By Williams Anuku, Abuja
National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Thursday extolled the virtues of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, describing her as the voice of conscience in the Presidency.
According to the National Leader of the APC, the First Lady has in no small measure helped in the functioning of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Speaking at the public presentation of the book, “Aisha Buhari: Being Different”, authored by Dr Hajo Sani, Tinubu who was chairman of the occasion particularly noted the First Lady’s contributions during the 2015 campaign, he said, culminated in the then-candidate Buhari’s eventual victory and the current functioning of the Presidency.
The presentation of the book, authored by Hajo Sani, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administration and Women Affairs, was an occasion characterised by pomp and pageantry, as the Old banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja came alive after a long lull in activities principally caused by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
A few dignitaries from different walks of life delivered goodwill messages.
They include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF).
Other dignitaries were Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi; Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (recorded message); Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Dr Amina Muhammed (recorded message).
Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo; former First Lady, Dr Patience Jonathan; former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Pastor Godsday Orubebe; the Ooni of Ife, Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III; wife of former Vice President, Amina Sambo, and many more.
Tinubu specifically noted that the President’s wife has continued to play uplifting, unifying roles both in symbol and substance, adding that she has been “a voice of conscience calling us to be our better selves for the good of the nation and for the betterment of the weakest, most vulnerable among us.
“As such she has been a strong pillar of support not only to the president but also to the Nigerian people whom they both serve with such patriotic commitment and high purpose.
“First Lady Aisha Buhari has done a masterful job melding the calls of tradition and the imperatives of today into a creative, benevolent role that has enriched society and the art of governance.
Many political thinkers argue the state or country is nothing but a social extension or evolution of the family. As such, if the president is the father of the national family, his spouse becomes the mother of that family.
“This is why Chief Obafemi Awolowo once praised the then First Lady, Mrs Victoria Gowon, by saying, “The hands that rock the cradle, so goes the wise saying, rule the nation. If it is not presumptuous to say so, I would like to add that the hands that tend a ruler in true affection, in large measure, rule the nation. If this is so, then the contributions of Victoria to the progress of this country thus far stand in bold and historic relief.”
Continuing, Tinubu said because of the humility of the presidential couple, Mrs Aisha Buhari chose not to be addressed as ‘First Lady’ at the beginning of this administration. However, this could not be sustained. Neither her role nor her individual capabilities could be downplayed very long. Mrs Aisha Buhari has truly shown herself to be the First Lady of Nigeria in the title but also by virtue of her talent and temperament.
The role of First Lady provides critical support to the public functioning of the presidency.”
He further described Mrs Buhari as “A human being of deep convictions and feelings, she is more than passionate about her husband and her family.”
He said, “You can plainly see she loves them deeply. This depth of feeling extends to a love of country. From the very onset, she was totally committed to ensuring the success of the campaign of then-candidate Buhari and later to the success of the administration of President Buhari.
She has a naturally strong connection with the average person because she speaks with sincerity and belief. We noticed this very early during the historic 2015 campaign. Thus, we convinced her to play a vocal and visible role in that groundbreaking campaign. Her efforts contributed to her husband’s success. She helped him make history during that campaign. Since coming to the office of the First Lady, she has not stopped making history.
She has been an active and dedicated voice to those whom society sometimes forgets. She gives comfort to the broken and seeks relief for the destitute. No one can doubt her concern. And her care for the wellbeing of women, children and the powerless has established the standard for the office of the First Lady for years to come.
Mrs Buhari shows that a First Lady should not stand aloof and detached from what is happening in the country. Mrs Buhari never shies from what she believes in. This makes her a reliable and true advisor to her beloved husband. No doubt that Mr President’s administration has been enriched because of her active role and the teamwork that exists between husband and wife.
The APC leader also commended the author of the book, not just for documenting the background, education, career, family and public life of Mrs Buhari in an enjoyable, easily readable manner, but also in narrating the political and constitutional context within which the President’s wife has moulded the position of the First Lady in Nigeria.
In his speech later, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described the wife of the President as a different person who has redefined the office of the First Lady.
Before delving into the content of the book proper, Professor Osinbajo first took an excursion of the person of Aisha Buhari, noting that she had taken steps outside the box of what used to be the traditional roles in Nigeria’s presidential history, adding that her unusual approaches had endeared her to the citizens.
According to him, Mrs Buhari has regaled the Nigerian public with many firsts, including opening up her office through social media outlets and connecting with the public in real-time.
