VIEW FROM ABROAD/BBC STORY
By Nduka Orjinmo
Nigeria’s first family, the Buharis, are embroiled in a still-developing story resembling one of Nollywood’s many Sunday-evening soap operas.
It is a story about the president purportedly taking a second wife – a female cabinet member to boot – while his wife’s furious outburst hint at deeper issues.
The plot was supplied by Nigeria’s vibrant social media and was aided by Mrs Buhari’s cryptic comments. The setting is Nigeria’s presidential villa, Aso Rock.
What’s All This Talk about a Wedding?
The wedding at the centre of the story that was largely played out on social media involves President Muhammadu Buhari, and one of his female cabinet ministers, Sadiya Farouq.
What we do know is that President Muhammadu Buhari is married to Aisha Buhari and has not said anything about taking a new wife.
Ms Farouq has not said anything either about the purported marriage. It could easily have been dismissed as fake news and left at that, but for a comment from Mrs Buhari.
What Did Aisha Buhari Say?
She had been out of the country for two months with a stop in the UK for a medical check-up. Her return was taken by those following the story as a sign that she had come back to “defend her territory”.
Her response when asked at the airport about the wedding did little to extinguish rumours that the president was taking another wife. In an interview with BBC Hausa, the first lady offered confirmation, albeit in a very cryptic way, that there had indeed been plans for President Buhari to take a second wife, by referring to a “promise of marriage”. She also said that the purported bride-to-be was disappointed the marriage hadn’t taken place.
Mrs Buhari said: “The person that promised her marriage didn’t know it wasn’t going to happen. She (believed to be Ms Farouq) didn’t deny the marriage until the day passed.”
She spoke entirely in Hausa, measuring her words and mentioning no names. But it was clear from the interview that Mrs Buhari was upset that Ms Farouq hadn’t publicly denied rumours of the marriage.
To further complicate matters, the minister’s Twitter account denied commenting on the rumours, rebutting claims made by a fake account in her name that had actually denied the story.
The minister’s account tweeted: “It has come to my attention that a fake Twitter account @Sadiya_farouq_ has been created in my name.
“I wish to inform my followers and well-meaning Nigerians to disregard the handle and any information posted on it. My official Twitter handle remains @Sadiya_farouq”.
Some say she missed an opportunity to quash the rumours with a firm denial.
So Who Is Sadiya Farouq?
At 45 years of age, she is one of the younger ministers in Mr Buhari’s cabinet and heads the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development.
Little was known of her before she was appointed by Mr Buhari in August to lead the newly created ministry. The ministry’s creation and her appointment came as a surprise to many, but those who know her say she’s been a staunch supporter of the president for decades.
She was head of the country’s National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and was a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council, where she was in charge of election planning and monitoring, field operations, and fund raising.
So Was There a Wedding?
No. The wedding was supposed to have been planned last Friday, 11 October, but the Twitter account of Sadiya Farouq showed she was far away in the Swiss city of Geneva from Thursday, leading Nigeria’s delegation at a meeting of the United Nations refugees agency.
She did not return to Nigeria until Tuesday, based on what she posted on the same account.
But that didn’t deter Nigeria’s social media users, especially on Twitter, from providing the guest list, a venue and entertainment. A user even designed the wedding card.
A Nigerian wedding is not complete without an aso-ebi, the colourful attire worn by close friends and family on the day. A user recycled an old photo not related to a wedding.
And What’s All This about a Family Feud?
A sub-plot to the fake wedding story is the strained relations between different members of the wider Buhari family.
We now know, courtesy of that BBC Hausa interview, that a viral video that circulated on social media of Aisha Buhari in an angry outburst was genuine. She confirmed the authenticity of the video which she said was recorded by a relative of the president who lives in Aso Rock, some time in 2018.
Mrs Buhari says the video was filmed by Fatima Daura, daughter of Mamman Daura. He is Mr Buhari’s nephew and has been a close associate of the president. He holds no official position in the government but is widely believed to wield huge influence over the government.
He was even given an apartment – the Glass House – in the presidential villa that was the scene of the outburst in the video.
According to Mrs Buhari: “They shot the video in front of my security and everybody there. She [Fatima Daura] was actually recording the whole thing right in front of me and was laughing and mocking me.
“They did that because my husband sacked them from the house. He told them to get all their belongings and leave the house for my son [Yusuf] to occupy.
Fatima Daura has responded to Mrs Buhari’s interview, saying: “If one reasons well, he or she will understand that it is not possible to say that the wife of the president is denied access to her apartment.”
