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HAJIA AISHA BUHARI –– A ROLE MODEL ALWAYS IN PURSUIT OF THE COMMON GOOD

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Events that have obtruded themselves occur in various categories. End of year last December, we recognized some personalities who appeared to us to have acted very well for the common good. The recognition accorded Hajia Aisha Buhari by TERRIFIC HEADLINES as our Woman of the Year 2018  was not about any contention; but a mere innocuous recognition of dispassionate conducts, and consideration of issues for the common good by a member of the female gender in a position of influence.

Hajia Aisha Buhari, is the wife of the president of the Federal Republic and Initiator & Founder of FUTURE ASSURED; an NGO that deals with issues of Education, insurgency, women empowerment, medical outreach, and protection of the rights of the vulnerable, particularly women and childrenOur society, over the decades has not really granted the female gender adequate recognition as the pivots of family units, whose roles are invaluable to the overall development of all societies. A Year 2012 Report commissioned by the British government describes Nigerian women as the hidden resources of the country.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY & INCREASED ROLES FOR WOMEN: The global community is consistently pushing for increased relevance for women as enshrined in several Conventions on the Rights of Women; as a means of empowering womenfolk, removing all barriers militating against women, particularly inequality that poses a great danger to mankind. According to a UNDP Report, “Confronting inequality in developing countries shows that if left unchecked, it could undermine the very foundations of development’’ Therefore, ‘’investing in women and girls now will increase productivity in this generation and will promote sustainable growth, peace and better health for the next generation’’

EXCEPTIONALLY COURAGEOUS: I have an unfeigned regard for Hajia Aisha Buhari, whom I view as a woman of exceptional courage, who strives for excellence in the process of balancing her responsibility as a wife and mother; with that of an unofficial adviser to members of her household. And very clear and noteworthy is the fact that on those occasions that the wife of the president has come out to make open declarations, she has never canvassed her points on account of self-interest; but for the common good that have the potency of benefiting the larger society. She combines very solid backgrounds – her grandfather Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu was Nigeria’s first Minister of Defence;  and her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, a strict personality.

I believe that her conducts should be shining examples to other women whose husbands are in positions of authority, or they themselves occupy coveted positions at this period in history; when the whole world is concerned with advancing the interests of women and releasing them from the stranglehold of cultural and religious beliefs. Her exposure and education are most likely the critical determinants of her personality, that is always a product of nature and nurture, Aisha Buhari holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration and a Master’s degree in International Affairs & Strategic Studies.  Therefore, when she decides to speak, she does so from a position of advantage, based on the information at her disposal.

I have had an indirect interaction with Hajia Aisha Buhari that makes me to regard her as a highly principled celebrity who acts dispassionately, and on conviction. The wife of the president was invited to my book presentation ceremony that held on April 10, 2018.  I never knew her and never met her physically. I dropped the letter of invitation for her at the Presidential Villa’s pilot gate. I never imagined it could happen, but it was indeed an answer to prayers.  Seven days before my event, the mental picture of failure that I had appeared very discouraging and I had to wait on the Lord for intervention. The ‘’God of Suddenly’’ moved a few days to the event when Daddy G.O, Pastor E.A Adeboye stated that: ‘’My Father says you shall never be put to shame.’’  Some 36 hours before the event, I got an unexpected telephone call from the Director of Press/Media Aide to the wife of the president, to notify me that Her Excellency is interested in your event and might attend. I said to myself:  Who Am I oh Lord? An ordinary Nigerian!

What informed her decision? Hajia Buhari had gone through the contents of one of the two books presented by me with the title: ‘USEFUL GUIDES ON FOREIGN TRAVELS, BORDER POSTS & IMMIGRATION MATTERS’ that counsels against illegal migration and some other criminal and social ills. The contents align with part of the objectives of ‘FUTURE ASSURED’, a pet programme of the Wife of the President. I guess she must have felt she was acting for the public good on account of her NGO; and NOT to satisfy an inconsequential author and ordinary Nigerian; apart from the fact that I had no electoral value.  That gesture was noted and deeply appreciated. I never met her, and I never saw physically after my book launch.  But she made sure to send a letter of commendation and was generous in her commendation to acknowledge my efforts.

