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Reuben Abati: Aisha Buhari And That BBC Interview

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Michelle Obama and Aisha Buhari, First Lady of Nigeria

Michelle Obama and Aisha Buhari, First Lady of Nigeria

Public communication is one of the most delicate challenges that people in public life face, either in the corporate or the public sector. Many people suddenly find themselves in high places, and they become a source of news, a potential interview subject, and they get chased around by journalists and other media figures who want a story, in fact, not just a story, but a scoop. I used to explain in communication coaching classes and to the bosses whose media I managed, at one point or the other that they should never feel obliged to say things they do not want to say. No matter how aggressive the journalist may be, they should be careful what they say.

A journalist would make you feel at home, he or she may even reassure you that whatever you don’t want published could be edited out, and that if you don’t feel comfortable with a question, you should feel free to keep quiet. But a good journalist knows how to push you into a corner and get you, through follow up questions, to say things you may not ordinarily want to say. By the time the tape starts rolling, and you are encouraged to feel like a star, and your own tongue starts rolling, you’d be surprised the kind of emphasis, what you consider an innocent remark, would receive when it is published. Point is: journalists, while on duty, are not working for politicians or big men and women; they are working for organizations that need stories that can sell. They want scoops that can make the headlines. That is what makes them journalists: getting the good story, the good comments, the good shots.

After reading the interview granted by First Lady Aisha Buhari on BBC Hausa Service, I was tempted to conclude that this is what may have happened. She could have said the same things in a more delicately phrased manner. I have always held the view that anybody at all in a public position should be sent for media training (including how to deliver speeches, poise, pronunciation skills, even basic grammar lessons) before they are unleashed on a Nigerian public that has learnt to subject the lives of public officials to utmost scrutiny. The Aisha Buhari interview also fell short in this regard. She just gave the BBC Hausa service a scoop, which in my view has done more damage to her husband’s politics than good.

Given the enormous effect that the interview has had on the public, I would have expected that by now, she would perhaps have tactically disowned it, put a spin on it somehow, and make it clear that it is not intended in any way to discredit, or criticize her husband’s administration. But nothing of such has happened. And what does that mean? That the interview was deliberate and that she is standing by every word she said. She has been called the “good lady in the Villa.” She has been praised for being a modern wife who can speak up, and exercise her right to free speech. She has been called fearless and assertive. The only thing I have not heard from some of the hypocritical commentators is that she would be a good Presidential candidate for 2019.
I have also been told that she must have spoken out of frustration and that her public outburst about the existence of a cabal in the Villa, which determines who gets what appointment, to the disadvantage of members of the All Progressives Congress is making APC members who feel left out of the power-sharing process, very unhappy. But her outburst is nothing but a poor understanding of power politics. There will always be cabals around the seat of power. Power is so potent the people around the corridor will never leave it alone to the President.

And if it is true that this cabal or the President has recruited non-APC members into the government, then that is a positive thing, it is also a positive thing that the President does not know many of the people he has appointed. He doesn’t need to know them personally as long as they come from all parts of Nigeria and they are competent men who can get the job done. The First Lady seems to assume that only card-carrying members of the APC should work for the Buhari administration. On a positive note, however, she doesn’t want anybody to hijack her husband’s Presidency and she believes those who are trying to do so do not mean well. But what does that say about her husband?

The First Lady is also of the view that if the present trend continues, she cannot campaign for her husband in 2019 should he decide to seek re-election. She sounded pleased with what is being done to ensure security in the North East, but she gave the impression that she doesn’t think her husband has done enough to merit a second term in 2019. Hear her: “What I fear is the uprising of 15.4 million people”. And consider this: “…Nobody thought it is going to be like this. But now that it is so…Sometimes when one is doing something wrong without him knowing, but when people talk to them, they should listen”. Who is that person doing something wrong and who does not listen?

Altogether, Mrs Aisha Buhari has passed the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in her husband, and the people around him. This is a kind of “home trouble” brought to the public. The biggest challenge a man can face is to have his own wife “fight” him in public. And what has happened is both unprecedented and significant considering that a Hausa-Fulani couple is involved. It is probably the first time a lady in this position would publicly upbraid her husband and his team. Is she furious because she has been scorned, ignored, rendered powerless?

