Every once in a while, Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, speaks up against some unsavory situation in her husband’s government. When she does that, suddenly she is hailed as “independent”, “bold”, “unable to be caged.”
The latest example happened last weekend when she criticised the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party which just offered her husband its presidential ticket unopposed.
“It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on election day. These forms were bought at exorbitant prices,” the first lady said on Twitter.
She stepped it up a notch when she said: “The All Progressives Congress, being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under his watch.”
And suddenly her fanboys and girls came out in their numbers, hailing the ‘revolutionary’ first lady who would not be cowed.
But it is probably time to investigate Aisha Buhari’s periodic indignation at her husband as well as the government and party he presides over.
The first time: It was in 2016 in a BBC interview that Aisha Buhari first began her one-man riot.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50 people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” she said. “Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.” And then she threatened that she may not back the president when reelection season comes if he does not shake things up.
Notice how her anger was that she – a non-elected individual – did not know the people who her husband appointed, as though her marriage “for 27 years” confers special rights on her. At the time of her outburst, there were reports of a cold war between the first lady and some of the president’s closest aides, including his chief of staff, Abba Kyari. Her action may have been linked to her not getting her way.
It was in response to her comments that Pres. Buhari made his infamous sexist argument. “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” the president said, standing right alongside German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, a woman.
The second time: Recall when she spoke out over the alleged mismanagement at the State House Clinic? Yeah, that was also all about her. Here is what she said: “Few weeks ago, I was sick as well, they advised me to take the first flight out to London, I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working, they said it is not working. They didn’t know I am the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time,” she said.
“If something like this can happen to me, no need to ask the governors’ wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is presidential villa,” she said.
The third time: Recently, Aisha Buhari ordered that her ADC, Sani Baba-Inna, be arrested for allegedly defrauding HER. According to reports by Premium Times, she was upset that he received huge donations amounting to about N2.5 billion from politicians and business people on her behalf and then kept the money for himself. Again, this was a public outcry that could be directly traced to her personal interest.
This last time: On the face of it, Aisha Buhari’s cry over the APC primaries sounded like an altruistic move. If you believe that, you would most likely be wrong. The APC had released a list of screened candidates for several days, the first lady said nothing – she did not complain. But the day after her brother lost his bid to displace the Adamawa governor and emerge as APC governorship candidate in Adamawa, Aisha Buhari suddenly found her voice.
Her last tweet on the matter was for “the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities such as potable water, basic health care (Primary Health Care Centers).” Hilarious!
Here is a good cause Aisha may want to invest in since she is so passionate about the electoral process. She needs to prevail on Pres. Buhari and his party to commit to halting the pay-for-vote perversion which the PDP began but the APC has now taken to new depth especially in the recent Ekiti and Osun elections. But since her brother was not a contestant in those elections, it is – probably – fine.
If Aisha Buhari is truly sincere, then she needs to match words with actions. Remember that 2016 BBC interview, she said she may not back Pres. Buhari if he does not shake things up in his cabinet. He did not. So if she means business, let her follow through with her threat.
Alternatively, the first lady should speak up sometimes about things that affect ordinary people. Publicly. Make all this fuss. Expend political capital on it.