Aisha Buhari speaking with her husband, the President of NIgeria, Muhammadu Buhari

Thoughts on Buhari, Aisha and “The Other Room”

Since Aisha Buhari’s imprecatory revelations some days ago about her anger with the President, which borders on her husband’s less than stellar performance in the presidency 17 months after, Nigerians and indeed the whole world are beginning to wonder what type of woman she is.

Many of us still do not believe that an African woman enjoying such limelight and visibility with the perks and privileges attached to her position as First Lady could be that bold to seethe at her husband’s poor performance and steam up at the suffering of the masses occasioned by a directionless and rudderless government. Even the platform she chose to vent her spleen to let the world know her muffled stouch with her husband makes us wonder the more what is going on in her mind.

There is nothing unusual that is going on in her mind, only that she is human like all of us. There is nothing she said that had not been said before, only that many are stumped by her audacity, knowing the position she occupies in society. If there is anything we can glean from her outlandish outburst, it is that she is in sync with the people and knows where the shoe pinches them.

Since 2014 when she started to campaign for her husband’s presidential bid, not many of us knew that Buhari had such an asset, an elegant and articulate lady behind him. She is down to earth, she does not feel or see herself as superior or different from all others upon her presidential perch. She toured the country stumping for her husband’s presidential bid, mixing with people, frying akara and promising them that all will be well again with her husband at the helm.

Instead of condemning her, Nigerians should be grateful that they have a First Lady who is ready and prepared to fight their battle. They should honour her for saying in the open what many whisper in their bedrooms. From her comments, Aisha is telling the husband that leadership is about dialogue, not monologue. She is telling her husband that for him to succeed, he must listen to the people and not ignore them. For long, President Buhari has ignored all of us, telling us that he is the president of all and the president of none.

However, many writers and those benefiting from the anomaly have posited that Aisha is shouting because her husband is not giving her all the privileges she needs to run her office as First Lady. That is not so, they miss the point by a wide margin. What other position does she need in order to be visible in the scheme of things in Nigeria? The mere fact that she is the wife of the president is enough for her to do whatever she feels like doing.

I have two theories of what should have made Aisha to go to BBC to discuss in public what should have been discussed and settled in the comfort of “the other room.” One is the diminution of rising expectations of Nigerians.  She is bitter, like all of us, that her husband is frittering away the opportunity he has to redeem his electoral promises. Time is running fast, the days are running into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and yet there is no visible achievement. She is bitter, like what she said, that the lots of the ordinary Nigerians who wanted positive change and voted for her husband on that understanding is getting worse by the day.

The press nicknamed the president “Hurricane Buhari” when he swept the votes in the North and South West like a whirlwind to beat a sitting president, a feat no one has been able to achieve. Going by his uncompromising and “No Nonsense” stance in his first coming, Nigerians were expectant and upbeat that the man to fix everything that was wrong with us was here. We expected a drastic overhaul of our institutions starting from the National Assembly that takes about one-third of the national budget. We wanted the recovery of all stolen national assets that were given out to government cronies in the name of privatisation. We wanted the immediate overhaul of the judiciary, the police, the army and other agencies. We wanted the right people to be appointed to the right places irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic inclinations. We wanted the best that Nigeria can offer, our First-Eleven, not our Second or Third-Eleven.

We wanted the President to take the road not taken by being hard on the establishment like what Lee Kwan Yew did in Singapore that lifted his country from Third World to First.

But woefully, Buhari missed the opportunity of riding on the crest and euphoria of that groundswell of support to carry out populist policies that would have endeared him to the masses. He missed the opportunity to reclaim Nigeria away from the precipice and position it as the beacon of Africa. Instead he hid under the cover of the blame game to hide his inefficiencies by surrounding himself with his kinsmen. He wanted power either for its sake, or the fun of it going to the North, not as an instrument of development. That is why Aisha is bitter. The BBC interview was a convenient place to let the world know she was not in support of her husband’s slow motion and lack-lustre leadership.

Since Buhari came to power, he has been putting the wrong foot forward, from the time it took him to constitute his cabinet, to the quality of people he chose—whether him or the cabal whom the wife accused of holding her husband hostage—the spark is not there. There is nothing new apart from the bungled arrest of judges. He has spent 17 good months whining about the past instead of confronting the present and repositioning for the future. The year has almost ended and people are yet to see any project going on to show that the 2016 budget is being operated. That is why she is crying out aloud, time is running out. I have the suspicion that she must have talked and talked to her husband for several times to halt the drift without success before deciding to go public.  Aisha’s outburst is a confirmation of what many of us have been saying. We stretched our hope too far in believing in President Buhari.

And two, Aisha’s anger appears to be a carryover of her frustrations in “the other room”. The President while answering questions from journalists in Germany about his wife’s negative comments on BBC the same week of his visit said “I don’t know which party my wife belongs. But I know she belongs to my kitchen, the living room and the other room”. The president may have said this as a joke or red herring to deflect the topic, but it was a joke taken too far, especially when he was surrounded by two international figures that are women.

To be fair to the President, it was good that he told the world the truth. As an African, Buhari made the world, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her minister of defence counterpart who were beside him, to understand that the role of the woman is in the kitchen, the living room and the other room. But the President, like his previous gaffes outside the country, didn’t weigh his words. Even when we accept because of our culture that the role of the woman is in the kitchen, it was un-Presidential for him to make such comments in such gathering because of its negative connotation.

Aisha’s wild outburst was a cry for help. It was a cry to save her marriage. It was a cry for balm, even if that of Gilead to heal her love-sick soul. It was a cry for restoration and redemption. As she said, her husband had strayed too far into the embrace of a cabal who have blindfolded him to the extent that he no longer sees the road, and she wants him back. The cabal did not only seize the President from Nigerians and those who voted for him, they equally seized him from her too, no ‘activity’ takes place again in “the other room”.

But where is “the other room,” by the way? What happens there?  The President did not provide us with a clue. Rather, he allowed our emotions to run wild; he left us in the lurch to figure it out ourselves. But if I’m to hazard a guess, I would say that “the other room” is the action room. For the man, it is the centre of the universe, and for the woman, it is the bank where promissory notes are cashed.

It is where the wars that are fought in the open are settled with a kiss in the dark. It is the activity room where policies are made and unmade. It is where man ceases to be man, where man’s ego gives way to woman’s power. The other room is where a man melts into the warm embrace of a woman, and dissolves into the realm of ecstasy. It is the room where promises are made and kept in the breach. The other room is the room where a man is dressed down like a baby.

It is the most important and powerful room on earth. And it is good and providential that the Creator made it so for Aisha and our women to belong there!

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