Nigeria’s Manu Militari Governance and Detention of Aminu Adamu: The Foreign Policy Dimensions



Bola A. Akinterinwa 

Aminu  Mohammed Adamu is about 23-years old. He is a 500-level student of Environmental Management at the Federal University, Dutse (FUD). He reportedly made defamatory remarks on Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, in his tweet in June 2022 and was therefore picked up by security agents on 21 November 2022 reportedly in a Gestapo manner. As reportedly quoted, Aminu Mohammed Adamu said ‘Su mama anchi kudin talkwa ankoshi,’ in Hausa, meaning ‘Mama has eaten poor people’s money and is now full.’ 

This translation is what has been generally reported in the media. However, in the charges brought against him by James Idachaba on November 21, 2022, the translation was different and weightier in implication. The charge says ‘you, Aminu Adamu, male of Anguwar Sarakuna, Bauchi State, sometime between May and June 2022, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did intentionally open a Twitter Handle with the name @aminullahie a.k.a. Catalyst, and also gave ‘mama has embezzled monies meant for the poor for satisfaction’ as the translation for the above tweet in Hausa language. As such, Aminu Adamu was charged as having committed an offence punishable under Section 391 of the Penal Code.

In this regard, is eating poor people’s money the same as embezzling monies meant for the poor? First, no one can eat money. At best, eating money should be taken figuratively. Eating money is simply implying ‘benefitting from’ poor people’s monies. On the contrary, embezzlement is necessarily a criminal offence. It cannot be rightly argued that eating money is synonymous with embezzlement. The framing of the charges, especially if the general translation reported in the media is correct, is necessarily very fraudulent and only reflects an abuse of privilege and power. Obviously, because the photograph of the First Lady was also included as part of the Tweet, Aisha Buhari opted to take the bad end of the stick’ She cannot be faulted here. But she displayed a self-arrogated power in dealing with Aminu Adamu.

The incident is therefore most unfortunate because the alleged defamation is really not a big deal. Feeding fat on poor people’s money cannot but be a tip of the iceberg in the eyes of a former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said Nigeria and Afghanistan are ‘fantastically corrupt.’ When the Prime Minister made the observation before the Queen, heaven did not fall. The responsibility of the British High Commissioner to Nigeria was not even called to question. If it is a Nigerian that says the Government of Nigeria is fantastically corrupt, a manu militari style of governance and autocracy within a democracy will follow.  

PMB’s Manu Militari Governance

Mrs Aisha Buhari’s mistreatment of Aminu Mohammed Adamu, through her security agents before incarcerating him is an example of the manu militari governance under PMB. It is a serious abuse by a First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Without any whiff of doubt, Mrs Aisha Buhari has the right to be annoyed, especially if she believes that she had not been feeding fat on the people’s money. However, Aminu Mohammed Adamu might have simply looked at the First Lady’s new weight and her looking good and great and, therefore begin to compare her good situation with his own apparently frustrated situation, particularly bearing in mind that he is a final year student but and has been delayed for almost one year by the ASUU strike and for which PMB has not shown effective responsibility. 

It cannot but be the perception of the First Lady as a very good-looking person, with an attractive new weight that must have prompted the description of the First Lady as possibly eating the people’s money. If the First Lady were to be lean and looking very impoverished, the likelihood of her being seen and described as eating money would not have arisen. It would have been, at best, very remote and unthinkable. But also true enough, the environmental conditionings of life in Nigeria under PMB are very deleterious in effect, very inclement in coping with, and hostility-inducing in temperament.

Good enough again, PMB is currently wrapped up in the glory of providing better infrastructure while Nigerian lives are being increasingly impoverished. Recidivist terrorist attacks in every nook and cranny of Nigeria, endemic institutional corruption, political chicanery and jots of socio-political irrationalities here and there, all remain the hallmark of political governance under PMB and for which he has been showing a don’t care attitude. One typical illustration of this don’t care attitude is his policy of nepotism. In this regard, every Aminu Mohammed Adamu in other parts of Nigeria cannot but have the same feeling like the original Aminu Mohammed Adamu. 

Consequently, there can be many ways of looking at the saga created by Aminu Adamu. The challenge to address is why the tweet, why the opinion? Is the opinion helpful to fostering better inter-personal relationships? Is the mania of handling the saga helpful to the image of PMB?  Whatever is the case, the choice of ‘embezzlement’ by the police or security agents in prosecuting student Aminu Adamu is not and cannot be in tune with ‘eating money, and the use of ‘satisfaction’ as translation for being ‘full’ is at best a ‘magouille.’ People should not be incriminated by using other methods that are also criminally in character. Thus, both PMB and the First Lady appear to share the same philosophy of governance by manu militari and this may not be unconnected with their military background as a couple. In Nigeria, the military has been civilianised while civilians have also been militarised in various ways of attitudinal dispositions.

More specifically, PMB’s manu militari governance is first visible in the mistreatment of journalists who are required by the 1999 Constitution as amended hold Government accountable to the people. Section 22 of the Constitution specifically requires that ‘the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter (Chapter 2) and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.’ It is important to put the understanding of this provision in its appropriate context.

