Aisha Buhari: The Critic in the Other Room



Mrs Aisha M. Buhari, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari is probably the most loved person in Nigeria today, especially by critics of her husband’s administration. She first came to our notice in this regard when in the course of her ailing husband’s medical vacation in London, she famously declared through BBC Hausa Service that the Buhari administration had been hijacked by a cabal. Long before anybody raised the issue, she was the first to observe that President Buhari has no business seeking a second term in office the way he was carrying on. She even added that she would not join him for any second term campaign. I had written a piece at the time titled “Aisha and that BBC interview”.

I said I expected that the statement attributed to her would be disowned. But no such thing happened. Her husband soon took his own pound of flesh when at a press conference in Germany, he told the entire world that Aisha Buhari, his wife, belongs to the “living room, the kitchen and the other room.” I didn’t support this brazenly chauvinistic statement but I reminded Mrs Buhari that her primary duty is to support her husband, and that this, historically, has indeed been the duty of First Ladies. Mamie Eisenhower covered up for her husband.

Jackie Kennedy had to endure her husband, JFK’s shortcomings. Hillary Clinton saved Bill Clinton by standing with him in his most difficult moment. Not every President would ask for a Grace Mugabe, who pushed her husband out of office, or a Lucy Kibaki who made Mwai Kibaki of Kenya look like a domestic victim. Closer home, the tradition has been for our First Ladies to stand by their husbands through thick and thin. Those whose husbands were Muslims, with perhaps the exception of Maryam Babangida, took the additional step of staying off the radar.  Aisha Buhari is probably the first Nigerian First Lady to cultivate the public persona of an assertive, irreverent, independent-minded, critic-in-the-other-room, aggressive, resident and privileged “wailing wailer” in Aso Villa.

I don’t consider this a praise-worthy development. I stand by the cautious conservative view I expressed in my previous article on her.  From initial concerns about her haute-couture fashion appearances, Nigerians have come to regard her more for her occasional, but striking political statements, or such statements that may be attributed to her. She reportedly bolted out of “the other room” about three days ago, when she retweeted videos of two major attacks on her husband’s administration on the floor of the Senate.  Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central) had accused President Buhari of surrounding himself with incompetent persons. He even cited the example of the new Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), which in my view is an unfair assessment.

Civil servants are not necessarily competent because they pass promotion examinations. The most important requirement in the secret intelligence cycle may not necessarily be book intelligence. But Misau spoke his mind as he painted a broader picture of incompetence and disappointment, and the failure of the Buhari cabinet: 50% of whom he dismissed outrightly.  Mrs Buhari found this so quotable and impressive, she tweeted the video on her twitter handle six times! Three days later, and in the face of the public interest that this has generated, the tweets are still there. Nobody has disowned them or deleted them. One popular caveat in twitter-sphere is that “retweets are not endorsements.” In this case, it seems we are not dealing with mere retweets, but actual endorsement. You retweet what makes an impression on you.  Mrs Buhari on the handle, a verified handle – @aishambuhari – also retweets Senator Ben Murray-Bruce’s condemnation of the Buhari administration. Ben Bruce goes about proclaiming that he talks common sense, and although I don’t see much sense in what is common, uncommon sense projects more creativity in my view, but clearly Aisha Buhari sees sense in Ben Bruce’s unflattering criticisms of President Buhari’s leadership style and ability, and hence she serves as his Vuvuzela.  Ben Bruce has been going about since then like a man who just got a sweetheart kiss from a crush.

Mrs Buhari’s conduct is unusual; it is shocking in its extra-ordinariness, to put it directly, it smacks of treachery and disloyalty.  But it has fetched her  enormous praise.  My brother and colleague, Dele Momodu, a one-time Buharist, no, in fact a Buharideen, now a thoroughly disappointed “wailing wailer” has written a paen to Aisha Buhari. Ben Murray-Bruce has also composed the equivalent of a poem in her honour. He says she must refuse to be “cowed”.  Ben Bruce is mean. Why use the word cow at this time?  Is he suggesting that Mrs Aisha Buhari should not allow herself to be turned into a cow, when he as a common sense Senator knows that cows are not particularly famous in Nigeria at this time?

