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Aisha Buhari: The woman who may tip the scale

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[FILES] Aisha Buhari. PHOTO: HAYE OKOH

She is not your usual First Lady that is only draped in ceremonial attires to attend official engagements and represent her husband at important social functions. Nay.

Right from the moment that her husband assumed office, this very confident and vociferous wife of the President has given a different definition to the meaning of the Office of the First Lady, as she has risen up to the task on several occasions, to voice her candid opinion and register her dissatisfaction about the state of affairs in the country.

She has always risen up in defense of the truth in a very decorous manner

Whether granting interviews on radio, speaking at public functions, or posting her regular tweets on social media, like an activist seeking a change in the status quo, Aishat Buhari has never failed to point accusing fingers at those she felt are cogs in the wheel of progress of her husband’s efforts at fulfilling his electoral promises to Nigerians.

She has always fingered a few among the President’s men who have been working at cross-purposes with his dreams at evolving a better Nigeria.

The strength of her courage manifested vividly last week when she revealed that “two men” in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration were obstructing the country’s progress as envisioned by the APC-led government.

She regretted that but for the duo the federal government would have achieved more. The men, according to her, would never allow things to move fast.

She made the revelation at the National Women Leadership Summit organised by a group, Project 4+4, which is seeking support for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2019.

The event was held on Tuesday at the National Women Development Centre, Abuja.

The president’s wife, who did not disclose the names of the men, said she was dismayed at the disposition of some Nigerians who, rather than fight the two, crawl to them at night to curry favour.

In an emotionally laden voice, Mrs. Buhari added: “I have realised that Senator Babafemi Ojudu, SA Political to the President, and Dr. Hajo Sani, my aide Sajo, and Wife of the Vice President Mrs. Osinbajo, are not comfortable with my saying this and want me to confine myself to my prepared speech but we must say the truth.”

She urged women to vote massively and return the APC to power and encouraged them to spread the news of accomplishments by the government.

She also called for a minute’s silence in honour of soldiers that died fighting the insurgency. She commended the political group for organising the summit and setting the tone for other Buhari support groups.

With the December 4, 2018 revelation, Aisha appeared to have changed her mind not to campaign for her husband’s re-election in 2019.

Aisha is one of the most beautiful wives of presidents in Africa. Her beauty is illuminating. But she is not all beauty, no brain. She is an educated woman in her own right.

She holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies, plus a couple of Post-Graduate Diplomas in Cosmetology. She equally has a book on beauty therapy, a passion that is now a profession.
 
Beyond the brain and beauty is her polite and genteel nature that has drawn her to many. She has a provocative politeness that fittingly says much about the educated Fulani woman.

Many will not forget the “other room” metaphor. She has not come out to contest the statement nor query her husband. That’s Aisha Buhari for you.

Neither has the “epitaph” curtailed her regular and consistent intervention on national issues, particularly with regard to party politics and governance.

So far, courage and boldness have defined her personality. She speaks truth to power; not minding whose ox is gored. She has consistently played the role of “checks and balance” within the political configuration of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

On April 14, 2017, the social media was awash by the statement credited to her threatening not to support her husband due to what she described as a “sense of justice.”

When asked the reason behind her outburst during an interview session with the BBC journalist, Aisha had said she did not mean to disrespect anybody but was only saying the truth expected of her. She also added that her criticism was because she was seeing the mandate given to her husband being abused by those beside him.

The biggest shock came when she expressed that she might not support the re-election of her husband come 2019. She said: “He is yet to tell me- if he’ll seek re-election-but I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”

When asked why she criticised the APC government, she further added: “I need to state that my position was a result of my sense of justice and not confrontation or disrespect. I was brought up to stand by the truth and this is how I have always been.

“As we are all aware, Nigerians elected this administration based on the trust and confidence they have on my husband. I, therefore, feel that we are here to serve Nigeria to the best of our ability. Let me use this opportunity to state that I support my husband in this call to service and will continue to do so.”

But her outburst has a long history with this administration. Right from its threshold, Aisha has distinguished herself as the “fearless fighter” ensuring that the APC-led Federal Government delivers its campaign promises to the people.

She was first to criticize the party over the allegation of reneging its campaign promises.

Precisely, it was in November 2015 when some officials of the party and the government began to sing different tunes as regards the campaign promise of paying monthly stipend of N5000 to 25 millions poor Nigerians.

Aishat directed her media office to issue a public statement calling on the APC not to renege on its promises to the people.

Eventually, the Federal Government created the Social Intervention Fund and put Mrs. Maryam Uwais, one of Buhari’s Special Advisers, in charge of the Funds while voting N500 billion in the 2016 budget for the programme.

Her intervention seemed to have paid off as hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have, so far, benefitted from TraderMoni, a micro-credit scheme which is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) designed to assist petty traders across the country expand their trade through the provision of collateral-and interest-free loans from N10,000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months.

The scheme, which opposition has tagged ‘sophisticated vote-buying’, has been launched in 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with over 809,000 Nigerians as beneficiaries. The target, by the end of 2018, is to reach 2 million Nigerians.

The alleged irregularities in the APC primaries conducted by the Adams Oshiomole-led National Working Committee also did not escape the criticism of the First Lady.

She said: “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.

“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 his watch.

