Aisha Buhari now ‘Conscience of the Nation’

An  Executive Activist on many fronts, Aisha was born several years ago in Adamawa State, North-eastern Nigeria to the respected family of Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, a granddaughter of the nation’s first Minister of Defence married to President Muhammadu Buhari in 1989

With a boy and four girls, Aisha has, since 1989, been bestriding the landscape like a colossus and has stood with her husband through thick and thin to the present position of the husband being re-elected in 2019 general elections as President for a second term.

In 1995, she opened the Hanzy Spa, the first Northern Nigerian beauty parlour, in Kaduna State, after obtaining a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the Carlton Institute in the United Kingdom.

She also published a book, ‘The Essentials of BeautyTherapy: A Complete Guide for Beauty Specialists in 2014.’ As an advocate of human rights, and the wife of the President, Aisha has continuously donated funds to assist families of victims of Boko Haram insurgency after more than 250 girls were kidnapped by the militant group in 2014.

The role taken by the First Lady has never been seen in the history of this country when a wife of the President speaks truth to power and throws salvo at the President himself when the need arises.

It is, in fact, a new thing, character and attitude ever seen across the globe as the First Lady represents the President and they are seen as one and not to talk about publicly coming out to condemn the programmes of the administration of the husband.

This is, indeed, germane and out of this world and an entrenched attitude and crusade that must be encouraged and championed across the globe for the citizenry to enjoy the dividends of democracy.

It is, indeed, new and a welcome development, instead of finding basis to misinterpret her actions and advocacy for transparency and good governance.

Mrs. Aisha Buhari first made public appearance, wearing an expensive looking watch which led to some to ask whether she was undermining President Buhari’s “Man of the people” image, and was also criticized on social media for attempting to shake hands with the revered Alafin of Oyo, a paramount traditional ruler in Southwest of Nigeria.

As the saying goes: “Phenomenal women are the back-bones of great nations.”

A woman like Aisha Buhari has carved her name in gold and in history. This woman is more than a beautiful face; she is educated, confident, sociable and a great role model for young girls and women alike across Africa, who are drawn to her for her dogged resolve to stand for the truth and fight for the down-trodden due to her large heart of compassion and love for humanity.

Her life philosophy is: “If there is no corruption in governance and public life, there would be enough resources in any nation to meet the important needs of the common people, including women and the youths.”

As such, this philosophy has continuously guided her actions and interactions with humanity till date.

Mrs. Buhari is an advocate of equal rights, respect and the full support of education for women and girls. At each given moment and occasion, she continuously shows and stresses how much Nigerians can achieve when we educate the women folks with so much emphasis and determination.

She also disapproves of child marriages before the age of 17 and homosexuality, and has supported so many Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, that returned to their communities with relief materials including food stuff, clothing, beddings, plastic materials, mats, blankets and building materials.

Over 25 trailers loads of roofing zinc, roofing and noggin wood, assorted nails, asbestos ceiling were distributed to date at the Northeast while the proceeds of her book launch at over N55 million were given to the parents of BuniYadi Boys and Chibok girls.

She also spent part of the money for the construction of an orphanage home and school premises primarily for the children in the IDP camps and the recruitment of additional qualified teachers and psychologists to change the orientation, and rehabilitate  the children and elders within  the camps.

The informal title of the First Lady has always been bestowed on the wife of the Nigerian President. Since the election of the current President, Muhammadu Buhari in May, 2015, Aisha Buhari became Nigeria’s 15th First Lady.

Since Independence, Nigeria has witnessed the emergence of different First Ladies, while calls have been made for the scrapping of the office due to the criticism attached to the office as a result of the occupants.

But since the present occupant Mrs. Aisha Buhari came on board, she has, in her everyday actions, shown that there is more to the office of the First Lady.

She is a leading crusader of change in politics, policies and good governance regime; she believes it is the desire of her husband to rid the country of inefficiencies and corruption and as such taken up the gauntlet for policy integrity and advocacy.

Her every move as the softer side of her husband, has been very positive and commendable to say the least; As most actions, reactions and advocacy including criticisms by the first lady have never been rebuffed by the President, signaling an endorsement and support.

The iconic visit by the wife of the President to the Nigerian soldiers injured on the line of duty while fighting the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents is still very fresh in our minds and has also raised issues concerning the role First Ladies play in the administration of their husbands.