Well, even if we were not privy to other details, she was publicly scorned when her husband sent a volcanic message from Germany that she should go back to her place in the “kitchen, the living room and the other room.” Feminists and critics of misogyny have protested over this, quite rightly too, at a time when women are leading countries and corporations, it is incorrect and insensitive to say that the best place for a First Lady is to be a cook, a living-room-soap opera-watching detainee and a bedroom object. But given the cultural circumstances involved, this may well be the future Aso Villa fate of First Lady Aisha Buhari. She could be marked out as an ambitious woman who wants to share power with her husband, and as a threat to her husband’s politics.

See how much damage has been caused already by the President’s counter-response: The German Chancellor glared at our President when she heard that comment about “the kitchen, the living room and the other room.” She quickly ended their press conference. Angela Merkel is married, and she is Chancellor, but I don’t think her husband would dare tell her she is best fit for the kitchen and the other room. And imagine if Theresa May, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Grace Alele-Williams, Omobola Johnson, Chimamanda Adichie, Joke Jacobs… had all been chained down in the “other room”. No wonder, President Buhari’s local opponents are already making big political capital out of his un-Presidential comments, and the German public is shocked that any world leader could be so politically incorrect. The number of jokes and memes that have been designed around this husband-wife exchange are thoroughly amusing. Mrs Buhari has also handed over to critics of this administration, speaking points that would be exploited all the way till 2019, and she may well end up not as a powerful force in the Villa but as a strong voice for women’s rights.

It is possible she may be advised soon to recruit spin-doctors to do damage control, but she may have left that rather late already. On the other hand, there is no amount of damage control that the President’s spin-doctors can sell to anyone. Whatever happens, she is cultivating a reputation as a different kind of First Lady. Since independence, every Nigerian Head of State or President has enjoyed the support of his wife while in office: strong, fanatical support. Mrs Maryam Abacha was so supportive of her husband, while everybody condemned him, and long after his death, she has continued to celebrate his memory. Before her, Mrs Maryam Babangida brought greater colour and celebrity status to the Office of the First Lady and added much value to her husband’s tenure.

Mrs Fati Abubakar was a dignified presence behind her husband, the same with Mrs Margaret Shonekan. President Olusegun Obasanjo had as First Lady, the very elegant and beautiful Stella Obasanjo who mobilized support and goodwill for her husband. Turai Yar’Adua, wife of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was also so devoted to her husband’s cause, she was declared the head of the Aso Rock cabal. No one doubted her determination to protect her husband’s interest during those critical moments. You all know Mrs Patience Jonathan. She was as First Lady, her husband’s most vocal supporter. This brought her at loggerheads with some sections of the public who objected to her prominence and controversial statements, but not once did she or the other First Ladies before her, criticize their husbands in public.

Elsewhere, First Ladies also support their husbands. With all the reported cases of dalliance and cuckoldry during the Bill Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton stood by her husband. Michelle Obama has also proven to be a very good role model in this regard. Certain positions require careful grooming. Any form of tension in the home could distract a political leader and make him seem vulnerable in the eyes of the public. Mrs Aisha Buhari may have spoken her mind, but she should not make a habit of assuming the role of a radical, in-house critic, throwing her husband under the wheels. She ought to be thoroughly embarrassed by all the fun being poked at her husband because of that BBC Hausa interview she granted. How this matter is resolved between their kitchen and “the other room” is a family affair into which we cannot dabble.

35 Comments

  1. UNCLE GWE GWE GWE

    October 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I think Buhari was just trying to be funny, but forgot women are now KINGS, His comments already, will make him a looser in the next presidential election, that is if he will be alive to witness it.

    • John

      October 16, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      So queens are now inferior for feminists?

    • The wicked must perish.

      October 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Please, he should go and intervene with the “”KING”” /emir of his state and return the kidnapped, raped, forcefully ‘married’ and ‘converted’ young girl to her crying parents.

