By Abimbola Adelakun
At first, the story of First Lady Aisha Buhari ordering the arrest and detention of a young man who had made fun of her physical appearance seemed improbable. I insisted to the person who shared the story with me that there had to be more to the account. There was no way Mrs Buhari would be so small-minded that she would pay attention to a random guy on Twitter that had snidely remarked that she had grown fat feeding on the masses’ money. Days after the news was initially reported, neither Mrs Buhari nor the Department of State Services that allegedly went to the university campus to arrest the undergraduate denied their part in this ridiculous story. That must mean they are as guilty as charged.
Even more bewildering is the account of how the young man in question, Aminu Adamu, was first taken to the state house where he was allegedly tortured in the presence of Mrs Buhari before he was incarcerated. I still cannot fathom the devil that pushed Mrs Buhari and the DSS to go after a young man whose name you would otherwise not have known. We have always known that the DSS, a government agency still mired in the tactics of arrest and torture that earned them notoriety during the military era, has long lost its way. Arresting Adamu is indelible proof that they are not ready to get started on the path of self-redemption. None of those they sent on the errand to arrest Adamu had the balls to point out that such pettiness was illegal, needless, and would backfire?
While I find comments about people’s bodies unnecessary and even distasteful, I do not subscribe to abuse. She could take him to court for slander but chose the path of power abuse that earned her husband infamy in 1984. Given that Adamu represents a demographic of the society that worshipped the very ground her husband, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), stepped on, his comment must have suggested to her that they had fallen from the people’s graces. For one of those same youths who once saw the president as a patron saint of the masses to have referred to his wife as an eater of their destinies, it means they no longer respect him—or her.
Mrs Buhari likely went to that crazy extent because the truth of his words stung her.
Adamu’s choice of words might be inelegant, but his observation about a First Lady who has achieved nothing for society and had only luxuriated in their resources is spot on. Besides bringing their family squabbles into the public, arranging lavish weddings for her children, and hibernating in Dubai for an extended period, what is her legacy? In what ways has she helped Nigerians? Everything about her since 2015 has been about her serving herself.
It is also interesting that the woman’s photo that Adamu shared, and which must have embarrassed her, was taken during one of their APC campaign stops. Look, what she has done to Adamu—which she has not denied—is another reason no reasonable person should vote for the APC. If she could do that in a campaign season, only God knows what else she would do to anyone who crosses her if their party wins again. Anyone who can abuse their power over a lame comment has not yet understood democratic freedoms and civic rights. She probably thinks what we call “democracy” is that quadrennial event whereby a political party hires crowds to fill campaign grounds, women like her show up to take photos, their presidential candidate speaks in gibberish, and the whole affair culminates in power transfer. She seems to forget that being imbued with political power does not apportion you with two heads.
Yes, you are the First Lady, but that young man had every right to say what he said. There is no law whatsoever that compels him to speak to you or about you in ways that you might consider respectful. If you do not like his attitude, you have the option to return to Daura and nurse your wounded feelings. Arresting him is lawlessness, and he should be promptly released with an apology.
Ironically, these were the same people who came to power seven years ago promising to stamp out corruption but have turned out to be the perfect embodiment of it. In 2019, it was the same DSS they used to abuse and prosecute the African Action Congress presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, for insulting the president. Now it is the wife using the same DSS to harass someone who executed his inalienable right to free speech. Their serial abuse of power is telling. We are being led by people who want all the spoils of power that democracy endows them but do not even believe in democracy enough to let it be practised. Next time Buhari goes around schooling the world about how badly Nigerians reek of ‘kwaraption,’ he will be reminded that he and his wife are shameful personifications of the breach of democratic ethics.
Just so we are clear, there is nothing wrong with being fat. Until the beauty industry sold us the idea that the ideal female figure must be a similitude of a Coca Cola bottle, nobody made a fuss about women with fuller figures. Nowadays, beauty standards are determined by the corporations that also sell products that heighten our anxieties about our appearance. They push us to activate our innate Obatala gene and re-create ourselves in our own vainest imagination of ourselves. From cosmetics to surgeries and even supposedly harmless photo filters that help us superficially rid our bodies of unwanted features, humans worldwide have taken it upon themselves to correct what they take as the imperfections of God’s creation.
It turns out that in this narcissistic world where individuals self-doubt their worth based on their appearance, even the First Lady is not immune to the tyranny of lookism. For her to go as far as getting Adamu arrested, tortured, and detained, she must be seriously embarrassed by her appearance. Her issue with the comment could not have been that she ate the masses’ money—it is an accusation too commonplace to bother any politician. She must have been triggered by that unflattering photo of herself that accompanied Adamu’s tweet, and the accompanying caption that insinuated that Mrs Buhari had gobbled up all the goodwill and faith the masses invested in her. While it is human for her to be hurt by body shaming, there is no justification for subjecting the young man to such abuse. As a public figure, she should have known that she would be routinely subjected to all kinds of indecorous comments by the same public that invested her with importance.
Now that she has communicated her insecurities about her body size to the world and even demonstrated the extent she would go to restrain anyone from mentioning her size, she has also handed a license to everyone who wants to body shame her but was previously incommoded by social etiquette. Under the guise of commenting on Adamu’s unfortunate plight, people can legitimately turn her body around in their minds and project all kinds of voyeuristic fantasies onto her anatomy. When she appears in public, the paparazzi will train the camera on the parts of her body that will yield juicy gossip on the internet. No thanks to her indiscretion, she is being objectified and treated like a sum of meat parts.
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