From her family background to the centre of lime-light (politics), the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari has conquered and said it all as an executive activist on many fronts starting from her home as African Lady and an amiable wife to the President on the political terrain where a lot of Nigerians are looking up to her for succour and mentorship.

She has, on several occasions, spoken the truth to power either from the grassroots of the Northeastern Nigeria to Aso Rock Villa, where the President bestrides like a colossus.

Aisha Buhari has always been at the vanguard of an agenda-setter and a pace-setter in the new dispensation, not scared of whose ox is gored for us to get the nation working again.

She has advocated on so many issues and stood her grounds on a beehive of activities; she is the First Lady doing everything possible within her office to re-define the office by adding value to humanity, especially women, youths, children and the vulnerable.

She has remained a stabilizing factor behind her husband and a rallying point for both the needy and defenseless and at some point, she readily sacrificed all she had for the common good of the needy.

According to Alhaji Kaikai, “There is a person to tell the truth, there is a time to tell the truth; and there is a way to tell the truth.”

Telling the truth is to effect change and nothing more especially in a country of over 200 million people where poverty is at the highest and consuming three square meals is a luxury.

Mrs. Aisha Buhari immediately hit the ground running when she organized a get-together with the social media practitioners.

This event was geared towards ensuring better coverage and online reportage of the activities of government rather than the fake news carried out by non-practitioners and fake journalists.

The event was very successful as the challenges of the practitioners, including solutions and the way forward between governments and the governed, were well articulated and solutions proffered for a seamless and symbiotic relationship of all parties involved.

In her usual advocacy that women need to be re-integrated into governance, she opposed and canvassed for the appointive positions of women to be in charge of their affairs in all critical sectors of the economy.

As such, she criticized why men should be made to head sectors which are principally supposed to be occupied by women.

Adamawa State was an example where a man was made a Commissioner of Women Affairs and she did all in her power to revert the role which also brought a lot of hues and cries in the state.

However, this move was applauded by well-meaning Nigerians for daring to raise the issue.

She spoke to the powers that be and raised her concerns about people in government, who are not supposed to be in government and who are not card carrying members of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

She particularly criticized those who had not done anything tangible for the electoral victory of her husband, but yet occupying positions meant for people that worked assiduously for the President;s re-election.

Mrs. Aisha opined that these unpopular candidates are working against the people’s wishes and aspirations, and that they do not merit the office and should be done away with in future elections.

She emphasized that she is there to protect her husband and that Nigerians should understand that she is the mother of all not minding if the person or groups of persons are opposing the president or not.

Nigerians woke up to the alarm raised by the wife of the President about an immediate investigation to the missing N2.5 billion which vanished under the care of the former Aide-De-Camp, ADC, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP, Sani Babau-Inna and called on the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to investigate the controversy surrounding the missing money.

Indeed, Nigerians were surprised that this was indeed the first of its kind in the annals of the wives of the Presidents to cause an investigation into missing funds publicly.

This was germane and indeed a clarion call to everyone that, it is not going to be business as usual, considering the President’s stance on corruption.

Equally in October 2017, Mrs. Aisha Buhari called for the probe of the State Medical Centre known as State House Clinic. The First Lady and wife of the President called for the probe over poor health facilities in the hospital despite the huge budgetary allocations to it.

Mrs. Buhari condemned the “lack of facilities” at the hospital during a programme in Abuja and equally lamented the total or dearth of some hospital necessities such as syringes, drugs and equipment needed for saving lives.

She lamented that she wanted to do an X-ray and was informed that the machine was not functional. She therefore, called for probe of the hospital which is in line with President Buhari’s drive to free every sector of the Nigerian polity of corruption.

She reasoned: “If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.”

In 2016, Aisha Buhari shocked the world when she said that the government of President Buhari had been hijacked by a powerful caucus that had nothing to do with the APC.

The interview was so controversial that the President reportedly tried to stop it from being aired. It made headlines across the world and she even went further to warn him that she may not back him at the next election unless he shakes up his government.

She reiterated that the government had been taken over by few people who were only interested in presidential appointments. She also revealed that the President did not know most of the officials he appointed.

Mrs. Buhari emphasized then that “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!”

She apparently made these statements so that party loyalists who contributed enormously to President Buhari’s election victory should rather be given the opportunity to also benefit from the government.

The First Lady then went further by saying if things continued the way they were, she would not follow him to campaign grounds to seek re-election into office and also tweeted another, raising speculations that she could be referring to her husband as a ‘Military Dictator’ when she addressed him in her tweet as GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari).

