Nigeria At 60: Meet Nigeria’s First Ladies Since 1960 And Their Unique Styles
60 years ago, Nigeria’s flag of independence was flown, to the joy of a people united by the fresh air of freedom. The nation obtained her freedom from the colonial British rule in 1960. Since then, Nigeria has been governed by different heads of state and democratic presidents.
As these men take the wheels of power, their wives, who are called First Ladies, are accorded the same high respect given on their husbands.
For the past 60 years since Independence, these stylish and glamourous First Ladies have become fashion icons with their impeccable dress sense and fashion style. Some of these women take extra care with their fashion style to ensure they were never forgotten.
From the very First lady, the wife of Zik, Flora Azikiwe to the present one, Aisha Buhari, Nigeria is indeed blessed with beautiful, strong women supporting their husbands throughout their administration.
As we celebrate the diamond jubilee of the existence of this entity called Nigeria, here are Nigeria’s First Ladies since Independence who became trend setters with their style statements as they moved across the country and abroad to support their husbands’ leadership.
Flora Ogbenyeanu Azikiwe
Flora Azikiwe was the wife of the first indigenous president of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who led the country from October 1, 1960 – January 15, 1966.
Flora was very useful to Zik as a support throughout his tenure and was known to be stylish while following him around the country during election campaigns.
Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi
The first Nigeria military Head of State was General J.T. U Aguiyi Ironsi. He ruled the country for only six months from January 15 to July 29, 1966.
While in office, he was ably supported by his wife, Victoria who always dressed elegantly.
In Wole Soyinka’s book, ‘The Man Died’, she was criticized for going to the hairdressers’ salon in a military convoy; and her hairstyle was quite popular in those days!
She became the First Lady after her husband; Yakubu Gowon became Head of State. Victoria Gowon was one stylish woman! She was a trend setter on those days.
In one of the state house pictures, Mrs. Gowon stunned in the ‘Oleku’ style which became a huge fashion style for women back in the 70s when she was first lady and this trend has been revamped and seen on fashionable ladies even in today’s fashion.
Ajoke Mohammed is the third First Lady of Nigeria as her husband; General Murtala Mohammed was the third Military Head of State between July 29, 1975 and February 13, 1976.
Late Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s wife, Hafsat Ajoke Muhammed, is a Yoruba lady. They met in 1961 while she was studying at the School of Dental Hygiene in Lagos.
Not much is known about this lady or her style. She was a quiet lady who was rarely seen during her husband’s regime before he was brutally murdered.
No First Lady for Shehu Shagari
Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the first executive President of Nigeria. He was a civilian president between October 1, 1979 and December 3, 1983. During his tenure as president, he did not present any lady as his First Lady while in office.
One of the greatest First Ladies Nigeria ever had is Late Maryam Babangida. She literarily and single-handedly changed the way the office of the First Lady was looked at in this country. Aside introducing ‘pet project’ with her Better Life for Rurual Women to the office of the First Lady, Maryam was famous for her style and poise.
Just like late Princess Dianna during her reign, late Mrs. Babangida was a trendsetter in the early 90s. Mariam was known as a fashionista. She kept setting trends in fashion that was copied by women across the country.
Take for instance, despite the late Princess’ iconic styles, in a photo they took together when the Princess visited the country in March, 1990, Maryam Babangida still managed to own that photo with her style and beautiful smile.
Back in the days, making Ankara trendy are some of the fashion trends credited to this woman. She loved wearing court shoes with Iro and Buba. Maryam Babaginda became a celebrity and ‘an icon of beauty, fashion and style’, a position she retained even after her husband’s fall from power. Maryam died aged 61 from ovarian cancer on 27 December 2009 in a Los Angeles, California hospital.
The provisional Head of State was Chef Ernest Shoneken from 26 August to 17 November 1993. It was with Margaret Shoneken ‘s support that he ruled the country and their reign was quite short so we didn’t get to see much of her style.
Her husband,late General Sani Abacha, seized power from Shonekan in 1993 and remained there till he died in 1998. Maryam’s pet project was the Family Support Programme.
She had a simple style that is typical of Hausa women but still very classy as she knows how to combine colours that bring out her fair complexion and beautiful face.
Maryam and her husband had ten children: three daughters and seven sons. She supports her husband in everything and even in conflict time, Maryam was always with him! She is indeed a strong-willed woman.
Her husband, General Abdusalam Abubakar came to power after the death of Abacha in 1998.
She’s a justice of the High Court. Fati, although a First Lady, still went about her duties as a Judge and did not have time for a pet project, so her fashion styles were rarely seen.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had the opportunity of ruling Nigeria a second time but this time as a civilian president. During his civilian rule, he had late Stella Obasanjo as First Lady.
Known for her petite figure and signature Afro hairdo, the beautiful First Lady did not only look effortlessly gorgeous in anything she wore, she also made her style quite influential. Even though it’s more than a decade since she passed on, we will always remember her for her impeccable makeup looks, fashion style and bold accessories.
Her pet project was Child Care Trust. Stella died in 2005, while undergoing elective liposuction in an exclusive clinic in Spain.
She is the wife of late Alhaji Musa Yar’adua. She served as the First Lady of Kebbi State when her husband was the governor. Yar’adua became Nigerian president on May 29, 2007 but his tenure was cut short when he died in office on May 5, 2010.
Hajia Turai was known as a strong woman that held on to power when her husband became ill. Though her fashion style is usually understated, she still looked good in her cultural attire whenever she’s seen in public.
Patience Jonathan, popularly called Mama Peace is one first lady Nigerians will not easily forget. She is a woman who exudes uncommon confidence both in speech and clothing.
The former First Lady is a colourful woman; she loves to dress flamboyantly in different traditional outfits mixed with bold accessories. She loves rocking her stunner shades of different sizes and shapes.
She wears bold makeup looks and ‘gele’ and knows how to flaunt her jewellery with no apology. Mrs. Jonathan definitely had her style and owned it while she was the First Lady.
The current First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari is stylish, beautiful and elegant. As the First Lady, she has proved she has beauty and brains.
Although Madam Buhari tries rather unsuccessfully to show a subtle fashionable life, still, she tantalizes us with her elegant pieces and expensive wardrobe.
For instance, Aisha Buhari rocked $2,145 Oscar De LaRenta cape dress to Democracy Day gala night in 2019.
Being a beautician by profession, Aisha knows her way around fashion. From her collection of designer wrist watches to designer pieces, she always manages to look sophisticated.
Aisha Buhari was once spotted with a designer Hermes Birkin 35cm Porosus Crocodile bag worth about N34m and it got many people talking.
Aisha always looks impeccable yet demure; she has perfected the act of understated elegance, which might have been influenced by her cultural background. She’s always seen in the Hijab style of dressing predominant in the northern part of Nigeria. As a beautician, she definitely knows how to maintain a glowing skin and flawless makeup looks.
Indeed Nigeria has been blessed with Stylish First Ladies! What do you think about their fashion style?