Aisha Buhari: When Grace and Elegance Meets Altruism

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Femi Odere
A society whose very essence has never known anything fundamentally ennobling and uplifting since the civil war, but rather wallops in the most despicable form of abuse and degeneration of its being in every material, moral and even spiritual spheres can be forgiven for its inability to recognise someone’s emergence on its landscape because it has been comatose for far too long.

It’s now a little over a year that President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife Aisha, Nigeria’s First Couple, has been on the nation’s consciousness that not a few of the population still wonders how they’re able to live such unblemished lives in a society where your upward mobility on the socio-economic and political fronts has direct correlation to how morally bankrupt, criminally minded and fantastically corrupt you are.

Just as Buhari continues the socio-economic re-engineering of the polity in accordance with his electoral mandate, thereby changing the way the Nigerian people think about governance, there’s also a tectonic shift in the way Nigerians now look at the wife of their president.

In deference to her husband after the president said that the Office of the First Lady was not known to the country’s constitution, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is comfortable with simply being called “the wife of the president.” From this officially humble beginning Mrs. Buhari started her own quiet ‘revolution.’ Mrs. Buhari’s interventions in the lives of everyday Nigerians, though tremendously significant, are not what would normally generate sensational headlines. But as her husband continues to do the heavy lifting in his old age in remaking a new and saner Nigeria, a paradigm shift is taking shape in how Nigerians look at the First Lady.

It will probably take Nigerians a little more time to realise and understand the essence, grace, dignity and ‘soft power’ that Mrs. Buhari brought into the Presidential Villa in order to compliment her husband’s office. The virtues inherent in Mrs. Buhari are not what Nigerians are used to. For decades they’re familiar with their president’s wife more powerful than her husband that cabinet members would rather see the First Lady first on their way to the office of the Chief of State. They are used to seeing their First Lady leading the country’s First Citizen into the presidential aircraft on their way to a foreign land. On getting there, she would also be the first to emerge from the aircraft that the welcoming officials would be momentarily confused as to who the real president was.

For a little over a year that Mrs. Buhari has become a public figure virtually for being the wife of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, she had positively impacted the lives of those Nigerians who may have already given up hope on the improvement of their conditions, if not their very existence. Her several humanitarian interventions had been timely and specifically-targeted to the critical needs of the vulnerable people in society who had encountered heart-wrenching and life-threatening challenges through no fault of their own. These are people such as the wives of soldiers fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, pregnant women, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and orphanage children among others.

In cases where the benefits of these interventions must extend to hundreds of thousands of people Mrs. Buhari would partner with other professional bodies. Perhaps the “Future Assured Medical Outreach” programme under the auspices of Mrs. Buhari’s “Future Assured Initiative” will probably go down as the most important undertakings of her many humanitarian intervention programmes. The Future Assured Medical Outreach is a country-wide medical intervention that caters for women and their dependents.

First launched in Nasarawa State, this life-saving and life-enhancing medical outreach has taken its benefits to several states of the federation including Adamawa, Cross River, Enugu, Oyo, Katsina, Ogun, and Kebbi where hundreds of thousands of women and children were beneficiaries.
On January 2016, Mrs. Buhari was at the 44 Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna to see soldiers on admission who sustained various degrees of injuries in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency and receiving treatment.

The wife of the president used the occasion to appeal to the Nigerian Army authorities to ensure prompt payment of entitlements to families of deceased soldiers who lost their lives in the war front in order to alleviate the suffering of the loved ones they left behind. Several gifts were given to wounded soldiers, pregnant and nursing women in the Accident /Emergency and Obstetrics/Gynaecology wards. On December 2015, Mrs. Buhari was at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Dalori Camp in Maiduguri where more than 21,000 victims of the insurgency lives. She donated food items such as rice, semovita, cooking oil, seasonings, plastics, milk, and juice among other things. She said she would continue to assist IDPs by donating food and other essential items to reduce their suffering.

On September 2015, the wife of the president was in Calabar in Cross River State where she donated nutritional supplement—the Frisomum Gold brand— to more than 250,000 expectant and nursing mothers who were randomly drawn to avoid any appearance of political undertone of favouritism. The Frisomum supplement is an alternative to breast milk. Several thousands of the Islamic faith had reasons to offer special thanks to their Creator in the just concluded Eid-El-Fitri celebration for sending a kind-hearted Mrs. Buhari their way with foodstuff and other non-edible gift items that were distributed in sixteen states of the federation.

It will take several years for Musa Murtala to be able to spell the name of the wife of the president, let alone have an acute understanding of her impact in his life. Musa is a 20-month old toddler who was badly mutilated by his two stepmothers who broke his legs, hands as well as caused injuries to his private part and tongues.

On hearing about the barbaric acts meted out to this sinless baby, Mrs. Buhari had him brought to Abuja where she had him taken to Crest Hospital in the Federal Capital Territory for treatment. Injuries that could have caused a permanent and irreversible damage to his health and wellbeing, if not death for little Musa were treated. He has since been discharged from the hospital. These are some of the synopsis of the many interventions of the wife of the president since her husband came to power.

Her gentle mien, grace, humility and her willingness to seek comfort in the shadows of her husband in accordance with traditional and religious tenets she holds dear was therefore a breath of fresh air for Nigerians, most especially the women folks when she emerged that some of them could not help but comment on these extraordinary virtues they probably never experienced with any of their first ladies. “I met Aisha Buhari three times, and she seems to be a very humble person, very friendly and a good listener,” said Ebere Ifendu, a lawyer who is also the head of an Abuja-based Women in Politics Forum. Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, head of the Nigerian Network of NGOs also has something to say about Mrs. Buhari. Hear her: “Our current first lady cannot be compared to our immediate past first lady by any stretch of the imagination. Patience was like a bull in a china shop [with] no control whatsoever. I hope she’s capable of looking at Aisha to reflect on her own life now that her husband is out of power. ”

But there’s a mad and raging bull that Nigerians have agreed that the polity would be better for it if he’s confined to a china shop. But he roams the country’s landscape desecrating everything in his path, including the exalted office in which a combination of devilish shenanigans, alleged murder and a self-inspired mayhem thrusts on him. It’s one thing to place advertorials in just about all the national dailies during electioneering campaigns telling voters that her husband would die in office if elected because Mrs. Buhari is well aware that politics can make some people lose their sanity.

But it’s another thing altogether to engage in some pre-meditated character assassination with a patently false and baseless accusation in his mistaken belief that Mrs. Buhari’s humility is devoid of a voice of her own. So when the governor of Ekiti State Ayo Fayose apparently crossed the political line in his false accusation that Mrs. Buhari had engaged in a criminal act in faraway United States, not a few thought about how Fayose could have been so far gone in his madness to have been thoroughly disgraced by a harmless woman when she referred to him as “a mad dog that isn’t chained” on her Twitter handle. The wife of the president knows politics when she sees it, and that’s probably the reason she made sure that her presence should not be felt in that vocation but on humanitarian interventions.

No woman that takes her hard-earned integrity seriously—and that she must guide jealously—would have kept quiet in the face of Ayo Fayose’s blatant lies that smacks of the most virulent criminality. In Hajiya Aisha Buhari came divine calm after so many perfect storms. Mrs. Buhari’s humility and kind-heartedness that continues to manifest in her several humanitarian gestures to the vulnerable people of the Nigerian society is indeed a breath of fresh air to the Nigerian people.

Odere, is a media practitioner. Email femiodere@gmail.com