By Eric Elezuo
The Nigerian First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, is not a stranger to spontaneous journeys as she has been known to embark on trips to foreign countries at the slightest excuse, ever since the advent of the present administration which her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, supervises. However, at the moment, no one seems to know for sure where the supposedly outspoken First Lady is.
When it is believed that first ladies all over the world stay close to their husbands and assist in the running of government, Aisha Buhari’s case has completely been the opposite as of recent, she has hardly appeared in the public space or made policy statements that relate to governance or the wellbeing of Nigerians or even in the interest of the government as either a party woman or an integral part of government.
The era of the Chief (Mrs) Stella Obasanjo, Mrs Turai Yar’dua and Mrs Patience Jonathan as first ladies were no doubt eventful as Nigerians can testify to the influence they had on their husbands in the running of government. There is something to remember each of them for. This is even leaving out the aura Mrs Maryam Babangida brought to the office of First Lady, and sustained by Mrs Miriam Abacha.
Unlike the Aisha Buhari, who campaigned vigorously for her husband in the 2015 election in Nigeria, organising town hall meetings with women’s groups and youth organisations, her low profile status shortly after the administration took shape raised eyebrows. More revelations had it that she was restricted to her work on the empowerment of women and helping victims of the Boko Haram conflict in the north-east of the country.
It must be noted however, that the First Lady has not hidden his disdain for the Buhari administration as a result of its stand on the economy and social welfare. She was reputed to have insinuated long before the 2019 elections that she would not vote for her husband nor mobilise women to do same if the situation then persists. But she was prominent after all during the campaign hunting for votes for Buhari.
One cannot say with all certainty that all is well or has been well with the First Family. It is rare to see both Buhari and Aisha speaking in agreement on a particular issue. Take for instance during an interview with the BBC’s Hausa language service in 2016, Mrs Buhari suggested her husband’s government had been hijacked by only a “few people”, who were behind presidential appointments.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” she said, sending shock waves among the political world that a very close person to Buhari would reveal her level of discontent of the administration at such an early stage.
Buhari’s response on its own was an admission that all wasn’t well with the family. He threw back a salvo saying “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 added that having run for president three times and having succeeded at the fourth attempt, he could “claim superior knowledge over her”.
The comment did not unleash silent responses from the public even as the President’s handlers tried very hard to dismiss it as a humour.
Mrs Buhari though has always been embarking on foreign trips, especially for health related issues, the recent trips have raised a lot of questions. Facts available to The Boss reveal that the President’s wife’s trip to Dubai in August 2020 on the pretense of medical examination was for shopping for paraphernalia for the wedding ceremony of her daughter Hanan, who married Mohammed Turad on September 4, 2020. The trip was facilitated through a jet belonging to billionaire businessman, Mohammed Indimi. It was also revealed that her doctor stays in London, and so the trip to Dubai couldn’t have been for medical purposes.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that Mrs Buhari’s travel was packaged to look like a health emergency in order not to raise eyebrows for violating government’s restriction on international flights due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
“There is presently a ban on international flights by the government except it is essential, so the best way for her to travel was under the guise of medical treatment,” the medium reported.
Presently, Mrs Aisha Buhari is not in the country. She is alleged to have permanently relocated to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The First Lady has not been in Nigeria in over four months and was reportedly quoted as saying that Aso Rock Villa is no longer secure for her family.
Her insecurity concerns were fueled by a shooting incident which occurred in June 2020 and caused some panic among occupants of the Aso Villa.
Report has it that “there was a crisis in Aso Villa after security details of the President’s wife removed Buhari’s Personal Assistant, Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf, from the place after he refused to embark on a 14-day isolation period upon returning from a trip to Lagos.
“Shortly afterwards, the First Lady’s ADC, Usman Shugaba, in an attempt to apprehend Yusuf, reportedly fired gunshots but the President’s aide escaped to the residence of Mamman Daura where he spent the night.
“Yusuf soon ordered the arrest of Aisha’s ADC and other security details in connivance with Buhari’s chief security officer.
Buhari had ordered a probe into the alleged security breach inside the Presidential Villa, but as at date, nothing has been heard of the probe.
Speaking in defence of the First Lady, her aide, Kabiru Dodo, denied the relocation reports based on insecurity reasons, noting that the president’s wife only travelled out of the country on medical grounds.
He said: “The First Lady travelled for her medical trip. She did not flee the country because of insecurity, she left her children, her husband and family in Nigeria, what people are saying is baseless and worth nothing to be considered. I want to tell the whole world that I do speak to her on daily basis and she is ready to return to the country as soon as she is done with the medical treatment abroad.”
But when the supposed medical treatment will end remains largely unknown.
Aisha Buhari was born in Adamawa State in 1971. She is the granddaughter of Nigeria’s first Minister of Defence, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Ambrose Alli University (AAU), and a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.
Aisha obtained a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom, and holds a post-graduate Diploma in Cosmetology and Beauty from Academy Esthetique Beauty Institute of France.
Aisha is a member of the United Kingdom Vocational Training and Charitable Trust and the International Health and Beauty Council.
At the young age of 18 in 1989, she married a former military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, and the marriage has produced five children; a boy and four girls. They are: Zahra, Yusuf, Halima, Sheriff, Amina and Aisha.
Apart from engaging in human right activism, Mrs Buhari is also a business personality. In 1995, she established the Hanzy Spa, in Kaduna State. The spa is reputed as northern Nigeria’s first beauty parlour. She also has a book to her credit, The Essentials of Beauty Therapy: A Complete Guide for Beauty Specialists, which she published in 2014. She donated proceeds from the book to parents of abducted Chibok girls, the Buni Yadi boys murdered in 2014, and children suffering from malnutrition.
In 2017, Mrs Buhari echoed her daughter, Zahra’s voice in condenming the Aso Rock clinic for inefficiency. Zahra had earlier said that not even paracetamol tablet was found in the clinic, its N3 billion budget notwithstanding, before Mrs Buhari told a story of how an x-ray machine could not be found in the clinic to treat her of an ailment. She concluded that she was later treated in 100% foreigners-operated hospital.
Aside her Aso Rock related crises, she reportedly caused upset in 2015 when she appeared in public wearing an expensive-looking watch. Many had believed that she was bent on undermining Buhari’s ‘Mr Integrity’ image. Again, she got into the wrong books of the public when she attempted to shake hands with the Alaafin of Oyo.
Aisha’s children have not fared well either in the public eye. Her last child, Hanan, a graduate of Photography from Ravensbourne University, London, United Kingdom, in July 2019, allegedly ordered the Department of State Services to arrest a young businessman based in Delta State, Athony Okolie, after he was issued a mobile number by telecommunications company MTN previously used and abandoned by her. Okolie spent 10 weeks in unlawful detention before he was finally released.
Again, in January 2020, Hanan attended an event to photograph a Durbar by Rilwanu Adamu, Emir of Bauchi, in one of the jets in the presidential fleet. A move the Presidency defended.
In December, 2017, Yusuf, was involved in a ghastly power bike accident in the Gwanripa area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. In a statement issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Yusuf “broke a limb and had an injury to the head as a result.” He was later flown for treatment. His accident made Nigerians wonder at the ostentatious lifestyle of Buhari’s children.
On Friday, pictures trended on the social media of Turad, Hanan’s husband’s birthday celebration in Dubai, but Mrs Buhari was conspicuously absent in the pictures, prompting a whole lot to ask where is the First Lady, Aisha Buhari?