Elegant, eloquent, polished, humble and well spoken, these are characteristics expected of a president’s wife. And these are characteristics that can be observed in the wife of Nigeria’s New President Mrs. Aisha Buhari.
Many do not exactly know what to expect with Mrs. Aisha Buhari but from initial interactions she appears to possess the capability to adequately play the role of a female leader especially as the wife of Nigeria’s new president, President Muhammadu Buhari and seems to be shaped in the mould of the Maryam Babangida of old. Let us delve a bit into her world to get an idea of what to expect this time around before the games begin.
A lot has been said officially and unofficially about the person of Mrs. Buhari with many seeking to know more about her, her values and passions. Prior to the emergence of Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Nigerians paid little attention to the competence of the ‘First Lady’ assuming she would always be just a ‘tag along’ who would impact on women and social matters but Nigerians were met with a rude shock with the political intrigues of the last administration. Suffice to say, Nigerians are now a lot more concerned about who their leaders’ better half is. As the saying goes; ‘a man’s wife is a reflection of who he really is’.
Although not a constitutional office, the position of the First Lady always (and would likely be for the foreseeable future) holds an influence on the political, social and even economic affairs of the nation. The ability to play peacemaker in dire situations and calm frayed nerves are not traits which should be overlooked. Aisha Buhari has proven herself over the years to be a able wife and capable support to Nigeria’s newest president.
Mrs. Buhari was born to a middle class family. Her grandfather, Alhaji Mohammed Ribadu served as Nigeria’s first Minister of Defence. Despite marrying at an early age with family responsibilities, Mrs. Buhari chased her passion and ensured she completed her bachelor’s degree.
While a married woman with children in her husband’s house, Mrs. Buhari studied for and obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in Public Administration from Ambrose Ali University (AAU), Ekpoma. Having then married a former president, her insatiable appetite for knowledge led her to acquire a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies (MIASS) from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna and would thus be the first amongst Nigeria’s first lady’s to have undergone formal education at the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Prior to the acquisition of her higher degrees, Mrs. Buhari obtained a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the revered Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom with specialties in Mesotherapy, Permanent Make-up and Micro-dermabrasion. She later on proceeded to French beauty school, Estheitique Academie in Dubai (UAE) and obtained a certificate on Japanese Gold Facial and Towel-Folding techniques. She is extremely passionate about beauty and fashion and has mentored hundreds of Nigerian in this field.
As a professional, she has established herself in her field by successfully founding and operating for several years one of the most competent spas and beauty institutes in Nigeria; Hanzy spa and Hanzy Beauty Institute. She remains a resource person to National Basic Technical Education (NBTE) on Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology and has participated in the curriculum development of Small Medium Enterprises for NBTE.
A critical look at some of her credentials and antecedents reveal a woman who has equipped herself to support her husband adequately and fulfill the role of a national female leader. Maybe some of her actions were indeed prophetic but one cannot by any means fault her intellectual capabilities and prowess.
From Maryam Babangidas ‘Better Life Program For Rural Women’ to Mariam Abacha’s ‘Family Support Program’ and Hon. Fati Abubakar’s ‘Womens Right Advancement and Protection Alternative’, First ladies in general have a tendency to impact women, children and families mainly through the establishment of pet projects.
Some of these in the past have yielded great results while the impact of some others remains questionable. It is thus natural that Nigerians would desire to know the path Mrs. Buhari would toe with regards to establishment of pet projects. Her views appear to echo the theme of ‘lean governance’ being espoused in the present administration.
In a recent interview Mrs. Buhari said on pet projects “for me, maybe I may have, but I don’t have one now because there are a lot of problems in the country and there are lots of women with good ideas. If I decided to come up with one programme, that will divert everybody’s attention and I think the rest of the programme may not come up or may not survive. If there are genuine projects from different people, I will help champion the programmes rather than me having only one pet programme”.
If she holds to her words then she must truly be applauded as she clearly recognizes the fact that though she may occupy a privileged position, she does not possess all the knowledge required to solve Nigeria’s problems especially pertaining to women and children, a mistake made by several leaders. Mrs. Buhari through various events, activities and awareness, has shown herself to be passionate about girl child education and in turn a major activist against child marriage. We wait to see what impact she would bring to bear on these areas with her new position.
Since the commencement of her husband’s presidency, Mrs. Buhari has stressed extensively the fact that she would rather not be referred to as the ‘First lady’ but as ‘The Wife of the President’. Perhaps this could reflect a similar trait of humility and being down-to-earth as has been seen in her husband.
On a recent trip to Buenos Aires to attend the Global Women Conference, Mrs. Buhari travelled with only two personal aides, a far cry from the massive entourage which would typically have accompanied Nigeria’s First ladies on such trips. Not only were the aides minimal, members of the delegation made up of some governor’s wives, legislators and business women, paid for their tickets and accommodation. This is also once again very similar to President Buhari’s shrunken entourage when he attended the G7 summit. A lot of similarities could really be seen between how Mrs. Buhari and our president appear to operate showing there is indeed harmony in their reasoning and execution. Clearly, Mrs. Buhari appears to be ready for the new Nigeria of ‘lean governance’. This is indeed a good omen.
On democracy, Mrs. Buhari has this to say: “democracy has come to stay; we are supposed to practice it like we practice our religions. Our children learn from us so; we should never preach “violence”. We have to play politics with morality, integrity and with capacity, not violence.”
‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’. The role a ‘first lady’ plays in the success of her husband should not be under-emphasized. By every standard, Mrs. Aisha Buhari appears set to play a great role in supporting President Muhammadu Buhari during his tenure. How well she will perform in her role remains to be seen but we certainly do wish her the very best and hope that for Nigeria’s sake she eventually manages her role as the wife of the president effectively for all our benefit.
Nothing less is expected of Mrs. Aisha Buhari whose philosophy in life is “if the environment is safe, if there is no corruption in governance and public life, there would be enough resources in any nation to meet the important needs of the common people including those of women and the youth”.
(Pelumi is a Lawyer and she is passionate about female empowerment)