First Lady, Aisha Buhari and the Department of State Services (DSS) have come under fire over the arrest of a young Nigerian following a remark he made on Twitter. In June 2022, Aminu Adamu, a student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, tweeted a picture of the First Lady with the Hausa caption: “Su mama anchi kudin talkawa ankoshi” (which can be translated as “mama is feeding fat on poor people’s money”). Almost six months later, on November 8, 23-year-old Muhammed is said to have been picked up by security operatives on campus and was reportedly taken to Aso Rock and beaten up following his arrest around noon.
Within days, Aisha Buhari was trending on Twitter with more than 60,000 mentions as users continued to mount pressure on the authorities to free the student. Sparking outrage on social media, many citizens have criticized the First Lady over the arrest, although she is yet to publicly comment on the matter.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has been ordered to charge to court, a student of the Federal University, Dutse, Aminu Adamu Muhammed, who was arrested for tweeting that the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, was feeding fat on poor people’s money. According to the young man’s friends, he made the post at a time when he, like thousands of young students across the country, was rightly frustrated about the prolonged strike by universities across the country. Expectedly, the 8-month long industrial action (which began in February 2022 and ended in October) infuriated many and led to several comments, videos, and organized rallies against the government.
Now in November, the management of the Federal University Dutse (FUD), Jigawa State, has confirmed the arrest of one of its students, Aminu Adamu, over the tweet. Unsurprisingly, the institution has distanced itself from the incident, as the university’s spokesperson, Abdullahi Bello, reaffirmed that the university was not in session when the incident happened, and as such, the student was not under the care of the university when he made the post on Twitter. “The unfortunate incident involving Aminu Adamu who made a Twitter post happened during the break. He did the posting in his capacity as Aminu Adamu, not as a student of FUD”.
“The university authorities have spoken to the parent who has already engaged the services of a lawyer to handle the matter and they are hopeful for an amicable resolution soon,” the university said in a statement on Monday, 28 November, 2022.
In an interview with BBC Hausa, the parents of Aminu Adamu Muhammed asked the First Lady to forgive their son. Shehu Baba Azare, a younger brother of Aminu Adamu’s father, told the BBC Hausa that they need their son to be released to them.
“We were not aware of it until five days later, Aminu’s friend called my brother (Aminu’s father) and told him that he hadn’t seen Aminu for the last five days,” Azare explained. “The next day Aminu called his father and told him that he was arrested and taken to Aisha Buhari in Presidential Villa and he was beaten and detained. He said one of the security gave him his phone to make the call. Adamu (Aminu’s father) also told me that he was called from the university informing him that his son was arrested but without their knowledge. We are begging the First Lady, please forgive him, you are a mother.”
While the Jigawa State Police Command has rushed to say that it has no hand in the arrest of the 500-level student, the First Lady, on her part, has maintained the stony silence of one who does not expect to be questioned. Still, there are reports (from a top police officer) that Aisha asked the police to stop maltreating Muhammed but insisted he must be charged before a court of jurisdiction to explain how she (Aisha) embezzled money. And in an unfortunate but unconfirmed twist (excuse the pun), the latest word in the street is that First Lady Buhari had even sustained an injury to her leg when she allegedly tried to join in the fun and kick Aminu while he was beaten at Aso Rock.
Now, while it might be fair to say that the tweet was impolite, and perhaps even crass, calling for the immediate arrest of a citizen as a First Lady seems excessive, and the backlash has been severe. Legal practitioner, Inibehe Effiong said it is petty, ridiculous and unconstitutional for the DSS to hold a citizen for “mockery”. Insisting that Nigeria is not Iran, North Korea or China, Effiong vowed that reckless abuse of power will not be tolerated. Condemning the use of the secret police to detain a youth as “another evidence of the culture of crass impunity that pervades the Buhari regime,” Effiong made it clear that Mrs Aisha Buhari should have taken the accused to court for libel if she felt defamed.
It is only in a despotic country that a wife of the President will order the arrest of a citizen for abusing her on social media. I’m incandescent with rage that some sycophants are making silly excuses for Aisha Buhari, the same woman that has been crying foul against the cabal.
— Inibehe Effiong (@InibeheEffiong) November 27, 2022
“It is not acceptable to deploy state apparatus in such a draconian and oppressive manner the way Mrs Aisha Buhari has done to settle personal scores. The DSS has no jurisdiction in this case”, he added. As it stands, efforts to reach the spokesperson for the DSS, Peter Afunnaya, have yielded no fruit as yet.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Twitter streets have been set ablaze with angry citizens speaking up:
I couldn't get it over my head that Aminu was taken to villa and beaten helplessly while Aisha Buhari was comfortably sitting and watching. I never thought she was this heartless.
