We thank God that we have a courageous woman like Aisha Buhari as First Lady, and most importantly, that she’s not like other First Ladies
In matters of marriage, third parties are often cautioned not to utter trenchant opinions. But if the spouses are not private citizens, and the issues in public domain are not strictly a ‘family affair’, commenting on them falls within permissible intrusion. President Muhammadu, and his wife, Aisha, are public property, at least until his presidency runs its full course.
Interestingly, the spouse has contrasting personalities.While the President is taciturn, Spartan, ramrod straight and strong willed, the First Lady has a buoyant personality, intelligent, a genuine and graceful smile with gravitas. She has won admirers the world over because of her wit, honesty, dignity and compassion. Anytime she speaks up on matters of her husband’s presidency, one thing stands out: She reveals the innermost heart of a down-to-earth woman who though stands loyally and fiercely by her husband and family, all the same, she never fails to speak truth to power. It is the joy she cherishes, even when some people disagree with her.
The truth, simply spoken, is that whenever the First Lady speaks, it’s like a referendum on her husband’s administration. Just recently, she made yet again, a stunning revelation at the National Women Leadership summit organised by a political group, “Project 4+4” for her husband’s re-election, in Abuja. Her speech packed a wallop.She alleged that there are two powerful ‘men’ within her husband’s cabinet who are making it extremely difficult for the President to perform as he would have wanted to. In other words, the President would have given his utmost best to the country, if not for these “two men”, whom she didn’t disclose their names. Maybe, in the fullness of time, the Nigerian public will know who these two powerful men are.
I guess she may have received some rebuke of sort since that outing, more so, after she was reported to have avoided making eye contact with two presidential aides standing close to her in that hall. But one of the joys of public life, especially, that of a first lady, is letting those who elected your husband to know where you stand on crucial issues that people care about. Because of how she talks candidly about issues many Nigerians want to hear, Aisha has touched our lives with warmth. She refuses to speak behind the scene, or accept to ‘belong to the kitchen and the other rooms’. She has become a leading champion in an administration that conducts most of its affairs for your “eyes only”. History will be kind to her. But the cabal will certainly hate her gut. But, let’s not forget: The recent outburst of the First Lady wasn’t the first time she would speak her mind about her husband’s presidency. What any keen observer must have noticed about her is that she’s not afraid to walk in the the dark because she is a shinning light.
Since she came to public limelight, she has been an idealistic and practical person. She wants to change, or to put it mildly, help her husband bring about the desired “change” he promised Nigerians four years ago. Her frustration now, it seems, is that she is disappointed like so many Nigerians, with the way the country is currently run under her husband’s leadership. That is because, in the end, a President is not judged like other men. Every elected President is judged largely based on performance, not promises, not platitudes.
To Aisha, and truly so, the presidency, to paraphrase former U.S. President Gerald Ford, ‘is a duty to be done, not a prize to be won. Moral strength won’t do it. And raw power won’t do it either. That, I believe, troubles her mind.
And this is not the first the ‘existence’ of this ‘cabal’ has bothered her. Recall her outburst of invective against this cabal in an interview she granted the BBC (Hausa service) on October 14, 2016. In a translated version of that interview that got a lot of publicity, the First Lady was quoted to have said that her husband was no longer in charge of his government, that a cabal has taken over. She also alleged that those who contributed tremendously to the election of her husband as President in 2015 had been sidelined, while people who contributed little or nothing, people who were not politicians and not known to Nigerians, have been imposed on the country. This set of people, she was ruefully noted, knew little (if at all), about the campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). She called these people “intruders”.
When she was asked by the interviewer if she had brought her complaint to the President, she was quoted to have said in apparent frustration,”I don’t need to tell him…he is seeing”. She was also reported to have said in that BBC interview that the President may not know some of his appointees. And she doesn’t know many of them either. Perhaps her biggest sound bite in that interview was when she was asked if she will support her husband if he seeks re-election in 2019. This was her response: “He’s yet to tell me, 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 not do it again”. Of course, two years have come full circle since that BBC interview. The President has also declared his ambition to seek re-election and campaign for that is in full swing. Also, Aisha, as a loyal and conscientious wife, has not said she won’t support the husband’s second term bid. And her latest comment was made at a forum to promote the President and Vice President Osinbajo joint ticket. That means she is in support. But her point really remains that though she stands by her husband, she’s reminding the ‘cabal’, including the ‘two powerful men’, to give the President a free hand to run the affairs of the country, because the office he holds is not for the two men, but a trust on behalf of all Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliation or ethnic group.
We thank God that we have a courageous woman like Aisha Buhari as First Lady, and most importantly, that she’s not like other First Ladies, for example, Nancy Reagan (May her soul rest in peace), who Donald T.Regan (who served President Ronald Reagan) wrote in his memoir, resorted to clairvoyant means to manipulate her husband and his policies. When our First Lady speaks the way she has done in at least these two occasions aforementioned, in a straightforward manner, not tongue-in-cheek, she’s telling the President the gritty truth about some people around him who have attached themselves to his person, his name, or his office as a means of advancing their own selfish interests and agenda.
Remember she also alleged that some politicians have formed the habit of going to these ‘two men’ in the night to ‘beg for favours’ from the government. The truth is that such cabal, wherever it exists, can sow seeds of discord among family members of the President, friends of the President and even destroy the country. Honest people in the administration can also become victims of such evil instrumentality. But will Mr. President listen to the timely advice of his beloved wife?
The President will help himself and the country if he takes his wife’s cautionary advice for what it truly is, that he’s President today through the vote of the majority of Nigerians. Therefore, while political appointees survive in power through many fair and dangerous methods and dirty tricks, but a President succeeds or fails, through his own programmes of action, judgments or missteps, and of course, the vote of the people on election day. And that day of reckoning is approaching, pretty fast. That’s the context to view the First Lady’s frustrations of her husband’s presidency. And that’s where she wins my heart. I don’t know about you.