IT was a shame that the recent state visit of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria to Germany which we were told was designed to seek the help of the German government in our developmental efforts and to woo that country’s investors was defined by a self-inflicted scandal of global proportion. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said as we reflected in our post of October 21 that Buhari owed Nigerians apologies if he committed their scarce resources to go to ‘Imperial Germany’ just to disparage his wife Aisha and dismiss women generally. On the spur of that moment I totally agreed with Mugabe for deprecating Buhari who said his wife was of no use outside the kitchen, the living room and the other room. But later after a deeper reflection I am beginning to sympathize with our president. He is the product of an environment – cultural and religious and professional. The Fulani, the Muslim and the Army General in him do not conduce for a woman to win in any exchange. Indeed the three, acting separately or in concert or in combination would not ordinarily encourage dialogue between a man and a woman even if they are husband and wife. It is more likely to be one giving directive to the other.
It would take the grace of God, for those who have the privilege of availing themselves of it, for any man with the aforementioned attributes and background and training to see the image of God in a woman. Any woman. Yes, Aisha Buhari might have spoken the minds of many Nigerians when she awarded low performance grades to her husband the president and threatened not to campaign for his reelection in 2019 should the need arise, but was she right in the manner she did it? I am minded to say No. Probably Aisha spoke in the way and manner she did for the safety of the reputation of her husband and his legacy if he ends up being a one term president as some people are beginning to postulate. She may also have spoken propelled by the fear that Buhari’s presidency which was ushered in amid so much expectations is headed for a calamitous and disreputable end. She may have feared that the big masquerade is about to be stripped naked. And in public. But she was wrong in her approach whatever might have been her motivation. She was wrong to publicly say that her husband had so far failed in providing effective leadership for his party, the country and the administration he heads. She was wrong to publicly say that her husband should perish the thought of seeking a second term in office unless and until he does her bidding.
If Aisha no longer has or enjoys exclusive closet access to Muhammadu, and if she has no access to those who have the president’s ears, and if she had told the president in private what she has now told us in public, and the president had refused or neglected to heed her counsel, the last resort is for her to keep mum and suffer in silence. She cannot be under the same roof and then proceed to place a Caveat Emptor on her husband or to sell the concept of Buyer’s Remorse to Nigerians less than two years after we, collectively and consciously, surrendered our fate and the fate of our country to one man. It would not matter that at that time we elevated that man to the pantheon of gods. If what Aisha had done was not an abomination in a traditional African society, it must be close to it.
But there is yet another angle to the whole saga that would appear not to have been fully explored. It is true that President Buhari said there would not be an office of the first lady the way we have come to know it since the advent of the late Maryam, wife of military-president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. But Aisha has been playing the role to the hilt. She has been visible. She has style. She has panache. She has even written a book since she ‘took office’. So she is an author and by extension a member of the intelligentsia. She had visited internally displaced persons [IDP] camps for the victims of Islamist Boko Haram insurgents. She had summoned and presided over meeting of the wives of state governors which included the sedate Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Given the foregoing the office of the first lady in Nigeria is well and alive. Aisha has key staff paid for by the state or tax payers. So where were the communication and media minders of Aisha Buhari while she was being interviewed by the Hausa Language service of the BBC radio? Part of the duty of a professionally media minder is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his/her principal. And to do the needful to avoid a disaster as has been this case of Buhari versus Buhari. Not many people appreciate the fact that words are capable of many and varied meanings especially in an interview setting. It is commonplace for interviewees to rue published words which were regarded as innocuous when they were said prior to publication. This is even worse with the spoken words as in this instant. Or did Aisha play the lone wolf? Did she make herself a loose cannon? It’s curious that thus far in this whole saga there had not been any mention of any roles played by her media people.
The secret police and our judges
ALMOST two decades ago Lt-Gen Oladipo Diya, second in command in the Gen. Sani Abacha military junta, said that some of our judges were so ‘brilliant’ that they wrote two favourable judgments for parties to a disrepute. He said then that the favourable judgment for the party that paid the asking price would be pulled out and delivered by the Judas judge. And the judge would give unassailable reasons and cite legal authorities for arriving at his decision. He said the judge could with a straight face deliver the other judgment in his briefcase if the litigant had played ball. The point we are making is that corruption in the judiciary has been there. And in this era of anti-graft war there was no way the crusade would not get to the domain of the judges. The problem has been how it got there. Recently our secret police invaded the homes of some high court judges and Supreme Court justices in the wee hours of the morning in a Gestapo style, smashed doors and windows, traumatized the suspects and the innocents who happened to be around, arrested the judges and set off a national outcry. The judges were promptly released on their self-recognition. Now there is a stand-off between the Executive and Judicial arms of government on how to prosecute the judges.
President Buhari has consistently accused judges and courts of frustrating his war on corruption. So it will be difficult not to read meanings into the midnight raids on judges homes by an agency under the Executive. The right thing to do is for the judges to step aside and clear their names. But should we in good conscience impose a different and higher standards on the suspect-judges since we have said correctly that they have no immunity and that they enjoy no special privileges. Senate president Bukola Saraki is facing charges in the Code of Conduct Tribunal and he has not stepped aside from his post. At a time Saraki and Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu were arraigned for alleged forgery and they did not step aside. We may have to accept that judges are not as ordinary as we had thought in order to resolve this crisis. And by the way how did the Department of State Services [DSS] arrive at the claim that what they did was a ‘sting operation’?