By Omeiza Ajayi
Behind every successful man is a woman, so says an old-time adage and this could be applied to explain the success or otherwise of any leader in public office.
So, it was with great consternation, and perhaps admiration in some quarters when Nigerians woke up that morning in October 2016 to a news report quoting wife of the President, Aisha Buhari as saying she would not support her husband’s reelection bid in 2019 if things did not change. President Muhammadu Buhari later tried to calm supporters, saying that his wife’s place was only in the kitchen and the other room, meaning that she was not well informed on state of things.
In the October 2016 interview with the BBC Hausa Service, Aisha threatened withdrawal of her support because the president had no direct influence on most of the appointments made after he assumed office in 2015.
She was later to revisit this issue of not being in charge in December last year when she said two people were actually remote-controlling the president. According to her, Buhari’s administration had “achieved a lot but could have achieved more or even achieved all it had in one year but for two people in government who will never allow things to move fast.”
Earlier in the BBC interview, she was quoted to have said of her husband; “He is yet to tell me —if he’ll seek re-election— but I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”
Then in January, video of some senators throwing jibes at the president regarding his performance in office was recirculated on her twitter handle.
But indications that Aisha may have soft-pedalled on her decision not to support her husband emerged sometime in 2018 when she emerged Vanguard Personality of the year.
In her letter accepting the award, Aisha said; “One of the reasons adduced for honouring me was the interview I granted which some people saw as criticism to a government that I am part of,” she was quoted as saying in the statement circulated by her media aide, Suleiman Haruna.
“I need to state that my position was a result of my sense of justice and not confrontation or disrespect. I was brought up to stand by the truth and this is how I have always been. As we are all aware, Nigerians elected this administration based on the trust and confidence they have on my husband. I therefore feel that we are here to serve Nigeria to the best of our ability. Let me use this opportunity to state that I support my husband in this call to service and will continue to do so,” she added.
So, it was not surprising when on January 1, Aisha constituted a 700-member high profile Women and Youth Campaign Organization for the reelection of the president. Many however saw her action as a quick remedial measure to assuage the feelings of some ruling party chieftains who had expected to be named into the APC Presidential Campaign Council but left in the lurch by the Presidency.
While she chairs the campaign team, Dolapo Osinbajo, the vice president’s wife serves as co-chairperson.
The duo of Mrs. Adejoke O. Adefulire and wife of Nasarawa governor, Mrs. Mairo Al-Makura would serve as vice chairpersons for South and North, respectively.
Hajia Salamatu Baiwa Umar-Eluma is the National Coordinator of the team; Barr. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagu (Dep. Nat. Coordinator-South) and Hajiya Binta Muazu (Dep. Nat. Coordinator-North).
But there is a curious twist to the activities of Aisha’s campaign team as she has been absent from the campaigns for most of the time. In fact, in spite of having organized rallies in virtually all the six geo-political zones of the country, Aisha was first and last seen on the campaign train at the Sani Abacha Indoor Stadium, Kano on January 5, when she flagged off the campaign.
Timeline of her absence
On January 8, 2019, Aisha was represented by Dolapo at the North Central zonal rally in Lafia.
Few days later, on January 12, Aisha was missing at the South East rally of the team which was held in Owerri, the Imo state capital. Dolapo represented her yet again.
On January 16, at the Northeast zonal rally in Bauchi, Dolapo was also on hand to represent Aisha.
On January 19, at the Southwest zonal rally in Oyo state, Aisha was also represented by Dolapo.
In earlier media reports, her spokesperson, Haruna was quoted as saying; “She is not a political office holder, people should let her be. She has a right to do whatever she wants, as she is not on anybody’s payroll. If she likes, she can decide to stay indoors and if she wants, she can decide otherwise”.
On her absence from campaigns, Haruna said; “You know she and the Vice President’s wife are co- chairing the campaign. She doesn’t have to be in all the campaigns”.
Perhaps, tongues would not have started wagging in partisan circles were it not for Aisha’s earlier position in the reelection of her husband as well as her sudden turnaround in setting up a high profile 700-member campaign team chaired by her.
Could Aisha, a woman known for her stubborn honesty and motherly touch, be the missing link in the Buhari-APC Next Level Campaigns? Once thing is clear: She is highly respected and admired. And this is a credit to her husband, President Mohammadu Buhari.