      This is from an interview with her father:

      “”“I was in the palace on the day the Kaora Katsina on behalf of the Katsina Emirate Council asked my daughter whether she was forcefully converted to Islam, whether the emirate council or any other person forced her into the marriage and whether she was already menstruating at the time she met Lawal.

      “She answered yes to the questions. When they asked her to stand up and follow me, she refused saying she would not follow me. I believe that my daughter was charmed. The way I saw her that day was not the way my daughter was. She has never disobeyed me.

      “I was threatened and molested when I went to the palace on that day. I faced serious threat, they even wanted to beat and mob me, even though five people accompanied me there.”

      Asked if he wrote the emirate council to apologise for any embarrassment he might have caused it on the issue of his daughter, the father of eight said, “No. I was given a prepared form. I was only told to sign on it and with a threat that if I did not do so, they would kill me.

      “And by the way, my family did not receive any money, precisely N50,000, as the alleged bride price for her forceful marriage to Lawal.

      “It is a lie from the pit of hell,” the septuagenarian added.””

      By the way, if you read interviews with the other 14 year old young girl kidnapped from Bayelsa to Kano by one 18 year old Yunusa Dahiru and impregnated by him, which they also claimed was consensual, it will be clear to you that the girl was hypnotised and charmed. She was asked certain questions to which she couldn’t really give answers. I remember particularly she was asked how she felt when she eventually saw her mother again, she didn’t know, she didn’t even really know or feel like she was seeing her mother, she didn’t really recognise her mother as her mother when she saw her; she didn’t feel anything at various instances where should should have had strong emotion. Another time, she was purported to have said in an audio recording whilst in Kano, that she wasn’t abducted; that she came to Kano of her own free will to be a muslim and that she wanted to remain in Kano. When I read Habiba’s father’s statements that his daughter was charmed, I immediately remembered the interview with Ese Oruru when she said kept saying she felt nothing and/or didn’t know how she felt when she saw her mother and when she was reunited with her family and when she arrived in Kano, etc.

    • Bola

      October 17, 2016 at 6:14 am

      He completely forgot! The man was standing next to Angela Merkel and he still said it. The whole matter has left me confused.

    • The real hadiza

      October 17, 2016 at 10:49 am

      My dear women are not kings … Women are queens
      King and queen are equal , when you feminist people keep saying women are kings it makes being a man a bigger deal than being a woman , to me woman are even Stronger people (story for another day ) … Men and women have their different strength

    • bree

      October 17, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      THANK YOU Hadiza….you made a great point. “queens are stronger” she is the kingdom herself and runs everything in it including the king. i am a queen.my crown is prettier.

  2. nnenne

    October 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Spinning and propaganda only work on people who do not reason
    I can smell it from afar
    Spin doctors will not work

  3. Baawa Arthur

    October 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I was not happy with some statements of Mrs Buhari but the President could have made the statement less by giving a presidential response. He has rather shot himself. I’m sad!

  4. UNCLE GWE GWE GWE

    October 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    @Baawa Releasing a statement on that issue would make the matter still be in the public tongues. The best way is to keep mute and let the matter die. Damage Control is not even advised on this!!!

  5. offshore

    October 16, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    tot they said this pic was Photoshop

  6. outcome

    October 16, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    @uncle gwegwe
    be surprised buhari might live longer than u..
    Buhari will b alive buh won’t contest

  7. NG

    October 16, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    ‘I have always held the view that anybody at all in a public position should be sent for media training (including how to deliver speeches, poise, pronunciation skills, even basic grammar lessons) before they are unleashed on a Nigerian public…’ You have a job cut out for you there Mr. Abati. Many corporate bodies/private/public persons are seeking for such skill

    PMB married a babe in hand, now madam Aisha. There relationship will ever be defined by that fact- codescending husband and often petulant wifey, who must be petted back to good humour. That said, the best damage control here must be one that does not consign or restrict Madam Aisha ‘to be a cook, a living-room-soap opera-watching detainee and a bedroom object.’ That would be a mistake to their personal relationship and wrong for public perception. She was indiscreet but Mr President worsened the whole thing by his response. The best he can do is to show he is not so ancient and out of step with modern reality (forget what we know, it’s all spin doctor advice) by making a show of how tolerant he is of his wife’s show of independence and opinionated stand.