He redeems himself by saying she is an intelligent woman. Some other commentators have said that Aisha Buhari will make a better President of Nigeria than her husband. There are others who have suggested that she should become Nigeria’s Vice-President in 2019. “Toasting” and “seducing” another man’s wife with nice words is off-limits in my cultural space.  I disagree with everyone on social media and elsewhere who have been saying that Aisha Buhari is right to criticize her husband publicly and to lend voice and strength to the likes of Senator Misau and Ben Murray-Bruce. Reno Omokri has also praised Aisha M. Buhari. This is how we would be here and Femi Fani-Kayode will be the chairman at an award ceremony making President Buhari’s wife “the Woman of the Year 2018”. If care is not taken, Aisha Buhari will soon join the Chibok Girls Movement or become an associate of Oby Ezekwesili’s Red Card Movement.

I think something is wrong somewhere. The position of the President is a national security position.  It is hard enough to be a President, but to have issues on the home front makes the job doubly difficult. This is very issue that came up the other day. One character who likes to talk accused me of being sympathetic to the Jonathan administration and using style to criticize the present administration. I told him off and reminded him of my rights as a trained journalist and as a professionally licensed critic and citizen. He held his ground. So I asked:  “Aisha Buhari criticizes President Buhari and retweets anti-Buhari comments, is she also a Jonathanian woman? The guy had nothing to say. So I added: “if President Buhari is being criticized in his own bedroom, by persons who eat his pepper and palm oil, what moral right does anybody have to silence critics of his administration?” The guy blurted out: “if my wife tries that nonsense with me, there will be a meeting with my in-laws with serious consequences!” Case settled, so I rested it.

The de-marketing campaign against President Buhari is even worse than that. Within 24 hours after the retweet on Aisha Buhari’s handle, it was reported that one of her daughters, Zahra M. Buhari had also posted a cryptic statement, which suggested a condemnation of the administration. Unlike her mother, Zahra does not seem to have a verified twitter handle. There are even about eight handles bearing her name, including one that confesses to being a parody. But of all these, the most influential is – @zmbuhari – which has the largest following – 77.4k – and which seems to be more credible. Under this handle, Zahra supports her father, retweets her mother’s tweets including the ones already cited, she sounds spiritual and poetic and in every measure, comes across as her mother’s daughter, as if mother and daughter are united in a rebellious mission inside the Presidential Villa.

I recommend a forensic study of the retweets under her handle. In one case, she retweets  @aminuganawa, a bright US-based Ph.D, who writes: “I doubt if there is anyone who would want you to succeed more than your wife and children. Your success is their success. If there is anything that will harm you they are likely to be the first to notice it. If you want an honest feedback listen to your wife and children.” That was three days ago, shortly after Zahra retweeted her mother’s retweets. Are we being told that the President does not listen to his wife and children, and that indeed, outsiders have held him hostage? A rigorous semiotic analysis of wife-and-daughter-Buhari’s tweets belongs to another level of analysis and other revelations.  But here is Zahra M. Buhari’s most controversial tweet in the last 48 hours and it speaks for itself:
Sahih al-Bukahri, Knowledge
Book 3, Hadith 1
Narrated ‘Abu Huraira

When the Prophet (pbuh) finished his/
speech, he said, Where is the questioner,/
Who inquired about the Hour (Doomsday)?”/
The Bedouin said “I am here, O Allah’s Apostle”/
Then the Prophet (phub) said, “When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour/
The Bedouin said, “How will that be lost?”/
The Prophet (phub) said, “When the power/
or authority comes in the hands of unfit/
persons, then wait for the hour/

The foregoing verse is probably the most intellectually relevant criticism of the Buhari government to date and to be attributed to his daughter’s platform is the scariest of all things. “Unfit persons”? “Doomsday?”
It seems to me that some people are sleeping on the job. The happiness of the President is a matter of national security. The biggest problems that the Buhari administration has faced have been mainly unforced errors.

In the absence of a competent opposition, this government has consistently shot itself in the foot. To add to that: a President with what looks like a troubled home is the most unfortunate thing that can happen to a country. To show a lack of capacity to manage that particular trouble has sorry implications for the Presidency and the administration. I may sound conservative but I think the twin-image of a rebellious wife and a free-willing daughter posting negative comments about a sitting President should be of greater interest to the intelligence agencies and reputation managers.

However, it is possible that there is a fake Buhari wife and a fake Buhari daughter out there being used to amplify negative narratives, in the most treacherous medium of the time: the social media.  It is the job of the intelligence system to track that trail and stop it, if indeed it exists. It doesn’t require more than a couple of emails to Twitter, anyway, with complaints about implications for national security.

