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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Aisha, Buhari, The Cabal And #TheOtherRoom – By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

Nigeria has not had a First Lady as beautiful as Aisha, at least, not in my judgement, for beauty as they say is in the eyes of the beholder. Nor in my own generation, it is not quite long I started observing these First ladies as intently as I now do. For someone like me who like to admire beautiful women, I have not seen any Nigerian President since I became conscious of my environment and the politics of my nation who is as attractive as this President’s wife. She is so beautiful that she wrote a book on beauty and runs a center where beauty is either created or enhanced!

As long as I can remember, we have always had hardworking First Ladies, but never have we had First Lady who publicly disagrees with her husband on political issues, at least not to our ears or our eyes. Isn’t that how marriages should be? First Ladies come to be known to us, not because of any contracts we have with them, but for the contracts we have with their husbands. First Ladies all over the world are usually their husband’s Number one supporters and political associates. This is not to say that these first ladies do not have areas of discord with their husbands, but because they understand the importance of bedrooms and kitchens. Not in the literal sense though. Kitchens can be the belly, while the bedroom may actually be the heart. We shall get to that as we progress.

It is only an insincere person who will disagree with me that the immediate past First Lady, Patience Jonathan contributed in no small way to the defeat of her husband in the 2015 polls. Do we talk about the embarrassments meted out to the former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi which made the later begin to look elsewhere for political sojourn instead of protecting his own kith and kin? Or do we talk about the many embarrassing gaffes that gave the then opposition lots of rooms to make mincemeat of the President? Or her overbearing influence over the control of the Party’s structures that got many Party members alienated and aggrieved? There are lots of reasons why the next First Lady needs to be careful or the next President needs to be careful not to allow his First Lady get him into troubles.

One of the promises made by the then presidential candidate and his Party was that there will not be the office of the First Lady when they come to power. This promise was obviously predicated on the several embarrassments that the former President Goodluck Jonathan had to stomach as a result of Mama Patience’ alleged excesses.

On coming to power, the President’s wife got all the perks of the office of the First Lady of the Federal Republic, but whether she had the influence the other First Ladies before her had is what few people can tell. However, the official nomenclature of her office was changed from the office of the First Lady to the office of the Wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Observers are still not satisfied that the President kept to his promise of not allowing the Office of the First Lady, but the presidency thinks that the name change was enough.

It is instructive to note that Mama Aisha brought a lot of positives to the presidential campaigns of the President. Her visibility during the campaigns may be credited, not in small part, for the eventual victory of her husband, especially when you consider the fact that her husband had made three previous attempts at becoming Nigeria’s President through the ballots but failed to clinch majority of the votes. In 2003, 2007 and 2011, Aisha’s presence in the campaigns was not as dominant and effective as it became in 2015. No doubt, many of the women who cast their votes for Buhari in the main election did so, because of Aisha. The full participation of Aisha in the campaign train humanized Buhari who was hitherto seen by not a few of Nigerians as a male chauvinist, considering where he is coming from and his history with his first wife.

Aisha Buhari did not only come out to join the campaign, she led the women wing of the campaign, she brought lots of new ideas into the campaign, she inspired her fellow women to believe, she went to the streets to mobilize her fellow women and youths and convinced millions of them into believing in the ideology of change, into believing that her husband is not the old generation chauvinist his political rivals have severally painted him as. She came forward as an activist, as a philanthropist and as a woman who has lots of influence over her husband. Not the woman who will be restricted to the literal kitchen while her husband is hijacked by any cabal or misled by outsiders. Aisha came out to say things only she could have said. When the former First Lady went to a campaign rally to tell her audience that voting Buhari would mean voting for jail for many Nigerians, it took Aisha Buhari to respond to that. She spoke then, as someone who has lots of influence on her husband and not the kind of wife who is estranged from her husband. Her words then did not portray her as someone who will be an outsider in her husband’s government. She assured the then First Lady, Mrs. Patience Goodluck and indeed all Nigerians that her husband was not coming to jail anybody, but to sanitize the system.

Since she started running the office of the Wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha has been scarce in scandal mills. Except on occasions when she was caught spotting highly expensive wrist watches and handbags valued at costs higher than what most families in the country can afford in ten years. But those who actually made some hullabaloo about that did not accuse the First Lady of purchasing those items with public funds. Of course they know she runs a big business of her own, from which proceeds she might comfortably afford such luxuries. Also, the allegation by Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose that she is the same Aisha Buhari mentioned in the Halliburton scandal is yet to be substantiated, and even if substantiated, it did not happen within the period of this presidency, hence, one can safely say that the Office of the Wife of the President of the Federal Republic has not brought any embarrassment to the office of the President, at least, not just yet.

