“I have always been a supporter of Aisha Buhari, not just because she is the president’s wife, but because I see her as different from others who have served as Nigeria’s first lady. She seems to have shown some level of decency, at least in her public conduct. This was one of the reasons that prompted my piece, “Buhari’s wife, Our First lady”, even though I have never met her. I also voiced my support for her through my piece, “Aisha Buhari: Governor Fayose and Ignorance 101″, when the controversial governor of Ekiti State attempted to tarnish her image by linking her with the Jefferson bribery scandal.
However, last week I kept pondering over her British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service interview and how to place her with regard to this. When I first heard the promo on the morning programme a few days before the full interview was played, I asked myself what could be going on within her to warrant such outburst, because the interview was nothing but a way of releasing pent up frustration about the Buhari administration. Hence, on this one, I am not with her. Some people believe this topic is a “no-go” area because it is an issue between a husband and wife. I disagree with this because she is now a public figure.
The issues she raised are fundamental to our dream of a new Nigeria under the change government. Also, the success or failure of this administration would affect the lives of 180 million Nigerians, bearing in mind that the country is in economic recession. Hence, it is an issue of public interest. Before I go further, I would like to raise the following questions: Where was Zakari Yau Nadabo, her media aide, when this interview was being granted? What determined her choice of the BBC Hausa Service as the medium for venting her frustration, rather than a family meeting? Had she exhausted all possible avenues to have these anomalies corrected before going public? Who advised her to do this? By this interview, is she aware of the kind of image she is building for her children – Halima, Amina and Zarah – in the eyes of present and potential in-laws? How did her children feel in the midst of their friends after listening to the explosive interview?
The issue here is that even if President Buhari has bad breath, she should not be the one to tell the world about it. Rather, she should work quietly with him in finding a solution to it, no matter how frustrating this might be for her. Like the Hausa people would say, “Da mugun rawa, gara kin tashi.” The Yorubas also say that, “tenu akata ba lewo, senu adiye lo ye kati gbo?” All the issues she raised are true, from the presence and activities of a cabal to colourless ministers, which have been in the public domain for almost one year, and that she has further confirmed to Nigerians now.
The anger of fifteen million Nigerians against her husband is enough to give her sleepless nights, but going to the media is not the way to go about seeking solutions. What she has simply done is to tell the President that he is on his own or what we say in Hausa as “kowa yayi sallah, da karatun baakin shi.” For instance, many Nigerians are not happy with the way and manner the trio of Babachir David Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the president and Mamman Daura, the powerful nephew of President Buhari, have become a “government within a government”, determining who gets what and how. In the case of Lawal, he has been notorious for his lack of public speaking etiquette. He once refer to participants at the Goodluck Jonathan National Conference as “boys”. He was also alleged to have collected money from people who wanted board appointments in the Buhari administration.
Of recent, he was again accused of using two hundred and seventy million naira to clear grass in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) camps in the North-East, while the IDPs can barely get two meals per day. Most importantly, President Buhari must face reality by forgetting the messenger and taking the message. He needs to breathe life into his government if he does not want to end up like Goodluck Jonathan. His wife has told him the bitter truth. Lawal is equally said to be at the centre of secret recruitments in federal ministries, department and agencies, which he shares among his family members and kinsmen from Kwambla in Hong local government area of Adamawa State. The most recent example of such included the procurement of a high profile job in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for his son-in-law who used to be a teacher. And, these are allegations that Lawal has never denied in public. Kyari, on his part, was claimed to have collected huge sums of money from MTN Nigeria to help in reducing the fine imposed on the company by the Federal Government.
He has neither denied nor confirmed the allegation. As if these were not bad enough, Mamman Daura has been considered as playing the role of a de-facto vice president, calling the shots in Aso Rock and being responsible for a substantial number of appointments made by the president. Back to the Aisha Buhari interview, anyone hailing her as a hero for this incredible political gaffe is her worst enemy. Instead, she has ridiculed herself and her husband as someone pretending to be in charge in the eyes of Nigerians. Like the Hausa would say, “garin neman al’lura, an tono garma.” This simply means that, instead of solving the problem, she has compounded it. As Fulanis, the norm is that couples never challenge each other in public. They have both broken this norm through their acts, no thanks to her flippant manner on international radio. President Buhari will now be fighting corruption, Niger Delta militants, saboteurs within All Progressives Congress (APC), Boko Haram and also dealing with a wife who is not him with politically.
