By Bolanle Bolawole
Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of the president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, has been quoted as saying she did not know whether or not her husband met the expectations of Nigerians. The Aisha statement is capable of many interpretations. One is that she knew he did not but is only trying to find a decent, palatable or less offensive way of saying what she knew. Her husband has fallen far short of the expectations of Nigerians and Aisha knows it. For this reason, she has fought battles with the presidency cabals she accused of hijacking her husband’s government and turning Buhari himself into a total stranger who knew next-to-nothing about goings-on in a government that is run in his name and under his nose. Aisha may have forgotten that she once cried out that herself, her children and those Nigerians who worked tirelessly to make Buhari president were soon marginalized and shunted aside by those who contributed nothing – indeed, who jeered at Candidate Buhari – once he was declared president in 2015. Aisha lamented to Nigerians that she neither had a say in the government of her husband nor a hand in its configuration; and that those who ought to be compensated were left in the cold by those who seized the government from Buhari. Aisha must have forgotten that she told Nigerians that those running the Buhari government had no idea of the APC manifesto on which Buhari’s campaign was run, and that those who held leading positions in the government acted without consulting Buhari. Aisha did say that about two or three people ran the Buhari government independent of Buhari himself. Has she forgotten? How can such a government meet the expectations of the people?
Another way of looking at it is that Aisha is tactically trying to apologise for the monumental failure of her husband, which she knows so well, but without wanting to be seen as publicly and frontally indicting the president. She is anxious to defend him while also being careful not to destroy her own credentials of a conscientious objector to the egregious and monumental destruction of the country by Buhari. Aisha will go down in history as Nigeria’s most vocal First Lady against the excesses of her own husband’s government. Whether she did this conscientiously as a social crusader or as a fall-out of a personal fight for territory against presidency cabals that reportedly marginalised her, her children and associates in a government she rightly or wrongly considers theirs is subject to debate. Buhari has failed and Aisha knows it but how does she open her mouth to say so? Indicting him is tantamount to indicting herself and her children. She will forever be quoted as a competent and reliable source. And history will not be kind to the Buharis as individuals and as a family. Yet, Aisha’s conscience will not let her tell bare-faced lies like some others will do. I think her conscience is not yet seared as that of others; hence, she feels the need to apologise to Nigerians for the disaster her husband has brought upon us all. To have peace in her soul, she must find a way to discharge that obligation.
Another explanation is to say that Aisha is simply trying to be clever by half; she is running with the hare and hunting with the hound. Her sophistry is nothing but an attempt to hoodwink the simple, confuse the unwary, and take the gullible for a ride. Give-and-take, has she not been a beneficiary of the Buhari administration – herself and her children? Has she not, as First Lady, dispensed favour to political associates and family members? Were Buhari not president, would she have enjoyed all the largesse and perquisites that have come her way? How many months in a year do Aisha, her husband and children spend in the country and outside of it? Where does the funding come from? Where do the funds for Buhari’s unending medical tourism come from? Imagine if this man were not president? Can Aisha say that, as First Lady, she has benefited nothing in that position? Aisha is part and parcel of the Buhari administration. Buhari’s failure is Aisha’s failure. There is no way we will allow her to distance herself from that. It is trite that he who succeeds to assets must also succeed to liabilities. So we reject Aisha’s rationalisation that she does not know where her husband failed because she is not part of the government. She occupies the most important office in her man’s life – “the ozer room”!
How did Aisha campaign for Buhari in 2015 and 2019? What programmes did she promise the people her husband will execute if elected? Has he fulfilled those election promises? How did Buhari and Aisha take over Nigeria in 2015 and what does the country look like now? Ola, a newly-wedded young man, came to my church office as I banged away on my computer writing this piece last Friday; after doing due diligence to the plumbing work I had for him, he complained that he was done for because a bag of rice, according to him, now sells for N41,000 and he has a coming social engagement to meet up with! The last time my family bought a bag of rice two months ago, it was N31,000 and when we contracted a caterer for a church function two weeks ago, it was N34,000. And the minimum wage, which many states are yet to pay, is N30,000. How much was a bag of rice when Buhari came into power in 2015? Less than N9000! And if we may ask, what became of the celebrated (political?) rice pyramid that the CBN and the Buhari administration reportedly show-cased months ago?