Zahra M. Buhari doesn’t need to have so many twitter accounts in her name. And if Aisha Buhari’s account has been hacked, we should be told, and if she did not retweet those anti-spouse messages, we should know even if serious damage has been done already. If this is not the case: then we should say this: her job in the other room does not include openly and deliberately discrediting her husband. This much should be made clear. And if that fails, then we would be dealing, more or less with the true quality of the man in that other room.
The bottom line in my view: This President needs HELP. And he is not getting it.

  • Ibe Edwards

    Sir Abati, please the criticisms from within is very helpful. This is so that the government don’t continue to have the illusion that the people have been crying wolf when there is none. At least PMB’s family have also sighted the wolf(s). It lends credence to the stark despondency in the land and the inability of the government to act. Sad indeed. I am grateful that the President’s inner circles are now card-carrying members of ‘Wailing-Wailers’ Party. Kudos!

  • Matthew Oye

    Both Aisha and her daughter see all the charlatans – the cabals that are coming to the president bedroom every night. The kyaris that ruined his government and the president has refused to heed their warning. What do you expect the to do?

  • Samson Judah

    Mr. Reuben, most of us are only after your judgement of what led to these barrage of seemingly insider revolts not your moral, personal views and values of why about those endorsements. Nigeria is a pluralist formation and what you belief must not be all’s, but what should interests us all is the common-bond subject of governance or public service incompetence. Don’t personalize it please.

  • Sarah

    I would personally also hold back from encouraging Mrs Aisha Buhari and her daughter from being openly critical of Buhari/Osinbajo. Perhaps all their attempts to reach and influence Buhari is being blocked by Mamman Daura, Tunde Sabiu et al. Only God Knows.
    The point now is that we must all add our voices to the call for Buhari/Osinbajo to step down in 2019. All Nigerians that love this our only one country should work to ensure Buhari/Osinbajo are defeated at 2019 elections. Enough is Enough. If they get re-elected, this country will not survive another 24 calendar months.
    Buhari and Osinbajo, please follow the good example of Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Do not cause trouble for our country in 2019. Just resign and go home, we must now save our country from further degeneration.
    Thank you for your service, please go home in 2019..

    • Bukola Ajisola

      But Jonathan contested and lost, Let Buhari/Osinbajo also test their electoral propensity at the ballots. Even Obj, an epic failure as far as I’m concerned attempted a third term gambit. Obj couldn’t construct Lagos-Ibadan road, the most proximate to his neck of the wood.
      I agree with Abati, Aisha is too naive to think that Bruce and other critics of her husband actually hold her in any regard, they would probably be laughing in their kidneys at her venal indiscretion.

  • chyke

    ‘One character who likes to talk accused me of being sympathetic to the Jonathan administration and using style to criticize the present administration. I told him off and reminded him of my rights…’. I decided to truncate Abati’s rabble rousing at that point because we Nigerians begged him not to go mess up his name but he went there to curse and abuse Nigerians he all along pretended to so loved. His misdeeds got to a head when he took on Dele Momodu. I’m sure Abati regrets that tomfoolery to this day.

    • Cytosine.

      Going to Abuja,was a risk worth taking. Apart from the connection, he just like Segun was able to make enough money, to go to Harvard.

  • Mystic mallam

    Yes Reuben, the President needs help and he is not getting it – until he employs you, of course!!!

    • Cytosine.

      But Abati,has not finished his money.

      • Mystic mallam

        Okay, I didn’t know that. Maybe, he wants more. Nigerians always do.

        • Cytosine.

          Yes, Nigerians always do. But apart from being clannish,and nepotistic,as OBJ, opined, our president,does not pretend.Reuben is not from his clan,and thus no engagement for him.

          • Mystic mallam

            Yes, ”our President does not pretend” except during elections.

  • Souleymane Bilal

    Such nonsense from a so-called senior journalist! Listen, I am not a fan of the dupe called Buhari. But to be so duped to the extent of not knowing the treachery called socail media shows how low people like Reuben have sunk. Do you really belive those handles belong to the Buhari wife and daughter? As a This Day journalist will end one of his four other things, DISGRACE!

    • Dayo Akom

      You can say what ever you like about senior journalist, but neither the woman (Aisha) nor the daughter has denied those tweets or you want to claim that the two are not aware of the existence of those tweet in the public domain?

