It is no more news that Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has returned to the presidential palace, the Aso Rock. Reasons for her two months stay in London may have been shrouded in absolute secrecy, although she has said it was both for her holiday with her children and for medical examination. Her trip away from home could have been a relief to some managers of human resources stationed in the White House. But, both the Aso Villa and the Nigerian Nation can now regain their consciousness in anything and everything they hope to do. This, of course, is not contesting the fact that over time, the First Lady has made herself the conscience of the nation, criticising the husband, what she calls the ‘cabal’ that rules Nigeria, as well as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
There was an overbearing silence in the Aso Rock. The only loud sound Nigerians could hear was that the president was working round the clock. He kept travelling to every part of the world, engaging world leaders and other international bodies on bilateral negotiations. Although not without frequent jabs from regular commentators who must make ‘meaning’ or ‘nonsense’ from every of his steps, President Buhari flew to Japan, Tokyo, and lastly South Africa. Everywhere he went, Buhari was doing good, at least in the eyes of the few, and perhaps not so good in the eyes of many. Still, we heard him loud and clear, while presenting the 2020 Budget last week, that he “lost his voice because of working hard”.
It can be said that Buhari’s wife has lived up to expectations in terms of showing humane attitude towards known cases of injustice. She’s been a sharp eye watching every development in the country and has been consistent in bearing her mind. Each person who follows political twists wiggling within the last few years will understand the place of Aisha Buhari in the polity. Although her opinion may not be considered in action implementation, she certainly controls a cloud of very watchful Nigerians who look up to her for the rescue of Nigeria.
It was in October 2016 that the woman left her shell. She broke the ice and told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC that a cabal was caging her husband. In that controversial interview, Aisha, like a typical African woman who breaks the stereotype stigma of social suppression, told the world that the country was being controlled by four of the president’s aides, some of whom were his relatives. It was however upon such an explosive atmosphere that the president laid bare the concept of ‘the kitchen and the other room’. Buhari may have attempted to silence the still voice of his wife, trying to make common sense to the delight of millions of interested Nigerians. Buhari had refused his wife the office of the First Lady which could have provided her the platform to contribute to governance. Of course, that may not have been the solid foundation prompting the unusual outing. He seemed to have lost grip of his wife from that moment as she did not mind, speaking her mind, provided it was a shared opinion of a reasonable Nigerian population.
The Punch Newspaper later identified the cabals as the President’s nephew, Mamman Daura; the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs, Sarki Aba; Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari; and Personal Assistant to the President; Tunde Sabiu. The situation got worst when Buhari became sick and was being treated in London. Aisha again bursted, accusing the four of colonizing the president, without allowing people access to him. It was detailed that anyone who wanted to telephone or see the president in London must get the approval of one or more of the four aides. The only two individuals who were exempted from seeking permission to visit Buhari or call him were Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
And so the Nigerian First Lady found her solid feet. Informed Nigerians had since been waiting for anytime she would have a word or two on public issue. Such have since been a cause for celebration. Even the opposition parties see Aisha Buhari as an activist whose voice counts in the struggle for a better Nigeria. Even when the APC was having its primaries in October 2018, Aisha Buhari was making her constant inputs. She condemned the level of ‘impunity’ introduced into the party’s primaries all over the country. She even slammed the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over what she described as “unfairness” in the conduct of the ruling party’s primary elections.
On a Sunday morning, she wrote on her Twitter account, wondering why Mr Oshiomhole should allow “impunity” to thrive under his chairmanship. Mrs Buhari dissociated herself from the party’s activities, saying the party’s chairman was betraying the “voiceless” whom he should be speaking for. “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices,” she said.
“All Progressives Congress being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under its watch. Given this development one will not hesitate to DISSOCIATE from such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless. It is important for the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities such as: potable drinking water, basic health care (Primary Health Care centers) and education within conducive & appropriate learning environments,” she added.
Although unconfirmed reports flew in the media that Mrs Buhari, after series of critical views against the ruling party, was allegedly banned from attending campaign rallies, she kept a straight face asking Nigerian woman to vote for her husband. Even in hard times, the First Lady is seen as a symbol of freedom and particularly as the voice of the voiceless. Eventually, fortune smiled on the man who was called the Jubril from Sudan and Nigeria reunited as he changed the gear to reinvent purposeful leadership that should bring about the economic prosperity of the country.
It seemed that all was in the past and that Nigeria was not going to have her First Lady to herself. Of course, her absence was not properly noticed until an online report broke the news of false marriage preparation between President Buhari and the Humanitarian Minister, Sadiya Farouk. The story had it that, following the insistence by the Duara family of Katsina State, to marry for the president, another wife, the First Lady had since left the husband in protest, a reason why she has been away. The marriage gist spread so wide, especially by last Friday when the ceremony was fictitiously slated. Nigerian graphics artists took a time out to design FAKE PHOTOS of Mr Buhari, getting prepared to match with his bestman and former President Goodluck Jonathan to the Central Mosque for the event. To make matters worst, Jonathan had actually been to Aso Rock on Thursday for a private meeting with Buhari. The story blew Nigerians away. Although the supposed bride was abroad on official assignments, pictures and videos of her happy moment were being widely circulated.
What else could bring Aisha Buhari back from London, if not to come and see for herself, if her loving husband was actually taking a second wife? She left London on Friday night, landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Saturday, where she was received by wifes of present and former Nigerian governors. Although the rumour was dispel by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Mrs Buhari could have as well mistaken that for fake news. She told reporters that fake news will destroy Nigeria if not properly checked.
”The genesis of this fake news started when my husband fell sick and perpetrators of this act were showing fake Ambulance, Hospital and dead body suggesting that my husband is dead. That time, I received so many calls from other first ladies and presidents of other countries to confirm; so I called the attention of NCC, NBC and the National Orientation Agency. Fake news will lead this country to something else, if actions are not taken with immediate effect”, she said.
The Nigerian First Lady is known to be kind hearted. She is quite outspoken, especially in matters of abnormalities. Her voice was even heard while the Senate President, Armed Lawan appointed a known critic of APC as his Media Aide. She rose to the occasion, condemning the development. She believes that those who sacrifice their time, resources and are patriotic to the party must be rewarded. The recent sex-for-grade BBC documentary did not escape her interest. Mrs Buhari who advised victims of such injustice to always speak out, as there are appropriate laws to address the practice, pledged to use her office to fight for the eradication of sexual abuse against women.
Ultimately, the presence of the First Lady in the Villa signals a partial end to all indecorous activities. Her appearance reminds that humanity must consider proportional interests among persons before any action. She is a symbol of human conscience. While other first ladies may be comfortable with politics, Mrs Buhari would wish to really be in the kitchen and the other room. But as far as she is concerned, justice, fairness and equity has to thrive in her home, which by extension is the Nigerian federation. Aside the fact that her high test for fashion may have dragged from her some funds to address the needs of the underprivileged, Aisha Buhari has natural moral rectitude. Nigerians should therefore expect her serial explosion, especially when things go the crooked way.
Joseph Atainyang is an Uyo-based journalist and public affairs commentator. Gsm: 07036964637