Mrs. Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is at the moment visiting the United States. She was reported to have granted an interview to the Hausa Service of the Voice of America in which she was questioned about the funding for her trip. In an attempt to disabuse the mind of Nigerians about the source of the funding for her trip, Mrs. Aisha Buhari explained that the trip was being funded with personal funds and sponsorship grants. In explaining how they raise personal funds or resources for the activities of the office, Mrs. Aisha Buhari then stated the following as an example:
“For instance, someone can decide to give me Indomie or Maggie, which he cannot give to the president, women need these things….Whenever we get such gifts, we don’t keep them but share to those in need.”
I think this is what all those that are doubting that she is in the United States ought to concentrate on, rather than waste their time chasing lizards while Nigeria is in social, political and economic conflagration. I mean, this whole idea of running around trying to establish she is not in the United States is absurd! Instead of the doubters to focus on something like this, they are there strutting around and tripping over themselves like Inspector Clouseau that cannot investigate his way out of a paper-bag in a forlorn hope of ultimately proving Aisha Buhari is not in the United States when in fact she’s right there! Oh, why is the airport ceiling so low? Why are members of the entourage wearing slippers? Why are they not wearing fur coats? Why is there no news of her presence on CNN and Al Jazeera? Why is Mrs. Obama not rolling out the red carpet to receive her?
Of course, the trip’s main but unstated purpose is to prove to Governor Ayo Fayose that she is not wanted in the United States. Personally, I’ve always thought all that is a diversion, because anyone who’s done his or her research would have known before now that the Aisha Buhari mentioned in the Jefferson and Atiku case is not the president’s wife and that if the president’s wife is a fugitive from justice and wanted for prosecution in the United States, her status in Nigeria wouldn’t have prevented a public declaration of such a purpose by the United States authorities. I suspect that Fayose and his people know this already, but they stuck to their line up until now, because they didn’t think she’d be making the trip to the US soon. But, again, all that is irrelevant. What is relevant is to establish the nature of her visit and whether this was undertaken with public fund. It’s obviously a private visit, which is why she is not being received in the White House or in any state capital in the United States. The visit has three key purposes: To visit the United States Institute of Peace and deliver a talk to a select group of people at George Mason University and then attend the 25th-anniversary celebration of the Zumunta Association, USA, which is a diaspora socio-cultural association representing the 19 Northern States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). At the time of writing this, she has undertaken the first two and the evidence is there in public space, yet we have people still doubting she’s in the United States!
Now, this comment in this VOA report is what concerns me and what should truly concern right-thinking Nigerians. The office of Nigeria’s First Lady is one created by convention. For some populist reason, General Muhammadu Buhari at the time of contesting the presidency took shots at the office and promised to do away with it when he becomes president. Well, he became president and rather than do away with it, we get the new nomenclature of “Wife of the President” with everything the president criticised as opposition leader still curiously remaining unchanged.
Yet, that is not the problem. The real problem is what has now been revealed deliberately or inadvertently in this interview in the part I excerpted above. We must thank the VOA for asking the question that elicited the response about funding. Is the office of the wife of the president now the conduit for receiving gifts that the president cannot receive in law? I don’t know how they want to twist what she has just said, but it’s huge! We are being told that if you have a pin or caterpillar to give the president, dollar or pounds to give the president, Indomie or rice to give the president, anything that the law would frown upon if received by the president, such gifts can be received and is being received by his wife!
Now, the issue is not whether whatever they receive is being shared out to those in need; the issue is it is unlawful for anyone to receive anything, any kind of gift on behalf of the president or from persons who cannot legally give the president such gifts! It is CORRUPTION writ-large at that point of receiving it, irrespective of whether or not they can account for how it is distributed or disbursed!
At this point, I don’t think we need to say anything more than that the Office of the Wife of the President should be investigated immediately. Nigerians must know the people who have been giving the office the gifts they couldn’t give the president and the details of all gifts so far received. Nigerians must know if the givers are direct or indirect beneficiaries of any decision taken by the president, be it in the form of awards of contracts, financial gifts or anything that the law in Nigeria regards as a benefit. That is where we need to start from.
The National Assembly should immediately constitute a committee to investigate the financial or any related dealings that the office of the wife of the president has undertaken since May 29th, 2015 and let Nigerians know what is going on. They can actually start that by instituting an independent audit of the office immediately. Make no mistake, what Mrs. Aisha Buhari has stated here in this interview amounts to a confession of corruption. She might not know this, but that is a fact. Any person or body receiving gifts that the president is not allowed to receive in law on his behalf or on their own is engaged in corruption. Whether the president himself is involved in this can only be established by an open and independent investigation. The National Assembly should immediately act now. This must not be swept under the carpet.