It is normal for a woman to feel uncomfortable when she suspects that some people are beginning to have the best part of her husband more than herself. No matter the status attained by a man, he is still his wife’s most valued asset. That is why we have names in Igboland like; Dibuugwunwayi, Akudiya, Odoziakudiya, etc. These are feminine sobriquets that highlight the importance of a husband to a woman and the relationship a wife should have with her husband. Aisha is right to have complained if her husband has been hijacked by any cabal. What is not right about this is the medium she chose to make this complaint through. A respectful woman, especially an African wife will not want anyone else to hear the complaint she has against her husband not to talk of going to the market place to disgrace her husband and tell the world how she will no longer support him.

A former Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Owie Rowland has said what many Nigerian husbands would say if they are given the microphone. Senator Owie who claims that what Aisha Buhari said is the true representation of what is happening in Nigeria at present, says her idea of going to the BBC Hausa Service to air her grievances instead of waiting for when she will have some private time with her husband is wrong and would have earned her a trip back to her parents’ house if he was in Buhari’s shoes.

On a personal note, If my wife has to take to the media to tell me what she can call me into the bedroom and let me hear, then, I may not think of sending her back to her parents like Owie Rowland suggested, but I will sure be aware that I now have a political opponent sharing a bedroom with me, instead of a wife.

Aisha may have said something many people think is correct, but, we must commend President Buhari for remaining married to such an obviously petulant woman for the past 27 years. Aisha like every other wife must not always have things her way, but her ability to devise peaceful and respectable ways of getting her husband to understand her grievances is important and marks such woman out for commendation.

Fortunately, Aisha is not the first highly placed Nigerian to have raised the alarm over the activities of a cabal that has hijacked the President and are calling the shots in the country. The Senate President, who is officially, the third strongest man in this country, had raised such alarm, Asiwaju Tinubu whose contributions to the making of this presidency cannot be wished off had recently implied such and there could be so many muted complaints from highly placed quarters indicating such. Nigerians did not elect any cabal to run the affairs of our country hence we should be as concerned as our First Lady that this anonymous cabal are derailing the ship of State. The wife of the President is aware that Nigerians will not blame the cabal for the failures of the government, but her husband, hence, her frustration with the way things are going.

President Buhari’s decision to respond to this may also be a work of this same cabal who do not seem to care about what becomes of the President nor the country, but are desperate for their own political and economic survival. The President, if he was surrounded with those who truly love him and wish him the best would have found a way to evade the question on this issue as what he did is the same as exchanging words with his wife in the market square. An ordinary man is condemned when he does that, not to talk of a man in our President’s standing.

However, it is important to understand that the President did not deride his wife by saying that she “belongs to his kitchen, to the living room and to the other room.” If not that our African values have been dangerously eroded by those do not even understand the concept of feminism and gender equality. For those who understand how figuratively important the kitchen and the other room are, the President’s remark is one of the most complimentary things anyone could say about his wife.

The President did not chide his wife for being political, rather he declared that no matter the political persuasion of his wife, she is still his most trusted ally. Let me explain what I think the President really meant:

“I do not know the political Party my wife belongs to.” My wife has a right to belong to a political Party (This completely removes the literal meaning of a wife belonging to the kitchen. A wife who belongs to the kitchen cannot have the right to join a political Party)

“She belongs to my kitchen.” The kitchen is not for everybody. Unless you are well trusted, you cannot have access to my kitchen. But, Buhari did not say that his wife can go to the kitchen, he said that his wife belongs to his kitchen. This means that she owns his kitchen. Anyone who owns your kitchen, or who belongs to your kitchen is the most trusted individual you can think of. By this, the President was invariably saying that his wife owns his stomach. This is an unambiguous way of telling the world that his wife has lots of influence over him.

“In the living room, and the other room.” This is actually one of the most talked about of that brief speech. The other room is really what it is, the bedroom. Who has more access to a man than the woman with whom he shares his bed? While I insist that the President should have waited till he got to the bedroom with his wife before responding his wife’s criticisms, I also think my feminist friends should design a plaque for our president, for his transparent respect to womanhood with that response. The president elevated his wife to being the most important person in his life and by implication, his most trusted confidante.

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