Put differently, when is the press and the other agencies of the mass media required to uphold the fundamental objectives of Chapter 2 of the Constitution? ‘At all times’ is the answer. What are the fundamental objectives to be upheld by the media professionals? Sections 13 and 14 provide the first immediate answers. Sovereignty is not only considered under Section 14 (a) to belong to the people from whom the Government of Nigeria derives all its powers and authority, the security and welfare of the people is considered to be the primary purpose of government under Section 14 (b). 

Additionally, the Constitution says, in upholding the fundamental objectives, media professionals ‘shall at all times be free.’ In other words, nothing shall constrain the media men in the exercise of their obligation to uphold the fundamental objectives of the Constitution. This means that the Constitution has made the media professionals to be the repreentatives of the people to police the Government.

It is also useful to note the use of ‘shall’ in both Articles 22, on the one hand, and Sections 13 and 14, on the other hand. Section 14 (2b) says ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the…’ while Section 14 (2c) says ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. Thus, the role of the press, radio and other agencies of the mass media is quite clear cut: obligation to assist the people to ensure that their security and welfare is always ensured and that the same peoples of Nigeria participate in their own governance processes and also ensuring that such participation is in conformity with the Constitution. This is the extended implication of Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution. It is particularly against these constitutional provisions that the unwarranted mistreatment of media men should be explained and understood.

And true, the constitutional requirement to hold the Government accountable to the people does not give any stipulation on the modus operandi. For sure, when Nigerian journalists do seek information and make strenuous efforts to make people in government to talk, to clarify an issue, they are hardly respected and attended to. But when such journalists present their version of the truth in the print and audio-visual media, it is then government officials are always prompted to give their own explanation, but not without having attached the operational tools of the journalists and mistreating them. Government officials in Nigeria prefer to first grant interviews to foreign media professionals rather than to journalists back home.

The modus operandi of the various security agencies is another case of manu militari governance under PMB. Recall how the Nigeria Police Force and the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invade houses of suspects. On August 23, 2022 the EFCC, for example, invaded the house of Dorathy Bachor, a TV star, around 4.45 am reportedly in pursuit of a suspect who escaped into her estate. Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC spokesperson, said they knocked at the door of Dorathy Bachor, but she did not open, and hence, they ‘force their way.’ This forceful entry is to a great extent consistent with Section 146 of the ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice Act) 2015, which enables a judge to assent to a request for search warrant; Section 148 which says that a search warrant can be executed anytime of the day; Section 149 which requires resident of a building to allow unhindered access of law enforcement agents to execute a search warrant using reasonable force. This lawful gangster style of administration is a major feature under PMB, and yet insecurity has not abated and corruption is always on the rise.

The military invasion of the houses of Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Adeyemo, alias Igboho was more of a military aggression, which prompted them to flee the country. Nnamdi Kanu jumped court bail as a result, Sunday Igboho was arrested at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, but later released from prison to his medical practitioners under an agreement that he must not leave the hospital or Cotonou. 

Manu militari governance cases abound under PMB. Selective implementation of court judgments is one. The refusal to release Nnamdi Kalu from detention contrarily to court judgment speaks volumes. Invasion of the house of a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Mary Odili, on Friday, 29th October, 2021 is another case in point. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad had to note that ‘no law permits anyone to invade, subdue or overawe any Nigerian citizen in his or her residence with a flimsy, fraudulently-obtained search warrant’ ( But how are these cases perceived internationally? What is the foreign policy implication?

The Foreign Policy Dimensions

The first foreign policy dimension is the neglect of the implications of whatever the First Lady does for foreign policy by the handlers of the affairs of the First Lady. The First Lady must never neglect the fact that Nigeria in not simply the most populous country in Africa and the consideration by the international community as the most important African country in Africa, particularly from the perspective of the vibrancy of her people, potential material resources and democratic size, and most importantly because of her policy of making Africa the centrepiece of Nigerian foreign policy.

The First Lady must always remember that Nigeria is also the world capital of the whole black people of the world. There is no jot of braggadocio in this observation. By implication, therefore, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is necessarily the primus inter pares, that is, first of all the First Ladies. She is first among equal, and must therefore always allow her global status reflect in all her attitudinal dispositions at home and abroad. 

For instance, if Aminu Adamu is wrong in accusing the First Lady, the First Lady cannot also be right in self-justification by arranging the ‘kidnapping’ of student Aminu in an attempt to reciprocate and deal with him. For instance, was he first invited by the police and he did not show up? 

Did the First Lady complain about the tweet to Aminu Adamu and there was no attempt by Aminu to make correction? Again, there is nothing yet to suggest that something did not inform the perception and suggestion of Aminu Adamu. It is when the First Lady accept to seek an understanding of the rationale behind Aminu Mohammed Adamu’s tweet that he can be brought to book lawfully. 