“Dr Hajo Sani has written a most engaging book on an incredibly fascinating person, Her Excellency Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady. It’s unlikely that any First Lady in Nigeria’s history has, in such a few short years, captured the imagination of Nigerians as profoundly as Aisha Buhari.
“She’s, of course, the first First Lady to be on Twitter, on Instagram, and other social media platforms, getting her unfiltered views across to the Nigerian people and she’s probably the first to receive, in real-time, the opinions of Nigerians on her views.
“With her views, forthright, crisp, truthful and once in a while controversial, she has established an ongoing conversation with the Nigerian people. The issues that concern them most, the issues that concern us the most; good governance, security, putting food on the table, the education of our children, prompt payment of pensions to army veterans, drug abuse, the violation and victimisation of women and every once in a while she airs her own personal struggles, her annoyance, in a manner, probably unprecedented in the role of the First Lady anywhere.
“There is no question that Aisha Buhari is different. Her difference has been empowering for the Nigerian people and there is never any question that her comments come from a good place, a place of genuine love and respect for the Nigerian people and our several concerns,” the Vice President said.
To capture the First Lady, Prof Osinbajo also quoted her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, who said “Aisha, as the world has come to know her, is kind-hearted. This made her transition to philanthropy and humanitarianism easily. When she became First Lady, her protective mien was exerted when women, children and other vulnerable people are abused.
“I’ve observed with kin interest as she addresses many of the social concerns that have given her sleepless nights. She has therefore been a worthy partner and a beacon for some of the good things that Nigerians have come to identify with our government’, and I concur. I agree,” he said.
The Vice President said the author in her work has summarised the past five years of the life of the First Lady in her husband’s administration, highlighting the activities of the government for posterity.
He said the book explores the various aspects of the First Lady’s life; growing years, in-home front, life in public office, various sweet and sour encounters as well as her philosophies and other humanitarian endeavours.
“Hajo Sani’s book seeks to document the practical work that she has also done in the past five years, but it begins with a detailed, and I must say, a sensitive chronicle of her childhood years and her growth as a woman, a wife and a mother.
“It also highlights her evolution from a silent supporter of her husband’s political adventures to an active mobilizer and campaigner who played a major role in selling him to the Nigerian electorate.
“Then we also read in the book how, as First Lady, she founded the Future Assured Initiative, which promotes the welfare of women, of youth and children, driven by the Aisha Buhari Foundation. The Future Assured Initiative is inspired by her conviction that empowering women is a direct way of promoting the economic and social progress of a nation.
“We are also given a good picture of this steadfast advocate of women’s health issues, who has championed improved access to health care for women, especially in respect of maternal health, with the aim of reducing maternal mortality, particularly in rural communities.
On the book’s expose on the First Lady’s girl child advocacy and her stand that no girl should be given out in marriage before accomplishing primary and secondary schools education, the Vice President noted “we understand the roots of her relentless pursuit in these past years of the empowerment of women, especially through education, the need for young girls to get primary and secondary education before getting married.
“We understand her stance that no girl should get married before the age of 17. It is from her own experience of being married at 19 and her single-mindedness and determination in ensuring that our educational pursuits were not aborted by her obligations as a wife and mother,” he said.
“We also get a glimpse of the role she considers primary the, to borrow the expression, Mum-in-Chief to Halima, to Yusuf, to Zarah, to Hanan and Chuchu, and now many grandchildren.”
“Her personal attention in the lives of her children, each and every one of them, and her fierce protection of their privacy and individuality, is a lesson in bringing up children under the scrutiny of a sometimes mischievous press.”
“Perhaps because of the undefined nature of their positions, and it was Michelle Obama who said famously that, there is no handbook on how to be a First Lady and sometimes the uncertain impact of their rules on the affairs of state.”
“First Ladies may quickly fade into obscurity, when the curtains of time are drawn on the tenure of the administration are their husbands. The result is that the records and lessons of consequence that could benefit oncoming generations and enrich our understanding of history are regrettably lost.”
“But it’s unlikely that Aisha Buhari would ever be forgotten and even if there was a chance of this happening, this well-written attempt to document her life and times and her contributions as First Lady to national life, through the causes that she has promoted, removes that possibility.”
“So, therefore, Dr Hajo Sani, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administration and Women’s Affairs, deserves our commendation for the publication of this very important addition to the literary canon on our public life and also to Nigeria’s biographical history.”
“History has shown that it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, or how many titles precede or honours follow your name, or how high the position you hold, the rare privilege of public service can only be justified by courage, integrity, and selflessness. To these, Aisha Buhari adds being yourself, being different.”