Editor's note: Lasisi Olagunju writes on the boldness and bravery of the First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, in addressing various issues in the country's polity.
According to Olagunju, there various attributes every northern woman in Nigeria should strive to learn from the First Lady.
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"As I watched our First Lady on television on Saturday, I saw dissent. I saw deviance. I saw resistance. I saw opposition to what the present gives.
She is a rare combination of beauty, brain and bravery. She talks straight. Did you listen to what she said?"
"I heard her. She said the security agencies 'should either assist to take action or allow the situation to continue until bandits finished killing all our people.' That was quite tough."
"Are the times not tough already? Abeg, let her talk tough. Tough times demand tough people. If a man discovers a cobra under his pillow and faints, what shall we say is wrong if it is his wife who gets up and kills the snake?
At least, we have someone speaking out, especially now that all the loud voices of the past have gone dumb, quiet. We don't even know what has taken their vocal cords away? Is it food or fear?"
‘Both, I think...’
"Well, I believe Mrs Aisha Buhari has done very well, filling the void. But the role she is playing is quite strange, very unusual; the face and voice of the opposition to the ways of her husband's government."
‘The apple does not fall far away from the tree. She is her father's daughter. Her granddad, Muhammadu Ribadu, was exactly like that: Bold, assertive, brilliant, even domineering. His nickname was Power of Powers.’
‘He was our first republic minister of defence. He died early, at 55 years old on May 1, 1965. If he were around, the belief is there in the North that no one born of woman would have done what those Ibo soldiers did on January 15, 1966."
‘Yeah. He created the Nigerian Army as we have it; recruited brave and adventurous soldiers, including our current president and Murtala Mohammed and IBB and Shehu Yar'Adua and Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
He loved the North, from Adamawa to Sokoto. At a point, he decreed that 50% of the intake into the army must come from the North, 25 per cent each from the West and the East.
He called it “the principle of regional balance”. That was what gave birth to the quota system we have today. He did whatever he wanted to do without allowing any statute or rule stand on his way.’
"Where were his bosses when he was doing all that?"
"He was second vice president of the Northern People's Congress (NPC) – that name sounds almost like today's All Progressives Congress (APC). It was the party in power in the first republic. Balewa was NPC's first vice president while Ahmadu Bello was president.
Ribadu's biographer, Sidi H. Ali, wrote that as a very fearless, outspoken man, he was one minister who would 'silence Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa by just saying: “you Abubakar, you cannot do that or must do that.” To Sadauna, he acted similarly. He was just blunt and always to the point. He was...a man completely devoid of diplomacy." '"
"Yeah. Very. Look for the biography, it is on page 15. There are many more there. He would fight his party men and support the other side, scoring own goals if doing that would bear long-term fruits for his people.
He would not keep quiet whenever he found his own side was not doing well. You will be shocked at other things he did. If you listen to what our First Lady says and how she says it, and you believe in reincarnation, you would say Ribadu simply came back this time around as a woman."
"If you think Aisha is too impatient with today's go-slow, go and read page 33 of Ribadu's biography. I found something quite intriguing there. Have you ever heard of same person holding three ministerial positions?"
"Yes. Fashola just did..."
"Come on, not that kuekue kind. I am talking of real ministerial power triplets. For some days, Ribadu acted concurrently as prime minister and as minister of finance in addition to his own defence portfolio and minuted files, to himself, from each of these offices to the other - sending recommendations to himself and then giving approvals."
"It's a lie. How could that happen?"
"Ok. Listen to this, and I am quoting the book verbatim: “On another occasion, he was acting prime minister while Sir Abubakar (Tafawa Balewa) was out of Lagos. He was also acting minister of finance at the same time and holding his own substantive office as minister of defence.
Then the question of purchasing a new office for the ministry of defence came up. He negotiated and purchased the place. He then wrote this in his file: ‘As minister of defence, I have bought the new office. As minister of finance, I have approved the purchase, and as prime minister, I have no objection.' ""
"He did that?!"
"Yes o. He did and no one dared query his judgement. Our first republic had such audacious people across all regions. There was a time Chief Samuel Akintola of the Western Region was told that his party's treasurer was building two houses simultaneously for himself with party funds.
He summoned the party chief and shouted: "Lagbajaaa, they said you are constructing two buildings at the same time! Can't you build them one after the other...?" Akintola was to explain later that the man could not be punished because the person who reported him had also just completed a storey building for one of his numerous mistresses."
“Even such perfidy happened that time? Na wa o. Can we go back to Ribadu...”
"Yes, he was never afraid to tell truth to power – even in his own party."
"No wonder his granddaughter also says it as she feels, very clear-headed."
"Whatever...She recently said her husband's government has failed in taking care of the vulnerable."
"Ah haa! She didn't say that. Read her again. What she said was that the N500 billion Special Intervention Programme (SIP) of the federal government failed in the North, in Kano and did not reach her state, Adamawa..."
"Yes… and that a whole $16 million went into a mass purchase of mosquito nets."
"Imagine. $16 million to buy mosquito nets. How much is that in naira terms?”
"She also said that that humongous amount –$16 million –would actually fumigate all homes in Nigeria."
"She is something else. What was she suggesting? That our government of integrity misapplied that money? She can't be serious!"
"She kept talking of the north and of her state, Adamawa. I wish we all love our states as she does her own."
"Adamawa? I thought she is from Katsina. Or is Daura no longer in Katsina State?"
"That is her husband's state, not hers. Or you want her to do Change of State?"
"I actually thought as the First Lady, every state in Nigeria should be her state?"
"You are from the South, I suppose?"
"No wonder you are thinking with your anus. You know how someone described you people?"
"Very unfair. Very uncouth."
"Well...you just proved him right with your utopian recommendation of every state as our first family's state. It doesn't work that way. Every rope, no matter how long, must have a root, its beginning."
"Someone replied her. You heard that one too?"
"Yes. A woman who said our First Lady was ignorant."
"Was that how she put it? She said the mother of the nation spoke without having the correct knowledge of what she spoke about..."
"Hmmmmmm. What an insult!"
‘That person is a woman also?’
"Yes, Uwais, from the north. Very courageous too. Our women don't suffer in silence. They are manly."
"Northern women, you mean?"
"What is the difference? Are you suggesting that courage is a northern monopoly?"
"Can you point at any southern woman, or even man, in this government with the courage to speak truth to power or to take on even a remote relation of our strongman?"
"Speaking while eating is a dirty habit. We learnt that very early in our lives."
"People who won't talk when they should talk are dead, very dead. Not knowing when to break loose from crippling silence is always the foundation of misfortune."
"The First Lady said so on Saturday. She warned all of us: 'We should not keep silent while things are happening, thinking that if something happens today, it will not happen tomorrow. What happened today will happen tomorrow; it will also happen next tomorrow if we keep silent.
It is compulsory to speak the truth. It is not proper for us to give the highest number of votes during the general elections and allow bandits to continue killing people and keep quiet. We must speak on whatever is going wrong in the country.' "
"She is right. Is there not a warning like: 'Resist much. Obey little' ?"
"Yes. That is 'Caution' from Walt Whitman. And he adds rather darkly: 'Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterwards resumes its liberty.' "
"I hope we will learn from Mrs Buhari and find our voice and reclaim our lives.
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