips or the latest
low neckline she wears to dimly-lit balls. My
candid opinion is that we can do with one ruler
at a time. Let the wives of our rulers spare us
their intruding and unappetizing presence and
retreat to their houses and be good wives to
their husbands and good mothers to their
children.  For the umpteenth time, they should
please remove their over-bleached, over-made-up
and over-dressed selves before our faces so we
could find the presence of mind to bear the pain
and anguish their husbands are unleashing on us.

We are almost forgetting that the Constitution
has no provisions for the so-called office of the
First Lady. I am not bothered, for instance, if
President Obasanjoís wife has a battery of
special assistants, senior special advisers, and
even press secretaries attached to her ìofficeî,
so long as their salaries and allowances are paid
from the millions we are reliably informed the
president realises monthly from his ìnewly
improvedî and now lucrative farm at Ota. The
state can pay for her security, that is fair
enough. But I am not aware of any statutory
powers conferred on her ìofficeî by any
Constitutional provisions.

So when early last week, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus
Keyamo, issued a statement alerting the nation
that the Publisher of Midwest Herald, Mr. Orobosa
Omo-Ojo, whose paper had carried a story titled
Greedy Stella, had been arrested by detectives
from the ìDî Department of the Ondo State Police
Command, on the orders of Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, I
almost thought it was not happening in real life.
Unfortunately, all my desire to obtain a copy of
that publication last week could not be
gratified, but the real tragedy in this
development is that the mainstream media have
predictably proved themselves incapable of
appreciating the dangerous signal that this ugly
development portends and have been treating the
report with scandalous levity.  Well, letís wait
until a ìFirst Sonî or ìFirst Concubineî decides
tomorrow to seal off the premises of a ìnationalî
newspaper, and then, our eyes will open to the
street wisdom that every monster is the product
of a gradual, undiscouraged evolution.

Incidentally, this new piece of scandal is being
treated with amazing seriousness by the foreign
media, and I can imagine the well-remunerated
experts at the Image Laundering Project office
submitting fresh, bulky requisitions to enable
them adequately whitewash the stain this sorry
event has registered on the ìmodelî regime in
Abuja. Indeed, Mrs. Obasanjo, like every other
Nigerian, is perfectly justified to feel pained
if she feels unfairly represented in the media,
but should an aggrieved person respond to a
perceived wrong by perpetrating a more insidious
wrong? Are the courts in perpetual recess in
Nigeria, or are we just witnessing a raw
exhibition of ìmy-husband-is-in-chargeî mentality

Now if the recent incident in Nigeria represents
an unabridged baggage of shame, what happened in
Nairobi, Kenya, during the same period, where
this ìmy-husband-is-in-chargeî mentality was
raised to the level of outright madness by Mrs.
Lucy Muthoni Kibaki, one of the wives of  Kenyan
President, Mwai Kibaki, has no counterpart within
the boundaries of  civilised behaviour.

Mrs. Kibaki, with her ferocious bodyguards, had
invaded, the Muthaiga residence of the outgoing
World Bank Country Representative, Mr. Makhtar
Diop, where a private farewell party was being
held in his honour, to complain that the music
was too noisy and was robbing her of her sleep.
Diop was a tenant of the Kibakis. They were still
his neighbours, each time they stayed in their
private residence, next door to the one rented by
Diop. And Kibakiís children were equally guests
at the riotous party that disturbed Madamís sleep.

Mrs. Kibaki had reportedly stormed Diopís house
in pyjamas, with boundless rage, demanding that
the music must stop. She charged ferociously at
the man, as she attempted to unplug the
electrical connections supplying power to the
sound systems. According to The East African
Standard of Monday, May 2, 2005, a day after the
incident, ìthe party was graced by the top cream
of the diplomatic, donor and private sector

As would be expected, the Kenyan press were
unsparing of Lucy Kibaki in their reports the
very next day after her disgraceful outing. The
East African Standard, captioned its report, The
Shame of First Lady. The report in Daily Nation
was not less- scathing.  Angered by these
reports, Mrs. Kibaki dressed in a pink blouse and
ill-fitting blue jeans trousers, jumped into her
4WD, a Toyota Prado, and raced down to the Nation
Centre, the corporate headquarters of Nation
newspapers, accompanied by body guards and the
Nairobi Provincial Police Chief, Mwangi Kingíori.
Her anger had received additional fuel with later
reports that she had visited the Muthaiga Police
Station to report the Diopís incident dressed in
casual white shorts.

