By Reuben Abati
I wrote a piece recently (ThisDay, May 28) in which I referred to Mrs. Aisha Buhari, the wife of the Nigerian President. I argued that she is not “joking” and that with her husband being elected for a second term in office, Nigerians should watch out for her. That piece attracted an offensive rejoinder in at least one newspaper. The person who tried to respond to me spent the whole time ignoring the issues and called me names. It is very difficult, in this business, to join issues with quacks who cannot even write a successful sentence and those who publish them.
I am actually a fan of Mrs. Aisha Buhari, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari. She is beautiful, classy, smart and assertive. In four years, she has shown that she cannot be silenced, and that her husband cannot confine her to the kitchen or “the other room”. She has proven that her husband spoke wrongly about the other room when he visited a non-existent “West Germany”. She has established that she belongs to the present, and in that wise, she has not disappointed with her contemporaneity, cosmopolitanism and politics. She has turned “pillow talk” into a tool of power. She has shown that “the other room” can be a place of truth.” She has had her public moments of doubt but we can all see that she is enjoying the place where she is. She is strong and courageous.
The other day, she reportedly made a statement that nobody should refer to her henceforth as “wife of the President” but as “First Lady of Nigeria.” She pointed out that in 2015, she had opted for the title of “wife of the President” out of her own volition but she soon discovered that many Nigerians are confused about who the real First Lady is, because the wives of state Governors also use the title of “First Lady.” Mrs. Buhari has a point but she also misplaced the point.
As Presidential spokesman of Nigeria, I used to tell Commissioners of Information and Chief Press Secretaries in the states who referred to Governors’ residences as State Houses that there is only one State House in Nigeria – the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja. Governors live in Government Houses. Only the President lives in State House! The difference is that while one is a matter of protocol, the other, Mrs Buhari’s case, is controversial. The Office of the First Lady of Nigeria is unknown to the Nigerian Constitution. It is an American convention which we have inherited and promoted. Mrs Buhari may very well be asserting herself afresh to remind us that she is the First Lady of the “other room”. But what do I know – an innocent newspaper columnist spinning tales! As for Mrs. Buhari, she is actually wife of the President in truth!