AISHA Buhari talks a good game. She projects random imagery as a fearless, mettlesome woman and First Lady, who speaks truth to power no matter whose ox is gored.
But that is as interesting as she gets. Who is Aisha Buhari beyond the politics and entertainment of her advertised image?
Whether she desires visibility or not, politics yokes her to the brute, inflexible cosmos of its performance theatre. The interpretations are hazy. Yet an understanding of her politics may shed light on her being.
Aisha’s recent remarks on the BBC’s sex for marks investigative report is in tandem with the inherited character of her ‘office’ as Nigeria’s First Lady.
At the report’s première, Aisha, represented by namesake, Aisha Rimi, lamented the sexual harassment of women in the society and stressed her readiness to assist victims to get justice but also have a safe space to speak out.
Mrs. Buhari advised women that their dignity and self respect should outweigh whatever challenges they face, stressing her determination to ensure “a sexual abuse free society for women” – and therein subsists the sore point of Aisha’s activism.
Like previous First Ladies, is Aisha Buhari frantic to protect her gender alone from societal abuse?
Few months ago, she lent her voice to outrage over Busola Dakolo’s rape allegations against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA).
Dakolo alleged that Fatoyinbo raped her when she was a teenager fresh out of secondary school.
Aisha, like a humane woman, mother and wife made a public and emphatic call for justice.
It is disconcerting, however, to understand First Lady Aisha and her junior First Ladies’ silence while the General Overseer (G.O) of Jesus Intervention Household Ministry, Reverend Ezuma Chizemdere, evaded arrest for allegedly ‘raping’ 15 teenage boys in Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb .
One of his victims, 16-year-old Anthony Shedach, was discovered to have been infected with HIV in the process.
The pastor, who was eventually arrested months after the police issued a warrant for his arrest, allegedly lured teenage boys between 15 and 16 years old to his apartment , where he “penetrated” them through the anus. At the end of the act, he reportedly gave each of his victims N2000.
The teenage boys’ ordeal, undoubtedly, pales in significance to Busola Dakolo’s travails with Pastor Fatoyinbo, on First Lady Aisha and peers’ logic of reproachable vice.
What’s Aisha’s excuse? Lackeys and underlings in severe fits of sycophancy, refer to her as the mother of the nation. Is she? If she is, she would quit showing flashes of interest to here and now issues. She wouldn’t cherry-pick injustices and disasters to respond to.
As First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, she would understand why she can’t afford the luxury of silence while “her children” nationwide, live at risk of rape, kidnap, human trafficking, sex trafficking and untimely death.
The northeast portends disaster at immense proportions. Earlier, Mrs. Buhari showed flashes of interest in the plight of the region’s vulnerable divide. She seems to have tired out. Is she bored of the anguish of thousands of war-orphaned minors, trafficked boys, girls, women and Boko Haram’s sexual captives, among others.
It’s been a long time since we’d had a compelling First Lady mythos. Optimists idealised Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s messiah while Aisha was presented as his humane, brilliant, ravishing side-kick. Aisha’s tirade in a BBC interview further endeared her to the citizenry as a gorgeous moralist, whose presence at the Presidential Villa would challenge hypocrisies and corruption of her ruling class.
In the interview, Aisha suggested that her husband’s government had been hijacked by only a “few people,” who were behind presidential appointments.
“If it continues like this, I’m not going to be part of any re-election movement,” she said.
Of course, some opposition figures claimed Aisha’s comment was scripted to earn Buhari empathy, on the flipside, Aisha triggered a compulsive optimism in her husband’s leadership.
Since antiquity, the wives of certain monarchs and presidents have played significant roles in the politics of their time. Aisha may yet emerge as a powerful force, using her office to improve the lot of the citizenry via progressive, gender-blind programmes.
To do this, First Lady Aisha and her junior ‘First Ladies’ must humanise the system that augments their roles via unconstitutional structures and independent instruments. They must avoid what Amina Mama identifies as Femocracy.
Femocracy, argues Mama, is an anti-democratic female power structure, which exploits the commitment of the local and international movement towards greater gender equality in the interests of a small female elite. Femocrats assume that they should have power simply because their husbands are in power thus reinforcing patriarchal failings.
The basic institutional framework for femocracy, argues Ibrahim Jibrin, is usually the office of the First Lady. From Maryam Babangida, Maryam Abacha, Stella Obasanjo, Turai Yar’ Adua, Patience Jonathan, to wives of the 36 state governors, Nigeria has endured spells of intrigues and highjinks via the “Office of the First Lady.”
Most projects emanating from the office are philosophically inadequate. They focus only on the female gender. More evolved occupants of their office would understand that they aren’t supposed to trigger or aggravate needless gender wars and privileges in a society already ravaged by savage forms of misogyny and misandry.
Aisha Buhari must wield her influence to reorientate her junior ‘First Ladies.’ For instance, she could teach them to understand that the Awaawa, One Million Boys and other gangs of teenage miscreants prowling the streets of Lagos, Borno, Ogun, Benue, Jos, Adamawa, Taraba, Kano, Kaduna among others, are as much their problem as the girl-child.
They should stop ignoring these social elements in plain sight simply because their husbands find “good use” of them, deploying them as thugs, assassins, arsonists and canon fodder for mayhem against opponents in election season.
It’s futile trying to raise empowered, emancipated, model girls and women only for them to be thwarted and imperilled by boys and men in whom toxicity was left to fester.
Nigeria’s First Ladies may serve the citizenry and country’s interest in more useful capacities.
But first, they must evolve a truly humane, pro-citizenry intervention programmes that addresses the challenges faced by all social elements.
When properly executed, a First Lady’s life, argues Scherer, unfolds with the precision of manned space-flight — a job exquisitely planned and breathtaking to watch.
If the Nigerian First Lady’s life were a manned space-flight, how glorious has been the ride?
Previous First Ladies were showy and arrogant. Their disdain for the grassroots woman whose interest they claim to pursue, is continually cited as evidence against the duplicity of their struggle.
Some became obscenely rich, using their positions to amass wealth, illegitimately. They are often misled by aides and friends, who tirelessly ornament their misbehaviour with honeyed tongue.
Let Aisha and peers remember that the loyalty-acrobatics of such lackeys are driven by lust to justify their pay-check and butter their loafs.
They are mere passengers in the bus). They will hop off at the crossroads, where the curtain falls on her husband’s tenure.