Aisha Buhari is no doubt a beautiful dame. Give it to her. But then history has shown that good looks accounts for almost nothing in the political chessboard. That is, when it comes to the turf of politics, beauty of whatever kind, takes the back sit. The only time as far as this writer can recall that beauty formed part of our socio-political discourse was in the early eighties. Precisely in 1982 when politicians spoiled for the 1983 elections. And it was when the fire eating strong man of Kano politics- late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi was quoted to have said that “he was confident that his political party, the defunct PRP would win the votes of every Nigerian woman because of his handsomeness and that of his running Mate- Jim Nwobodo”.
That election would not hold as the military struck on the last day of December, 1983.furthermore, that the likes of Robert Mugabe, Olusegun Obasanjo, Emmanuel Uduaghan and Adams Oshiomole among others have held prolonged political offices despite what many would agree is a horrible look, is a testimony that Beauty is inconsequential in this thing called politics and politicking. In place of Beauty, it is wit and tact that matters. And that is why, when history will be written, Patience Ibifaka Jonathan would be remembered more than Aisha as the quintessential Thatcher, Merkel or even Queen Victoria. And that is the first take away dear reader, from today’s discourse.
Perhaps we should forgive Aisha Buhari. Unlike Patience Jonathan, she obviously does not know that power and politics is business. A monopoly of sort. But if she does not know this truism, how come she also does not know that the Family too, is business? For if she had known, she wouldn’t have said the sort of things she said the other in that interview that has drawn much blood from the life of this administration and has kept many mouths occupied. For the sake of all that is good and just, who takes their husband’s dirty linens to wash in the full glare of the public? And a presidential ‘ogburu’ at that! It is in sheer agreement with the fact that family matters should not be made a public affair that even the Police in Nigeria came out with the coinage, “ Na family matter” to ward off complainants who come to the police stations intending to make it a pseudo-family court. Telling them to go back home and see how they can negotiate some peace. And as young couples are told, never discuss otherwise bedroom business in the markets of the state.
That is to say, on no account should family affairs be made a subject of public logomachy or objurgation. In Mario Puzo’s classic work: The Godfather, published in 1969, we learn that it is the height of folly to tell anyone outside the family what you are thinking. This is because everyday living is a continuous but subtle battle for the few resources up for grabs. And therefore telling anyone outside of the family what you are thinking, is akin to leaving your flanks open to attack and your continuous existence to the discretion of your opponent. The unwritten rule therefore is: however bad it may be on the home front, we are to carry on as though bliss is pervasive within while alternating divergent trouble-shoot mechanisms to earn the bliss. In the realm of politics, it is a no-brainer. You cannot spill the beans abroad.
Aisha Buhari in her naivety, seem not to appreciate all of this. And unwittingly constituted herself into an opposition element against her spouse goaded by the fact that she was speaking the truth but oblivious that in politics and power, honesty is not a virtue. In doing that, it became obvious that she, after 27 years of marriage to the Daura politician, does not understand the chemistry of the man she has shared the ‘other room’ with, for almost three decades.
Not only was her grouse with the spouse uncalled for, it was also not a legitimate one. She came across as an advocate of cronyism whining and crying that her Buhari would not imbibe the unofficial policy of “no contribution no chop”. She is not happy that those who made inputs into the presidency of her husband have been relegated to the background while those who were not instrumental in the process or even suffered the need to pick up their PVSs were literally woken up from their slumber to take up juicy positions in her husband’s government. Said the dame, “…That is what I am saying. Those that know they don’t have voters card, they should give chance to those that have; they are the ones that struggled and knows what we want to do…..they didn’t even work for it…” Nothing could be more infantile. Apparently, in saying that, she betrayed the fact that her husband’s plagiarized but popular “ I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody” mantra at his inaugural address made no sense to her. For her, it was just another of those political platitudes. The traditional politics of settlement was for her, a rule of thumb. She was ready to compromise standards provided “those who worked” were happy.
She alleges that a cabal was running her husband roughshod and calling the shots within the presidency and tells us to watch our TV screens if we need to know them as she would not tell us the ‘essential ingredients’ of this cabal. She didn’t even put in a word for her husband’s lopsided appointment that is diametrical to the Federal Character Principle; what would have been a more nationalistic grouse, but rather was pained that cronyism was not imbibed by her husband. She signs off threatening not to support this spouse come 2019, if he chooses to throw his hat into the ring. In her delusion, she thinks her beauty was instrumental in bringing the government to power. Perhaps she must have thought the pictures of her (doing what she probably knows how, to in the kitchen—turning bean cake (Akara balls) in certain Nigerian suburb), that was widely circulated in the media during the campaigns moved many Nigerians into voting the Buhari-Osibanjo ticket. Altogether, she confirmed the fears of many- that she would go down as one of Nigeria’s most unpopular ‘first lady’.
But no sooner had she finished her political “insider trading” than her husband entered appearance. This time, in far away Germany, where at a joint press conference with German Chancellor, Angela Markel, in Berlin, true to his characteristic nature of committing colossal gaffes outside our shores, president Muhammdau Buhari in a political joke (assuming we want to concede the damage control spin set about by Garba Shehu and co.) that would not be forgotten in a hurry, told a stunning audience that she does not know what political party his wife belongs to. But most certainly that he was sure, “she belongs to his kitchen, the living room and the inner room”. Coming at a time when top contender for the United States president job, Donald Trump has been picketed and harangued for his obscene comments about the feminine gender, PMB carelessly enlisted his name in the annals of infamy. The Washington Post correspondent, Ishaan Tharoor would draw a parallel between Trump and Buhari saying in a post for the tabloid, “If you think Donald Trump has problems, consider those of Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari…”
Buhari’s rather brash reaction to say the least, was not only uncivilized to be heard of the leader of a country in the 21st century, it betrayed him as not being a good crisis manager. He should have known that family business must not be brought to the public domain even though they have political undertones. He could have shrugged the question and thereby saving himself the colossal pitfall that became his response. He had more than a thousand ways to wriggle himself out of the corner he was boxed, but alas he was not the smartest of presidents. And in a rather misguided manner, shot himself in the foot in a never-before-seen answer to a question.
Whatever the presidential media team wants us to believe, truth is that Buhari’s riposte to his wife’s strictures on the trajectory of his government feeds from a rapacious and misogynistic maniac that labels the woman as an object to be thrown about with no need to be factored into the workings of the larger society. Little wonder why we have seen fewer women dotting the corridors of his government unlike the previous administration. That is to say, in Buhari’s social thought, the woman should be preoccupied with the tasks of cooking and making babies for her spouse—that myopic and often traditional perception of the feminine gender which is a stone throw from gender abuse.
At the end of the day, the first family made a mess of themselves to the consternation of too many country men and women with Aisha stirring the hornet’s nest. They did not only take care of their dirty linens in the local corridor, they did so through the international media making global headlines for the wrong reason. What would have been a successful outing in Germany was therefore eclipsed by the discordant tunes that the president and his Aisha traded offshore. And while we must blame both husband and wife for such faux pas of international magnitude, it is Aisha Buhari who should take the heavier knocks for not knowing where and when to ventilate her grievances. And whose moments of verbal incontinence set all these stones rolling.
Raymond Nkannebe, a Legal practitioner and Public affairs commentator can be reached via RaymondNkannebe@gmail.com. Twitter @RayNkah