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Meet The Powerful Women Behind Nigeria’s Political Leaders Since 1999

Behind every successful man, there is a woman; so says the popular saying.

The constitutionality of the office of the First Lady might be a subject of debate in Nigeria and many other countries but the existence of such is never in doubt and they seem to have come to stay, regardless of what some people feel about them. Call it a First Ladies’ club and you won’t be wrong.

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the West African nation has had four elected presidents. Each one of them of course had their wives by their sides and automatically become First Ladies based on their husband’s victory at the polls.

Though not elected into office, these women have over the years been playing several roles and customarily operate pet NGOs through which they carry out various activities particularly during their stay in office.

They are also understood to have very strong influences not only on their husbands but as well as the political space around the country in general.

Each of these four superwomen has, at different times, been behind the scenes of the country’s political affairs and have discharged their duties stylishly.

1. Stella Obasanjo (1999-2005)

Late Former First lady Stella Obasanjo

After sixteen years of the unbroken spell of military rule in Nigeria, the country returned to democracy in 1999. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became president.

Stella was married to Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the 5th (military) and 12th (democratic) President of Nigeria. As the first lady, she was very powerful and influential.

The beautiful Stella She was a political activist in her own right who exhibited a lot of class and style. During her time in office, she insisted on having the insignia of the presidency whenever she had cause to address the nation. She would appear on television and even address the nation standing before the national crest, a privilege usually reserved for the President.

Stella Obasanjo died a few weeks before her 60th birthday from complications of cosmetic surgery at a private health clinic in Puerto Banús, Marbella, Spain, on 23 October 2005 while undergoing elective liposuction.

Stella Obasanjo (14 November 1945 – 23 October 2005) was the First Lady of Nigeria from 1999 until her death. She was the wife of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, although she was not the First Lady in 1976, when Obasanjo was military head of state.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and late Stella Obasanjo

Stella Obasanjo was from Iruekpen, Esan West, Edo State. She began her education at Our Lady of the Apostles Primary School. She enrolled at St. Theresa’s College, where she obtained her West African School Certificate in 1964 with grade one. Two years later she obtained the higher school certificate. She was admitted to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, for a bachelor’s degree in English, attending from 1967 to 1969. In 1969 she transferred to the UK to complete her studies, this time around, in insurance, in London and Edinburgh, Scotland, from 1970 to 1974.

She completed her education with a certificate as a confidential secretary from the Pitman College in 1976. She returned to Nigeria in 1976 and soon after married General Obasanjo, who had become Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, following the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed. When she became Nigeria’s First Lady in 1999, following the election of her husband as president, Mrs. Obasanjo established Child Care Trust, for the care of underprivileged and/or disabled children.

2. Turai Yaradua (2007-2010)

Mrs. Turai Yar’Adua

The seemingly reserved and modest Turai, wife of Umar Yar’Adua who came into power in 2007 as Nigeria’s president is understood to be a powerful figure withing her husband’s administration.

Though not outspoken, she was very influential. The fact that she had her husband’s ears at all times also put her in a position where she commanded a lot of respect from the most powerful people in the country.

Turai was not known to have a flashy lifestyle but her presence carried a lot of weight and she was no pushover in the scheme of things.

Sadly, her stay in office was also cut short by the death of her husband on May 5, 2010.

Hajiya Turai Umar Musa Yar’Adua is the widow of late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. She married him in 1975 and was Nigeria’s first lady from 2007 till the death of her husband in 2010.

Turai and late Umar Musa Yar’Adua

Hajiya Turai Umar Musa Yar’Adua (born 26 July 1957) was born in the Katsina metropolitan area of northern Nigeria. She attended Government Girls Secondary School in Kankiya.

Turai Yar’Adua attended Garama Primary School in Katsina and Government Secondary School in Kankia, both in Katsina State. She later enrolled at Katsina College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State. In 1983, Yar’Adua received a bachelor’s degree in Language from Ahmadu Bello University.

3. Patience Jonathan (2010-2015)

Dame Patience Jonathan

Dame Patience aka Mama Peace was the direct opposite of her husband, Goodluck Jonathan as she was rather vocal and outgoing compared to her husband’s cool demeanour.

She appeared in control and always gave the impression that made many people believed she called the shots during her husband’s time as Nigeria’s president.

Her theatrical emotional display on TV in reaction to the abduction of Chibok girls when she kept saying, “chai, chai, there is God o!” is an episode that can’t be easily forgotten by Nigerians.

Mrs Jonathan was an energetic and bold first lady who seemed to care less about what others thought of her.

Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, right, arrive for the inauguration ceremony for South African president Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday May, 24, 2014. Zuma was sworn in to serve a second term after the country’s fifth democratic elections. (AP Photo/Mujahid Safodien, Pool) ORG XMIT: XDF125

Patience Jonathan was a rare breed while she served as first lady of Nigeria from 2010-2015 due to her outspoken nature and free spirit, coupled with her fashion sense.

Dame Patience Jonathan was born on 25 October 1957 in Port Harcourt, she earned her school certificate in 1976, and passed the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) in 1980. In 1989, she obtained the National Certificate of Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Biology from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt. She then proceeded to the University of Port Harcourt and studied for a B.Ed in Biology and Psychology. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Port Harcourt.

4. Aisha Buhari (2015- )

'Aisha Buhari

Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari

Mrs Aisha Buhari, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, is by all standards, a beautiful woman. She was born on 17th February 1971.

She is also a beauty with brains. Aisha is a cosmetologist and beauty therapist. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in public administration from Ambrose Alli University (AAU), and a master’s degree in international affairs and strategic studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.

She also obtained a diploma in beauty therapy from the Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom as well as a post-graduate diploma in cosmetology and beauty from Academy Esthetique Beauty Institute of France.

Aisha is a woman who has on many occasions since her husband came into power in 2015, never minced words about the existence of a certain cabal within her husband’s administration.

Nigerians React As Aisha Buhari Advises African Presidents Against 'Praise Singing Advisers'

Aisha and Muhammadu Buhari

She speaks her mind openly and doesn’t seem apologetic about making her views known.

Aisha is also admired for her fashion sense and elegant dressing. She also has a presence on social media.

Recently, her husband won re-election for a second term in office as Nigeria’s democratically elected leader. His tenure will be concluded in 2023.

May God guide our leaders right!

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