Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
Following viral social media reports on the absence of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari from the country and story of her divorce by President Muhammadu Buhari, allegations of shoddy deals leveled against the son of the president, Yusuf Buhari and alleged recent arrest of Nasiru Dano in London with dollars and fake passport, the family and relations of the president have reacted to the allegations.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, cousin to the president and spokesman of the family, Malam Adnan Nahabu, accused some close and key government officials of sponsoring the media campaigns against the president’s family. Excerpts:
There have been speculations on the social media recently that President Muhammadu Buhari has divorced the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, which allegedly forced her to leave the country for two months now. As a close relation of the first family, what is the true story?
Well, I think as you rightly said it is mere speculation and, of course, people are free to speculate and express their views, but I will like to caution here that people should talk on something they have facts and substances on. Let me start by telling Nigerians, for those who do not know Aisha Buhari; she got married to Mr President at the age of between 17 and 18 years. She obtained her bachelors and masters degree in his house. She has all along been open and speaks her mind freely on any issue at home. This attitude of her was misunderstood by some Nigerians as being confrontational. Honestly, Mr President is very simple and tolerant to every member of the family, including her as his wife. He always gives her the right to express herself on any matter. If you look at her utterances, you will discover that she talks for the interest of many Nigerians, not her personal interest. Another thing people should know, Mrs Aisha Buhari has been an enterprising house wife, she conducts her businesses, both in Nigeria and abroad, for many years even before the coming of her husband as president. After all as a Nigerian she has the right to express her views, which I believe many people within this government do not like. So, let me tell you this speculation is the handwork of those people within Buhari’s government who do not like what she is always saying about their agencies or offices. So, the only way to deal with her was to fabricate all these lies. However, let me make it clear that there has never been any misunderstanding between President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife talk less of divorce. You see, as husband, if Buhari could tolerate his wife for more that three decades without divorce, why now when he has assumed the leadership of the country and needs her support most? To the best of our knowledge, there is nothing between the two apart from mutual understanding. I am telling you this on behalf of our extended family.
Aisha Buhari once accused some close associates of her husband of misleading him. Don’t you think this is capable of creating rift between her and the husband?
No, not at all. That is what I told you, that statement is not interference. Just recently I saw her on television lamenting over reckless spending of a government organization. She cited example with Adamawa State where such things did not reach. So any time she criticizes these government agencies because of the their connection they will react. And these false speculations are part of the reactions. Even the speculation that the First Lady is in conflict with the president’s Chief of Staff is baseless and unfounded.
Few days ago, a story made headlines in the social media linking the arrest of Dabo Dano in London with money and different passports, and was said to was fronting for the First Lady, what is your reaction on this?
You see, this allegation is part of the reactions against her. These are the voices of some people in the government, the voices of those she stepped on their toes. Let me tell you, I know Mr President very well, he always takes the responsibilities of his family, as well as taking care of his extended family, therefore, you don’t expect his wife to be using somebody as a go-between. I read the report on social media where they said Dano is a go-between of an oil marketer and the First Lady, and he collects money on her behalf. This is nonsense, let me tell you that many people do not know that since 2015, when Mr President won election, the First Lady stopped receiving gift in whatever form from anybody. Anybody can go and ask organizations in Nigeria if you are in doubt. So, someone who does not receive gift how can she assign someone to front for her. I think some people are very much worried about her long stay abroad. But you could recall that this is not the first time she spent two months out of the country. She spent more than two months in Spain when her daughter delivered a baby three years ago. She was in Spain with her daughter until she delivered safely. Mrs Buhari believes that being the First Lady does not prevent her from performing her matrimonial engagements. Even when some people make nasty comments for her long stay. On Nasiru Dano, the First Lady has no business with him, after all she might not even know him. Nasiru is a card-carrying member of APC and treasurer of the Presidential Campaign Council. He committed an offence elsewhere, why should some people link his offence to the First Lady. The report said he was arrested with some large sums of money and use of fake passport, with the magnitude of this crime, the report said the security collected the money and seized the passport and allowed him to go. This is an international crime, but just to collect the money and allowed the suspect to go, this does not match common sense. That is why I said the story was just fabricated. I am assuring you that Her Excellency doesn’t know anything about the Nasiru Dano deal if at all it happened.