Nigeria’s presidency is yet to say anything about the video but on Wednesday, Mrs Buhari later posted an apology on Instagram, saying: “I use the opportunity to apologise for the embarrassment I might have caused my children, my immediate family members, well meaning Nigerians and the institution I represent, on the circulated leaked video clip”.
Aisha Buhari didn’t say who was planning the marriage, but it is clear she knows who it was. Some people are speculating that her willingness to confirm the authenticity of a video from 2018, in which she mentioned Mamman Daura and his daughter Fatima, was another cryptic message.
Ms Daura denies that a wedding was being planned, telling BBC Hausa that both her father and the president are “monogamists”. She also said that “the kind of power and influence that is being ascribed to my father is only attributable to God”.
So Is a Wedding Still on the Cards?
That would depend on if it was ever on the cards in the first place. If people were planning it, they might not have altogether abandoned those plans.
If there’s anyone who would know the signs of a new marriage in the making, then it’s Mrs Buhari. She married the president after he divorced his first wife in 1988. The president is known as a monogamist but as a Muslim, he is allowed to take up to four wives.
Mrs Buhari was clearly referring to Ms Farouq as the intended bride in the BBC Hausa interview and the fact that neither the minister or the president have said anything about the rumoured marriage has many wondering if, like a true Nollywood soap, this story might have a sequel.
Transcript of the Viral Video
Aisha Buhari (angrily): You locked the door! What did I do to you people?
Fatima Daura (politely): Nobody told us you are coming Goggo (Mummy).
Aisha Buhari: Tell me, this is Villa, we have 200 soldiers guarding us, 200 police men guarding us. Why do you have to lock this door? What for? What for? Enough is enough! Enough is enough! We ourselves don’t lock anywhere in this villa.
Fatima Daura: Innalillahi (expression of surprise)
Aisha Buhari: Let me know when you are leaving this place…nonsense
Aisha Buhari Confirms Video
Last week, a video in which a lady can be seen screaming at no one in particular and protesting her ordeal, went viral. There were speculations that the president’s wife, Aisha Buhari was the furious lady in the video and that it was recorded inside Aso Rock Villa.
Upon her return to Nigeria on Sunday, October 13, 2019 after a two-month vacation in the UK, Mrs. Buhari confirmed that she was the one in the video and that it was recorded in the villa. In an interview with BBC Hausa, Mrs. Aisha Buhari explained the circumstances behind the video.
She said the video was recorded by the daughter of her husband’s nephew, Fatima Mamman Daura.
She said: “I was the one in that video and this person you see standing at my back are my security personnel.
“It was Fatima, the daughter of Mamman Daura that shot the video in front of my security and everybody there. She was actually recording the whole thing right in front of me and was laughing and mocking me.
“They did that because my husband sacked them from the house. He told them to get all their belongings and leave the house for my son (Yusuf) to occupy.
“I left them and wanted to get to one of the rooms but they prevented me from getting through, I left them and took another way yet I met the store locked.”
Fatima Mamman: Why I Recorded the Video
However, in a separate interview with the BBC, Fatima gave her own version while admitting that she shot the video.
She said the house where the incident happened was formally occupied by her father but was asked to vacate it for the president’s son to move in. She however said she did not lock out the president’s wife. Fatima said their parents, who were then out of the country, had instructed her and her sister to move their belongings to the new residence. “Because both of us are working, they told us to use the weekend (Saturday) to move his things to the new house. “We have almost finished packing when we heard noise outside. “I was in the inner room while my sister was in the other room close to the main entrance. The door was locked. We normally lock it. My sister went out. She did not know it was the President’s wife who was trying to open the door. “When she (Aisha) tried and found it locked, she took a metal chair and threw it at the door vandalising it. My sister was nearly hit by the chair.
“She threw the chair which broke through the door and almost hit my sister.
“I was so shocked and afraid of getting there because she was shouting and raining abusive words and saying we should move out of that apartment. That she has never seen this kind of thing before. I then went back and picked my phone because if one is to say that she acted that way, no one would believe it without proof. She has already been saying a lot of things depicting that she is being suppressed.
“So I recorded it to show our parents and the security, so that they will know the truth should anything happen. Because the way she was raging and shouting, I was thinking that she would pick something and hit us with it or something like that. That was why we recorded it. Had it been we wanted to release the video, we would have done it earlier. But you know if a video clip enters one or two hands, you can’t control where it will get to. “There are even other clips that have not been released. I will send them to you to see how she was insulting the security and how she drove them away saying who are they protecting and calling them bloody idiots. It’s all on the video clip. That was what happened.”