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Reassessing Mama Yusuf’s prerogative of mercy

Anybody who has watched the trajectory of Madam Aisha Muhammadu Buhari knows that she is out to make history. At the time when her warrior…

Anybody who has watched the trajectory of Madam Aisha Muhammadu Buhari knows that she is out to make history. At the time when her warrior husband was reportedly waiting for powerful exorcists to clean out the djinns that jinxed the occupants of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Mama Yusuf bypassed protocol and moved in, damning the consequences. Her battle-inoculated husband sneaked in when it became too embarrassing to stay out.

Muhammadu Buhari then sought to clip her soaring political wings asserting that there was no role for his wife outside his kitchen, his sitting room and the other room. However, Mama Yusuf was carving a niche for herself as a combatant in her own rights. She seized every opportunity to wail about her husband’s presidency. She confessed that a cabal had taken over her husband’s presidency.

She started her combats like the proverbial Charity, confronting her husband’s immediate family. On one occasion, she single-handedly mobilised her children to fight their nephews and nieces living in the villa, serving them a quit notice by trashing their chosen chalets.

While the public was savouring that dish, she went to town on Aso Rock Clinic designed to cater for her husband and members of the ruling clique. She declared that while the Permsec was building structures, the pharmacy lacked common analgesic to treat a headache. Mrs Buhari earned public support as an advocate for good governance and efficiency until it became obvious she had a hidden agenda. That agenda was not for greater functionality of hospitals but to provide an excuse for what would become the first family’s penchant for foreign medical treatment and hibernation from the rot at home exacerbated by failure of government to effect change.

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It was not long when Buhari made a quasi-permanent abode in London, only visiting Abuja once in a while for an undisclosed ailment. While he was away, Madam Buhari made sure she remained in Abuja protecting her family’s interests.

Then came Covid-19, Mrs Buhari enforced a no-contact ring around her husband. It was later revealed that she would fly in with her children for functions in Lagos. When Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf, Buhari’s nephew and close aide, thought he could exercise such filial liberty, Madam Aisha marshalled her troops who shot their way to his residence in an attempt to banish him from his Uncle.

Buhari, who crowd-funded his party nomination on the principle of frugality, banned access to foreign exchange for those with children abroad. What majority did not know was that all of Buhari’s children were in UK universities. Buhari retorted that it was because he could afford it. He excused his love for UK doctors over Nigerian hospitals to a habit he had maintained for 40 years prior to becoming president.

Another abuse of privilege of Madam Buhari surfaced with news that she had secured a special durbar for her daughter’s photography thesis in Bauchi for which she flew in a presidential jet. When the story broke, Madam Buhari showed no remorse, instead, she tweeted a picture of the daughter enjoying the presidential flight. The backlash was huge. That was long before her husband’s government banned Twitter for refusing to control criticism of the government.

Mrs Buhari rose to the defence of her husband’s ban on Twitter with a tweet in which she coveted the power of communist China’s control over the use of social media by its 1.3 billion citizens wondering why it should be different for Nigeria with less than 300 million. True to her wish, by the time the Buhari government would lift its ban on Twitter, the president’s handle had returned with no right of reply to his tweets. Apparently, Buhari, an avowed critic of his predecessors in office, is himself averse to being held accountable.

Shortly after these conflicting outrages, Mrs Buhari disappeared from public view only to reappear from her Dubai hideout from where some governor’s wives travelled to celebrate her birthday. The next time Nigerians would see their president’s wife; she had increased in physique.

 Not many people expressed surprise given the fact that over the years as Nigerians tightened their belts to practical asphyxiation; the presidential kitchen increased its budget. Last year, the presidential kitchen gulped N2.4 million daily. As most Nigerians passed down their cutlery from one generation to the other, Aso Rock kitchen dumped what it inherited and never recycled last year’s utensils.

It was therefore not shocking when Aminu Adamu Mohammed observed that given the privileges denied the poor masses Mrs Buhari had increased in size. That tweet was posted in June on the student’s handle. It is doubtful if it got a dozen re-tweets. However, it drew the attention of the DSS who believed that the Tweet was in bad taste. It deployed the investigative arsenal it hardly uses for murderous assailants and insurgents in fishing out the student.

It picked up the 23-year-old from Dutse, drove him to Abuja where he was first reportedly presented to Mrs Buhari’s court where he was allegedly assaulted. He was then arraigned in a court that sent to jail on defamation charges.

Once the story broke, her worshippers excused her abuse of state power as a non-state actor and latched on to some traditional rules of respect for the president’s wife. Under our laws, the president is a servant of the people; not their King, Emperor or maximum ruler. If his wife feels defamed, she goes to court, not to take laws into her own hands or abuse state privileges.

There is no role for a wife under the Nigerian constitution. On that premise, it is a wilful descent to anarchy for the president’s wife to order an assault on a citizen critical of either her form or physique. Body shaming is not a criminal act nor is abuse or criticism.

It is shameful that in the face of the crippling security challenges facing the nation, state apparatchiks are deployed for this level of lowness. It is even more ludicrous that following the outrage, Mrs Buhari organised the detainee’s release as some farcical form of a first lady’s prerogative of mercy. No such privilege exists for her under our laws or constitution.

The unwritten code is simple; those averse to criticisms should steer clear of the people’s mandate. The people’s mandate gives access to taxpayer funds and those who benefit from it have no immunity against criticism. Instead of being lionized for her ‘good naturedness’ Madam Buhari deserves a day in court for kidnapping a citizen, illegally detaining them and seeking to profit from a citizen-induced outrage to organize a kangaroo pardon and release. If Mama Yusuf felt maligned, defamed or libeled in any way, the courts and not her access to agents of coercion are the final arbiter.