The informal office of the First Lady of a country or a state is a concept extremely African. Often, the world is assailed with the bogus appellation of the “First Lady” of Ghana, Ethiopia, Togo or Nigeria and the rest.
In contrast, it is something of a taboo to hear of anything in the semblance of something like “The First Lady” of America or Britain or even Brazil. For instance they are known as “Wife of American President” or “Wife of the British Prime Minister.”
Women are powerful as documented in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden known to all.
However, the perception of Africans is different. The average African believes behind every successful man is the shadow of a woman. So, African nations have seen First Ladies who wield far more tremendous influence than their husbands whom destiny has entrusted leadership of these countries.
Nigeria shared this burden in her recent history, when former President Goodluck Jonathan held sway in Aso Rock. His wife, Dame Patience Jonathan was a real swagger and she was everywhere with her title of First Lady.
But the President Muhammedu Buhari’s presidency has altered the aura of importance hitherto attached to the “office” of The First Lady. Buhari first stripped its bogus status by proclaiming that his wife remains “Wife of the President” and not any First Lady of any hue.
Nevertheless, a woman or wife remains the outer ego of the man or husband. A wife is the first to know the state of mind of her husband. Sometimes, she even reads the countenance of her husband and predicts fairly accurately, his mindset, anger or frustrations on any matter.
President Muhammedu Buhari’s wife, Aisha Buhari hinted of her possession of these attributes in an interview with BBC recently. Aisha famed for her quiet and reticent nature told the entire world that she might not be part of her husband’s re-election campaign trail in 2019, if he fails to shake-up his cabinet.
Aisha could sincerely mean all what she has uttered or even much less. What cannot be taken away is her personal concern that the President would have achieved far higher than what is currently obtained, assuming perpetual distractors and sabs had gone on vacation.
Another feeling runs through the blunt declaration. Aisha may have been so inspired to come this far by the deliberate inclination of some cabal to frustrate, rather than appreciate the job her husband is doing with all sincerity to emancipate Nigeria from its manacles of regression.
Nigerians do not know Aisha as a politician. She is not flippant or loquacious. Even at the peak of her husband’s presidential campaigns in 2015, Aisha hardly spoke at campaign rallies.
Therefore, Aisha’s frank political statement in clear and uncoated language is undoubtedly a response to the ceaseless pricking of an inner pain and the frustrations she shares with her husband, President Buhari. She believes Buhari is unduly “tortured” for accepting to lead Nigeria to redeem the lost glory of his fatherland. If she were an astute politician, she would have presented the idea differently.
At the risk of anything, it is deducible that Aisha is admonishing Nigerians to stand up and support the President to reclaim their country from some desperate and powerful political cabal bent on stalling his efforts to re-invent Nigeria. But as a political naiveté, Aisha’s sight of her husband’s innocence, but the insistence on his demonization, could not restrain the out-pouring of these emotions as plainly as possible; and to her eyes, the remedy is cabinet shake-up.
Aisha stated the obvious that Buhari’s government is hugely peopled by senior government officials whom he cannot vouch for their character, integrity and those who do not even share the vision of the ruling APC “change” agenda. But they made the cabinet because of the influence wielded by a “few People.”
Interpreted differently, Aisha indirectly punctures this category of appointees as the saboteurs or sabs in the system, frustrating everything and undermining the efforts of Mr. President to salvage Nigeria.
A wife of many decades stands a chance to know her husband’s political allies and associates, particularly someone like Buhari, who has spent years politicking. But most members of Buhari’s cabinet are new faces to her, though she married the President 27 years ago.
She is peremptorily prophesying that if the present trend continues and the masses of Nigeria fails to rise en masse to checkmate this cabal, in 2019, the country would still be the shadow it has always been in the last 16 years.
There are cogent lessons to be learnt in Aisha Buhari’s utterances. Indisputably, it is impossible for Buhari to know every member of his cabinet back to back because, politics in Africa, like elsewhere is a product of negotiations. It only becomes a problem, when your cabinet is overshadowed by strange bed-fellows and worse still, those who do not share in your vision.
The few members of Buhari’s cabinet known to him and who have contributed exceptionally to the success of the administration have been under severe antagonism, blackmail and other forms of attacks orchestrated by the powerful cabal.
But the economy is in recession and the naira in a free fall against the US dollar, but none of them deem it worthy to query the competence of the immediate government officials overseeing these segments of governance and so the rhythm goes.
Certainly, President Buhari is not a power drunk, but targets success in whatever he does. Like he said, his wife who is not a politician and she is confined to domestic affairs. But the message has been delivered anyway.
And despite the odds staked against him by the opposition of whatever pretensions, he is steadily conquering the obstacles and emerging victorious. The “thank you” the President and his family expects from Nigerians is their massive support for the rediscovery of Nigeria of their cherished dreams; dreams long gambled in the air.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.