With comic relief that is dovetailed by all seriousness, A.B.
Assensoh comments on the situation with Kenya's formal First Lady,
"Her Excellency" Mrs. Lucy Kibaki (in Posting #672). Assensoh -- who
suffered military detention as the Sub-Editor of The Pioneer
newspaper of Ghana early in the military regime of executed General
Ignatius Kutu ("Kuti") Acheampong -- is writing with a lot of
hindsight from what was known (in the erstwhile Acheampong military
era) as "Bottom Power" at work in Ghana.
Several of my Kenyan friends in and outside Nairobi press circles
have said that President Kibaki, reportedly, has two wives, hence
Mrs. Lucy Kibaki takes liberties to underscore publicly that, indeed,
she is the No. 1 First Lady of Kenya. While her behaviour seems to be
extreme, I am reminded by historical-cum-political scenarios that
many past Ghanaian First Ladies have exhibited what has come to be
known as "Bottom Power", including the era of "do-you-know-meism". Of
course, there is no former Ghanaian First Lady that went to the
"commando" extent of storming a press house, although some of them
have sued press as well as media houses and won!
However, when Mr. Ofori, the late Business Manager of The Pioneer
newspaper in Kumasi, Ghana, and I (as the Sub-Editor) were arrested
and detained in a local military camp by armed soldiers for writing
anti-National Redemption Council (NRC) editorials, I heard a military
officer saying that the then Ghana First Lady (Mrs. Faustina
Acheampong) had allegedly said: "Journalists like this Akwasi Bretuo
and the Business Manager, who are writing again my husband's
government, deserve being picked up from their offices, caned and
slapped on mercilessly, and then left to walk over fifty miles back
home. Why detain and feed such useless Journalists...?" My pen-name,
as a Journalist, was Akwasi Bretuo.
Also, there was the hilarious revelation that when a former Ghanaian
First Lady was asked why she was making so much noise publicly and
privately (with slogans) -- again, not at the "commando" level of
Mrs. Kibaki -- she reportedly said: "This is 'bottom power'
speaking!' In terms of Mrs. Acheampong again, there was the
following allegation: that after the late Fela Ransome-Kuti (Fela)
had reportedly entertained then NRC Chairman Acheampong and his top
military brass in Ghana, the local newspapers allegedly alluded in
headlines to the claim that Acheampong was, originally, of a Nigerian
parentage, hence his "Kuti" middle name, which was later changed to
"Kutu". The Ghanaian newsaper headlines, reportedly, included:"Kuti
Entertains Kuti..." Reportedly, the then First Lady of Ghana was so
furious with the press that she, allegedly, wanted to storm a
particular press house to show the editor and his reporters "real
bottom power." If that happened, it would have certainly risen to
the level of Mrs. Kibaki's "First Lady Power" in Kenya!
As I read Reuben Abati's published piece from Guardian of Lagos, I
simply smiled and said that the usefulness of the article included
the fact that it may teach many of our female subscribers of the
USA/Africa Dialogue how (1) not to be like Mrs. Kibaki, or (2) not to
mis-use "bottom power" if they ever become First Ladies anywhere in
Africa. Certainly, those who have not suffered the wrath of a First
Lady anywhere may still say, "Long live 'bottom power' of First
Ladies!" Of course, their "bottom power" can also be an irritatingly
"fat" and "hot" power, indeed!