Those very rare, bold and courageous actions, her welcoming disposition, unsophisticated and encouraging nature are virtues that stand her out in our part of the world that does not accord privileges to women fairly exhaustively.  In particularly, those dispassionate reactions and ability to speak her mind for the public good rank Aisha Buhari taller than her predecessors since the attainment of independence in 1960. I have always felt that men in public offices would encourage their wives to be their unofficial advisers in areas of their competencies, and other areas that might not be too technical, upon which they reflect periodically. And no head of government is bound to accept any advice; or implement same, even from official advisers, since bucks stop on the tables of leaders.

The last public expression of concern on  security breaches got me more interested in researching into the history of wives of the presidents of the United States, from where we copied our extant constitution wholesale, and see what exactly we have not copied for our own Wives of Presidents and what advantages may accrue to the society if we give them ample opportunities to perform their roles as First Ladies and mothers of the nation.

EXAMPLES FROM THE FIRST WORLD: Americans love their First Ladies, particularly those of them who are adjudged to have displayed exemplary conducts and concern for the common good. Ranked very high are former Senator, Secretary of State, and Attorney, Hillary Rodham Clinton who almost became the first female president of the United States, after quitting the White House. Hillary is rated by a Gallup poll  as a two-time presidential candidate — had held the title of most admired woman for 16 years in a row and 22 times overall, more than anyone else in the history of the poll. Mitchell Obama terminated Hillary’s hold by emerging the Most Admired Woman in the 2018 poll. Michelle ran a health campaign as First Lady.

The most influential of all First Ladies of the United States was Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in office for 12 years.  A&E Television Networks describes her as  ‘’an early champion of civil rights for African-Americans, as well as an advocate for women, American workers, the poor and young people. The First Lady also supported government-funded programs for artists and writers. Roosevelt encouraged her husband to appoint more women to federal positions, and she held hundreds of press conferences for female reporters only at a time when women were typically barred from White House press conferences. Additionally, Roosevelt wrote a syndicated newspaper column entitled “My Day” from December 1935 until shortly before her death in 1962. She used the column to share information about her activities and communicate her positions on a wide range of social and political issues.

LIFE AFTER PUBLIC SERVICE: Think about it. Whoever has occupied a public office in Nigeria knows that after leaving office at the expiration of your tenure, the crowd vanishes, leaving spouses to manage whatever remains of their credibility. Loyalties shift easily, some accompanied by revolts. If you receive ten (10) seasonal greeting cards the year you depart office as a state governor, give glory to God. Subsequent years, the number of cards received by former top political office holders reduces such that in later years, only your children will remember to send seasonal greeting cards to you. I was surprised when a junior colleague sometime informed me that in Lagos, you move on when you finish with one another!

WOMEN IN POLITICS: Women occupy 7 out of 109 Senate seats and only 22 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives in the current 8th National Assembly.  The same figure is representing women in the 9th Assembly. The highest ranking female legislator is the Senate Minority Leader. Globally, it has been recognized that inclusivity in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democracy. The growing disposition to women having a say in the management of their own affairs all over the world is a pointer to the fact that Nigerian women are coming. But they are still far behind than envisaged.  Given her concern for the plight of others, Hajia Aisha Buhari might consider vying for a senatorial seat in Adamawa or Katsina States in 2023 subject to Mr. President’s convenience. I believe she is a ready-made participant, with electoral value.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 81 years old, immediate past President of Liberia has made history as the first woman to be elected head of state of an African country. She succeeded in wiping off Liberia’s entire debt and secured millions of dollars of foreign investment in the country. Johnson Sirleaf won the Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017. Indeed, the journey on the political terrain of Liberia, that was laced with landmines that prepared Johnson Sirleaf for good governance has been eventful. She paid the  price to get the prize.

May the good Lord bless our women, the hidden treasures of Nigeria!  May God also bless Nigeria!!