First Lady Aisha Buhari is one person who is not afraid to speak her mind on issues. Her boldness has made her a toast of the people but the cabal around her husband is not amused. Segun James reports
In the Nigerian political firmament, a first lady is that wife of the president who sets up social programmes aimed at elevating the social status of the people especially women and the poor.
Until the coming of Dame Patience Jonathan who elevated the position into a political powerhouse, all first ladies, beginning with the iconic Mrs. Maryam Babangida, never broke this unwritten rule not to dabble into politics.
But then, none of the ladies ever attempted to take control of the activities of their husbands and the goings-on in the domestic front of the Aso Villa State House until the coming of Mrs. Turai Yarâ€™Adua. But then, in her case, all she did was to protect her husband, a move many people believed she took too far given the fact that her husband had become the property of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria upon assumption of office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Of all of them however, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is of a different hue. Incisive, intelligent and a woman with a mind of her own, Mrs. Buhari has taken the perception of First Ladyship in the country to a new level, making it known that being the wife of a president does not mean she doesnâ€™t have a mind of her own or that she must agree with everything that is being done in the name of her husband.
Mrs. Buhari first gave indication of independence of mind when she accused some people within the Presidency of engaging in a power play that is alienating her husband from the people who worked assiduously to make him the president in particular and Nigerians in general.
Her outburst sent a shock wave through the political hierarchy, a situation which forced the president to wonder which political party his wife belonged and that her position was in his kitchen and â€œthe other room.â€
If the president thinks bringing down his wife to pacify the cabal of irredentists around him will stop the woman, he is mistaken; the woman knows what she is saying and is not afraid to say her mind, even to the president.
In the last few weeks, Mrs. Buhari has become a toast of the people and a moral beacon in the tensed political minefield of the nation. At a time when Nigerians want someone to stand up and speak for them, she has become the Queen Amina of Zaria, an amazon for peopleâ€™s rights, not just for the women but the entire people of the country.
Mrs. Buhari is one person that is not afraid to speak her mind, despite the fact that her husband is a strict Muslim who believes that women must remain in the background, only to be seen and not be heard.
Although, Aisha does not talk all the time, but when she does or when she is forced to talk, she appears as frustrated just like most Nigerians.
She stirred the hornetâ€™s nest recently when she promised that â€œhyenas and jackalsâ€ around her husband would soon be evicted from the proverbial kingdom headed by her husband.
Mrs. Buhari, who has never shied away from â€œcontroversy,â€ alluded to a cabal in the Presidency that was influencing her husband. In a Facebook post in response to a post by the senator representing Kaduna Central in the National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, who had lamented that prayers for the â€œLion Kingâ€ had waned due to his prolonged absence.
But in her response, which shed more light on the power play at the Presidential Villa, following the Presidentâ€™s illness and absence from the country, she said God had answered the prayers of the weaker animals and that the Lion King is coming back.
Senator Saniâ€™s post had read: â€œPrayer for the absent Lion King has waned; until heâ€™s back then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispered (tones); still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not.
â€œNow the Lion King is asleep and no other dares to confirm if he will wake up or not. It is the wish of the hyenas that the Lion King never wakes up or comes back so that they can be kings. It is the prayers of the weak animals that the Lion King comes back to save the kingdom from the Hyenas, the wolves and other predators.â€
In her response to the senatorâ€™s post, Mrs. Buhari said: â€œGod has answered the prayers of the weaker animals. The hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals. Long live the weaker animals, long live Nigeria.â€
Her response attracted hundreds of comments from her followers on Facebook, most of them wishing her husband quick recovery.
As if that was not enough to send her back to the kitchen as her husband once said, this time she publicly upbraided the Chief Medical Director of the State House Medical Centre, Dr. Husain Munir, for the poor state of the health facility established to take care of the President, Vice-President, their families as well as members of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
She spoke at the opening of a two-day stakeholdersâ€™ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
Mrs. Buhari admitted that Nigeria was unstable in the last six months owing largely to the presidentâ€™s ill-health that forced him to remain outside the country for months.
She wondered what would have happened to a common man on the street if Buhari could spend several months outside Nigeria for health reason.
She recalled that she was sick recently and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic.
The presidentâ€™s wife explained that she had to go to a private hospital owned by foreigners when she was told that the x-ray machine in the State House Medical Centre was not working.
Mrs. Buhari told Munir, who was present at the event that the budget allocated to the clinic must be accounted for. That is boldness on display.
â€œI am happy the MD of Aso Rock Clinic is here. Dr. Munir, I am happy you are here. As you are all aware, for the last six months, Nigeria wasnâ€™t stable because of my husbandâ€™s ill-health. We thank God he has fully recovered now.
â€œIf somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a man in the street.
â€œFew 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. If the budget is N100m, we need to know how the budget is spent.
â€œAlong the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working. They said it was not working. They didnâ€™t know I was the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
â€œI had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 per cent. What does that mean?
â€œSo, I think it is high time we did the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the governorsâ€™ wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is the Presidential Villa.â€
This was a new and uncommon First Lady who has chosen for herself a role transcendent that of just being the wife of a leader. Like Mrs. Hilary Clinton and Mrs. Michele Obama before her, she is woman of intelligence, beautiful and capable of holding her own without the aura of her husband.
Aisha Muhammadu Buhari was born on 17 February 1971 in Adamawa State, Northeastern Nigeria. Her grandfather, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu was Nigeria’s first Minister of Defense and her father was a civil engineer while her mother is a descendant of the famous Ankali family, renowned farming and textile business giants.
Aisha Buhari went to primary and secondary school in Adamawa state where she lived with siblings, her nieces and nephews. Aisha holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and a master’s degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.
Prior to acquiring her higher degrees, Mrs. Buhari had earlier pursued a career in beauty and fashion. For years, Mrs. Buhari has run a successful business as the Founder/Managing Director of Hanzy Spa and Principal of Hanzy Beauty Institute, a Beauty salon in Kaduna and Abuja. She is a Resource Person to the National Basic Technical Education (NBTE) on Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology and had participated in the curriculum development of Small Medium Enterprises for NBTE. Aisha closed her beauty salon following the emergence of her husband, Buhari as President of Nigeria.
On 2 December 1989, Aisha married Muhammadu Buhari, who had five children from a previous Marriage to Safinatu Yusuf. Aisha and Muhammadu Buhari have five children together and one grandchild.
She is a women’s right activist and child right advocate. She is one of the Nigerians who criticized child marriage and homosexuality. This was a focal point during her campaign for her husband’s election in 2015.
She has, on several occasions, emphasised the need for young girls to get primary and secondary school education before getting married, saying that she believes no girl should get married before the age of 17.
In May 2015, on the sidelines of the Global Women Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she stressed the need for Nigerian laws that would protect women from forced early marriages, sex trafficking and other issues Nigerian girls and women contend with.
She raised concerns on child sexual abuse in Nigeria, sex trafficking and the need for legislation against early marriage.
If the president thinks bringing down his wife to pacify the cabal of irredentists around him will stop the woman, he is mistaken.