All that she said on the BBC Hausa service can be said in the privacy of their bedroom or before trusted family members in a household meeting and still make the necessary impact, without public exposure and ridicule. After all, his success is hers, and so is his failure, and by extension that of the larger population of Nigerians. Adding salt to injury, President Buhari’s tactless response to the issue while standing beside Angela Merkel in Germany by describing Aisha as belonging to the “kitchen and the other room” is the supreme gaffe of the century. It is sickening to have this come from a seventy three year old president, seen as a ray of hope for a better Nigeria. If translated into Hausa, President Buhari, in a concealed anger, simply told her “to shut up and stop meddling in issues she has no business with.” His response portrays him as one who degrades women at a point in time time in which issues of women empowerment is in the front burner of global consciousness.
The reaction of the international media, especially Washington Post, confirms this. In this case, Aisha’s approach has exposed her to the cabal which she believes has hijacked the government. The members will now go all out to undermine or even bring her down, because she has become a threat to their hold on her husband and the government. The attempt by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media to white-wash and do damage control by describing it as a joke is an exercise in futility, because the damage has already been done. It is all over the internet and #theotherroom has been trending on Twitter in the past several hours.
This is what you get when couples occupying sensitive positions decide to wash their dirty linen in public. I see it as a wrong approach because she has unconsciously given Buhari’s foes and political opponents, within and outside the party, a shot in the arm to fight him. This is because the issues she raised, though true, are enough to bring the government down in other places. For instance, Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s most controversial senate president who has avoided the president in recent times due to his Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial has suddenly found his voice to mock Buhari. He was quoted by the media as saying that the president’s wife has vindicated him by saying that the APC federal government has been hijacked by a cabal. If anyone is deceiving her, there is nothing like a perfect marriage, but everyone tries to manage theirs.
She has unconsciously confirmed to Nigerians and the world that there is a crack in their relationship. Or how does one describe her decision not to campaign for him in 2019 should he decided to seek re-election, if the necessary changes are not made? Am not holding brief for the president by saying he is a perfect person, but I believe their case is not as bad as that of others before them, especially the Abachas, Yar’Aduas and Jonathans. Maryam Abacha knew Jeremiah Useni was very powerful in the government and was allegedly doing some things for the late Kanuri general that no reasonable wife would be happy about, but she never went to the media with this.
Patience Jonathan also knew Dieziani Madueke was the power behind the throne in the Jonathan government, but she never cried out. Going back to where we borrowed our presidential system of government, George Bush, America’s 43rd President, between 2001 and 2009, is today seen as the worst living president in the country’s history. His wife of thirty nine years, Laura, did not agree with many things while they were in the government, especially the Iraq war, due to her aversion for the shedding of human blood, but she never went to the media in a confrontational manner. Could the hijack of Buhari’s government by a few be more grievious than the invasion of Iraq? Why is Aisha Buhari’s case different?
According to Robert Green, author of 48 Laws of Power, one needs to choose one’s fight, including the strategy for this, very well. In this case, Aisha’s approach has exposed her to the cabal which she believes has hijacked the government. The members will now go all out to undermine or even bring her down, because she has become a threat to their hold on her husband and the government. Hence, they will come up with new survival strategies, because in the power struggle, morality has no place.
At this point, she is now fighting two battles – to regain President’s Buhari’s confidence as well as surviving the onslaught of the cabal. What a difficult place to be in! Aisha Buhari may have been motivated by a patriotic desire to help the president succeed, but her approach has destroyed her good intentions. She has also put herself and her husband on the spot for the wrong reasons. They both need to work out ways to resolve their issues amicably and refrain from making further public comments on the matter. This is a trying period for the president owing to the plethora of challenges confronting the nation and having the back of his wife is vital. Most importantly, President Buhari must face reality by forgetting the messenger and taking the message. He needs to breathe life into his government if he does not want to end up like Goodluck Jonathan. His wife has told him the bitter truth.