Consequently, Aisha Buhari took on the N500 billion Social Investments Programme, SIP, of the Federal Government, that it has not made any measurable or noticeable impact on the populace.

She also said the programme has failed in the North and left so much to be desired. As she queried the use of US$16 million for mosquito nets and expressed concern also on the release of N12 billion for trauma cases at the twilight of the government.

Mrs. Buhari launched a ferocious attack on the Federal Government’s much celebrated programme, describing it as a colossal failure particularly in the Northern part of the country.

She reiterated that even though the manager of the programme, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, an assistant to the President on the programme is from Kano State, the programme was also a failure in her home state.

She described the programme as equally a failure in her own state of Adamawa, where according to her, only one of the existing 22 local governments has so far benefitted from the programme.

Querying how the whopping N500 billion budgeted for the programme is being spent, Mrs. Buhari, also said that the conditional cash transfer arm of the programme is not getting to the target beneficiaries as promised by the APC during its electioneering campaign.

She also emphasized that the promise made to her by an aide of the President that 30,000 women in Adamawa State would be given N10, 000 each had remained a farce as the promise was never fulfilled.

Her words: “So I don’t know where 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 for it to fail woefully in Kano, it’s not a good sign and it’s not a good thing.”

I was expecting the N500 billion to be utilized in different methods in the North for the aim to be achieved. I don’t know the method used but most of the Northern states do not get it.  My state does not get it.”

According to her, “US$16 million is a huge sum of money that is enough to fumigate mosquitoes in the entire country, wondering how the money had been spent.”

She said, “We have a lot of women that do business locally. Due to the cultural thing in the North, they are at home doing their businesses. Some are millionaires.

“Some have thousands of Naira. This less privileged need the assistance but they do not get it. Most northern women do not belong to any market association’’.

She however, thanked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who she said had included women in the inaugural activities of her husband for a second term in office and also looked forward to the inclusion of women on appointive positions in the administration.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Uwais has responded as to how the funds were disbursed but Nigerians are not convinced about her explanations after the First Lady raised the issue of national interest rather than personal.

Just recently, Aisha Buhari fired another salvo at President Buhari’s administration, saying she must speak on what’s going wrong in Nigeria. She called on the security agents to take action or allow the situation continue until bandits finished killing our people.

She also continued that it is not proper for us to give the highest number of votes during the general elections and allow bandits to continue killing people while we keep quiet.

She challenged the security agencies under her husband’s watch to quickly end banditry and other insecurity challenges in parts of the country.

She made this call recently when she visited Katsina State while distributing relief materials to over 35,000 victims of banditry.

She also said it was necessary to degrade the criminal elements before they end the civil population, addin, “We should not keep silent while things are happening, thinking that if something happens today it will not happen tomorrow.

“What happened today will happen tomorrow, it will also happen the day after tomorrow if we keep silent.”

Indeed, it is a heartwarming clarion call from the mother of the nation, who will do anything within her powers to rally the Nigerian people to live in peace, unity and harmonious co-existence.

The knack for love of her people, irrespective of their religions, class, region or parochial interest of anyone should be paramount in our hearts.

We can see when recently the former President Olusegun Obasanjo hailed and admonished the first lady for speaking out because of her patriotic and nationalistic role on the national landscape and called on her to always have “pillow talk” with President Muhammadu Buhari by engaging him privately on some government policies.

The former President commended Mrs. Buhari for speaking out and said she should engage her husband more often in “pillow talk.”

Mrs. Buhari will continue to be a reference point and a rallying figure for the Nigerian women, youths and the less privileged.

Her belief firmly in an egalitarian society where justice, equity, rule of law and a dignified life of its citizenry is a must.

She sees nothing wrong in speaking truth always and as the conscience of the nation at a time like this in our history, she has a crucial role to play in the advocacy and empowerment of not only the Nigerian women but the sensitization of all and sundry to get the desired change we all long for.

Mrs. Buhari as part of her intrinsic nature must “speak out,” and she always speaks truth to powers that be.

And unseen and unknown to her she stands above board, she joins other well-meaning Nigerians to lead the future generation to the Promised Land.

Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, a human rights activist and public affairs commentator, is the former Media Adviser to the former First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Patience Jonathan (2010-2015); Executive Secretary, Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative, CWAI, and President, Coalition of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Good Governance in Nigeria, COCMEGG, Abuja

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