For better or worse, the Office of the First Lady has assumed a less significant role in Nigeria, from the exulted elegance of the Stella Obasanjo days, to the theatre that was Dame Patience Jonathan.
So that when Mrs Aisha Buhari continues to raise alarms about her husband, borrowing the glossary of Senator Shehu Sani, the result is the sense that both have only just read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and they are simply showing off how woke they have become.
But blame Buhari too, President Buhari I mean. He is part of the reason why the First Lady has not been taken seriously in her recent lamentations. The last time she said something meaningful about the persons in his cabinet obstructing him, he more or less banished her to the other room. In the intervening period, Mrs Buhari has largely kept to herself, and to those other distractions which African First Ladies get busy with while their husbands drudge through the affairs of State.
To her credit, Mrs Buhari probably knows the office of the First Lady is not a thing; it has the potential for good if you have the appeal of a Michelle Obama, but it could also become one of the points of failure for your husband if you take it too seriously.
If the question was why was Goodluck Jonathan not returned in 2015, a reasonable answer could be: Blame Patience.
But blame Buhari too, this time the Mrs, for the backlash she has received. Kayode Ogundamisi has made the point to correct that Aso Rock is not anybody’s Kingdom (she did not personify the kingdom anyway). She did not have to wait for Senator Sani to lead this conversation in the first place. There was the comment by Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, that the cabal would not let her see her husband on her last visit to London. Waiting for Sani to start his discourse through proverbs before joining in as one of the weaker animals makes her appear as though she could not speak on her own authority.
(If we are honest, there are probably reasons why that is so, given the culturally conservative part of the country she comes from.)
But Aisha Buhari can learn more from her two predecessors, especially Turai Yar’adua. That Yar’adua’s wife was in-charge of that whole furor of 2010 is common knowledge, though it turns out she held on to his condition to run the country. It would, therefore, not be a wise suggestion for Mrs Buhari to imitate her to the letter. She would not even be able to if she wanted; Turai acted the way she did because Yar’adua was still the President as he was cocooned from Saudi to Jah-ma-ni (Germany).
That said, Mrs Buhari must now go and take charge of Mr Buhari, not as President now, but as her husband. The wish of the country is that, as President, he returns. In solidarity, we, the weaker animals, join hands with Madam First Lady to anticipate the return of the Lion King. She’s gotta get through to him now, for her sake, for our sake.
Maybe that’s how he finally comes to terms with the fact that he has tried, but cannot continue, and seeing he has a capable and performing deputy, he’ll simply call it quits.
By Alexander O. Onukwue