“Given this development one will not hesitate than 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.”

The conversation that later produced the “other room” metaphor was rather provocative. She had, in October 2016, told the BBC in an interview, that her husband was being held hostage by a cabal. “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 homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position,” she had said.

The President reacted to his wife’s BCC interview with a remarkable sound bite that immediately went viral on the social media: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

During the medical vacation of the President that lasted for several months in London, Mrs. Buhari had battles with the so-called “cabal.”

Announcing the imminent return of her husband on July 7, 2017, she took to twitter thus: “Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispers; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not. Now the Lion king is asleep and no other dare to confirm if he will wake up or not. It’s the wish of the hyenas that the Lion King never wakes or come back so that they can be kings. It’s the prayers of the weaker animals that the Lion King comes back to save the kingdom from the hyenas, the wolves, and other predators.”

Also, Mrs. Buhari, on Monday, October 9, 2017, condemned the management of Aso Rock clinic, adding that the health center didn’t have the facilities to treat patients. According to her, she had to visit a private clinic after she found out the Aso Rock clinic’s X-Ray machine was not working.

She has been consistent in warning politicians against politicising the issue of women empowerment.

During the first national workshop organised by the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) on economic diversification programmes of government, she said since women are talking about agricultural empowerment, those in power should be delighted by their suggestions. The workshop held in Akure, Ondo State capital, had as theme: “Nigeria Women in Agriculture Development, Participation and Empowerment in a Practicing Democracy”

Also, she champions the campaign for active participation of women in politics. At the opening of a two-day Nigeria Women Political Stakeholders Summit in Abuja on October 25, 2017, Mrs Buhari said: “Since 1999 there has been an alarming decline in the statistics of women in governance, something has gone terribly wrong, and we women need to speak out and do something about it. We make up 50 per cent of this country’s population and we cannot continue to be sidelined in the decision- making process of this country”.

The theme of the summit was: “Increasing the Participation of Women in Governance process in Nigeria.”

Her intervention is not limited to politics as she has remained loud and clear advocating better focus on health and children issues, especially, the increased adolescent health information for AIDS control.

Lamenting the high number of HIV patients in Nigeria and other African countries, Mrs Buhari said the only way to curb HIV/AIDS is by including health education for young people, as HIV has become a global public health issue.

She gave the example of Nigeria, which has studied the adolescent and young people’s challenges and developed a national HIV strategy that targets this population with context specific interventions.

It is undisputable fact that HIV continues to be a major global public health issue” she said, “and it is painful to note that adolescent and young people are among the high risk and vulnerable groups” describing them as representing the future productive group of any society.

She charged stakeholders to take extraordinary measures to mitigate the contextual drivers of this epidemic among this special group if the dream of ending AIDS by 2030 is to be achieved.

Mrs. Buhari also commended the idea of a joint action plan between relevant stakeholders in China and Africa in the combating the menace of HIV/AIDS.

She pledged continuous support for women and children. “The overriding objective of Future Assured is to contribute to improve outcomes in Nigeria, especially in the areas health, empowerment, education and human rights.

“Primarily, Future Assured came about to intervene in addressing the deteriorating health conditions of women and children in terms of maternal, Neonatal, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition,’’ she said.

According to her, one of the cardinal objectives of Future Assured is to complement Federal Government’s efforts to achieve universal health coverage.

She said that the NGO had achieved a lot through advocacy for girl-child education and provision of scholarship to indigent pupils as well as support for women to complete their education.

She noted that her collaboration with well-meaning Nigerians and development partners, especially the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had enabled the NGO to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.

Mrs Buhari gave assurance that the NGO would continue to support victims of child and other forms of abuses as well as surgeries for children with congenital problems.

She also pledged to continue the advocacy and support to uplift the living condition of less privileged Nigerians.

Indeed, Mrs. Buhari has brought a refreshing perspective to the Office of the First Lady, a concept that began to gain currency during the regime of Military President Ibrahim Babangida (1985 – 1993).

Hitherto, the occupants of the office were operating, mostly, behind the scene, manning the “home- front” while occasionally accompanying their husbands on official visits to important events at home and overseas.

Aisha Muhammadu Buhari (née Halilu) was born on February 17, 1971, in a small city in Adamawa State, North-east Nigeria.

She shares paternal lineage with the first Minister of Defense, Alhaji Mohammadu Ribadu who happens to be her paternal grandfather.

Her father was a renowned civil engineer while her mother hails from the family of the Ankali- renowned farmers.

Unlike most women of her kind who lacked the opportunity to quality education, Aisha is quite learned, thanks to her learned parents.

She had her basic and secondary education in Adamawa State and graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University where she earned a Bachelors degree in Public Administration.

In addition to that, she bagged a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom.

She also undertook a Counselling Course on Co-Dependency in the United Kingdom and is specialised in Permanent Make-Up, Mesotherapy and Micro-dermabrasion.

She got married to Muhammadu Buhari at the age of 18. She is his second wife and the marriage has been blessed with five children. They include Zahra Buhari, Yusuf Buhari, Halima Buhari Sheriff, Amina Buhari, and her namesake Aisha Buhari, and one grandchild.

Her beauty book, “Essentials of Beauty Therapy’ was launched in April 2016, about a year after her husband was sworn in as the President on May 29, 2015.


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