It is gratifying that the first family rallied in the face of a blistering attack last week by busybodies. I would be remiss not to give full credit where it belongs: the office of the First Lady.
In a week when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the Appropriation Bill in record time and when the entire country was outraged by the sex-for-grade expose, that was precisely the moment when idle people decided to find a phantom wife for the president.
I was deeply concerned about how the President
would handle the distraction, especially because he is not given to public speaking, much less speaking publicly about intimate family matters.
As the week wore on, the president’s detractors became bolder and more determined to suss him out. From posting file pictures of the President and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouk, to treacherously re-naming the ministry as “Ministry of Womanitarian Affairs”, the mischief makers set an imaginary nikkai date and posted wedding invitations!
In what could rank as one of the most audacious mischief ever known in the recent history of social media, the mischief makers curated photos of different support groups, and even state governors, dressed them in aso ebi, simulated a bachelor’s eve and distributed mementos to guests!
Somehow, I was sure that whoever was behind it – whether the usual suspects – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); the so-called cabal, or even fifth columnists close to the First Lady – the folks would not relent until they had managed to mainstream their wicked mischief.
Of course, hours before the phantom nikkai day on Friday, the Presidency denied the nonsense. One or two op-ed articles mocked the opposition for descending into crass triviality instead of doing the job of opposition. Served them right.
The strongest rebuttal, however, was the one by Her Excellency, Aisha Buhari. It was not so much what she said. It was what she did.
Whether by coincidence, design or supernatural intervention, she arrived in Abuja two days after the phantom wedding was supposed to have taken place.
I’m constrained to believe that during her two months unplanned holiday to the UK, she may have been reading any of the works of Oscar Wilde – that incorrigible Irish poet and playwright who offers the most dangerously uncomplicated solutions to life’s complicated problems. Wilde, it was, who said the best way to overcome temptation is to yield to it.
The only way for the first lady to overcome and frustrate the evil token of mischief makers who obviously wanted to supplant her was not to send any emissary or even to answer them on Twitter or Facebook. It was also not advisable to tempt fate by allowing the seed of that wicked rumor to take root by the slightest chance.
To overcome was to yield and to yield was to give the matter the priority it deserved by coming back home with the next available British Airways flight.
I join millions of the first lady’s well-wishers in congratulating her on confronting the mischief makers head-on and laying the rumour to rest hopefully, once and for all. And most important, the first lady has achieved the feat in a manner shorn of the drama that attended a somewhat similar crisis that befell Kenya’s first family in the days of President Mwai Kibaki.
Her excellency may recall that at the time, Lucy (bless her soul) was Kenya’s first lady.
After years of enduring the painful rumour that
President Kibaki had a second wife – Mary Wambui – Lucy decided to do something about it.
Lucy, a first lady famous for not suffering fools gladly, was reported to have once slapped a cameraman with Nation (of Kenya).
On the matter of the president’s purported second wife, however, Lucy chose a completely different approach. She asked the president – a most reticent man if ever there was one – to call a press conference to address the matter.
After much pressure, Kibaki called a press conference – not to address the high food prices facing the country at the time. Not on corruption or on the widespread police brutality.
The press conference was to address the tormentors of the first family who insisted that Mary Wambui, the political activist fondly called “Winnie”, was the president’s second wife. This was a matter of grave national concern.
So, there was poor Mwai Kibaki facing a world press conference he would rather not attend.
But he had to do what he had to do. As the lights came on, the cameras panned, and flash bulbs exploded, the president assumed the comportment reserved for national emergencies.
With Lucy sitting beside him, he cleared his throat, and said: “I want to make it very clear that I have only one dear wife, Lucy, who is here, and I do not have any other!”
The president didn’t stop at that. He warned that anyone who persisted in spreading the rumour about any liaison with Mary Wambui risked meeting him in court, adding, “and we shall deal with him no other way, whatsoever.”
I shall not detain her excellency by repeating how the story ended, because I’m sure she remembers that in spite of Lucy’s visual daggers at the journalists present, and in spite of the domestic rats telling the rats in the bush that the cat was alive and well, rumours persist, to this day, that Wangui Mwai is the president’s love child from Mary Wambui.
People will believe what they want to believe.
But thank God they have been exposed. Thank
God, too, that unlike Lucy, the enemies of our first lady did not have the pleasure of pressing her to ask Buhari to call a press conference to clear the air.
Instead, she took the unusual step of not only addressing the press on her arrival, but did so at the airport in the shadow of the BA flight that brought her back, in case some idle persons out there are fantasizing that a presidential plane is part of the pleasures of the first lady’s office.
It is also noteworthy that right there at the tarmac, she thanked her husband for deploying six special assistants in her office and added, for good measure, that she was looking forward to immediately resume cooking for her husband after a long spell. That should pre-empt rumour mongers who might have invaded social media again with a story that even though the first lady is back, the first lady is still not back.
On a final note, I think the first lady needs a firewall against the pestilence called social media, and, of course, any of its franchises.
I’m aware that she said her family has a yearly tradition of being away on summer holiday for six weeks or more. In light of the prevailing situation, she might wish to consider shorter holidays for the remaining period of her husband’s tenure.
That may not stop the rumour mongers and voyeurs from spinning tales, but perhaps her physical presence would compel them to go far from the other room to find the yarn for their mischief.
Just as I was closing this letter, my attention was drawn to an interview that her excellency granted the BBC Hausa Service.
In response to a question on the phantom marriage, Aisha allegedly said, “I don’t know what happened because I was not around. I am not the one who was rumoured to be getting married. It was my husband. So, you should go and ask him whether it is true or not. But the person who was told that the president will marry her, the people who told her the president will marry her, she never thought the day will come and the wedding will not hold.”
I urge her excellency to tread softly. Not because I underestimate the fury of love under a siege, but because expanding the theatre of this circus will only undo the hard work of aides on all sides who have been working conscientiously since last week to dispel the phantom rumours of a liaison in the Villa.
In fact, the first lady should find it in her generous spirit, to meet publicly with Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq who has been so badly maligned, to reassure her that she shares her pain. That will be a big boost for the minister as she gets down to her very difficult new job.
It would also be the coup de grace to all those hypocrites out there pretending to be friends!
And by the way, the news of many spare flats in Aso Rock shared in Fatima Daura’s video should not cause any more strife. Given the large size of our budget deficit, I’m sure the first lady will get the public support if she suggests to the president to hand all the spare accommodation over to a reputable estate agent to advertise. The revenue from the rent will go a long way to plug the deficit.
Long may her excellency reign!