In other words, the ideal thing to do therefore is for the First Lady to first lodge a complaint or publicly deny the allegation rather than using the instrument of government to oppress an under-privileged and frustrated person who only holds negative opinions about her. After all, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is a beautiful First Lady of Nigeria and the black people’s First Lady in Nigeria. By virtue of being a Nigerian and from Nigeria, the world headquarters of the black people of the world is necessarily Nigeria. Consequently, be it at the level of Africa or at the global level, she is first among other First Ladies in the black world. Therefore, her attitudinal disposition must go beyond problems created by tweeting. As the first First Lady in the black world, what is ideal is to make Aminu Adamu to remove the tweet, then caution him without having to bring him to Aso rock and preventing him from preparing for his final examinations scheduled for 5th December, 2022. The First Lady can give a more motherly mentoring. This is the essence of being the mother of the Nigerian nation.

A second dimension is Nigeria’s international image which cannot but be further damaged, especially in light of the violations of the fundamental rights of Aminu Adamu. He was ‘kidnapped’ in a terroristic manner and beaten by the security agents. He was refused bail and due regard was not given to the fact that he would be writing his final examinations as from December 5, 2022. From the report of Aminu Adamu, in his reported telephone conversation with his father, ‘he was arrested and taken to Aso Rock by the wife of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, beaten, scolded and was arrested somewhere. It was a security agent that gave him a phone and told him to tell his parents,’

Several observers have quarrelled with ‘kidnapping him in an unknown location against his will, without the knowledge of his family and torturing him.’ This is most unacceptable in a democracy of civilised people, more so that sedition, a colonial introduction to control criticism of the colonial government had been thrown into the British garbage of history. The manu militari style of governing Nigeria should be revisited to allow decency and democracy to thrive in the building of a true nation out of the current Nigerian nation-state.

For instance, in this regard, if the Police Command of the Federal Capital Territory denies any involvement in the arrest or was not aware of the arrest and detention of Aminu Adamu, it simply means that the whole exercise of mistreatment of Aminu Adamu was at the level of the First Lady and this has the potential to raise the international responsibility of the PMB administration. Nigeria’s Constitution does not provide specifically for the Office of the First Lady with defined powers. Only PMB was elected. The First Lady was not. She only derives whatever importance she may want to claim from the status of her husband. She must therefore make haste slowly in the exercise of political powers that have no constitutional foundation.

This is necessary because, if the First Lady knew she would still be interested in prosecuting Aminu Adamu, why first arrest and beat him? What law permits her as a First Lady to cause his preliminary indecent beating? The beating is an expression of manu militari governance in the mania of her husband. This is one consideration that The Punch Newspapers might have considered in deciding on the usage of ‘Major General’ for PMB, even though he was duly elected President of Nigeria. Whatever is the case, however, Muhammadu Buhari is both a Major General and a President by whatever definitional criterion, but The Punch cannot be faulted for its decision.   

More important and even in difficult circumstances, no normal person will encourage or condone insulting an elderly person, and for that matter, a person of the status of a First Lady, who is also referred to as the Mother of the Nation. But what does this motherhood of the nation mean when room was not even given to Aminu Adamu to justify her perception of the First Lady? If Mrs Aisha Buhari is aggrieved because of a tweet, she cannot use government paraphernalia to seek self-justification or defend personal interests. It is an act of corruption to so do. She must therefore learn how to go through the due process first, rather than engaging in unnecessary intimidation. In fact, it is in light of the acknowledgement of this mistreatment that international bodies have sought to mediate the misunderstanding.

 For example, the Amnesty International intervened on behalf of Aminu Adamu but to no avail, a development that prompted the Amnesty International to opine that all those who were responsible for the arrest and mistreatment of Aminu Adamu would be appropriately dealt with internationally. This cannot but be a major foreign policy challenge to contend with in the foreseeable future while the image of Nigeria continues to be soiled.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, the First Lady reportedly accepted three days ago to withdraw her case against Aminu Adamu for various reasons: being the Mother of the Nation, public pressure and petitions asking for unconditional release. True, withdrawing the court case against Aminu is commendable, but completely ignores the fact that he had already suffered severely from the mania of his detention. Aminu was detained incommunicado. Because of him, no visitation to the correctional centre was allowed. When he was admitted into the correctional centre, he had only N2000= with him. No relation of his could come with food. Aminu could not have full time to prepare for his final examination. Offence was committed in June 2022, but arrest of Aminu took place at the time he was preparing for his final examinations, why? Was the timing of the arrest, incarceration and keeping him incommunicado a matter of coincidence or deliberate special punishment? Whatever is the case, Aminu Adamu was tortured mercilessly contrary to the 2017 Anti-torture Act. The torturing makes the First Lady also guilty like Aminu. What Mrs Aisha Buhari should be engaged in is to seek to bring all Black First Ladies to Abuja, in her capacity as the First Lady of Nigeria. This will be more helpful to strengthening Nigeria’s foreign policy which does not have any good focus, a lacklustre diplomacy indeed. 

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