The popular Better Life Programme for Rural Women or BLP of late Maryam Babangida, wife of erstwhile Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), is being revived and expanded by her first daughter, Aisha.
The BLP was started in the late 80s by late Maryam Babangida after consultations with various stakeholders, including then Directorate for Food Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) and women organisations to alleviate the economic and social constraints affecting rural women.
Among key activities carried out earlier was a workshop on the role of rural women in development which was held in Abuja and led to the establishment of the BLP in 1987.
Aisha Babangida, at the event, said the BLP was being expanded to the Better Life Programme for African Rural Women (BLPARW) to realise the vision of her late mother of expanding the BLP beyond Nigeria to embrace Africa as ‘Mothers of the Nation’.
The event was attended by First Lady Hajiya Aisha Buhari and the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo.
There was a video conference of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) welcoming guests to the event and thanking the former First Ladies (FLs) and other guests for attending the occasion.
Aisha said the event was to honour the contributions of the FLs who, she said, were often underestimated and disregarded by society as mere accessories to their husbands.
She said, “In reality, FLs uphold a sense of national dignity and project warmth across all levels of society. Culturally and politically, wives of presidents must assume their role without a rule book. We will revisit key historical developments and see the growth of the nation through their eyes.”
Aisha also said the original mothers of the nation, were not merely accessories or luxuries on the arms of their husbands, but steadfast support systems that kept the leaders going not just emotionally but mentally.
The former first ladies at the event were Mrs. Uche Azikiwe, Mrs. Victoria Ironsi, Mrs. Victoria Gowon, Mrs. Ajoke Mohammed, Mrs. Turai Yar’Adua, Mrs. Fati Lami Abubakar and Mrs. Patience Jonathan, to give insight into their lives as first ladies as well as acknowledge their roles in national development.
However, Mrs. Margaret Shonekan and Mrs. Maryam Abacha were not in attendance due to what was said to be urgent family affairs.
The audience observed a minute’s silence for former first ladies who had passed on, including Hajiya Tafawa Balewa, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, Mrs. Flora Azikiwe, Hajiya Aisha Shagari, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari and Hajiya Maryam Ibrahim Babangida.
The event was also attended by Senator Daisy Danjuma, who was the chairlady of the occasion; Hajiya Jummai Sabo Sambo, sister to the late Mrs. Maryam Babangida; Alhaji Muhammad Babangida, Executive Director, EL-Amin International School, Minna and Alhaji Aminu Babangida, Chairman of Unity Bank among others.
The communique of the event observed that first ladies constitute a veritable positive force in the affairs of Nigeria and indeed African countries and that they are not mere appendages to their husbands.
It said the positive contributions of first ladies were not documented.
“Maryam positively changed the narrative. Kudos to President Ibrahim Babangida for creating the conducive atmosphere that enabled Maryam to achieve in the public space; the transmission of cultural/moral/societal values is in the hands of women.”