Aisha Buhari: A Profile in Courage

Aisha Buhari

While some may say she is an enemy within, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, is no doubt a patriot and stickler for the truth in collective interest, writes Shola Oyeyipo

History will surely be kind to the wife of the Nigerian leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, who holds a lot of fascination for many Nigerians that admire her bravery and ability to speak the truth to power, because in her case, she speaks the truth to a presidency headed by her husband, standing with the suffering majority.

In more than one occasion, the Nigerian first lady, without fearing whose ox is gored and not caving in to sycophancy, had come out like every other concerned Nigerian to openly condemn some of the ills in her husband’s government, proving she is first a lady before becoming the first lady of Nigeria.

This assertion was further given credence to last Wednesday, when she noted with disgust that the N500bn Social Investment Programme (SIP) initiated by her husband has failed “woefully,” in the North.

Drawing inference from her home state of Adamawa State and another northern state, Kano, she said the SIP implementation was “pathetic.”
She took that position recently during an interactive programme organised by her for women at the Presidential Villa, where she was quoted as saying, “Concerning the N500bn voted for SIP that was part of 2015 campaigns, where they promised to give out N10,000, feed pupils in primary schools and give N5, 000 to the poorest of the poor.

“The Senior Special Assistance (SSA) to the President on Social Investment is a lady from Kano and I am sure that my husband decided to put somebody from Kano, because of the population and political impact it made. I have never asked how the money is being used or is being given out. I met Barrister (one of the president’s aides on SIP) once and he promised me that for my state, we should get 30,000 women to be given N10,000. Up till now, I haven’t heard from him.

“I don’t want to raise the alarm that my state does not benefit from it. It is where the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) came from. I kept quiet, because I don’t want people to say that I talk too much,” she maintained.

Insinuating that poverty was still rampant among the northern peoples and that SIP did not percolate to the real poor people, she said: “Recently, I saw a 74-year-old man selling petty things in Kano, I asked him how much is his capital, he told me between N3, 000 and N4, 000. Don’t forget that we have campaigned to give the poorest of the poor N5, 000 every month. So, I don’t know – where is the social investment?

“Maybe, it worked out in some states. In my own state, only a local government benefited out of the 22. I didn’t ask what happened and I don’t want to know, but it failed woefully in Kano. It is not a good sign and it is not a good thing. We have a lot of women that do business locally due to the cultural thing in the North. They are at home doing their business. Some are millionaires, some have thousands of naira, they need the assistance but they do not get it. Most northern women do not belong to any market association.
“I was expecting the N500bn to be utilised in different methods in the North for the aim to be achieved. I don’t know the method they used, but most of the northern states did not get it. My state did not get it.”

When she asked the women at the occasion, “How many of you got it in your state? My state did not benefit from it,” the women responded that they did not get anything in the past four years.

The government’s social investment programme was intended to lift many Nigerians out of poverty and other forms of social problems. It is said that close to 110 million people are poor and with about 30 million living in extreme poverty situation. It is a project embarked upon in the office of Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, but being implemented by the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais.

According to Mrs. Buhari, Mrs. Uwais informed her that 30,000 women would be beneficiaries in Adamawa State, but after four years, there has not been any indication that the SSA to the president fulfilled that promise.
Mrs. Buhari was equally miffed at the $16m counterpart fund said to have been used so far on procurement of mosquito nets, saying “I have heard about mosquito nets, Nigeria paid its counterpart fund, $16m. I asked them to give my own share of the net to send it to my village people. I didn’t get it.

“They have spent $16m in buying mosquito nets, I did not get it. Maybe some people have got it. But I feel that is my personal opinion. $16m is enough to fumigate mosquitoes in Nigeria.”

Also commenting on the anti-drug committee chaired by former military administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier General Buba Marwa (rtd), Mrs. Buhari, who said she managed to be member of the committee to ensure that things work well, underscored the good work by the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, but wants the people to monitor the money expended on the initiative so far.

“The revelation is beyond comment. I asked her to publicise her discovery but she didn’t. If she had done so, it would have served as a lesson. Over N12bn has been released by the president to take care of trauma cases across the country. Can you please monitor the money? The ministers are going very soon and the money is being released,” Mrs. Buhari stated.

Expectedly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had quickly latched on Mrs. Buhari’s revelations. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan said Mrs. Buhari’s revelation has further indicated that there is huge fraud in the N500bn SIP, and that the N16bn Mosquito Net Project by the Buhari administration, has further vindicated its position that the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership was deceitful and a pretentious citadel of corruption.

The opposition party is therefore calling on relevant authorities to commence forensic investigation to ascertain the veracity of her claims.

Call her the mouthpiece of the masses or rebel from within, you may not be wrong but truth is, in what would have easily won her the appellation of ‘enemy from within,’ Mrs. Buahri, with the benefit of hindsight has been hitting the headlines since October 2016, when she said she might not support President Buhari in the recent 2019 presidential election except he rejigged his government.

She vented her frustration during an interview with the BBC. Her grouse was that the president did not know most of the top officials he appointed, arguing that those who really worked for her husband’s electoral success had been left out of the government.

“The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years. 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,” Mrs. Buhari stated in Hausa language.

Asked to name those, who had hijacked the government, she said: “You will know them if you watch television and whether President Buhari was in charge”, she said, adding: “That is left for the people to decide.”

By any standard, those were scathing criticism coming from a First Lady and she got rousing applauds from a majority of Nigerians, who believed she spoke nothing but the truth, even though supporters of the president also went after her.

President Buhari’s response to Aisha in Germany, during a joint press briefing with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, when he said: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” was in fact met with even greater disappointment by Nigerians, who felt his comment was derogatory and insensitive to the women folk.
She fired another salvo in December 2018, when she alleged that there were two strong men within the cabal slowing down her husband’s government.

She was speaking at a National Women Leadership Summit organised by a political group, Project 4+4 for Buhari and Osinbajo 2019 and in an apparent reaction to her gesture by some persons, including the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojodu, that she should discontinue the topic, she said: “I have realised that Senator Babafemi Ojodu, Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President, and Dr. Hajo Sani, my aide, Sajo, and wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Osinbajo, are not comfortable with me saying this and want me to confine myself to my prepared speech, but we must say the truth.”

Her legitimate concern was that the actions of these fellows were hindrances to President Buhari’s performance. She was of the opinion that her husband would have performed better without these individuals. She was particularly unhappy that those who needed favour from her husband, would rather make nocturnal trips to the two men.

However, at same occasion, she commended the President Buhari for doing well in delivering dividends of democracy to Nigerians even in the face of massive opposition.

Mrs. Buhari’s allegations were weighty and she doesn’t seem to be done yet. She has not alleged incompetence on the part of her husband, but her concern has been that certain forces within the government were covertly manipulating things. Though for reasons best known to her, she refrained from naming those persons, Nigerians were probably able to decipher her coded message.

She did not stop at the criticism and allegations; she challenged Nigerian men to stand up to the two people, who are allegedly hindering the progress of her husband’s administration.

“Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people. This is totally unacceptable. If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? Instead of them to come together and fight them, they keep visiting them one after the other, licking their shoes (I’m sorry to use those words),” she said.

Say what you may, Aisha Buhari is not the typical northern woman, who lives and buries her potential in the shadows of her husband. She has shown to be different in all ways, particularly in a society where sycophancy is not just an industry but has assumed a life of its own. This is why her profile in courage is worth sharing, perhaps, to motivate