Wednesday, December 8, 2021


One noticeable imprint of military regimes in Nigeria is the amplification of the office of the wives of the President and State Governors as First ladies.

Although there had been attempts to attach the desired glamour to these positions by some successive regimes the nation have had, the administration of General Ibrahim Babamosi Babangida attracted significant glitz to the office occupied by his late wife, the flamboyant Dr Mrs Maryman Babangida.

The Asaba-born First lady, attracted huge public attention to the position, making it to be an envy to many. Naturally, this attraction led to intense resentments from cynics in some quarters who often questioned the constitutionality of the office. But whatever side of the divide one chooses to be on the matter, the proponents of the Better Life for Women programme, which was the brainchild of Dr Mrs Babangida believed stridently that the programme blew the lid off long years of gender discrimination against the womenfolk in the country. 

The programme was effectively used as the potent ammunition to fight the perceived hydra-headed challenges facing the women and children, among them: poverty, maternal health and discrimination against the girl child. It was also a potent voice for social advocacy across all strata of the country and beyond.

At the international scene, the 1995 Beijing Conference, which was the fourth world conference on “Women Action for Equality, Development and Peace” held in China gave birth to the most comprehensive global gender equality, known as the Beijing platform for action. 

Maryam, the Nigerian First Lady, did not only lead Nigerian women in their number and across strata to the confab, but also saw to it that the action plan served as the trajectory for the Better Life for Women programme.

There was no doubt that ensuring the permeation of the programme to the grassroots required the support of wives of State Governors, who were the Coordinators as First Ladies in their respective States. In Ogun State, it was not just a coincidence that the Better Life programme was berthed under the regime of then Navy Captain Oladeinde Joseph, with his wife, Mojirade as the First Lady, but that the lot of propelling it forward soon fell on the laps of the elegant and clairvoyant Chief Mrs Aderinsola Osoba, wife of Chief Olusegun Osoba, an acclaimed Journalist and indefatigable administrator. 

A graduate of English and holder of Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Lagos, Chief Derin Osoba deployed her rich skills as a frontline educationist and teacher to steer the rudder of the Better Life programme in the State, by so doing she ostensibly increased the reach of her husband’s regime for the betterment of the people of the state.  

Being an indigene of Ogun State, Ijebu-Igbo to be precise, gave her the edge to know first-hand the feelings of infirmities of the main targets of the Better Life programme, and to effectively minister to them. Aside from batching the women into groups across all the local government areas under zonal coordinators, the programme gave significant fillip to the budding entrepreneurial spirit of the womenfolk, with belief that when the women are positively engaged, the society was on the part of stability. While crèches were built in some selected schools to take care of toddlers, the Better Life programme often responded to the unfolding health challenges faced by women and children as they partnered with relevant agencies in the state and nationally to combat them.

 It was a routine personally supervised by Mrs Osoba to take immunization to schools across the nook and crannies of the State. Women cooperative groups across the State also had a succor window through the Better Life programme under the indefatigable Chief Mrs Osoba. Vestiges of women’s entrepreneurial projects initiated under Mrs Osoba are visible till date in such places such as Apoje oil palm sites; the Garri processing factory in Ilaro, Adire and batik making sites in Itoku, Abeokuta, among numerous others.
Although the regime of Chief Osoba was rudely interrupted by the military after spending a year in office in 1999, Mrs Osoba, an admirable silent prop of the Governor continued to support the needy through her personal pet project for about eight years before the military interregnum ended and Chief Osoba was re-elected as Governor. 

Though now under the Family Support Programme, which was a replacement for the Better Life programme, Mrs Osoba continued with unabated zeal and passion as First Lady to see women empowered in all dimensions in the State.

Personally, this writer’s work experience with Mrs. Osoba as her Press Secretary was quite enriching. She never suffered fools gladly and could not bat an eye seeing anyone cheated. She was firm, diligent and carried herself with admirable finesse and panache that matched her status as First Lady and wife of a Governor. She had and still has low condonation for mischief and backbiting. All these traits she has brought to bear on her personal business and life as a longstanding frontline school owner and successful proprietress. 

Mrs Osoba has no doubt remained a strong pillar and the unsung hero behind the unimpeachable high profile of her husband and admirable consort, Aremo Olusegun Osoba as an iconic politician, nationalist, indefatigable statesman.

As Mrs Osoba gloriously joins the prestigious league of the septuagenarians, I use this medium to join multitudes of family members, admirers and well-wishers to felicitate and wish this heroin happy landmark birthday, with a deep intercession to the Creator to grant her more grace of good health to be of undiminishing relevance to humanity.

Tope Adaramola is a PR practitioner

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