There is also speculations in the social media that her elder son Yusuf Buhari is among the richest youths in Africa today. What can you say on this?
Honestly, I don’t know how some speculators reach their conclusion that Yusuf is rich. The boy is not working, more so he has just finished his National Youth Service. Perhaps, the speculators were considering the cost of the motorbike he had accident with last two years. To tell you the truth, Yusuf has been riding motorbike since he was seven years old. The bike was bought by his mother, that is, the First Lady. In that report I read they said it was Nasiru Dano that bought the bike for him, that is nonsense. That particular bike they are talking about was bought three years before the president came to power, that was around 2012. Please people should not talk on something they don’t have facts on.
What do you think the speculators want to achieve by putting these allegations against the First Lady?
Yes, some people want to create a vacuum. These people are fabricating these lies or embarking in this campaign just to paint her black. So, that right thinking Nigerians would disregard all what she is saying because whenever she talks, it’s like the whole country is talking and they are afraid of her boldness and smart courage. As I said earlier, I believe there are some strong men in this government who see her as a threat. Even if the president knows these people…this is his wife, any challenge thrown to her is equally throw to him. After all, this lady is as prompt, courageous and principled as the president himself.
What is the implication of this campaign against Buhari’s family, the First Lady in particular?
In fact, that is why I deem it necessary to speak to you on this because the matter is taking a new dimension. People are capitalizing on our silence to be fabricating all lies against Mr President’s family and relations. I think it’s only when these people hear from the immediate family, they will agree. The negative campaign has an effect not on the family, but on the administration because whether we like it or not whenever the First Lady talks it’s like the government is talking because she is the wife of the president. Look at how wives of previous presidents conducted their public life, is this the same?
In our interview last year, you accused some people of setting bad agenda for Buhari’s administration, have these people been flushed out or are they still there?
Look, I still maintain my stand that there are still bad elements in this government; those that are bent on seeing that the administration fails. You’ll believe me by looking at their body language and the message they sent to the masses. Any government that is democratic must carry people along, that is democracy. Believe me there are some officials of this government that are not his people; that do not encourage people to even get closer to these people. Whether the president knows or not, there are people within his government that are sabotaging his effort. This is the truth. In fact, what I expect Mr President to do is to flush out these people, give them red card and put in people that will work for the people. If you identify the person who are going against the principle of the government, why keep him. I believe if the right materials are used, this administration will achieve its dream. We are in Nigeria, we are seeing what is happening in ministries and government agencies. Nigerians know those who are not performing in this government. I believe Mr President knows them too. Why do you work with them, send them packing.
Do you believe the existence of cabals is what is creating confusion in Buhari’s administration?
Yes, I would want to talk more on this cabal. But I can use Mr President’s reaction on this, he said even if cabals exist, what did the cabals stop him to do in his government? This indicates that the cabals exist because Mr President did not say they don’t exist. So, with cabals or no cabals, Nigeria is greater than individuals, so it’s left for Nigerians to rise against these cabals because they are fighting their development. If you are fighting my progress then what is wrong in fighting back. Nigerians should find means of checkmating these cabals. I believe Nigerians will win eventually.
If I can recall in one of our interviews three years ago, you made mention that Mr President pledged to make you a proud family in Nigeria after fulfilling his promises to Nigerians. Are you now proud of being Mr president’s cousin?
Yes, yes, we are proud of coming from Buhari family or relations. He has fulfilled that promise to the best of our understanding; let me take on some issues of development. Agriculture, he has done wonderfully well in this area. The highest critic will agree that the sector has been transformed. We have attained the level of exporting our agricultural products; our farmers are getting richer. On job creation, N-Power programme, social intervention programme, in fact, you don’t need to know anybody before you get loan or benefit, Nigerians are treated equally. On security, he is doing creditably well, people should understand that issue of kidnapping, banditry, are not only the problem in Nigeria, but it’s sub-regional problem. It requires the collective effort of heads countries within the sub-region.