Last week social media buzzed irritatingly with hot news that come Friday our First Citizen President Muhammadu Buhari was going to take a second wife in the person of Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, incumbent Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. Some mischievous fellow went ahead to design and distribute a wedding invitation card that the celebration would take place in the Central Mosque on Friday the 11. Not even a statement of rebuttal from the presidency could stop the swirling rumour and all the attachments that follow. Why do people go to such lengths to disparage others and create chaos? There were even old videos of a celebration concerning the minister which we later found out was for another event. The notes which followed the video suggested that it was part of the marriage ceremony which the presidency did not want to disclose to the Nigerian public.
How would it be possible, why would the president take on a second wife and hide it from the public view or knowledge? Why would Aisha, a Muslim be offended if her husband wanted to take another wife? Why should, why would our president at his age want the services of a younger woman in ze ozer room? Counternarrative producers do not think deeply about issues before arriving at a conclusion! At seventy or seventy-five years of age, there is no more adventure in that regard particularly for a man who endured ill-health and is pressed down by affairs of state!
Another video showing a woman expressing outrage was also circulated suggesting that First Lady Aisha Buhari returned to the country suddenly and was angry that her beloved husband was taking a new wife! Of course, the discerning mind saw mischief in all the videos. There was no face shown on the video. Certainly, it was not Aisha Buhari. Yet, the videos captured the fanciful imagination of many. Are there fifth columnists in the government tying to embarrass the president? Our President, they reasoned, was used to secrecy in his private actions and this was no exception! So, we come full circle to a picture which the presidency had inadvertently created for itself!
Friday came and went and there was no marriage ceremony. One stupid post went as far as saying that they would ‘carry out the marriage secretly’. There were reports that attendance at the Friday Jumaat in Abuja swelled because people (including highly placed officials) thought that a wedding would take place. It was a hoax. Such is the state of the modern world where people can concoct a story and circulate it as gospel truth on social media. We used to say there is no smoke without fire. These days we have smoke without fire. Fiction can be presented as truth and travel for ages before truth catches up with it.
There was no need for any secrecy if the president was taking a second wife. 7His religion allows him to marry four wives. And a Muslim that can afford it there would no need to hide such a milestone on his life. The ugly side of the narrative was the apparent estrangement between the First Lady and our president. It could be another concocted story. But the absence of the First Lady from Nigeria without any explanation could trigger off all kinds of stories. The truth is that the first family is an open book. All over the world, the first citizen is scrutinized like no other. First citizens are public property. Once you subscribe, once you put yourself up for a leadership position you virtually surrender yourself to public scrutiny.
Leaders are not perfect beings. But they must be people who have disciplined themselves to such an extent that they would not behave like ordinary beings. This the context in which we say that ‘to whom much is given much is expected’. If Bill Clinton were not president who would bother whether or not he had an affair with an intern? Who would have bothered if he lied about it? Would he have lied about in at all? It is against this background that President Buhari’s visits to the UK for treatment attracted public attention. There were all kinds of speculations including whether or not the man in Aso rock was a clone. It was a preposterous idea that should not have come up in the first place. But the culture of secrecy which this presidency ahs come to be associated with makes all kinds of stories.
Going forward, these are the last four years of Buhari’s rule as president. He has made a name for himself. He has his weaknesses just like any other human being. But we now know as he is. He raised the bar of public expectations when he was campaigning for the position of president. Now, the people expect him to dance to the tune of the music which he asked to be played. Here we begin to see a difference between life outside the office and life in office. Outside office candidate Buhari promised to dispense with the presidential jets. Once he took over office, he thought differently. Outside office he condemned going abroad for treatment. Without much ado, when his life was threatened by a debilitating ailment, he flew abroad several times to receive medical treatment. As a candidate of integrity coming out clean with the people would have matched the image of constant integrity which he promoted while campaigning. If the people refuse to believe the rumour that he was taking a second wife, it is because the presidency had not always played a clean script. Yet, the man himself means well for the country.
Democracy is a form of open government which makes it compulsory for the president to disclose his plans to us. He is not an ordinary citizen. He was elected by the Nigerian people to run Nigeria for four years more. During those years, he is our property! Mr. President is free to marry any number of wives that he wishes. And because he is a public citizen, he is obliged to disclose his intentions to us and as faithful citizens we would be obliged to celebrate with him and say that if a new wife would make him govern better so be it. But in this case, there is no bride there is no truth in the rumour. Let us allow the president to concentrate on matters of state and lift the nation out of the quagmire we have found ourselves!