We have never had a first lady as vocal as Aisha Buhari. Not even Patience Jonathan, who was often in the news for the wrong reasons was never as vocal and opinionated in matters of political importance.
Now this would be a great thing if Aisha Buhari spoke up in defense of the Nigerian masses, who have spoken up extensively about our collective disappointment with her husband’s government or even take up the cause of women oppressed our patriarchal society. Instead, she has meddled in Adamawa State politics, fomented intra-party politicking by cryptically suggesting her husband’s government has been hijacked by two ‘political strong men’, criticized her husband for not allowing her entrench herself politically in his government by choosing to have a diverse government. She has never allowed a moment to position herself as a principal political player, or further her own personal agendas pass and while it might have been harmless during President Buhari’s first term, she is now actively harming the very people she is supposed to be protecting, the country’s poorest citizens.
Recently, the first lady during a private event organized at the Aso Rock Villa, lamented that the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) has failed woefully in Northern Nigeria. The programme is domiciled in the Office of the Vice President but implemented by the Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, who hails from Kano. During the meeting, the First Lady made several statements including this:
“The SSA to the President on Social Investment is a lady from Kano and I am sure that my husband decided to put somebody from Kano because of the population and political impact it made. I have never asked how the money is being used or is being given out. I met Barrister (one of the President’s aides on SIP) once and he promised me that for my state (Adamawa), we should get 30,000 women to be given N10,000. Up till now, I haven’t heard from him.
“I don’t want to raise the alarm that my state does not benefit from it, where the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) came from, I kept quiet because I don’t want people to say that I talk too much. Recently, I saw a 74-year-old man selling petty things in Kano, I asked him how much is his capital, he told me between N3,000 and N4,000. Don’t forget that we have campaigned to give the poorest of the poor N5,000 every month.
These are pretty strong allegations, and allegations that should be looked into. However, it is very worrying when the First Lady makes these kinds of accusations based on her personal observations and skewers the statement with an ethnocentrist bent. Why does the first lady only care that the NSIP programme has not ‘worked’ in Adamawa? What tangible evidence does she have to support her claims? Has she run independent surveys on the NSIP programme in Adamawa and Kano state? Did she demand an independent audit of the funds disbursed for the programme? Did she engage any of the several non-profit organizations like Enough Is Enough, Dubawa NG and BudgIT NG, who exist primarily to hold government accountable for how it implements projects? Where is the tangible data to support any of her claims?
It is quite worrying that according to her own words, Aisha Buhari tried to influence the execution of the NSIP programme (her statement about meeting an unnamed presidential aide and getting him to ‘promise’ her that 30,000 women in Adamawa would be served by the programme) and expected to be personally updated on the implementation of only a specific part of the programme, that is not even under her jurisdiction. It is worrying, but unsurprising.
The Presidency has put out a video clarifying the work that the NSIP has done in Adamawa state, which ideally should not be even happening and reinforces the impression that Buhari’s presidency is a house divided.
Aisha Buhari’s priorities are skewered, and with each intrusion into government policy and execution, it reinforces the idea that her intentions, however noble, are skewered by her personal interests. And we need a First Lady that cares about all of Nigeria, not just the parts that directly affect her.