By Rotimi Fasan
AISHA Buhari, wife of the president, aka Nigeria’s First Lady, has always been in the news. The only difference now is that since she returned from her last extended vacation in the United Kingdom, she has dominated the news more than has been customary with her predecessors as first ladies.
She has been in the news with as much regularity as any high-profile public officer if not her husband, the president. This media blitz has not always been for the right reasons nor free of controversy. Which is the very reason her critics would think her romance of the media has not been in the overall interest of her husband’s administration. But this is apparently not her design nor her intention. Yet, one thing is sure: Nigeria’s first ladies tend to see themselves as the female versions of their husbands.
In other words, if their husbands are the country’s leaders, the first in the pecking order, the first ladies see themselves as their husband’s deputies. In order of precedence, they like to be placed and treated with more respect, even reverence, than the person who ranks next to their husbands. Say the vice president in a civil administration or the chief of staff under the military.
If possible, those of them whose husbands have held office since 1999 would not mind to be addressed as Madam President who should be able to wield as much executive power as their husbands. Such is the importance these women attach to their position and the seriousness with which they want to be taken. It would not be saying too much to describe them as vain, for which reason Nigerians’ perception of their conduct may not always be flattering.
Which is not necessarily the case with what many may perceive as Aisha Buhari’s latest “antics”, her increasingly controversial weighing-in on public discourse. For a Nigerian woman, particularly one from the very conservative north, Aisha is quite a mouthful. She has not been too shy to air her views. The point is that she has been more inclined to do that more frequently and more controversially than in the past. I want to restate that this is not necessarily because she wants it so.
Nor does she appear to do so to undermine her husband, court controversy or power. Yes, she may not be averse to wielding more influence (read power) in her husband’s administration. She, however, appears to have been pushed to the wall in the present circumstances and has scarcely any better option than to take her case directly to the Nigerian public.
Aisha’s main adversaries, perhaps, enemies are her husband’s extended family members and his friends. Her grouse is that these categories of Nigerians have taken over the control of not just her husband’s life and their marital or family life. Her complaint against this cabal that carries on in the shadows of Aso Rock Villa is that they are not only ruining her husband’s administration and thus his goodwill among Nigerians. But they, she is saying to Nigerians and anyone attentive enough to hear her, these close family members and associates of her husband’s, are destroying Nigeria.
Her problem is that her husband who famously said (not minding the irony, considering he was then with Angela Merkel, the German President) that her place is confined only to the kitchen and the “other room” has been wrapped tightly round the fingers of these power mongers and is not listening to her one bit.
Hers is the cry of an anguished woman for understanding and Nigerians will do well to listen to her. Her mortal worry which accounts for her apparent hysteric comments is that when the blowback comes, it is her family, maybe her husband, that would be left to bear the burden. Which is already happening in the aftermath of the series of extra-judicial actions, lawlessness and authoritarianism of elements within the Buhari administration, all of which came to a head with the DSS invasion of the court session of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in their bid to re-arrest Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare.
Aisha has long ago warned about some unelected Nigerians, who were nowhere to be seen in the build-up to her husband’s electoral victory, suddenly showing up to start calling the shots after he was sworn-in to office. She worried about these people and famously threatened to withdraw support for her husband in his re-election bid. At the time, she would appear to be opposed to the side-tracking of the likes of Bola Tinubu and company by her husband’s new-found friends and family.
This woman, in veiled remarks, warned about these people. She is only now calling them by their real names after the attempts to humiliate her even while her husband is being held hostage to power by them. Aisha gave enough warning and tried to warn off her adversaries, but her husband is too far gone and beholden to the antics of those she labelled “evil people”, and has accused of trying to take over the country from her husband.
Her criticism is not just against opposition elements in the PDP. No, Aisha has in mind the people surrounding her husband who have used their positions, traditional and social media, to undermine her. These are the likes of Garba Shehu, one of the President’s spokespersons, Mamman Daura and his children, particularly his so-called favourite daughter, Fatima, that openly confronted Aisha and aimed to lock her out of her own home.
Let’s be clear, how many of us Nigerians can endure what Aisha has had to endure from the people that have taken over control of her home, controlling her through her husband? What is an adult female like Fatima, probably older than Aisha, doing in Aso Villa and living at tax payers’ expense for four years?
It has become evident that much of what goes on in the regime of President Buhari is the handiwork of the shadowy people operating around him. Buhari is a mere figurehead of a leader who reigns. His extended family members and friends led by Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari govern his home and by extension Nigeria.
The insight Aisha provided about how the office of the First Lady was scrapped, the elaborate plan to scuttle her interview with the NTA and find another wife for the president, all in a bid to spite her, should not be dismissed offhand. This is the reason she is directly reaching out to Nigerians and it is the lens through which we should, as Nigerians, view the Buhari presidency.
Ultimately, her fight is against the tyranny of patriarchy which is extended to the rest of Nigerians in the crude attempts to silence opposition all of which have now reduced Nigeria to a police state.