Despite declaring her support for the proposed regulation of social media, Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari has asserted that she cannot be stopped from voicing out her opinion on issues in the country, because she has the constitutional right to free expression.
Aisha Buhari was a guest caller on the popular TVC Programme, Journalists’ Hangout, to make clarifications on her earlier comment about the social media bill, insecurity and poverty in the country and lashing out at underserving governors and ministers.
Asked whether she has been told to stop talking. She retorted: “Who will stop me? Everybody is talking in the country. Everybody should talk. It is freedom of speech”, she said.
She, however, said that public officers could not afford to “keep mute” while fake news merchants attempt to “take over the government.”
About her lashing out at governors and ministers for not doing enough for the people, Aisha denied blaming the government “specifically” for the suffering of Nigerians.
Below is the audio-tape and full transcript of their discussion:
‘Actually, we all know the situation in the country at this time… If I wanted to blame the government, I would have called the governor and tell him: ‘you know, you are not doing well on this and that.’
“But if you listened to my conversation then, I said what we are suffering from now is as a result of long-term or total neglect of what should be offered to the citizens.
“And we are all suffering from it, whether you are an executive or you are an ordinary citizen, it is all the same. You can’t go to our villages and sleep with two eyes closed. So, it cuts across.
Mrs Buhari challenged ministers to speak up in favour of President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when they are unfairly attacked.
She said: “On that very day, I also mentioned something on social media when the Sultan of Sokoto talked about social media and the bad effects on the society “
“When something happens, something that a minister is supposed to come out and say, they don’t say it.
“In that very place, the minister gave an example, the Minister of Communications gave an example, saying that somebody called the VP, His Excellency Prof Yemi Osinbajo, saying ‘why did you resign?’
“He (Osinbajo) said ‘No, I did not resign. Who told you that I resigned?’
“The man said he saw it on social media and everybody in that hall laughed.
“When I got up to give my speech, I said it is not a laughing matter. I was surprised that everybody laughed. What does that mean? That they should continue saying that somebody like a Vice President of a country, a country of 200 million people, somebody faking that he has resigned?
“The Minister of Communications that is supposed to give an order, to bring an end to fake news, talked about it and everybody laughed and was that the end of it?
“No consequences for any offenders? Nothing? You say what you like and you go free. “
According to her, fake news is a threat to everyone.
Mrs Buhari added that “there is no way we will have such a society and have peace.”
She said: “When there are no consequences, everyone does what they want.
“Whenever they (aides) are supposed to take action against the offenders, or to take action or to take charge or be in control, or caution people, they keep mute. But when it comes to unnecessary things, people will start talking of the Presidency.
“A typical example is what happened after the election in Bayelsa State. When the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) people came out and said they would, is it suspend His Excellency, Goodluck Jonathan, the former President, for doing wrong or something like that?, I didn’t read it because I don’t have time.
“I have seen no reason why a Presidency should come out and say that they were shocked to hear that; is it their business? Are they PDP members? Is President Jonathan a member of our party? What does that have to do with The Presidency?”
She also accused the aides of failing to clear the air on the recent marriage rumour about the President.
“Meanwhile, they said the President was dead when he was sick, they showed his ‘coffin’, they showed his everything, and then recently all over the social media, they said he was getting married, they were showing this and that but nobody came out to defend the President, or to say anything about it,” Mrs Buhari said.
She stated that the President and herself were in the dark about the marriage rumour.
The First Lady said: ”I didn’t take it seriously because even my husband didn’t know what was happening. Both of us didn’t know what was happening; they just decided to bombard social media with it. They are now taking to social media to bring down the government itself.
“I think that we should not allow people that are nothing to override the innocent; I don’t know why people that are supposed to be in charge should remain mute while bad people take over the government from us. It is impossible and totally unacceptable.”
The First Lady pledged to continue exercising her right to freedom of speech.
She said: ”Who will stop me? Everybody is talking in the country (laughs). It is a serious matter, nobody is safe, no consequences, everybody should talk. So, it’s like everybody is free to talk; freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to express your opinion on things. Don’t forget that everybody knows that we are not safe where we are. You can either be kidnapped or shot to death or someone will attack you.
“It’s just wrong. There should be consequences for any of those acts. Ministers should do what they should. I know that Nigeria is a complex country but we need a little bit of sanity.”
Responding to how she wants to be remembered after leaving office as First Lady, Mrs Buhari shared a story.
She said: “Let me give you one example. On the 2nd of November, I met the wife of the Vice President at the airport on my way to Morocco and she was on her way to Ikenne. She was looking so exhausted and so sick.
“I said ‘Dolapo, must you travel and’ she replied ‘What can I do? These people really fought for us during the last election, they did not allow any party to come to our ward because of me and my husband, and now they’re having a function in that very village and my husband is going to be in Daura and he won’t be able to attend. So, there is no way both of us will not attend that particular event for Ikenne people.’
“I said, ‘what does that mean? you are now joining the lions because these people fought for your husband for only one term? Nigerian masses continue, they believe in my husband’s ideology, they continued fighting for it for 12 years before 2015.
“When we got to this place (Presidency), it was not because we were the richest or the most beautiful or educated, but we are just here due to the trust and confidence that they have in us.
“I feel indebted to Nigerian masses or Nigerians in general. As the wife of the President and the First Lady or the mother of the nation, I will continue to tell them that I am indebted to them.”