by Nkechi Nwokorie
I see that twinkle in your eyes from time to time, Aisha.
You are a strong woman. You are a smart woman. You are a strong willed woman. You know things. You know things deep within your soul – and you want to share them.
My mischievous not so in inner ID likes the way Aisha B occasionally escapes her handlers and gives everyone “sho serve”. ? Aunty nla..??♀️
— Funmi Iyanda (@Funmilola) October 14, 2016
I knew it from the first time you made a deft political move. Making a trip by yourself to the Ikoyi residence of Nigeria’s prince of Egypt, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by yourself unaccompanied to trade a horse, to make a deal, to – as far as we can divine – explain your stubborn, stone-age husband (whom you probably love) to a modern strategic leader looking for a dark horse to bet on.
Nothing was said as to the substance of the meeting. But by the time you were done, the path had been smoothed. Buhari and Tinubu had aligned. The strong, (until then) silent woman had done the needful, even if her husband might not appreciate it.
It reminded me of one of my favourite bible stories as a woman used to the stubborn foolishness of boys since I was a child. Abigail, who was married to Nabal – an arrogant, ill-tempered man who challenged Israel’s greatest warrior to a battle, needlessly.
As David and his band of annihilators advanced to give him what he deserved, Abigail wisely, and without informing her husband got ready and went out to meet him. “Pay no attention to my wretched husband,” she essentially told him. “For he’s a fool by name, and a fool by nature.”
According to one of the interpretations of that visit: “As a Hebrew woman was restricted by the customs of her time to give counsel only in an emergency and in the hour of greatest need, Abigail, who had risked the displeasure of her husband whose life was threatened, did not act impulsively in going to David to plead for mercy. She followed the dictates of her disciplined will, and speaking at the opportune moment her beautiful appeal from beautiful lips, captivated the heart of David.”
And from that to time, that strong woman that you are has shown forth – fire in your eyes, fire in your belly, fire on your tongue.
Only a few months ago, you let go of your practiced composure and let loose on Ayodele Fayose, an uncouth, ill-mannered man who truly isn’t worthy to clean your shoes.
“Enough is enough,” you tweeted, and though it shocked us because it was uncharacteristic, we silently agreed with you. “A mad dog that isn’t chained. I refuse to keep quiet.”
Oh the delight of the tweet that followed – where you spoke clearly about a husband whose style clearly differs from yours. It was a tweet within a tweet within a tweet.
“If Buhari is 73 years old,” you breathed fire. “I, Aisha am 45 years old. I have more than enough energy to fight you.”
There was a purity to the anger that was delicious. An authenticity to its measured words. This was you, tweeting, by yourself. This was you letting a sliver of a personality that lurks beneath shine through. It is to your credit that even though the tweet was deleted, you neither apologised for nor cared to explain it. You did it, and you were standing by it.
Then you took him to court. Because you did not come here to play.
I admired that. You won respect – even if we could not speak of it because we are so angry at your husband, for being a disappointment to those who passionately canvassed for, and voted for him.
Then, this. In all your glory, you spoke. You spoke truth. And, again, till this moment, you have refused to apologise for it.
“The way things are going I too I am not happy. We are just starting, we have not finished,” you said, in an interview with the BBC. “I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”
It was a gorgeous interview. Human, textured, complex, authentic. A First Lady speaking to her fellow citizens, as if she were one with them. Everything you said connected with those who were listening. Those who wish our country well.
Of course, you knew what you were doing. It’s a classic good cop, bad cop routine. It appears your husband is tone deaf. He has lost his street credibility with Nigerians. Nobody thinks he is really listening. And here was a woman who supposedly shares his bed, telegraphing to Nigerians – ‘he is a good guy. He is the same guy you elected. He feels your pain. But his hands are tied. It is really bad. We all need to rise up and fight with him’.
You were making it clear to Nigerians that they had an ally in the Villa – and that, through you, we could project empathy to the president ‘cause you are on our side.
You were doing him a favour. You were rescuing a falling ship – like all smart women must do when married to men who are not as smart, but have all the power, because penis.
But what did this silly man that should be grateful you deigned (you, a beauty for all time) to marry him, say in return? He decided that you had humiliated him – because that’s how small men think – and it was his turn to humiliate you.
“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” he said, in Germany, where a woman like you is the leader both of her country and the entire Europe. “So I claim superior knowledge over her and the rest of the opposition because in the end I have succeeded.”
What did you ever do in your life to deserve such disgrace, from a man who calls himself your husband?
A man you have done so much for?
Apparently you cook for him. Evidently, you clean up after him. You bore him beautiful, well adjusted kids. You have embraced the much-talked about gender roles, if not in heart, at least in public practice.
You have stood, literally, behind him.
You supported his ambition through numerous failures. Even now, your statements for him were to support him, to enable him, to project a humanity and an empathy that appears to elude him. To speak for him in the most effective way anybody has ever done since he assumed power.
You were helping him, as it appears you have always done. As millions of women, like Abigail are forced to do when their men miss the way and refuse to ask directions.
You didn’t even ask to be equal to him as people accuse feminists of wanting. You didn’t disrespect him. All you asked was the ability to have an opinion.
What did you do to deserve this global embarrassment?
You deserve better. You deserve a marriage defined by respect. You deserve a man who understands your value. If Hillary Clinton deserves it, if Michelle Obama deserves it, if Oluremi Tinubu deserves, heck if even Patience Jonathan could command it, then you deserve a husband, and a partner who respects you for who you are, for what you think, for what you say.
I am sure there is now pressure around you as the nation, and international media is consumed by this scandal. You will be under pressure to bend over, to lose your will power, to help this insecure man save face. You are under pressure from his kitchen cabinet of feckless men throwing their weight around.
You will be under pressure from traditionalists who insist a man cannot be questioned, even if you didn’t question him, because a man’s ego is so fragile it is like a glass cup from Chinatown. Even your children might be blackmailed into emotionally blackmailing you. ‘Mummy, help daddy be a man.’
You will be told you were wrong. You are wrong because you are a woman. You are a woman. You are his woman. You are here to serve at his pleasure. He is not happy. It is your job to make him happy. It is your place. It is your gender role.
Tell them: NO, Aisha. Tell them, NO.
Stand for yourself. Be that woman you were when you stood against Fayose, and two days ago, when you stood firm for fellow Nigerians.
Aisha Buhari. Mrs. Aisha Buhari. Do not give in. Do not let them win. Do not apologise for speaking your truth. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare.
Don’t explain. Don’t obfuscate. Don’t lose the quiet respect an entire nation now has for the woman who dared to speak truth to power.
An entire generation of women is looking at you – emboldened and empowered because they see themselves in you, and they need you to validate their voice, their minds, their being.
Do not say anything to un-say what you have said. To un-be what you have become.
Your silence will be enough. It will say nothing. But it will say everything. And a nation of subdued and sidelined women will forever be grateful to you for it.
Because you did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing wrong.
The world is watching.
You must not apolgise for being yourself. For speaking your truth. For having a voice, Mrs. Buhari.
You must not apologise for being human.
You must not apologise for being a woman.
Or shame on you, madam.
Or shame, shame, shame, shame, shame on you.