Aisha: A First lady’s frustration
I don’t know if the Presidency and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, are nervous about First Lady, Aisha Buhari. And if they are wringing their palms in helplessness. But in their shoes I would, each time she dares out. Nothing captures the helplessness in the Presidency over Mrs Buhari’s unpredictability than this cartoon in The Punch newspaper of Thursday, December 6.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha’s husband, was busy at his desk when the newscaster began to read the news. He looked up, and it was the First Lady’s comments at a summit in Abuja on Tuesday, December 4, that was being read. On hearing what his wife said, Mr President threw his hands up in the air, helplessly, and exclaimed: “Aah! Who released her from the other room?” This is my cartoon of the year.
Our First Lady is ravishingly beautiful, educated, sophisticated, and brilliant. And she is, also, bold, full of spunk and fire. An unusual First Lady, in all my adult life, I have never come across one like her before.I first took note of Aisha’s blunt nature in 2014, or was it 2015? I forget now. But she had gone to Benin, Edo state, to campaign for her husband and the APC. And looking at the crowd, made up of, mostly, women in the eyes, she told them the evils of encouraging their daughters to travel to Italy for prostitution. A sensitive issue in Edo state, which no politician would be comfortable to talk about during campaigns, Aisha saw it differently. She was speaking the truth. A few days later, a group of Edo women, obviously sponsored, protested what they termed Mrs. Buhari’s insult. Advertised in various newspapers, she was given a deadline to apologise. No prize for guessing Mrs Buhari never did.
The second time was when former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, during one of her campaign outings, told Nigerians President Buhari would jail everybody if he won. Wasting no time, Aisha retorted: “Only the guilty should be afraid.” And, during the first victory party she hosted for APC women, she took a jab at the immediate past regime when she warned: “Don’t give anybody any money in order to see my husband and I. It may not be as fast as you would have wished, but keep trying. Eventually, you will get to see us.” Her comment was an indirect reference to unconfirmed reports that a number of people, during the past regimes, allegedly, made huge sums of money just by getting appointments for those who wished to see the First Family. And APC members cheered. Soon, those who cheered found out she had no borderline. It began gradually.
After waiting for the APC government to fulfill its campaign promise of giving stipends to the poorest of the poor, she warned of the dangers in reneging on it. That warning put the government on a high jump.
Since then, our First Lady has upped the ante. This, to the discomfort of the Presidency and the APC. Behind closed doors, the consensus among many APC members is: With Aisha, we don’t need an opposition party. But many Nigerians love her guts. They think she is the conscience of her husband’s government. She speaks truth to power. Read in-between the lines of what she says, and you will get the drift of what was, what is, and what will be.
It was Aisha who, during an interview she granted the BBC Hausa Service in October 2016, told Nigerians that her husband would go for a second term in office. Until, she blurted that out, everybody thought that Buhari, given his age, would do a Mandela. But angry that strangers, like vultures, had descended on her husband’s government, eating where they did not sow, she lashed out: “The President does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and, I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.
“Some people are sitting down in their own homes, folding their arms, only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.” Then, the bomb: “He is yet to tell me, but I have decided, as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again or ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”
Not a few people felt it was an indictment of her husband’s regime. A Fulani woman, the impression had always been that a number of them, married to high profile men, were not meant, or allowed to speak out in public.No wonder some Fulani women, crying more than the bereaved, protested Aisha’s outspokenness. They reminded her of her status as a Muslim, and a Fulani wife. Her husband, in Germany then, standing beside the most powerful woman in the world, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and, unprepared that a question on his wife’s comments would be thrown at him, committed a faux pax. Mr President: “I don’t know the political party my wife belongs to. But I know she belongs to the kitchen, the parlour and the other room.”
Several people thought that the public chiding by her husband would make her crawl back into her shell, a shell she had been in since her husband started vying for the top job – but for the 2015 election when she was allowed to crawl out. But no. I guess, having realised what good her presence on the campaign train did for him and the party, Buhari decided to let her be. Her presence shows his softer side. A combination of Aisha and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s wife, Dolapo, is one not many Nigerians could ignore. Both glow. But Aisha has since added activism to that glow.
In October 2017, she took on the management of the Aso Rock Clinic at a public function. With the Clinic’s Medical Director present, the First Lady called for a probe of its budget. She had gone to the Clinic for a simple procedure, and was shocked there were no equipments, and even no consumables. So, she publicly asked: “Where has all the money budgeted for this clinic gone to? We need explanations, we need answers.”
This First Lady has no no-go-areas. In the outcry that followed the APC primaries for the 2019 general elections, she lashed out at the party Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Aisha: “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. These forms were bought at exorbitant prices.
“Many others contested and yet had their result delayed, fully knowing that automatic tickets have been given to other people.“All Progressives Congress being a party which 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.”
To be continued tomorrow
Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source Magazine
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