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Aisha Buhari: a new style of First Lady in Nigeria?

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Aisha Buhari

Aisha Buhari

“Few would have believed that the taciturn, austere General Buhari had a soft, smiling and sweet woman at home,” the Vanguard daily said after the former military ruler was elected Nigeria’s next president.

Aisha Buhari remained in the shadows for most of the election campaign but could now impose a very different style from the current First Lady at the presidential villa Aso Rock in Abuja.

Little is known for now about the First Lady elect other than a few details in the Nigerian media: she is 44, married her 72-year-old husband in 1989 after he divorced his first wife the previous year, and they have five children together.

“I met Aisha Buhari three times, and she seems to be a very humble person, very friendly and a good listener,” said lawyer Ebere Ifendu, head of the Women in Politics Forum group in Abuja.

The current First Lady, Patience Jonathan, wife of the outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, has a very different public profile.

She is well-known to journalists and mimicked by comedians for her boisterous public appearances as well as political and financial scandals.

“Patience has been like a bull in a china shop. No control whatsoever,” said Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, head of the Nigeria Network of NGOs.

“We are very hopeful that we will have a very different First Lady, who will bring calm and harmony at the presidency.”

– Calm and relief –

In the large house in a residential area of Abuja where her husband Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was watching election results come in, Aisha Buhari’s calm demeanour contrasted with the tumultuous scenes outside.

The official vote count was under way and the electoral commission was drip-feeding results for the presidential election state by state until Buhari took an unassailable lead.

The APC high command announced victory for their candidate and the news spread around the country, sparking scenes of jubilation, notably in the north’s biggest city, Kano.

Dressed in a cream-coloured tunic and an orange and pink embroidered headscarf, Aisha Buhari seemed calm and also relieved, despite the magnitude of what had just happened and what was to come.

“The long journey has come to an end,” she told AFP, referring to the election campaign.

But she admitted to “mixed feelings” about the campaign, a low-key reference to the low blows and personal attacks aimed at her husband from the ruling party.

Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused Buhari, a northern Muslim, of supporting radical Islam, of failing to secure his secondary school certificate and even having terminal cancer.

Aisha Buhari preferred instead to talk about the positive aspects of the rollercoaster ride that had led Nigeria to its first democratic transfer of power between parties at the ballot box.

Nigeria had nothing to fear from her husband, she said.

“I know him personally. Not as a leader of Nigeria. I know him as my husband and I think Nigeria should feel comfortable with him. He will get there,” she added.

– ‘Mama Peace’ –

Patience Jonathan for her part tended to add fuel to the flames during the campaign, going as far as urging PDP supporters to “stone” anyone shouting “change” — the APC campaign slogan.

The comments sparked outrage in the APC and led to a furious debate in the Nigerian media.

Patience Jonathan — who styled herself “Mama peace” — is used to media scandals.

Even before the election of her husband as head of state in 2011, she was suspected by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2006 of having laundered a vast sum of money.

In 2012, she became “permanent secretary” of the oil-producing southern state of Bayelsa, where Goodluck Jonathan is from and was a former governor.

The opposition heavily criticised the appointment, decrying “nepotism” and “favouritism”.

She also attracted the ire of civil society when in the aftermath of the mass kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April last year, one of the leaders of the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement was arrested after meeting the First Lady at the presidential villa.

“Maybe she misunderstood her role as the First Lady,” suggested Ifendu.

“There’s no official role for the First Lady in Nigeria. It’s not in the constitution,” added Ransome-Kuti.

Instead, it often depends on what weight the president gives it.

“What we are hoping for is more decorum from the office of the First Lady,” she said


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22 Comments
  • Keneri

    Don’t make that mistake!!!…There is no where in the world where the role of the First Lady is constitutionally defined yet, all over the world, there is office of the First Lady and First Lady is a world-wide title for wife of a President of any country.,

    • Jemima

      MAKE NO MISTAKE Keneri – NO MORE FIRST LADY IN NIGERIA. NEVER AGAIN!
      —————————————————————————————————————————————–
      There will be no more so called ‘First lady of Nigeria’ or ‘Office of the First Lady of Nigeria’ Never again. It is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated in this ‘New Nigeria’. This New Nigeria MUST adhere to the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution. Every wife to all Presidents of Nigeria will simply be Mrs. Their Husband, whatever his name will be. For now with regards to Mohammadu Buhari the president elect, when he assumes office his wife will simply remain what she has always been since their marriage which is MRS. AISHA MOHAMMADU BUHARI. Nothing more.
      Note that I have not referred to the fact that Mohammadu Buhari had promised during his campaign that he would ABOLISH the so called ‘Office of the First Lady’. That promise to me is irrelevant as the constitution already has rendered that office null and void. But then having said so Buhari should be very careful not to start his presidency on an embarrassing note of illegality which he will most certainly get if anyone tries to foist on Nigeria and Nigerians that so called ‘First ladyship’ of a thing which saw Patience Jonathan summoning elected governors, ministers and their wives at will and assuming all the powers that ordinarily should have resided with government appointees and elected officers..
      Please let all government officials, President and Governors keep their wives where they should be and that is at home and not carry them along into their offices under any pretexts including that of other countries making such provisions for the president’s wife. Nigeria is a sovereign country and we have our own national constitution. That is what we will be governed with and not that of America, Canada, Chad, South Africa or any other country, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th world. This is a New Nigeria. Let nobody forget.

