On June 13, 2019, Aisha Buhari, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, made herself the topic of discussion when she said that she should now be addressed as the First Lady and not Wife of the President.
“But, I realized that it causes confusion from the state as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the First Ladies or wives of the governors. So, forgive me for confusing you from the beginning but now I chose to be called the first lady,” she said. However, her decision to be called the First Lady runs contrary to postulations by President Buhari in the early days of his journey to the presidency; that he may not have an office of the First Lady. That was in 2014.
Of all the First Ladies Nigeria has had, Aisha is quite different. She has an exquisite style of being assertive, beautiful and courageous. She, therefore, judiciously maximizes these attributes into making herself glued on the lips of Nigerians, at any given opportunity. It is either she is in the news because of one expensive dress, bag, wrist-watch she is adorning or she is trending because of a brave statement she made about her husband’s government.
On the one hand, many have come to describe her as an in-house opposition to the policies and programmes of President Buhari’s government due to her fearless and outspoken nature. On the other hand, some see her as a courageous and honest woman who is determined to always stand on the side of justice and rightness no matter whose ox is gored.
Either way, she always has different ways of renewing her importance in the eyes of Nigerians. John Chukwu of Ripples Nigeria takes a look at 4 different occasions she left critics wondering.
1. Alleging Buhari doesn’t know 90% of his appointees
From statements Aisha has made about her husband’s government and the APC, it is not out of place if she is considered as an inside opposition figure. In October 2016, while being interviewed by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa journalist, Naziru Mikailu, she said: “the President does not know 45 out of the 50 of the people he appointed, and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife for 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.”
This generated much controversy in the polity and elicited a response by President Buhari who was on a visit to Germany. “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and other room,” he replied.
In 2018, while she was speaking at a conference organized by Project 4+4 in Abuja, she declared two powerful personalities were frustrating President Buhari’s effort in governing the country. According to her, President Buhari “achieved a lot but could have achieved more or even achieved all it had in one year but for two people in government who will never allow things to move fast.”
In reaction, President Buhari while speaking in an interview with Voice of America, Hausa, said: “that’s her business. This shows I am a real democrat. What they are saying is different from what is happening. They should come out and say those things they feel was staged managed by the cabal. What the cabal force to me to do. They should mention just one thing.”
On April 14, 2017, Aisha got the polity heated again when she threatened not to support her husband’s second term agenda. “He is yet to tell me – if he’ll seek re-election – but I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” she said.
When she was asked about her outburst, she said: “I need to state that my position was a result of my sense of justice and not confrontation or disrespect. I was brought up to stand by the truth and this is how I have always been.”
A mere examination of her statements easily position her as an activist. This is because while one is agitating for something, a condition is always attached to the demand. It actually did appear that her condition was met because she campaigned for her husband during the electioneering period. More so, one would have thought that she would keep quiet and remain a housewife just as her husband has painted her to be but, she simply cannot keep mum in the face of issues poking her mind.
2. Interrogating Oshiomhole’s integrity
Lately, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole has been under fire – from various quarters in the APC – to resign from his position. But many would recall that Aisha had, long before now, had misgivings about Oshiomhole and his ways.
A day after President Buhari was declared the APC Presidential standard-bearer for 2019, Aisha openly expressed her displeasure with the way the APC primaries were conducted. In a press release, she accused Oshiomhole of injustice, adding that some aspirants who paid for the party’s nomination and expression of interest were side-lined in the primary process.
“It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, get screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices,” she said.
She also spoke up for the women in the party and called on the leadership to refund the money female contestants spent to purchase nomination forms since the women ended up being marginalized.
3. Rubbishing President Buhari’s claims
Aisha is never afraid to say her mind concerning the programmes of her husband’s administration. She wields this rare feminine energy in confronting issues and seeing that the right thing is always done. In this way, she made brazen claims that were contrary to what her husband and his aides hold about some of the programmes of the government.
On May 25, 2019, during an interactive programme she organized for women at the Presidential Villa, she made a shocking statement about the Social Investment Programme (SIP) when she asserted that the programme failed woefully in the North. She laid critical emphasis on her home State – Adamawa and Kano State as where the programme actually became a total failure despite the huge funds the federal government invested in it.
The SIP is domiciled in the Office of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, but its direct implementation is done by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment, Mrs Maryam Uwais. According to the First Lady, though Uwais informed her that 30, 000 women would be beneficiaries in Adamawa State, four years had passed and there was no evidence that the SA had kept her word.
“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. I was expecting the N500bn to be utilized 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 do not get it. My State does not get it,” she said.
She did not stop at voicing her opinion about the failure of the SIP to the women, she proceeded to criticize the $16m counterpart fund said to have been used so far on procurement of mosquito nets. “They have spent $16m in buying mosquito nets, I did not get it, maybe some people have got it. But I feel that, that’s my personal opinion, $16m is enough to fumigate mosquitoes in Nigeria. That’s my opinion,” she declared.
4. Not giving a care about ostentatious living
Aisha loves looking good with a great deal of class and display of opulence. On several occasions, the First Lady has been spotted wearing expensive clothes, bags, jewelries and the like. Recently, on Democracy Day gala night, she wore a rare Oscar De LaRenta designer gown reportedly worth $2, 145 (N772, 200). The media was on fire with pictures of her wearing the gown, coupled with the sea of reactions that trailed it. Many were of the view that given Nigeria’s prostrate economy and its classification now as the world poverty capital, following the 2018 report by Brookings Institution, the First Lady was not supposed to brazenly rub such opulence on the face of Nigerians.
However, this is not the first time she flaunted such an expensive material. On September, 15, 2017, she wore an Oscar De LaRenta Magnolia Guipure Caftan dress which costs $4, 490 Kaftan dress to welcome the First Lady of Uganda, Janet Museveni. In August 2016, she was spotted in the United States of America while on a visit carrying a Hermes Birkin 35cm Porous Crocodile Gold Hardware Bag worth $105, 000.
During President Buhari’s first term inauguration on May 29, 2015, investigations revealed that she wore a Cartier Baignoire Folle 18-Carat White Gold Diamond Ladies Watch that cost €34, 500. This did cause confusion in some quarters as people were being pressured into asking how she managed to wear such an expensive watch bearing in mind that the President did ride to power with the reputation of being poor.