Viewpoint: She who must be obeyed?
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Ghanaian writer and politician Elizabeth Ohene considers the power behind strongmen.
Of course, like the rest of the world, I have been completely hooked on Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution.
Unfortunately some of it sounds like deja-vu.
Every revolution, every hated dictator, indeed, it seems every leader must have its femme fatale, the Lady Macbeth figure who is held responsible for the problems of the regime.
Leila Trabelsi fits the role of the villain of the piece as perfectly as her designer clothes fit her”
It is a phenomenon that goes all the way back, French Queen Marie Antoinette with her admonition to those without bread to eat cake comes to mind.
Who can forget Imelda Marcos of the Philippines with her shoes?
Then there was Elena Ceausescu of Romania who pretended to be a scientist and that offended people more than the dreaded Securitate.
And now we have Leila Trabelsi, wife of Tunisia's deposed leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
It is rumoured she of the dramatic designer sunglasses made sure the Ben Ali family left town well provided with an estimated 45m euros (£38m, $60m) worth of gold bars taken from the central Bank of Tunisia. The bank has denied these reports.
She fits the role of the villain of the piece as perfectly as her designer clothes fit her.
I wonder why we always seem to need to find a powerful woman behind every strongman.The real radical?
Remember General Sani Abacha, the late unlamented Nigerian military dictator?
To hear some of the commentators, it seemed this powerful soldier could not make any of his proverbial calls to the governor of the Central Bank to ask for millions to be transferred into his account by himself.
He had to be prodded by his wife, Maryam Abacha.
At the height of his powers, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings of Ghana couldn't fire a mere minister unless it was at the instigation of his wife, or so we were told.
Until the arrival this past week of Leila Trabelsi at the top of The Women Behind the Dictator Chart, the spot had been occupied for years by Grace Mugabe”
The gossip was that many ministers and officials were so worried about offending "Madam" that they would go to extraordinary lengths to please her, even at the risk of upsetting the president himself.
As the Ivorian crisis has escalated, we keep hearing that the problem does not lie with Laurent Gbagbo but with his wife, Madame Simone Gbagbo.
She it is, we are told, who will not allow her husband to compromise.
She is the real radical, she has sworn she will be the last one standing if need be, she has told her husband that under no circumstance should he bow to pressure and step down.
Apparently she is the real ideologue and in caricatures carried in the local press, her husband is shown in absolute fear of her.
Well, that is what those in the know would have us believe.Well covered
Until the arrival this past week of Leila Trabelsi at the top of The Women Behind the Dictator Chart, the spot had been occupied for years by Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's wife.
This man with such intimidating intellect, who has been known to reduce his opponents to silence in arguments, is apparently under his wife's spell to such an extent that he would do anything she asks him to do.
Collapse the economy, introduce a 10bn Zimbabwean dollar note into circulation, seize commercial farms, empty supermarket shelves, make a strong uncompromising speech in parliament - all orchestrated by Grace Mugabe?
I wonder if it is possible for a man to become autocratic without a strong woman by his side?
As Mr Ben Ali contemplates life suddenly stripped of all his presidential trappings and in Saudi Arabia of all places, doubtless, he will come into his own and offer Tunisians some defence of his actions.
His wife is not likely to have the kind of influence she had in Tunisia, not in Saudi Arabia; she will be well covered there.