      • wole9ja

        This is the legacy of Babangida administration , OBJ tried to scrap it but Stella and the sycophants prevailed on him, During GEJ’s time , because of his week control over his wife ,the office,backed by another set of sycophants in the mould of TAN became so ruthless ,to the extend of determining who gets what in the government and PDP, and eventually accounted for the remote cause of THE BREAK UP OF PDP and its dismal performance at the polls.

    • Bunduma Mohammed

      GMB did not do 1st lady when he was head of state and I dont expect him to do it now. First lady office is unconstitional and Buhari said he would abide by the constitution

    • Oyenmwen Omoregie

      My dear friend, it is not a Worldwide phenomenon but rather an African contraption and contrivance. It is a Brain work late Mariam Babangida and I respectfully ask that you do your fact finding on the subject. By the way, Michelle Obama is addressed as Mrs. Obama or simply wife of number 44th President.. Thank you though for sharing your concerns and opinions. Long Live Nigeria!!!

      • Keneri

        Mrs. Obama is often refers to as First Lady by CNN, FOX NEWS, BBC etc, please take time to watch and listen

  • Jemima

    NO MORE FIRST LADY IN NIGERIA.
    There will be no more so called ‘First lady of Nigeria’ or ‘Office of the First Lady of Nigeria’ Never again. It is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated in this ‘New Nigeria’. This New Nigeria MUST adhere to the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution. Every wife to all Presidents of Nigeria will simply be Mrs. Their Husband, whatever his name will be. For now with regards to Mohammadu Buhari the president elect, when he assumes office his wife will simply remain what she has always been since their marriage which is MRS. AISHA MOHAMMADU BUHARI. Nothing more.
    Note that I have not referred to the fact that Mohammadu Buhari had promised during his campaign that he would ABOLISH the so called ‘Office of the First Lady’. That promise to me is irrelevant as the constitution already has rendered that office null and void. But then having said so Buhari should be very careful not to start his presidency on an embarrassing note of illegality which he will most certainly get if anyone tries to foist on Nigeria and Nigerians that so called ‘First ladyship’ of a thing which saw Patience Jonathan summoning elected governors, ministers and their wives at will and assuming all the powers that ordinarily should have resided with government appointees and elected officers.
    Please let all government officials, President and Governors keep their wives where they should be and that is at home and not carry them along into their offices under any pretexts including that of other countries making such provisions for the president’s wife. Nigeria is a sovereign country and we have our own national constitution. That is what we will be governed with and not that of America, Canada, Chad, South Africa or any other country, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th world. This is a New Nigeria. Let nobody forget.

    • Bello Barriga

      Madam/sir, with due respect, the question to you and I will take the answer as it comes –
      Which planet did you drop from? “Don’t worry, be happy.”
      A true devotee of Islam do not parade their wives in the public. Aisha and Dame are like day and night – not the same.

      • Jemima

        Madam/sir, to your first question. I am from Neptune, just visiting Earth. Greetings from Neptune and all Neptuners where there are no ‘worries’ and ALL are happy.
        ——————————————————————————————————————————————-
        Madam/sir, thank you for you most enlightening reply which confirmed to me that,
        “A true devotee of Islam do not parade their wives in the public” (sic).
        And Madam/sir, that’s what I always believed (you see most of my best friends are ‘true devotees of Islam) until Buhari the sharia proponent ‘paraded’ his wife Aisha in see through blouses with skin shining through for all to see, face all dolled up with perfect make-up, strutting around in tight fitted wrappers, all bodily curves glaringly displayed with no shawl or hijab all around the Southern and Western part of Nigeria with men mentally undressing her with their screams and marvelling lustily at her ‘sexiness’. Scandalous I thought, utterly reprehensible for a ‘A true devotee of Islam’;
        BUT now good Madam/sir, I thank you for your most ‘enlightening’ reply which clearly explains to me that Buhari is contrary to his declarations, NOT ‘A true devotee of Islam’, but has rather been using that ‘confession’ to appeal to the Ummah for their votes. Using the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) to achieve his political ambition, more like. Big Shame.
        I now understand better Madam/sir, Buhari really had me fooled in 2011 and I gave him my vote but then I always was a sucker for ‘looks’ of piety. Now he has used Aisha his wife to garner the votes of those lecherous Sothern male infidels, may I ask what next? Whatever, BUT do advice Buhari, it better be back to the ‘purdah’ and no where near that unconstitutional office that has been conveniently labelled ‘The Office of the First Lady’, so called. If that is attempted, it shall be fiercely rejected. This is a new Nigeria and the Constitution MUST be upheld.
        And even though I am a Neptuner just visiting Nigeria, do know that I have been granted full citizen’s rights and even upon my return to Neptune, I shall be keeping a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery close eye on the happenings of the country I have chosen to ‘adopt’ and I will have a ‘say’. Oh yes Madam/sir, I WILL.

