Madam First Lady, Citizen Adamu Mohammed Has Rights
The wife of the President, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, is in the eyes of the storm for going after a student of Federal University Dutse (FUD), Aminu Adamu Mohammed, who had tweeted her picture with a message in Hausa language which translates to: “Mama has fed fat on poor people’s money”. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) says operatives of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, acting on the orders of Aisha Buhari traced Muhammadu to Jigawa where he was picked up and brought to the Presidential Villa.
The First Lady attracted odium to herself by being peevish over what ordinarily resonates with being in the inner sanctum of power. If it’s the supposed body shaming that is her worry, she now has more worries, what with a former minister in her husband’s cabinet, Solomon Dalung, asserting that: “If you look at Aisha now, you would notice that she has added weight. Even the size of the jallabiya she wears now can accommodate three people.” The public opprobrium is stoked by the perceived abuse of power. Her taking up a matter which should have ordinarily been ignored has caused a major national distraction by pushing burning national issues to the back burner. Yet, the issue deserves all the attention because the rights of citizens are at stake.
Since the arrest and prosecution of Mohammed became public knowledge, there have been viral images online comparing the size of the President’s wife in 2015 and how she looks presently. Mohammed, a 500-level student of Environmental Management, posted the tweet in June 2022 but got arrested on November 18. NANS President, Usman Barambu, disclosed that after being whisked to the Presidential Villa, the 25-year-old undergraduate was purportedly brutalized, beaten, maltreated and humiliated by the police “on the orders of Aisha Buhari, after which he was unlawfully detained at a police facility at Wuse Zone II till date. I, alongside our team of lawyers, met with Mohammed at the police facility where he confirmed the incident to me,” the student leader added.
A version of the story even claims that Madam First Lady partook in this beating of Mohammed and in an attempt to kick him, she injured her leg which landed her in a private hospital in Abuja. Mum has been the word from the presidency since the matter became public knowledge, even in the face of reports that painted Aisha as acting very unlike the mother of the country. Nigerians have expected and called for an official reaction to no avail. On Tuesday, the student was arraigned at the FCT High Court No. 14 in Abuja for defamation, which if convicted attracts a jail term of two years. Thankfully, truth is a defense or justification for defamation. She who alleges must prove. Expectedly, the facts will be laid bare for the court to determine if the statement of the accused is true. If the case won’t be withdrawn, let the judicial process be fair in deciding the matter; the world is watching!
Speaking on the development, the International rights watchdog, “Amnesty International strongly condemns the arrest of #Aminu. His family and friends alleged that he was held incommunicado and subjected to severe beating, torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Since his arrest neither his family nor his lawyers have had access to him.” SERAP has demanded that “the Buhari administration must immediately and unconditionally release Aminu Muhammad,” adding that “We’ll see in court if he’s not immediately released”. After its unreserved apology didn’t get the First Lady to free their incarcerated member, NANS has now declared an indefinite nationwide protest to start on Monday and continue until Mohammed regains freedom.
Nigerians sided with Aisha when a ruthless cabal in her husband’s presidency sidelined her. She shouldn’t be surprised by the widespread emotion and sentiments against her flexing of state muscle against an ordinary Nigerian. With her tenancy at the Aso Villa almost expiring, she doesn’t have to remind the world of the notoriety of Uganda’s Idi Amin who infamously asserted, “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech”? Naija News believes that the rights and liberties of citizens are sacrosanct and must not be abridged under any guise. It is for this reason that we disagree with those who are apologizing on Mohammed’s behalf or asking him to apologize to the First Lady. If the courts find him guilty, then there can be talks of tempering justice with mercy.
For now, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that Mohammed offended the law with his tweet. Those who should be apologizing are the powers-that-be who reportedly brutalized and dehumanized the student after arresting him. Even if none of those happened, how about not charging the student to court within the stipulated time? If the time limit was breached, did Aisha and her goons obtain a remand order? It is indeed strange for the First Lady to be offended by the said tweet when in actual fact she’s been fed by taxpayers and the Nigerian masses who have become poorer in this dispensation. A whopping N331.79m has been earmarked in the 2023 appropriation bill for foodstuffs and refreshments for the office of the President where the first family belongs. How does this compare with the United States where a former FLOTUS, Michelle Obama revealed that as First Family, they bore the cost for even the peanuts they ate in the White House?
While we don’t begrudge the First Lady for exercising the right to defend her reputation, it’s expected that the way and manner public officers are overtly indulged in Nigeria should make them take criticisms in their strides. The nation’s already congested prisons will be overwhelmed if those in positions of power take on all their critics. Aisha Buhari is no private citizen. It is clear to all how she fought against being confined to the kitchen, living room and the other room in her husband’s first term. The Office of the First Lady is alien to the constitution yet is being funded with a full complement of staff.
Aisha’s predecessor, Patience Jonathan suffered all manner of insults, mockery, and caricatures while her husband was President. She was even called Madam Shepopotamus by a Nobel laureate. Yet, Dame Jonathan, as prominent and dominant as she was in that administration, never went after her traducers. That should have served as an example to the current First Lady, particularly in view of the transient nature of power. Meanwhile, this newspaper can’t help but notice that Mohammed made the tweet during the protracted ASUU strike. Perhaps if her husband hadn’t allowed the strike to linger, the undergraduate would have been so engrossed with the academic demands of his final year than spending time trying to see the First Lady’s increased size and tweeting about it.
This newspaper commends the interest shown by conscientious Nigerians and civil society in this matter, despite Mohammed’s highly condemnable reaction to Deborah Samuel’s gruesome murder. As Activist Aisha Yusufu aptly captured it, “If your demands for justice for anyone is dependent on the person’s behaviour, affiliations, words or even whether you like the person or not then you really need to ask yourself if it is justice you want or something else.”
Instances of highhandedness by the mighty against the poor should have no place in decent societies nor should they go unchallenged. We believe that it is through collective vigilance and intervention that the weak can be protected from the mighty with justice upheld as a trophy. It’s not too late for Aisha Buhari to do the right thing, even as Mother of the nation. She mustn’t allow the planned protests of Nigerian students to force her hand. Let the fact that she won’t always be in this exalted position be her compass in this matter!