  • remm ieet

    I wish all Nigerian women can emulate the virtues of Aisha Buhari, who refused to be cowed. She wants to be taken seriously not as a woman from the kitchen alone, but a sincere Nigerian with a message. But we know how our women usually behave. They encourage their husbands to milk the system while they remain at the background correcting nothing, until the country is plunged into a monumental disaster. She doesn’t want to criticise her husband in the “other room” after losing the election. Such criticism will amount to absolutely nothing. Criticise him when CHANGE makes sense and is possible.
    This woman is using the same social media that some Nigerians have abused, to send a message to the president and the corrupt, incompetent ministers to shape up or ship out. The First Lady is sending her message to her husband, the president and all those women in the NASS who are just occupying space, while creaming off the already impoverished Nigerian State.

    • Cytosine.

      let her use that virtue/s ,to help her husband succeed, and not against him. If the man sinks, they are sinking together.

  • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

    No matter my dislike of the person that is our President, I dislike even more that in this age of new media and instant news gratification we have come to such a sorry pass where the wife of the Nigerian President is commenting and criticising his government publicly and brazenly.

    We all also seem to have forgotten that hers is a ceremonial role with absolutely no invitation to involve their opinion in the affairs of government. If as clearly appears to be the case, she wants to join politics and participate she should do so and settle the obvious turbulence in her marriage privately and behind closed doors.

    Just because we may disagree with the President does not allow me to condone this type of unwanted drama. I did not like it either when comedian of the decade Patience Goodluck was doing it and i like it even less now – at least Patience was funny. Aisha is more articulate, urbane and exposed and therefore in my opinion more concerning.

    I do not know what her game is. I don’t believe it is for the love of country. It is wrong to use her husbands platform as the First Lady to criticise Government policy. This is not as some commentators would have us believe an act of uncommon valor it is an act of a wife stabbing her husband in the back and it is terrible viewing. I also rather suspect that were we to shine the light into her affairs as she is ‘helping us do against her husband’ we may find that she too like all the other First Ladies before her, has found a way to lick a little from the sweet honey purse of state. She is definitely not engaged in a ‘job’ for which she is qualified like I would prefer all First Ladies to do.

    If not working a conventional job, First Ladies should present and offer diplomatic silence when it comes to affairs of state or government policy. No one voted for Aisha Buhari, they (wrongly in my opinion) voted for her husband.

    She should beware of those praising her and realise that Nigerians generally love the drama and are pushing her into what will end up a lonely place. If they no longer respect their husband and father, they should respect our customs and traditions and the sheer dignity of marriage and family and send text messages to each other and not to us.

    Anyway, they will have enough time to discuss the matter soon enough as two private citizens.

    • bigdaddy

      Your contributions on this forum have in my opinion been largely spot on. But i beg to strongly disagree with you today on this one.
      1. I believe Mrs Buhari did not just decide to go public at the drop of the heart. Like i noted in my post, i read this to be a cry for help. I think the situation has gone beyond what she can handle and if going public will help put some sense into the man why not.
      2. Granted first ladies do not have a constitutional role. But i think you are being naive if you think they do not significantly influence their spouses.
      3. Com’ on Mike, it is beneath you to start insinuating the first lady is stealing with no allegations against her.
      4. Are you implying that the first lady’s duty should be restricted only to ” ze ozer room”?

      • ayo

        In answer to your 1st observation , you think going on social media is the best way to address her grievances ?, Are you married ? There are other ways of resolving this type of issues not through a public display of rebellion and antagonism. It is a form of betrayal. She is married to him and except her life or her children’s life is in danger , she must stomach both the good and the bad about him .

      • Cytosine.

        A cry for help for Nigerians, or for herself, and family?There was a cabal during Yar adua’s government,but Turai, did not cry for help, being in sole charge of the cabal,unlike the present cabal,where Aisha, is an outsider.

    • ayo

      I agree with you totally .If a president shreds his wife in public at the intensity of Aisha Buhari he would have attracted a backlash that can consume him. Regardless of her opinion , it is outright betrayal and rebellion.