Just a look at a few indexes will reveal Buhari’s failure, starting with the three cardinal programmes on which Buhari campaigned for office. He promised to end insecurity but the menace, which was limited to the North-east when Buhari became president, has now spread to all the nooks and crannies of the country. Buhari met only Boko Haram; Fulani herdsmen and bandits have been added. Nigerians knew more peace and security under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, a “bloody civilian”, than it knows now under Buhari, a two-star General and former military Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. The blood-letting under Buhari surpasses anything recorded during the tenures of the three presidents before him all put together. Buhari promised to tackle corruption; instead, it is corruption that has tackled Buhari, giving him a bloodied nose! Corruption has given Buhari a technical knockout. Comparing corruption under Jonathan with corruption under Buhari is like comparing sleep with death. Should we talk of the economy under Buhari or we should simply skip it? The toad says whenever the discussion gets to the usefulness or otherwise of a tail, we should skip it. Jonathan damaged the economy, Buhari buried it! What is the country’s debt portfolio today? And what have we got to show for it? What is the value of the Naira? What is the inflation rate? What is the unemployment rate? Each of these indexes fared far better under Jonathan. What was the price of a litre of petrol in 2015; what is it today? Petrol subsidy gulped how much in 2015; today, it consumes the entire nation!
In which areas have Buhari excelled? In nepotism! He has appointed his Fulani ethnic group into virtually every critical and sensitive office and position in the land. The Fulani are the new colonial masters of Nigeria. To boot, freedom fighters have emerged from other Nigerian nationalities in protest. Nigerians fashioned for themselves a federal system of government operated in a democratic setting: Buhari has overthrown that and, in its place, an internal colonial system superintended by the Fulani is empanelled. That is the cause of the renewed agitation for Biafra. It is also the cause of the fast-growing activism of the Yoruba for a Yoruba or Oodua nation. If you are asked who killed Nigeria; Buhari did! Nigeria today is a walking corpse. Its funeral ceremony will be held sometime in the future! If Nigeria survives Buhari, it is very much unlikely to survive the consequences of Buhari’s actions. How do you reverse the many damages Buhari has done, especially to the psyche of the people? How do you win back the patriotism of the millions of Nigerians who have already ceded their soul to Biafra and Yoruba nation? The generation of “ja’pa” Nigerians, how do you sell Nigeria to them or get them to think they have a stake in the Nigeria project? Their counterparts who have detached themselves totally from the Nigeria Dream, the Nigeria Project, the Nigerian economy and what-have-you; who only physically reside here for now but work and earn a living abroad –these are youths who have tossed their stake in Nigeria overboard!
Nigeria will never remain the same again! Aisha may not know all of this because there is no way she can be a part of it, tried as she may. She lives abroad most of the time. She is of the privileged class and cannot experience what the mass of our people experience. Her eyes no fit see ground, as they say; nor can her legs touch the same ground. She is a floater. She is superficial. Aisha is not deep at all. At best, she vomits populist gibberish. No more! Aisha does not suffer what the people suffer. She suffers no material lack. She is well protected. Many of those around her will shield her from the stark reality on ground. So, despite her best intentions – if any – she is limited in whatever she gets to know or see of the objective realities of our people.
Otherwise, at a time when our children wasted away at home due to the ASUU strike, the photographs of her children graduating from universities abroad were awash on social media. For the eight months that the ASUU strike lasted, what were her contributions? If, in sympathy and support, Aisha had declared her own strike in “the ozer room”, maybe Buhari would have quickly done something to end the ASUU strike!
Let Aisha come out fully and openly to admit that they failed! And let her apologize without mincing words or playing hide-and-seek. That is the only way history can be kind to her – although NEVER to her husband
LAST WORD: All said, I still rate Aisha higher than many of the first ladies we have had. Little is known of the First Lady of Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, and Nnamdi Azikiwe. We, however, know that Chief Obafemi Awolowo once described his wife, Dideolu, as a “jewel of inestimable value” Of the legion of military dictators, Yakubu Gowon’s wife, Victoria, was, perhaps, the first fashionable First Lady. A nurse, she is reputed to have leaned on her husband to raise the status of Nigerian nurses. But, perhaps, the most fashionable, most audacious, and most power-monger of them all was Maryam, wife of the self-styled evil genius, Ibrahim Babangida. The originator of the Better Life for Rural Women programme, Maryam reportedly never wanted IBB to “step aside” from office. It will be said of Mrs. Aisha Buhari that she ranks among the most beautiful, most urbane, and most outspoken First Lady this country has had so far. But she should not now try to hoodwink us or pass off a dog to us as a monkey!