— Kawu Garba (@KawuGarba) November 28, 2022
Others have wasted no time in throwing in their own jabs and mocking the First Lady, while many recounted the poor treatment Former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, had to endure during her own time:
All of una insults this mama o! Use her do skit and all. But una Dey Aisha Buhari lol hypocrite. Fear fear people. Na why politicians Dey run una street. God bless patience Jonathan person wey cry for national television. She get empathy. pic.twitter.com/oa7ylcswMe
— S A M K L E F (@SAMKLEF) November 28, 2022
There’s only one SHEPOPOTAMUS now. https://t.co/U8XukfMd10 pic.twitter.com/gr3kPD9eyk
— Ọpẹ́midayọ̀ Tàlàbí (@TOpemidayo) November 27, 2022
Why It Matters
Although one might feel a slight tinge of guilt that an ‘elderly’ First Lady should be so openly mocked, no Nigerian can truly say that such swift and aggressive responses from the ruling class really come as a surprise. One only has to think back to October 2020 and the Nigerian Government’s response to the #EndSars movement to get a clear picture of just how bad things can get if you speak too loudly in these parts. No one knows better than Nigerian youth what the consequences are for calling out one’s leaders. This is, after all, the First Lady of an administration that banned Twitter in Nigeria over other less-than-favorable comments. So, we cannot “express shock” at this latest outburst. Some have even called it a last-minute show of power by a First Lady already on her way out.
Still, one cannot help but wonder why this particular tweet struck such a nerve. Did the words hit too close to home for the First Lady? Was it the use of her own language? Was the underlying question at the heart of the tweet all too clear: why do you feast while your citizens perish?
Similar questions have been asked of kings, queens, leaders, and governments throughout the ages, and in fact, must continue to be asked if those at the top are to be held accountable at all. Suspiciously ruddy cheeks and fat-shaming aside, surely the Nigerian government is not above public scrutiny and reproach? Satire has always been a useful tool in checkmating governments, and Nigerian citizens are well within their rights to ask a serving administration what the party has to show for its 8 years in power. Often criticized for her frequent, expensive trips to Dubai, one would have thought that the First Lady would have grown a thicker skin by now. When exactly did nasty criticism become a crime in a country where politicians spend half of their time badmouthing each other?
Making the First Lady’s debacle all the more interesting is the fact that the young man she apprehended is, in fact, an Arewa youth, which has struck a note with certain citizens:
Did Aisha Buhari spare Aminu because of his religion? Did she spare Aminu because he's coming from the North? No!
Religion and region only matters to you, the poor man. They only employ it when they want to use you. WAKE UP! #FreeAminu #JUSTICEFORAMINU
— Abu Amir (@SadiqMaunde) November 29, 2022
Aisha Buhari’s case is a case of Arewa dealing with Arewa
Wicked leaders don’t know ethnicity or that you are their “brother”. They only recognize you every 4 years durung elections.
Elect a leader that will grant Northerners access to education so they wisen up.
— Omotayo Williams (@KadunaResident) November 28, 2022
In a country where citizens are often pitted against each other in tribe-related struggles, it continues to become increasingly clear that Nigerians have a common enemy, which is simply bad governance.
What Comes Next
Just a stone’s throw away from the upcoming General Elections in 2023, it seems the Buhari Administration is ready to end its harrowing 8-year reign on a high note, exercising the same hard-handed force they have so often displayed since the very beginning. The All Progressive Congress (APC) in particular has had a series of unfortunate events trailing the party in the run up to the elections, leaving many Nigerians with a bitter taste in their mouths and a growing sense of dread. We were promised “change”, and we have gotten it. If nothing else, the last 8 years have shown Nigerians that we are all hilariously equal in the face poor governance. As Inibehe Effiong puts it in another tweet:
“You are defending Aisha Buhari because she’s someone’s mother. This argument is preposterous. Thousands have lost their mothers to the incompetence and cruelty of the Buhari regime. Thousands have been orphaned by the corruption in management of funds meant to combat terrorism.”
While we wait for the speedy release of Aminu Adamu Muhammed, we can only hope that when the dust and the uproar settle, that this is the same energy and angst that citizens will carry with them to the polls next year; this unwillingness to be silenced. Incidences like this should only serve to remind us exactly what is at stake at the next upcoming elections, as each and every one of us is called to reflect and vote wisely this time around.