When Aminu Muhammad Adamu tweeted a picture of Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari on June 8 this year with a one-line caption literally translated to mean that the president’s wife had fed fat on poor peoples’ money, he had no idea how far the tweet would go and the consequences that would trail it, including temporarily becoming a rallying point against abuse of power in the search for justice.
Like other students of Nigerian public universities, Adamu, a final year student of Environmental Management and Toxicology, had been at home for about four months (as at June 8) as a result of the strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and was frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations between the government and the union, while watching as children of the affluent and politicians graduated from private and foreign universities, his friends, course mates and roommates at the Federal University, Dutse (FUD) told Daily Trust on Sunday.
“It was frustration. All of us were frustrated as a result of the strike. We were supposed to graduate about two years ago, now this is our seventh year in the university for a five-year course,” Muhammad Ahmad Azare, his coursemate and roommate said.
Sharing a similar thought, Abdulrahman Ahmad, a coursemate and friend to Adamu said, “Seeing politicians’ children graduating outside the country and their parents publicly celebrating them while we were at home could make anyone annoyed.”
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But they had no idea that their friend had even tweeted about the First Lady when they were at home. They were equally shocked to find out that the tweet had hurt the sensitivity of the First Lady to warrant the actions that followed.
Najib Garba, another coursemate and friend, said he was surprised because Adamu usually shared his tweets on his WhatsApp status, but the particular tweet (which has now been deleted) that landed him in this controversy was not shared, which initially made most of them think he was being framed.
They, however, insisted that contrary to narratives in some quarters, their friend was not a rabble-rouser and believed it was just “destiny” that he would be shot to the limelight in that fashion.
Academically, Adamu is among the top students in his departments as attested by his coursemates, who told Daily Trust on Sunday that Adamu is an intelligent student who has never failed any course.
His good command of the English language has also been one of his strengths, and he has used this skill to champion the course of the university whenever the needs arise, his friends said, citing an instance when the students of the school had a tweet fight with students of the Kano State University of Science and Technology, with Adamu leading the charge for his school, which his friends said gained him more followers on the micro-blogging site.
Tweeps unearth past controversial tweets
And not averse to controversies that can trail controversial tweets, he has been engaging his over 33,000 followers on the micro-blogging site with sarcastic and satirical posts.
In one of his tweets that generated several engagements, he jokingly described an adult content website as a place of reading news, lamenting why after just being on the website for a few minutes, his data balance got depleted.
For those familiar with the sarcastic expression prominent on Twitter, Adamu wasn’t talking about a news website, neither was he complaining of data depletion due to moral usage. The website in questions is for adult (read pornographic) videos and pictures.
But not a lot knew this engaging (read controversial) part of Adamu when his travails with the First Lady came to limelight until tweeps (users of Twitter) unearthed a tweet he made in May after the lynching of Deborah Yakubu on allegation of blasphemy in Sokoto State.
In the now deleted tweet, Adamu threatened to deal with anyone who dared protest in defence of Deborah in Bauchi, his home state, leading tweeps to conclude that he supported the lynching of the student.
But his friends and course mates said they could not understand why Adamu made the tweet, with his roommate, Azare noting that he couldn’t “even say Aminu would be a part of this kind of reaction towards a fellow citizen” because he relates well with Christians and even have several as friends.
Ahmad Datti Mohammed, who first raised the alarm of the arrest of Adamu in a post on his Facebook account, told Daily Trust on Sunday that being from Bauchi State with a sizable number of Christians, Adamu has a better relationship with Christians and converse well than most of them from the North West states, so he too could not understand the context of the tweet said to have been made by Adamu on the Deborah case.
“Aminu’s only problem is that he is always cracking jokes, even when we are trying to be serious with things. Even when we are doing tutorials or reading together, you see him cracking everyone up with his wit. I even believe that the tweet on the First Lady may be another of his engaging funny ways. Everyone knows this about him – that he is a funny guy,” Azare added.
Not involved in school politics, uninterested in national politics
Another thing friends, course mates and roommates agree on in describing Adamu is his lack of interest in anything political, be it school or national politics, closing the lid on insinuations of whether his tweet had a political undertone.
Abubakar Abdu Nababa, the president of the departmental student union, told Daily Trust on Sunday that despite being friends, Adam did not play any role in his emergence as the president beyond voting for him.
