Aisha Buhari is quite critical of her husband's administration. Nigerians say they are loving it.
Maryam Babangida was content with advancing women issues, Fatima Abubakar was unseen except in a courtroom where she held sway with aplomb, Turai Yar’adua was domineering in the slippery power corridors, Stella Obasanjo fancied the social circuits and spotlight; and Patience Jonathan assaulted the nation with her special brand of English language and plenty of histrionics.
And then there’s Aisha Buhari—pretty, vocal and critical of her husband’s administration every step of the way.
She calls out everyone. From the so called cabal in the presidency, to the APC, to Nnamdi Kanu, to the “hyenas and jackals” roaming freely within the power corridors, to Governor Fayose of the opposition PDP, to the Medical Director of the Aso Rock clinic, Dr Husain Munir.
Just hand her a name.
“I am happy that the MD of the Aso Rock clinic is here”, Mrs Buhari said during a recent stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition held at the Banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“Dr Munir, I am happy you are here. As you are all aware, for the last six months, Nigeria wasn’t stable because of my husband’s ill health. We thank God he has fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a man in the street.
“Few weeks ago, I was sick as well. They advised me to take the first flight out to London. I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. If the budget is N100M, we need to know how the budget is spent.
“Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working. They said it was not working. They didn’t know I was the one who was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 percent. What does that mean?
"So I think it is high time we did the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the Governors’ wives what is happening in their States. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government and this is the Presidential Villa”, Mrs. Buhari added.
Other First Ladies wouldn’t have dared to criticize the management of a government owned medical facility, because that would have meant beaming a searchlight on the flaws of their husbands' administrations.
Not Aisha. She appears cut from a different cloth.
Mrs. Buhari has just refused to remain couched and silent in “the other room” or the anteroom.
Is she the most vocal and critical First Lady in Nigeria’s history? What is Mrs. Buhari trying to tell the nation about what goes on behind the scenes in the power corridors; from her vantage position in the other room?
“Since the onset of democracy in 1999, we have had three First Ladies and Aisha Buhari is the 4th”, says banker and security expert Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive.
“Though the previous First Ladies may criticize their husbands' policies in private and on rare occasion, make criticisms known to the public through a third party.
"Aisha Buhari's criticism is quite confrontational in the sense that she has granted TV and Radio interviews talking about the inefficiency of her husband's administrators and aides, and this has placed her as the most vocal of all the three former First Ladies--Stella Obasanjo, Turai and Mrs Patience”, Anekwe-Chive added.
Mark Amaza who is a brand consultant and writer says Mrs. Buhari has redefined the role of First Lady across the country.
"Indeed, here has never been a First Lady who publicly criticized her husband's government. So in many ways, Mrs Buhari is a pioneer in this regard”, says Amaza.
Amaza says Mrs. Buhari’s utterances may be indicative of a power tussle in her husband’s presidency.
“It's indicative of tussles among various power centers in the Buhari administration. It could also be out of frustration to get to her husband or with the close circle of advisers around him, as was evident in her BBC interview last year when she complained that even the President doesn't know many of the people he appointed”.
Chidi Okereke who is a social media consultant and brand specialist says the world will be watching keenly to see if Mrs. Buhari will keep to her promise of not supporting her husband’s likely re-election bid, given his present scorecard.
During an interview with the BBC in 2016, Mrs. Buhari warned her husband to up his governance game or lose her own vote should he decide to hurl his hat into the ring one last time.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years”, she lamented.
“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.”
Quizzed on whether Buhari will run again and what her position was on his second term bid, she said: “He is yet to tell me 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.”
Okereke says it’s time to evaluate Mrs. Buhari’s comments with some scrutiny.
“No other First Lady (that I know of) has said she won’t support her husband for any reason at all. Whether they're playing a game or not, the simple fact that she has spoken about a few things, makes her the most vocal/critical First Lady. Will she keep to her word and not support her husband in 2019, seeing as he hasn’t been great? That’s question for another day”.
Sam Hart, a lawyer who is also spokesperson of the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, says Nigerians aren’t listening to Mrs. Buhari hard enough.
“We are not reading Aisha Buhari within the right context. That woman is using style to tell us something but nobody is listening. She is the wife of a conservative Muslim man. They are rarely that vocal.
“For her to speak out as often as she does, she is telling us that these things are no longer in her husband's hands. She is directing our attention to the people that are calling the shots.
“She too is as frustrated as we are at what is happening. She has seen the intentions and machinations of the orchestrators and she does not support what they are doing in her husband's name. I just wish more people will listen to the hidden messages she is passing across”, says Hart.
Dr Dipo Awojide shares Hart’s point of view.
“Aisha Buhari has criticised the APC and her husband, President Buhari’s administration on two occasions since 2015. The issues she openly voiced her dissatisfaction at are genuine issues. In the first instance, she criticized cabals in her husband’s government”, says Awojide.
He added that; “She suggested that people who were never part of the APC campaign took up top jobs in the government. If these people were competent and excellent at their jobs, I doubt she would have received the accolades she received when she granted that interview to the BBC.
“Secondly, she criticized the management of the State House Clinic, suggesting that so much money has been allocated since 2015 and the Clinic does not have basic facilities. Comments from those who use the Clinic and of course other Nigerians have also justified her criticism. Being openly critical is good”.
Awojide also urged Mrs. Buhari to go one better than pointing at gaping holes in her husband’s administration.
“However, Aisha Buhari owes us a duty to prevail on President Buhari and advise him on key issues such as on education and the health sector. Things are not better off than they were in 2015. Many of the critical sectors in Nigeria have regressed since the APC came to power, while very few sectors have made progress.
“President Buhari needs to listen to his wife, and of course other progressive voices across the country. He needs to appoint competent people across board. We have wasted so much time doing almost nothing. There is a lot of work to be done. I hope we get to it fast”, says Awojide.
Blogger and critic, Tosin Adeda, says, “Well, to the best of my knowledge, she has to be the first wife of a Nigerian president that has publicly called out her husband, directly or indirectly on issues that affect Nigeria, and she has done this more than once, the most recent being the Aso Rock Clinic”.
The last time Aisha Buhari came out all guns blazing against her husband’s personnel, the president told the world that she'd be better off remaining in the kitchen.
"I don't know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room”, President Buhari responded.
Well, Mrs. Buhari thinks differently.
Aisha Muhammadu Buhari was born on February 17, 1971 in Adamawa State. Her grandad was Nigeria’s first defense minister, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu.
Aisha’s dad was a civil engineer and her mum was into textile trade.
Aisha Buhari holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and a Master’s degree in international affairs and strategic studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.
Nigeria’s First Lady is passionate about fashion and beauty. She is Founder/MD of Hanzy Spa and Principal of Hanzy Beauty Institute, a beauty parlour with offices in Kaduna and Abuja.
She married Muhammadu Buhari on December 2, 1989. The couple has five kids together and one grandchild.
Mrs. Buhari is an advocate of the right of the child. She’s also a women’s rights activist.