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1 Oct 2017

INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL: First Ladies of style

Aisha Buhari

She is the wife of  President Muhammadu Buhari.

In her forties, Buhari’s style is modern and fresh.  Even though her mode of dressing is conservative and stays true to her religious beliefs,  she nonetheless  likes to keep up with the latest fashion.

People find her style attractive because she does a good mix of traditional and western fashion.  Without overstepping the bounds of acceptable dressing, she loves heavily embroidered fabrics, costly accessories that include diamonds and other precious metals. This way, she  leaves an indelible impression wherever she goes.

Patience Jonathan

One of Nigeria’s most popular former first ladies, Dame Patience Jonathan’s colourful style ensured that she did not evade notice.

According to a former beauty queen,  Omowunmi Akinnifesi,  Patience Jonathan’s native attire always ensured she looked different in a good way. She says,  ‘‘Because she used to wear a lot of traditional wear, she loved to wear gele on her head. I love the fact that she  often wore Niger Delta attire even when she travelled abroad on official trips. It was  interesting to see how much effort and time she put into looking  glamorous at all times.’’

Turai Yar’Adua

Hajia Turai Yar’ Adua is the widow of former president, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and served as the first lady of Nigeria from 2007 until her husband’s death in May 2010.

A mother of seven; five daughters and two sons, Yar’ Adua was simple, yet stylish while she was in office. She is often dressed in Ankara pieces, kaftans and turbans and scarves to cover her head as a devout Muslim. She wore dainty but expensive jewellery.

Stella Obasanjo

She was the wife of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo and was Nigeria’s first lady when he became the civilian president in 1999. Before her death on October, 23, 2005; a week to her 60th birthday, Obasanjo was regarded as a style icon as a result of her stylish ensembles while in office. Known for her love for sunshades which came in various hues, she wore a lot of statement pieces such as Ankara pieces, skirt suits and her traditional attire synonymous with the Edo people where she hailed from.

Justice Fati Abubakar

Often described as one of Nigeria’s unique first ladies, she is married to Major General Abdulsalami Abubakar(retd.) who was Nigeria’s military head-of-state from  June, 9, 1998, to May, 29 1999.  To many, Justice Fati Abubakar is simplicity personified and this is reflective in her sense of style. A lover of the traditional aso oke apparel, Abubakar has a unique way of tying her headgear to look like a turban and many fashion lovers have since emulated her in that wise. She is a lover of boubous and kaftans as well, Abubakar complements her clothes with minimal jewellery.

Margaret Shonekan

Chief Mrs. Margaret Shonekan is the wife of the Nigeria’s Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.  With looks that bellies her age, Shonekan is stylish and trendy in her own right. Whether she is wearing a corporate wear or opts for traditional attire, she is not found wanting in the style department. Her choice of jewellery also complements what she wear at every point in time, making her the cynosure of all eyes.

Maryam Abacha

Born on March, 4, 1945 in Kaduna, Maryam Abacha is the widow of former military ruler, Sani Abacha and she was able to bring a bit of glitz and glamour to the office of the first lady. She is usually garbed in native northern traditional wears which come in an array of wrappers, blouses and kaftans. While in office, Abacha was noted for her love for fine jewellery which she adorned with most of her clothes. Blessed with good looks, she was able to make fashion statements all the time.

Maryam Babangida

Unarguably one of Nigeria’s most stylish first ladies, Hajiya Mariam Babangida who was married to former military head of state, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida revolutionised the office of the first lady during her time. Describing her sense of style, notable fashion designer, Funmi Ajila-Ladipo said that  Mrs. Maryam Babangida, of blessed memory, was a pacesetter in all ramifications. ‘‘In the first place, she was a woman of style, one who had a very bold physique as well. Her stature was really elegant so whatsoever she put on often suit her perfectly and a lot of women looked up to her at that particular time and they were picking styles from her. They were just following the lead. She was not a complicated individual but she was very stylish nonetheless. She was elegant, stylish and expensive.’’  Ajila-Ladipo also told SUNDAY PUNCH that she used a lot of the traditional aso oke to create fantastic styles.  She recalled that she would employ the services of Mrs. Shade Thomas-Fahm who was the founder of FADAN who sewed a lot of clothes for Maryam Babangida back then, ‘‘ At that time, I was still living in London. So, you would find her wearing a lot of things made from aso oke. She used it for her headgear (gele), skirts and blouses and they came out brilliantly well. Maryam Babangida was really patriotic with her designs and style choices. Hence, she wore a lot of clothes made from our locally made fabrics and she was quite elegant as well. For her jewellery, Ajila-Ladipo said that it was always gold and they always matched her clothes.

Safinatu Buhari

She was the first wife of Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari and served as the country’s first lady while he was the military head of state. She wore traditional attire reflective of her geo-political zone. It was common place to find her adorn wrappers and blouses as well as headgear, in addition to the hugely popular Ankara fabric which was sewn into an array of styles. Not known for heavy jewellery, she kept her taste minimal, which endeared her to many. In 1988, Buhari and Safinatu divorced. She died on January 14, 2006, having battled diabetes mellitus for eight years at the age of 53.

Esther Oluremi Obasanjo

She is often credited as the first wife of Nigeria’s former military head of state, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. They got married on June 22, 1963, at Camberwell Green Registry, South East London when she was just 21. As first lady , Obasanjo’s sense of style was elegant in a subtle manner. She mixed and matched clothes plus accessories with precision. Her favourite mode of dressing was traditional wear  with simple jewelry.

Ajoke Muhammed

A dental therapist by profession, Ajoke Muhammed is  the widow of late General Murtala Muhammed.

With a penchant for flowing gowns popularly known as booboo, Muhammad complements this with stylish scarves and headgear. Being a devout Muslim, she does not expose her hair.

Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH, Lanre Da-Silva Ajayi  said, ‘‘When I think about it now, I’ve met her before and she is quite elegant. She is also very classy and stylish. One remarkable thing about Mrs. Muhammed which stands her out is her choice of fabrics which is very exquisite and unique and almost everybody would agree with that assertion.”

Victoria Gowon

She married ex-military ruler, Gen.Yakubu Gowon(retd.) in 1969. She is a trained nurse Her husband was the former head of state (Head of the Federal Military Government) of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975. As first lady, Victoria Gowon was very reserved and epitomised simplicity. This was often reflected in her choice of clothing- traditional attire such as wrappers which she paired with blouses. She also wore a lot of dresses.  She owned her style and stayed true to it hence earning the admiration of many.

Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi

In 1953, she married Nigeria’s  former military head of state, Lt.Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi . In a significant manner, Aguiyi-Ironsi brought  glitz and glamour to her office.  Her style was pretty and effortlessly regal. She favoured traditional wear and she had them in abundance. She had the quality of being fashionable even though she was more interested in comfort.

Flora Azikiwe

Her husband, who was usually referred to as Nnamdi Azikiwe or Zik, was one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism and  the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966.

 Her style was reflective of  her roots and  consisted of the eastern Nigeria attire- double wrapper and blouse. Occasionally, she wore western attire and loved to show off her kinky hair. Whenever she was not wearing a headscarf, she would opt for Afro, a reigning hairstyle in the 60s. During her time as First Lady, she was  not big on jewellery.

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