“We have never discussed politics with Adam. I am the Academic Director of Environmental Science Student Association of this university but I have never seen him involved in even school politics, not to talk of national politics,” his roommate, Azare added.
Aminu is a decent young man – Neighbours
Daily Trust on Sunday visited his main family house located at the Kofar Gabas area of Azare town, Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State and found out that his father, Alhaji Mohammed Adamu Shale, is a retired civil servant in the state.
A neighbour at their family house, Malam Lamaran Muhammed, told Daily Trust on Sunday that Adamu is a decent and well behaved young man.
“I have known Aminu since his childhood and never seen or heard of any bad attitude of him throughout his stay here in Azare. So we were shocked when we learnt of his arrest and detention,” he said.
Mohammed said, “Aminu was born and brought up here in Kofar Gabas, although later, his father and mother relocated to Bauchi town because the father, Mohammed Shalele, was a civil servant who recently retired. But Aminu usually comes to Azare because his grandmother is still alive and lives in the family house. He stays more in Azare than Bauchi.
“I believe his comment was not intended to tarnish the image of the First Lady but rather trying to bring out the truth of things in order to have remedies because, while ordinary people were at home because of ASUU strike, children of those in power were schooling abroad.
“His media comment was meant to correct the wrong for public good and not disrespectful to the First Lady.”
Another resident of Kofar Gabas and neighbour to Adamu’s family, Abdullahi Abubakar, said he was known for being calm and of good attitude in the area.
“One reason his arrest and detention worried the people around his main family house and the town was because of his good attitude and respect for elders, mates and even his younger ones,” he said.
One of his uncles in Azare, Muhammad Sani Shalele said, “Aminu grew up with me in the same house and I have never seen him do anything bad against anyone. He was an exceptional child in the family, known for good conduct and respect for everyone. Aminu hardly argues or disagrees with anyone, not to talk of disrespecting people.
“When you look at his comment that generated the conflict, you will notice a word of respect, calling her ‘Mama.’ And I believe he didn’t intend to damage her reputation because since the first comment posted on his Twitter account in June, he had not posted another message about her personality.
“After his release I called him on phone to caution him, telling him that he had made a mistake by posting such comment about the First Lady. I advised him not to repeat such comment against anyone in the future. He asked me to pray for him over his final examination and I wished him success.”
All efforts to get a comment from Adamu’s father were not successful at the time of filling this report; and his father’s friend, who is a senior academic staff in FUD, as well as his school father, also declined to comment on the issue.
Adamu’s roommates told Daily Trust on Sunday that initially, they did not know why he was arrested as he did not have any scuffle with anybody prior to that time.
One of his friends, Nababa, said Aminu told him that it was plain-cloth police officers that came to the hostel and tracked him down through his mobile phone.
“He was invited outside the hostel. He told me that he was not manhandled but was taken into a waiting car and they drove with him to Kano, from where they boarded a private jet and flew him to the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The rest of what happened is already in public knowledge,” Nababa said.
Explaining how Adamu was received after his release, Ahmad Datti Mohammed said he was the one that announced on his Facebook account that people should come out to welcome Adamu. He said he was happy and surprised at the massive turnout.
“I also called our comrades in the Kano University of Science and Technology to also come out and show him support because from Kano they would drive by Wudil, the location of the school. When he arrived in FUD, a lot of us waited for him at the gate and started jubilation, with shout of ‘Sai Aminu’ renting the air.
“We took him to the dean’s office; and even there, a lot of students were waiting to catch a glimpse of him,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Adamu is back to his academic activities. He started his final examinations on Monday, few days after his release.
Nababa said, “In fact, he was one of the first people that finished the paper and the lecturer asked when he would like to write the CA test he missed while in detention. Aminu said he was ready to write it immediately after that paper. A day before the exam, we read together.”
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the school on Wednesday, Adamu was writing his second paper, an elective course, but afterwards exchanged pleasantries with our correspondent before saying he would not be able to grant any interview on the issue.
But while Adamu is grappling to cope with his new found fame, according to his friends, majority of Nigerians who clamoured for his freedom through the #FreeAminu hashtag on the social media, said they were disappointed with the apology he tendered to the First Lady. They said his action had defeated any plan to use him as the poster boy in the campaign against abuse of power.
From Clement A. Oloyede, who was in Jigawa & Hassan Ibrahim, Bauchi