And so as she stormed Nation Centre by 11.30 pm,
she was clutching a copy of the Standard where
she had earned a front-page lead due to her
embarrassing action. Her photograph on the
front-page as she raged and raved must rank as
one of the most  scaring objects I have seen in
recent times.  Once she got to Nation Centre, she
headed upstairs to the editorial department and
disrupted operations for five hours. She
announced that she had come to protest the
unflattering reports about her in the press.

ìYou reported that I went to the police station
wearing shorts, what is wrong with the First Lady
wearing shorts? I put on skirts and even bikinis
when I go swimmingÖWe are a decent family, humble
and ChristianÖYou have tried to discredit me
since I became the First Lady.î A wonder no one
remembered to call the psychiatrist.

Complaining about how the media refer to her
husband in their reports she charged: ìIn the
news you call him Kibaki as you did when he was
campaigning, when will you learn to call him the
President, (and) start respecting him?î

Then she turned and yelled at the provincial
police boss that came with her: ìDoes the Police
Commissioner (equivalent of Nigeriaís I.G.) know
that I am here protesting? Call him. He should be
here with us.î And immediately, the officer went
out, radioed his boss, and within some minutes,
the Commissioner, Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali, was
there with them. Indeed, Mrs. Kibaki was an
unmitigated nuisance. She went from table to
table, shouting, complaining, threatening, and
occasionally laughing.

Suddenly, she noticed the award-winning KTN
cameraman, Clifford Derrick, recording her
moments of madness, and she went berserk. Said
Derrick: ìShe just walked up to me and slapped me
hard. I was terrified.î  Yes, she attacked him
and attempted to take away the camera from him.
As this went on, none of the police chiefs moved
an inch.  According to the Standard, the ìCentral
Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD), Julius
Ndegwa watched from a distance, as he
communicated on his pocket radio.î Welcome to
Lucy Kibakiís Kenya!

Mrs. Kibakiís action has been greeted with
unsparing condemnation. Derricks is considering
legal action, especially, against the police, for
failing to protect him from a raving woman. Lucy
Oriang, Daily Nationís Managing Editor, who is
fast becoming my favourite East African
columnist, called on President Kibaki last Friday
to save Kenyaís honour by checking  his wifeís

I agree totally with Ms. Oriang, because, till
now, Kibaki is yet to make any comment about his
wifeís disgraceful outing. It does seem that for
his government, what his wife had done is a
non-issue. Only last Friday, Dr. Alfred Mutua,
governmentís spokesman was quoted in Kenya Times
as dismissively saying: ìThe Kenyan government
and its people is known for many things and a
particular incident cannot cost the countryís
image.î If you ask me, this is the most
unfortunate statement to come out of Kenya since
the Mrs. Kibaki affair.

I must add that as much as I condemn Mrs.
Kibakiís crude behaviour, I must admit that I was
thoroughly sickened by the nuisance constituted
by Diopís party. They have no right to rob Mrs.
Kibaki of her sleep. But her reaction to Diopís
nuisance, has now overshadowed what was clearly
unambiguous irresponsibility on the part of the
World Bank staff. His action is as detestable as
that of Mrs. Kibaki who has vowed to fight her
own battles and confront those who disparage her
and her family. What a shame.


Call to arrest Kenya's first lady

The Kenyan cameraman who was slapped by the
president's wife has recorded a police statement and
urged them to arrest Lucy Kibaki.

Clifford Derrick Otieno had given the first lady a
week to apologise for her actions but she has not done

Mrs Kibaki slapped Mr Otieno last week when he was
filming her outburst at the offices of the Daily
Nation newspaper.

She stayed at the offices overnight to complain about
the paper's coverage of her row with a neighbour.

No immunity

Meanwhile, the president's office has filed an
official complaint to the Media Council over the
coverage of Mrs Kibaki's appearance at the Nation's

A statement said that she had the right to make a
physical appearance at a newsroom to demand accurate

Mr Otieno told the BBC's Swahili service that he
wanted to deter others from assaulting journalists,
saying he has been beaten four times during his

"I waited for a whole week, hoping for at least an
apology from state house - in vain," he said.

His lawyer Moses Kurgat says that if the police do not
arrest Mrs Kibaki, he will start a private

"I am here to confirm that there is nobody in this
country, apart from the president, who is immune to
prosecution," he told the Daily Nation.

The row started when Mrs Kibaki stormed into the house
of outgoing World Bank Kenya director Mukhtar Diop
three times, demanding that he turn the music down at
his farewell party.

When this was reported by the Daily Nation, she went
to its offices, surrounded by bodyguards, accusing the
paper of dragging her name through the mud.

In the five hours she was there, she seized reporters'
notebooks, tape recorders and mobile phones, and
slapped Mr Otieno when he refused to stop filming her.

Kenya's parliament is also due to discuss the
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/05/11 11:40:36 GMT