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Fiery first ladies

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first ladies

By Duno Kogbara

I DON’T know Mrs. Aisha Buhari, but I’ve always had a soft spot for her feisty, say-it-like-it-is personality, which doesn’t quite rhyme with her chubby-sweet baby face. And when she went public with bitter complaints about some of the people who surrounded her husband in 2016, I defended her on a BBC Television programme. And I’ve continued to adopt an indulgent attitude towards her occasional outbursts because I am also one for straight-talking. In fact, I am far worse than Mrs. B because I sometimes utter expletives for emphasis when something or someone has upset me.

OK, so I have a high tolerance level for mouthy fellow women who ain’t ready to put up with s—t or take c—p from nobody. But I was extremely alarmed when I heard about the scuffle that took place when Madame, her children and her security aides took on Sabi’u “Tunde” Yusuf, Mr President’s great-nephew and private secretary.

Long-simmering rancour

We are told that Madame and the Tunde – whom I also don’t know – have been at loggerheads for a while and that the long-simmering rancour exploded into violent spat when Madame’s ADC shot at him.


Thankfully, he missed; and the Tunde is still with us. But the ADC only missed Tunde narrowly and it’s stating the obvious to say that the outcome could have been very different and very disgraceful.

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This toxic drama is the talk of Abuja, the talk of the entire country and a source of fascinated, hushed-toned gossip in foreign circles; and even I have to say that Madame needs to curb her hot temper and firmly control her wilder acolytes before things get out of hand.

I am willing to believe that the Tunde is very annoying and had done or said stuff that justified a serious reprimand or dismissal; but there is absolutely no excuse for scandalous and potentially fatal altercations. It is a great privilege to occupy the corridors of power; and those who get there need to be orderly and dignified.

On reflection, all of our recent First Ladies have been fiery and hyperactive. Turai Yar’Adua was, famously, not to be toyed with unless you wanted big trouble to enter your life and stay there. Ditto Patience Jonathan, whose penchant for palaver was legendary.

The question I’m asking myself is this: Would these ladies have been less pushy and less opinionated if their husbands had been tougher? In other words, were and are these first ladies filling a vacuum?

And did and do they assert themselves so aggressively because they are alpha females by nature and love to wield power or because they are worried wives who are struggling to protect fragile spouses?

Ex-President Yar’Adua had to contend with chronic kidney disease throughout his tenure. Jonathan, who started off as his vice and wound up as his successor, was often referred to as weak or gentle. As for Buhari, he has disappointed a lot of people by not being the no-nonsense strongman many of us thought we had voted for.

Some folks say that his failure to fufill our hopes is not his fault and that he is vulnerable and mentally/physically exhausted and being dominated and bamboozled by lieutenants who leave a lot to be desired and make bad decisions of which he is not aware in his name.

Whatever the case may be, Mr President is clearly not willing or able to shut Madame Aisha down and up, so she needs to discipline herself to safeguard her own reputation. And I pray that she will urge her staff to be more careful and more decorous in future. And that she herself will be more stateswomanlike henceforth.

Racism and tribalism

THE videotaped murder of George Floyd in Minnesota has led to a global outcry against the raw, rednecked and sometimes homicidal racism that some white American policemen have directed at too many hapless African Americans. The Black Lives Matter mantra and movement are being taken very seriously indeed nowadays.

I have been thinking about the whole racism issue and have concluded that racism is a universal phenomenon. You only need to listen to certain Nigerians saying the most terrible and unfair things about Indians, for example, to realise that racism is not unique to whites. Racism is essentially about abuse of power and I dread to think what anti-Indian Nigerians would do to Indians if they had a chance.

I remember someone wryly saying during the apartheid era, when white South Africans were sadistically tormenting black South Africans, that “in Nigeria, the whites are black”…referring of course to the ill-treatment by the black Nigerian elite of the black Nigerian underclass that is tragically commonplace in this country.

Meanwhile, let’s ask ourselves whether tribalism – another hugely messy and dangerous can of worms – is not a close cousin of racism? There is evidence to suggest that the Fulanis who are in charge of the Federal Government at the moment unrepentantly discriminate against other tribes on several different levels.

There is also evidence to suggest that the average member of any tribe in Nigeria will misbehave when he or she is running the show. When Jonathan was President, many Ijaws – and Niger Deltans in general – became loud, greedy, arrogant, entitled and unbearable. Still, it’s tempting to acknowledge whites as champion bigots.

I have a Jewish friend whose father survived the Nazi Holocaust in Europe in the 1930s and ’40s. My friend’s father, now late, was an academic who had studied the history of his persecuted people, as well as the history of the relationship between Africans and the Western World. And he once told me that: “NOBODY can match the white Christian for sheer bloody cruelty and avarice over the ages.”

Was he right?

What do Vanguard readers think?

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