Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, hitherto addressed as ‘Wife of the President of Nigeria’, recently changed her title and henceforth will be addressed as First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. DEBORAH OCHENI reports on the transformation
At the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, the wind of change was in the air and political actors took a number of actions to align with the mood of the season.
In order to appear politically correct, President Buhari, who declared himself a “converted democrat” during the electioneering campaigns, offered to drop his military rank of major general. He said he would want to be addressed simply, as President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and not General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), the name tag that really won the hearts of his supporters who were then in search of a “strong man” to rule Nigeria.
Many years before his election, Buhari had shown open disdain for the Office of the First Lady which began during the General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. Apart from the fact that his own military junta was overthrown by Babangida, his philosophy of having women confined to the kitchen and “the other room” was so strong that his wife (Aisha) had to keep a low profile.
She chose to be addressed as Wife of the President and struggled to remain in the shadows for four years.
However, she seemed to have broken loose with the re-election of her husband for a fresh term. The transformation occurred during an award night and dinner organized in honour of the wives of the outgone and new governors at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja.
Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, hitherto addressed as wife of the President of Nigeria, announced that she would henceforth be addressed as First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In making the declaration, Mrs. Buhari disclosed that it was her choice to be addressed as wife of the President in the last four years.
But according to her, this had led to some confusion, especially among wives of governors, who could not decide whether to be addressed as wife of the Governor or First Lady of the state.
“When my husband was elected newly, I personally chose to be called the wife of the President. But, I have realized that it causes confusion from the states as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the First Ladies or wives of the governors.
“In the last four years, many of you have impacted positively on the lives of people in your states and even beyond. You have touched lives, your hands have healed the sick and transformed the faces of sadness into those of smiles; you will be remembered and judged positively by posterity and history. I am happy and proud to have associated with you all.
“This event is meant to celebrate the outgoing state First Ladies and welcome those coming to take their places; it is both a mixture of happy and unhappy moment for all of us.
“We need to come together to define our common vision, leading to planning and implementation of activities towards improving the lives of women and children,” she said.
The First Lady presented awards of excellence to the spouses of former Governors for their contributions towards uplifting the living standards of women and children in their respective states through their various pet projects and urged them sustain the tempo.
In her address, the former chairperson of Northern Governors Wives Forum and wife of former Governor, Bauchi State, Mrs. Hadiza Abubakar, expressed her appreciation to Mrs. Buhari for her leadership and guidance throughout their tenure.
Abubakar commended the role played by the Aisha Buhari Foundation towards addressing the health challenge bedevilling women and children in Nigeria, especially the rising cases of drug abuse, girl child education, maternal and child health through the forum.
“I have learnt a lot from this forum because of team work. I have the confidence that tomorrow will be greater than today.” she said.
Also speaking, the wife of former Governor of Imo State and chairperson of Southern Governors Wives Forum, Mrs. Nkechi Okorocha, said that the forum served as a platform for fostering unity among the spouses of Southern Governors, irrespective of political party affiliation.
Okorocha thanked the first lady for initiating the Southern Governors Wives Forum for the purpose of tackling peculiar problems affecting women and children in the region.
Mrs. Buhari presented award of excellence to the wives of former Governors of Bauchi, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Lagos, Osun, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Oyo, and Ogun states.
The First Lady also used the event to honour the wife of Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo and also presented long service awards to the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Hajo Sani and Sarki Abba, one of the close aides of the President.
Earlier in the day, the First Lady hosted wives of present and immediate past Governors to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. During the meeting, the wife of Governor of Niger State emerged as the new chairperson of Northern Governors Wives Forum while Mrs. Besty Obaseki of Edo State, took over as the chairperson of Southern Governors Wives Forum.
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