  • peace

    Reuben you can continue being sarcastic like you don’t know that the love of a wife and a daughter remains firm even when the man is like Saul after the Lord has rejected him. Mother and daughter just want their man back before he goes completely insane occupying a seat that has proved too difficult and tedious for him. How often have you witness the man get out of aso rock of recent or you are looking for other signal of a man completely overwhelmed by situations around him ? Garba Shehu that used to be a permanent feature on al Jazeera in 2015 do we still remember how he looks or the sound of his voice ? what of John odigie, is he not interested only on remaining party chairman without a party convention, board of trustees and the rest ? The minister of misinformation Lai Mohammed how often does he defend his Mr indefensible ? Where are the men packaging the president as the best thing to have happened to Nigeria after akara and bread ? where are they ? Apart from the fulani herdsmen and few sai barbarians, the others are just waiting for the man to declare that he won’t be running for a second term so they can know where to pitch their tent. Mother and daughter are much more aware of the situation and just wish their man back before they lose him for good . But as a man hard of hearing and of heart , they just have to shout from the roof top , hopefully he either hear or notice them.

    • James Gunn

      I had to laugh at Sai barbarians.

    • Adesuwa

      Hahaha. You are truly funny. Still your point is apt and well-taken.

  • Daniel Obior

    Why does anyone have to lose sleep because Buhari is being criticised by his wife and daughter, and he is unable to do a thing about it? This is one of the known faces of Buhari. In his incompetence, he cannot even manage his home. With the first salvo from his wife with the BBC interview, one would have expected this issue to be put to bed once and for all. Yet Buhari did nothing. Recall how he was also a sitting duck when he was overthrown as military head of state. He knew that Babangida and his group were planning to overthrow him. Typically, he did nothing about it. The man only gets his mojo when on a revenge mission, bourn out of a vindictive nature.

  • Iskacountryman

    the position of president…is a national security one…the happiness of the president is a national security one…toasting and seducing a presidents wife is therefore a matter of serious national concern…

  • Gary

    I hope I’m wrong on this one but did I just read an article by Reuben Abati calling the wife and daughter of the President as traitors worthy of attention from the intelligence services? Good God, someone please tell me that I have had a lapse in comprehension!

    Is Abati aware of the family dynamics in the Buhari household for him to venture into questioning the loyalty of the woman and daughter who have had to live with the man most Nigerians have had reason to fear from afar in his entire public life?
    Who is to say or know if there is a history of abuse, mental or physical, in the household? Like it took the late Remi Obasanjo to divulge the history of getting caned by the man who twice became Nigeria’s President and not surprisingly incurred the disaffection of her children towards their father when they became adults and no longer lived under his wing. Is Buhari not cast of the same mould, in career and temperament, as our current President? Soldiers who treated their spouses and children at home no better than they treated conscripts on the parade ground?
    Mr. Abati should ask if he would place his extended family before the mother of his children and countenance having them publicly humiliate her (they initially fenced her from her husband in London and sent her to Mecca instead). Then came published reports that she was being derisively tagged the “suicide bomber from Yola”. Or you think Zahra and her mother don’t read or follow what is published about the shenanigans of the men her father put in charge of running a Presidency that took him (and family sacrifice) four tries to achieve only for some opportunistic charlatans to mess up? Retweeting critical comments about the cabal is the least of what other people would do in similar circumstances.

    Abati, it is you who has crossed an ethical line into the zone of privacy of a family situation that you know nothing about much less question spousal or familial loyalty. Keep your nose and pen out of psycho-analyzing the Buhari household. Until someone decides to write a book like Remi Obasanjo did before she passed. It is none of our business and let’s hope you were not implying that the wife of the President has engaged in a treasonous act for getting back at her traducers in her husband’s inner circle.

    • Iskacountryman

      dear gary…ever since that woman lawyer stabbed her husband to death in ebadan and hausa gals learnt the efficacy of otapiapia, as a modern means of seeking final divorce…people like abati have learnt to toe the path of reason when yakking in public…or else…

    • BB

      Dear Sir, Remi Obasanjo is very much alive and well

    • ladi9lives

      I think if reuben did some introspection he could easily write two books on his ex principal’s wife Patience…now that’s a character.!If we are talking about a President being taken hostage, there’s a lot of material there

  • Toby

    The man is too old to perform manly activities. Wifey knows his weakness and Achilles heel. Finds succor else where.

  • bigdaddy

    Truth be told, i think the man is just too stubborn and refuses to listen to his wife and daughter. This public outing by the duo is a cry for help. The man needs an intervention. He needs help quite alright, he is getting it but i think we have a case of the falcon not responding to the falconer.

    • Dayo Akom

      It is obvious that Buhari is not a listen type, you remembered that he referred the to be ministers as “just noise maker” . The outburst of Aisha and her daughter is an outburst of a frustrated people like every other Nigerians about PMB government. But the truth be told, it is not a good thing to have happened.