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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Nigerian state's first lady woes
President Obasanjo and wife Stella
Stella Obasanjo was not the first wife but was official first lady
A new Nigerian state governor has sought to play down reports that he faces domestic strife over not naming any of his wives as "First Lady".

Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako has four wives, all rivals for the title - and the accompanying perks.

The row has spilled into the public domain, with newspapers across Nigeria seizing on the issue as an example of profligacy the president needs to curb.

Ten polygamous governors in the mainly Muslim north have the same problem.

First ladies in the past have drawn criticism - but no sanction - for squandering money on their personal offices, assistants, bodyguards, cars and foreign trips.

At one point under former President Olusegun Obasanjo there were 800 first ladies across Nigeria.

President Umaru Yar'Adua's wife has adopted a number of good causes including immunisation and HIV-Aids, and many other political wives take their lead from her.

Political profligacy

At a news confernce, Governor Nyako said that as a Muslim "all my wives have equal status".

"So far, I have not declared any one of them to be first lady," Mr Nyako is quoted as saying in several national newspapers.

But he denied allegations that he had used state funds to buy cars for his wives or renovate their houses.

"We are not riding in public vehicles. We live in the same house. We have not changed the furniture," he said.

The row comes at a time when another scandal, involving the speaker of the House of Representatives, has turned the public mood strongly against profligate spending by government officials.

Nigerians are losing patience with politicians' high-spending

The speaker is under investigation by fellow members of the House over allegations that she spent $5m (2.5m) in public money on renovating two official residences that were almost new, and on buying 12 official cars.

A commentator in a popular Nigerian newspaper said there was a penchant for creating all sorts of positions for political hangers-on and family members which contributed to politicians failing to live up to expectations.

"Our brand of first ladyship does not appear to add any known value to the Office of the President or governor other than being a smart way of siphoning public money to private NGOs, spearheaded by the first ladies... which mainly benefit rich urban women who are well connected to those same first ladies," said Kunle Akogun in 'This Day'.


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