President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife Aisha flew into Enugu on Thursday as part of her “Aishat Buhari women health initiative”.
The aim of the programme is to bring healthcare to women’s doorsteps with offers of free screening for cervical cancer and other diseases. The programme also tries to raise awareness about women’s health issues.
This is all worthwhile, but at what cost in this age of austerity with dwindling oil revenues? President Buhari told his new ministers this week: “It is expected that we make the running of government at all levels as lean as possible, avoid waste and conserve resources”.
A source has revealed that about 90m naira ($452,000) of public funds was spent hosting the president’s wife for just the one day she spent in Enugu.
Pieces of cloth known as “ankara” were distributed with Aisha’s face on it for female commissioners, permanent secretaries, senior officials and other women’s groups to wear on the day. Free Aisha Buhari gift bags were also distributed to those present.
The reception for the president’s wife was held at Queens School Enugu and a new road into the school had to be hurriedly built. The school also had to be repainted, renovated and decorated for the visit. This was, of course, of benefit to the school, but begs the question why it needed such a visit for such work to be done.
Women were bused in from local government areas, including the wives of local government chairmen for this fanfare which was no different to the hoopla that surrounded Patience Jonathan, when her husband Goodluck was president, and she was rightly criticised for it.
Buhari came into power in May and claimed he was doing away with the title of “First Lady”. Instead his wife is now addressed as “the wife of the president” and she even has an official seal and podium to go with it – just like Patience Jonathan had an official “First Lady” seal.
While free health screening for poor women is commendable, should it be done with such costly fanfare and wastage? Why are both the Buhari government and the Enugu State government not already providing such healthcare services as they are constitutionally required to do? Poor Nigerian women deserve more than to be used as an expensive photo op for Aisha Buhari.
She also visited controversial Enugu-based Catholic priest Father Ejike Mbaka. A source told us that “Mbaka is now a politican and put up a huge banner” welcoming Mrs Buhari. Mbaka had a one on one meeting with the president’s wife and they posed for pictures before she left.
A source claimed that Mbaka gave her a bible and she rejected it, but this could not be confirmed at the time of writing.