    • John

      October 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Nonsesnse, the best damage control is for aisha to come out in full support of her husband , and say her husband was joking, not giving a damn about public opinion( whether they believe it or not) bcos some in the public dont like them anyway ,no matter what they do .but she should do it ASAP,, I doubt aisha does the cooking anyway in aso rock

    • Iris

      October 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Terrible idea. It sucks that she’s already made the statement, but doing that only worsens the situation. The issue isn’t that he was joking. It now seems as if he’s so clueless about gender issues that he doesn’t know when it is inappropriate to make such jokes (to be frank I think it is never appropriate, but that’s another story). Please also remember he did this In front of Angela Merkel, which was very disrespectful to her as a country’s leader. They cannot wave this away as a domestic issue.

    • LemmeRant

      October 16, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Me I sha like how God is opening their yansh(es) on the International stage. If we tell them at home to try to be civil and not talk anyhow, they won’t listen.

  8. Busola I

    October 16, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    *She could be marked out as an ambitious woman who wants to share power with her husband, and as a threat to her husband’s politics* word!

  9. GANNY OGUNSHAKIN

    October 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Aisha Buhari spoke like any true Nigerian should. I respect her for that. Every Nigeria First Ladies present and future should take a cue from her. No amount of spinning will ever change anything. Times are hard. Nigerians are struggling, and suffering to feed themselves, and their family, pay their children’s school fees, and rent. It takes the grace of God to survive nowadays in Nigeria. But our leaders are pretending as if non of those things are happening in Nigeria. Mr. President all you have to do is to go out in public to interact with those who voted you into power. Maybe you will understand what your loving wife was talking about. She is the only person you could trust. Please, don’t fuck it up. A word is enough for the wise. I a ‘ just saying.

  10. Bubu

    October 16, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    She should have phrased her responses in a more subtle manner. The President as also said her job is to take care of him soo. She is doing what she should have done from the onset advised him to enjoy the rest of his life in peace and not to run for Presidency.

  11. Prince Molak

    October 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Well Said Mr Reuben, Mrs Buhari got it wrong this time

  12. Honey

    October 16, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    The best damage control is to immediately reshuffle his cabinet with majority as competent women.

  13. Iris

    October 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Honestly, at first I was stunned that Aisha Buhari had done this as a marital partner, but now I’m not so sure it was a bad idea. It sucks for her, but it is good for us. Nigeria is in trouble and no one else in the inner caucus is saying much. We keep complaining Buhari acts like his eyes are closed.
    This could have been spun as being an awakening for him, but we have instead chosen to domesticate the matter.

    This problem is inherent in Nigerians and the last few paragraphs of Reuben Abati’s article demonstrates this. He’s basically praising Yaradua’s wife for being so much in defence of her husband that she was almost running the place. Was that her job? Why didn’t she focus on other aspects of development as a first lady? She was so ‘defensive’ of her husband that she and her inner people hid OUR president from us for days, trying to be a wife. That may have been fine if her husband was a small business owner or whatever. Do whatever you like with that. But when he is responsible for the lives of millions of people (including you and I) who put him where he is on the premise of managing our resources, just carry your marriage matter out the door. Who do these people think they are? When a man is elected president he belongs to his people before his family. He is accountable to us.

    When you think about that, you may realise the most important issue is not what Aisha said or didn’t say, but how the president of Nigeria (who coincidentally happens to be her husband) responded to a criticism of his government in a blasé manner that, jokingly or not, displayed chauvinism at its finest.

  14. Hadiza

    October 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Reuben, shut ur dirty mouth. Aisha said what every sane person was thinking. Aisha needs to run for 2019, I will vote for her. Enough of selfish chauvinists ruling this country. Buhari needs to die soon. That pig is insane and does not know how to rule a.country. Buhari, go and rear ur cows, that’s all u know how to do. Disgusting and shameless president opening his dirty mouth to spew trash, he should be killed.

