The decision of First Lady, Aisha Buhari, to retweet criticisms of the Buhari administration caused quite a stir last week.
Not a few had hoped she would disclaim the handle or moan that it was hacked. But she didn’t.
In a week when her husband was under the most severe attack in recent times for fiddling as widespread killings brought the country to its knees, praying for his intervention that would not come, Aisha’s retweet piled on Abuja’s incompetence.
It was more telling that she sourced her weapons from “enemy” territory. Neither Ben Murray-Bruce nor Isah Misau whose videos Aisha retweeted is in the government’s good books.
Murray-Bruce, the blue-eyed show boy from the Obasanjo era is a PDP senator from Bayelsa State. He is also the author of a series of controversial articles on “Commonsense”, which made a virtue of driving from the passenger’s seat, only for him to have a run-in with the Buhari government for failing to repay over N10 billion loan that was overdue. His firm was placed in receivership.
On his part, Senator Misau (APC, Bauchi Central), a retired police officer, ruffled feathers last year when he accused the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, of profiteering from deploying policemen to look after fat cats and covering his tracks by illegally donating two SUVs to the First Lady.
If all she wanted were to play politics, Murray-Bruce and Misau would be the last persons Aisha would look to for a stick to beat the government. But the resident iconoclast has proved, once again, that she would not be confined by expediency to “the other room”.
At a time when silence and indifference would have been very convenient – and even understandable – for many in her shoes, Aisha has chosen to stick out her neck for a country that desperately needs any help it can get.
Her retweet was a deep cry for help rendered in the anguished silence of Twitterdom. My guess is that though it was meant for her husband’s attention, it was also a strong message to the powerful forces around her husband, who have labelled her the “suicide bomber from Adamawa.”
The Lion King is encircled and jackals and hyenas – and even rodents – are having a field day. That retweet is the third major in an attempt in less than two years to rescue the Lion King from the hunters, but it would seem that the most dangerous hunter of all might well be the man himself.
Aisha saw the signs early on, and in a way that reminds one of Lady Diana’s courageous attempts to save the Crown from obsolescence, she raised a flag.
When long-time friends were too scared to speak out or barred from access, when political appointees and party stalwarts were telling Buhari that he was the best thing that happened since the Amalgamation, Aisha said in a BBC Hausa service interview that Buhari was at the risk of a rebellion in his base for neglecting those who had worked for his election.
From former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s devastatingly poignant letter on Tuesday, it appears that the rebellion has spread beyond Buhari’s base: his sponsors have also been infected.
Back then, Aisha suggested that a cabal had hijacked the President and prevented him from following through with the change agenda of the All Progressives Congress.
President Buhari tried to deflect the bombshell by joking in an interview (with German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting by his side), that his wife should be forgiven for venturing outside her place in “the other room.”
But Aisha’s intervention was not a joke. It was a genuine expression of concern about her straying husband as it was a personal cry for freedom from two monstrously powerful people in the Presidency who were wrapping her husband around their small fingers.
The untold story from Aisha’s retweet is that the fellows still have Buhari cornered, exploiting his inherent fears and weaknesses as best as they can. Show me the woman in her shoes that would not get mad.
At a point, a number of people thought Buhari’s lethargy, his slow, confused, and often parochial responses to pressing issues had to do with his ill health. The delay in taking decisions, the intra-agency squabbles, stealing and extortion by a few in plain sight and the scandalous backdoor recruitments were all adjudged regrettable consequences of his poor health.
But Buhari has been back nearly six months now and any hope that he might use his renewed strength to clean up the mess in the Presidency is fading fast. You can’t blame Aisha.
It was after Buhari’s return that cemeteries across the country celebrated the appointments of the dead to Federal Boards; it was after his return that Abdulrasheed Maina’s crooked readmission into the civil service was uncovered and yet nothing happened.
It was months after Buhari’s return that a report indicting former SGF, Babachir Lawal and former NIA DG, Ayo Oke was submitted to the government and nothing happened. No, something happened: the President filled the security hierarchy with appointments that would embarrass even the worst ethnic irredentist.
It was after Buhari’s return that long queues resurfaced in petrol stations, and that was after his minister of state, Ibe Kachikwu and the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, lounged at each other’s throat over allegations of fraud and insubordination; it was after Buhari’s return that 73 citizens were murdered in Benue and we’re still trying to figure out whether it was a “communal clash” or an “invasion by the Islamic State”. Yet the victims are being told to accommodate the aggressors in God’s name.
What should Aisha do, seriously? She has criticised the health system, vented her frustration about the cabal inside the Presidency and demurred from any public activity for months now.
And now on top of the quiet misery, she has endured trying to reclaim her husband – and perhaps, the country – Obasanjo has dropped a bombshell, which would be suicidal for her to retweet.
But what can Aisha do? We voted for her husband, not for the First Lady. If this were Eleanor Roosevelt she would brush aside her husband’s inadequacies, assume the role of First-Lady-in-Chief and perhaps start a newspaper column. But Buhari is not impaired and Nigeria is not Roosevelt’s America of the 1930’s.
If Aisha were Lucy Kibaki, she would slap her way through the intransigent cabal and infuse her husband with steel to break free from the gang. But she’s careful not to be the suicide bomber they labelled her and, in any case, Nigeria is not Kibaki’s Kenya.
What can Aisha do? Not much else I’m afraid. After the letter by Obasanjo, the godfather of third term agenda, it seems to me that January 23 would be the day when Aisha’s worst fear came true. May 29, 2019 may have come early.
Will a tweet in time save nine? The answer is blowing in the wind.
Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network