MRS AISHA BUHARI: Confronting The Aso Rock Demons
Just as Nigerians were being regaled with former presidential spokesman, Rueben Abati’s thriller entitled, “Spiritual side of Nigeria’s Villa”, which is a tale about “demons” and “ghosts” in Aso Rock Villa, Nigeria’s seat of power, a current Aso Rock occupant, First Lady Aisha Buhari, has presented the world with the “unspiritual side of Nigeria’s seat of power” by humanising the machinations that swirl around President Muhammadu Buhari in the seat of power.
Rather than ghosts in the mould of the sort described by Abati in his piece or seen in horror movies like Hammer House of Horror or Ghost Busters, our First Lady stated that the seemingly masked forces beating the drum that the President seems to be dancing to are humans whom we can see with our naked eyes, if we look closely at our TV sets on a daily basis.
The First Lady’s illuminating comment about her husband’s leadership style which she aptly described as being devoid of inclusiveness, a basic ingredient that lubricates the wheel of democracies, attracted an unsavoury rebuttal from him, which is now the fourth in the series of serious gaffes made by our President while abroad. Buhari, an autocrat by culture and command and control enthusiast by training as a military officer, has obviously renounced autocracy and embraced democracy as he admitted at his Chatham House presentation in London in 2015 during the run-up to the presidential election. But he needs to do more than merely renouncing autocracy by developing the consciousness of a democrat which is an essential prerequisite for liberal democracy to thrive, and which sadly is currently lacking.
Beyond being elected into office through the ballot box instead of seizing power via the barrels of the gun, which was his route to power some thirty years ago as a military dictator, democracy is deeper and broader. Apart from one-man-one-vote principle which is the bedrock of a democracy, respect for the rule of law is the next most fundamental of all the principles of democracy. Unfortunately, it would appear from all indications that in the over 16 months of Buhari being on the saddle of leadership, the rule of law is the least respected tenet.
Instances of his somewhat nonchalant attitude towards strict observance of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are legion and some of them are worthy of being highlighted as catalogued below:
From the get-go, the President vowed to favour the region from where he received 97 per cent votes over the zone where he received five per cent (mathematically incongruent ) in terms of appointments to public offices, a vow that he has made good with clinical precision, via the lopsided appointments that he has made so far, and which are in clear contravention of the federal character principles as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While the dust raised by that Freudian slip during his maiden visit to the USA had yet to settle, the second misspeak was during his maiden chat with Nigerian journalists, when he informed Nigerians that the ex-National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki’s crime were too heinous for him not to be shackled irrespective of the fact that competent courts of law had granted him bail. By that action, he indicated clearly that he won’t shy away from running the country outside the ambit of the law of the land which is a violation of his oath to uphold the constitution at his inauguration and which grants Dasuki, the rights of innocence until proved guilty.
Similar circumstances to Dasuki apply to Nnamdi Kanu, executive director of the illegal Radio Biafra and director of the Indigenous People of Biafra, whose freedom has also been breached for allegedly using the unregistered radio station to fan the embers of disunity in furtherance of the agenda of some aggrieved Nigerians from the eastern parts who are unhappy with the current political structure of the country and are thus determined to secede, if their concerns are not recognised and addressed accordingly.
Much as Mr President’s media spin doctors tried, the blithe by the undemocratic stance to override the judiciary by being the judge and jury in the Dasuki and Kanu cases ,which are in negation of democratic ethos, contained in the presidential inauguration vow, remained causes for concern by democracy conscious Nigerians who were and have continued to be enraged by the brazen attitude of disdain for the judiciary.
The third occasion was the unwitting admission by the President that Nigerians are guilty as charged by then British prime minister, David Cameron, who alleged that Nigeria was a “fantastically corrupt” country during a garden party at the Queen of England’s residence, on the sidelines of an Anti-Corruption Summit held in London. Endorsing such a derogatory comment against his country men and women which smacked of holier than thou attitude, on the part of Mr President was another source of massive irritation to some Nigerians, both locally and in the Diaspora.
Again, it took dexterous deployment of political brinksmanship and media sagacity by those around him, at very critical moments in London, including Mo Ibrahim, the Sudan-born, telecoms mogul, to significantly douse the ugly impression created when Buhari endorsed Cameron’s negative toga on Nigeria.
To the relief of most Nigerians, the game changed when Buhari managed to recalibrate his thinking by deftly demanding from his host and accuser, Cameron, that Nigerian funds, stolen and lodged in Western bank vaults should be returned without further equivocation.
The fourth and the last time is the recent event in far away Germany, where the President, in a manner of speaking “put his foot in it” again by denigrating womanhood at a most critical time in history when women are clamouring for equality in the balance of power between them and the male folk.
By derogatorily jiving that his wife’s place was in the “kitchen, living room and the other room,” while responding to reporters’ questions about the interview that Aisha granted the BBC Hausa service criticising his leadership style, the President ended up exposing his chauvinistic side to the world.
Worst of all, the denigrating comment about women which was aimed at trivialising the grievous allegations against him by his better-half, was made while standing by the side of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, regarded as one of most powerful women in the world.
In an era where women are on the ascendancy as epitomised by Christian Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, who stated emphatically in her address to central bank governors, during their recent meeting in Washington, USA that one of her most critical missions is to see equality for women with men in terms of salaries and perks, it was expected that Buhari who also attended the UNGA 71 alongside others heads of government would have by now been acquainted with, and thus become sensitive to the reality that a woman’s place is no longer restricted to the kitchen and bedroom, but also in the boardrooms and engineering rooms.
In the bid to do damage control, presidential spokesman, Shehu Garba, explained that the sarcastic and offensive comment was intended to humanise the President, because it was only made in jest, as such it should be taken only on its face value.
But Buhari doubled down on the obvious goof by explaining that since Aisha was in charge of the home front and therefore takes care of his needs at home, he did nothing wrong in situating her there.
In the advanced society, such a gaffe could have attracted as much opprobrium as the US Republican Party presidential candidate in the November 8 election, Donald Trump’s leaked boast about his ability to sexually molest women leveraging on his celebrity status.
That sexiest banter is fast turning out to be Trump’s Achilles’ heel in the US presidential race.
Likewise, the worn out cliché that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” which has obviously not been deleted from Buhari’s consciousness could cost him the Presidency in 2019, in the event that he puts himself up for re-election and his wife actualises her threat not to support him, if he fails to change his leadership style.
To be concluded
Onyibe, a development strategist, is a former commissioner in Delta State