  15. Hadiza

    October 16, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    she should be embarrassed that her husband is a foolish chauvinist?? u are a sick pig. This is why I like Reno Omokri. I never knew this Abati guy was this stupid

    • Anonymous

      October 16, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Abati has two wives. ofcourse he will see things like that.

    • Banter

      October 16, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      You like Reno? Alas!! There is hope for men yet.

  16. ThankYouMrAbati

    October 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Very well said Mr. Abati. I CANNOT believe she came out and ‘went against’ her husband publicly the way she did – a whole president. I cannot even imagine speaking against my husband in public like that, much less a president, smh. And yes, she has only showed the world that she lacks an understanding of how power politics work. I don’t blame Buhari for his come-back, as politically ‘incorrect’ as it might have been – she basically disgraced him…..

  17. dupsy

    October 16, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Please Reuben stop all this your spinning! This is why I don’t like the media and all this PR stuff! Western media too is taking a big hit in the US with people thinking they are all telling lies and nobody really knows the truth. What is there to spin Reuben??? The woman came out shouting on the rooftops what 99 percent of Nigerians scream about everyday as life is now soooo hard for them and you are talking about grooming and spinning the truth of what Aisha said??? Can you go to the market and spin the cost of garri, rice, meat or fish? Can you spin the cost of the rising dollar and pound? Can you go and spin your rent or the cost of the money for drugs at the pharmacy? No amount of spin can hide the pain and suffering of millions of Nigerians and it is good the first lady is screaming it through the media so that those cabal in Aso Rock are forced to hear the hungry and frustrated screams of the millions of Nigerians. They shouldn’t think they can hide behind the fences of Aso Rock and do what ever they like and get the media and people like you to spin the hungry truth!

  18. Hills

    October 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I don’t understand why some people are saying Aisha should run for president. You think she was speaking up for Nigerians? Nah, she is complaining on behalf of her friends (and maybe herself) who helped bring Buhari into power and we’re not ‘rewarded’ with a post in government. Also, not everyone that criticises a government is fit to be a president, for example, Buhari.

    • Hills

      October 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      *were

  19. Fumi

    October 16, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    PMB is still concerned about bedroom @74? Strong man. Aisha enter bedroom and wait for him. Lol

  20. Mira

    October 16, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    I’m just here to say that you can’t know a man more than his wife.
    You simply can’t.
    No matter how long you’ve known him.
    You can’t know him more than his wife knows him.

  21. Ade

    October 17, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I totally agree with Ruben, she was careless about that interview, probably said some things off guard. Her husband’s position is VERY sensitive and even if she does not agree with some issues it should not be said in public international media for that matter. Obama’s wife practically turned the tide to favor him during his second term election and I believe her speech during H Clinton’s campaign gave it a higher momentum. Women should get wiser….. The presidency will end max after eight years and she will be left with her family all the hype will be gone what will she say then?

  22. Aunty Anita

    October 17, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    @ Reuben Abati and BNers

    ‘I have always held the view that anybody at all in a public position should be sent for media training (including how to deliver speeches, poise, pronunciation skills, even basic grammar lessons) before they are unleashed on a Nigerian public…’

    Any ideas where I can get this training?

  23. gaimezu

    October 17, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I am something you can find me in the kitchen, living
    room and the other room, what am I?

  24. Weezy

    October 17, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I actually agree with Reuben here. Aishas interview was incoherent and full of vague allegations. If there truly is a cabal preventing the president, then it is the president’s fault for not having strong ideas and strong backbone.

    Aisha I’d trying to deflect attention from Buharis’s problems and claiming it is other people’s fault. Buhari is a grown ass man who wanted to be president. If he doesn’t like the reality of being president ofNigeria, he should step down. If he doesn’t, clearly he is content. In which case his wife needs to shut up.

    Imagine a company where the CEO’s wife is complaining that the CEO does not have any power, and there are powerful people controlling him. Meanwhile the CEO has not complained o. In a normal society, people would question the wife’s judgement and their marriage. In Nigeria I guess people will want the wife to be the next CEO because one day she spoke her mind. Nawa o.

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