What should have been your reaction?
Or, “Mr President, it appears all is not well in the First Family. Your wife has told the BBC that your government has been hijacked by unknown people and that you risk a revolt from your supporters whom you’ve alienated.”
The President (laughing) responds: “Like every other Nigerian, my wife is free to air her views about the direction of my government. I’m still studying what she said in that interview. God willing, I will address that when I return home. In the meantime, I remain fully in charge of my government.”
Or still, the President could have deflected the question on Aisha Buhari and say something like: “I have been discussing matters of security and economic development with Chancellor Merkel and she has assured me of her government’s support.”
If the journalist persisted, the President would parry the question this way: “The German government is committing $18b to the resuscitation of Lake Chad. They are also going to assist with intelligence and equipment to enable us tackle terrorism both in the North East and Niger Delta.”
Or better still; the President could have flatly refused to comment on the Aisha BBC interview by laughing it off and signalling for the next question.
Things are happening in quick succession in Nigeria; complaints about recession and hunger, debate on sale of national assets, arrest and detention of judges, euphoria over the release of Chibok girls and suddenly the Aisha Buhari disconcerting BBC interview as well as the universal uproar that flowed from the response of her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari. President Buhari’s reply to his wife’s interview has ruined an otherwise successful visit to Germany. His securing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government’s commitment of $18 billion to replenish Lake Chad is a huge accomplishment.
First of all, President Buhari must understand that it is not every question that a leader should answer. Some questions are totally ignored, some are parried and others tackled miserly.
Secondly, it is time for President Buhari to suspend his assumptions of “superior knowledge” over Aisha and the opposition by realising that he doesn’t really have a monopoly of the understanding of the political ramifications of some of his utterances.
The President can help himself by carefully shopping for and appointing a political adviser. The adviser should be able to analyse significant and novel issues, like what to do with the Aisha Buhari interview and proffer inoffensive but intelligent retorts for the President well ahead. The President should carry his political adviser with him wherever he goes in just the same way he is accompanied on almost all trips by his National Security Adviser, Babagana Mungono. The President must realise that there is a definite link between his security and political standing and he should be concerned with both. If he misfires in his politics, there is bound to be a backlash and this will unsettle not just him but his admirers as well. Certainly, the President’s “she (Aisha) belongs to the kitchen and my living room and the other room” while standing with Angela Merkel at a press conference, in Berlin, Germany, is inappropriate, notwithstanding Buhari’s intended hilarity.
As it is, the Aisha Buhari BBC interview has provided fodder for political adversaries to gain insight into the state of first family and to spew malice and even claim clairvoyance into developments in the Buhari Presidency. It is irresponsible for the Senate President and Timi Frank to begin to say that they had been vindicated by Aisha’s revelations, that the Buhari government had been hijacked. Bukola Saraki has no business interfering in presidential marital matters as I’m sure Buhari would never have commented on his own marital affairs. This is no time to make political capital out of the President’s marital irritations and double down on Aisha’s awkward interview. If the messy revelations of false declaration of assets and the depositing of millions of Naira into the Guarantee Trust Bank account of Bukola Saraki in one single day by his aides are true, then it is predictable that Buhari would not need any prodding from hijackers before inquiring into the public conduct of the Senate President by way of court trial.
Nevertheless, those who know Buhari very well also know that the “she belongs to the kitchen” statement is a harmless one indicating that he is in charge and his wife plays no role in his government or appointments therein. Mr President’s well known part in educating Aisha and his many daughters disproves the assertion that he is misogynistic.
The Aisha Buhari BBC interview, borne out of frustration with Presidential politics, is definitely another first in Nigeria’s seat of power; it demonstrates the distance between the kitchen and the President’s office; it has surprised and exasperated the President’s supporters. Many people are oblivious of the marital troubles in the Villa and had wished that Aisha didn’t bring them into the open. Neither Aisha’s interview nor the President’s response to it or the storm that followed has shaken our confidence in Muhammadu Buhari. We who love him are cocksure that he will emerge stronger from this painful period and do what is necessary to improve our living conditions and move our country forward.
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