        • Bello Barriga

          Well, when you are back in Neptune – please, for the next four years – keep a “veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery close eye” on our First Lady, Aisha Mohammadu Buhari. Have a pleasant return back to Neptune.

          • Jemima

            ‘our First Lady, Aisha Mohammadu Buhari’?
            Wrong there! And that is how examinations are failed. Madam/sir, Mrs. Aisha Mohammadu Buhari is not ‘ours’, not mine, not yours either. The lady ‘belongs’ to her husband Mohammadu Buhari. Don’t go coveting another man’s wife. Get yours if you’ve got none or value yours if you’ve got one. However your wife may be (which I am sure perfect – all women are), that’s YOUR First lady right there in your matrimonial home. Don’t peep next door. Haram.
            No Madam/sir, Mrs. Aisha Mohammadu Buhari, General Mohammadu Buhari’s wife is not in my reckoning. Why would she be. I am no pervert. No, not at all. I am not a lesbian either, haram. No Madam/sir I do not keep any eye at all on other people’s wives or indeed husbands. But I do keep an eye on elected leaders who by virtue of their official appointment owe me what they swore to give me, quite simply put, GOOD GOVERNANCE based on the Constitution of my adopted country. This is what obtains in Neptune so I know it can be done. It will be done.
            And Madam/sir in addition to this I insist particularly on the fulfilment of ALL electoral promises, ALL OF THEM. And on that note I await most eagerly a confirmation from my Nigerian bank on the 30th of May that the Naira is one to the dollar. I INSIST and will keep ‘A VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERY CLOSE EYE’ on the promisor for that one.
            Thank you for your travel wishes. Greetings from Neptune. I had a pleasant flight back and arrived back here safely. Just settling in and sipping the fura da nono I brought from Daura with friends. They love it. Very refreshing. Now that’s one good thing about Nigeria. I await more, In shaa Allah.

          • Bello Barriga

            As the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti posited – “You miss road” A surface reading of your posting indicates your misunderstanding of the concept of the issue @ hand. However, I will leave you with this – “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone.” My regards to the Neptuans,

        • Ola Abiodun Falade

          ‘Lecherous Southern male infidels’, hmmmmmm….when I read posts such as this I shudder and cannot but wonder if we will truly get it as a nation. Your opinion is subject to various interpretations, the most obvious being your very strong view of Southern males, the ‘leeches’ and the ‘unbelievers’. You may be educated, but am not too sure if you are schooled. Am a Southern male, live and work virtually all my life in the North and I have met some of the finest men on earth from this part of the divide and am appalled at the depth of your feeling and insensitivity on such matter particularly at this point in time. Am neither ‘lecherous’ nor an ‘infidel’ and most importantly, GMB’s beautiful beau was the least factor in my desire for change. And this probably goes for most ‘Southern’ males. Note also, that the practices of religions and cultural observances are dynamic and subject to change. It would therefore be completely untrue to state that the only way one could remain a ‘true devotee of Islam’ is an adherence to the blind interpretation of the dictates of the Holy Quaran. Please let eschew all differences be they religious, cultural or tribal in order to forge ahead as a nation. God bless Nigeria.

  • Bunduma Mohammed

    Buhari should close the unconstitutional office of 1st lady please.

  • Kalu Henry Orji

    If the office of the first lady. will still exist,then the office of the minister for women affairs should be scrapped.Cut down the cost of governance to the barest minimum.

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  • Asuquo Bassey

    Office of the First Lady are for the wives of President and governors, this office render help to women and children, project and promote the interest of women in Nigeria and the world. Its will be sad to close such office(s), thereby delegating our women to the background. May God help us and bless Nigeria.

    • Oyenmwen Omoregie

      My brother I assume, past governments have committed an unpardonable sin of appropriating our National resources to that office in the past. That we will forgive in the interest of National Reconciliation and move
      on. Henceforth it will not be tolerated. For the avoidance of doubt, we have the Ministry of Woman Affairs, we have also National Council Of Women’s Societies Nigeria (NCWS) and host of other Professional Women Associations. In fact there is Association of Nigerian Market Women and so many others. It will amount to duplication of duties and responsibilities and consequently personality wars. Let the wife of the President be and as she rightly put it in one of her Pre-Election interviews, she has not seen the effects of the office and that “First Ladies” Pet Projects usually dominate the projects and ideas of the regular woman on the street. So, we have had flagrant disrespect for
      our constitution for years and that needs to stop now. Thank you though for sharing your concerns and opinions.

      Long Live Nigeria!!!

  • kehinde Jimoh

    No ofis of 1st lady in d constitution, it’s a waste of money and time, let her stay at home or with her own job, she can help d husband on social functions. We don’t want assistant, deputy ministers, senior special advisers, all these wl waste our resources.

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  • Okwute

    There is in fact a first lady even though there is no office of the first lady. The first lady may have a few personal assistants paid by government. She needs their services and those of the protocol office to function in a proper manner.

  • gongola

    Chaaaaaaiiiii Guardian….. how una tkae know say BABA wife sweet……… OYO