It all started like a rumour, and soon gained currency as it spread, without any of those involved bothering to deny it, officially, ostensibly believing it was a mischief.
Since Thursday, the social media has been abuzz with news, albeit unconfirmed or denied, that Nigeria’s 76-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari was getting married yesterday to his Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was in New York, United States (US) as at yesterday attending a United Nations (UN) Campaign Against Poverty.
Like a wildfire, the rumour refused to quench. It has continued to gain traction, no thanks to the deafening silence from officials of the Presidential Villa.
The rumour, which emanated from social media, was fuelled by the absence of the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, from the country for a very long time. She is currently out of the country even as the social media wedding pictures continue to unfold with gusto.
As far as close handlers of the Commander-in- Chief were concerned, there was no scintilla of truth in the debate and it probably was not worth any reaction. In their eyes, it remains a scam and a fabrication designed to keep the social media space busy.
But when contacted later, yesterday, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, dismissed the wild rumour, saying he was “yet to receive any invitation to such a ceremony” and that by his position, he ought to receive an invitation, if it were true.
A more interesting plank in the unfolding scenario is a wedding invitation card which first hit the social media platforms, followed by video clips and pictures capturing the nuptial proper and which have continued to trend.
Several hashtags have been trending on Twitter on the premise of the wedding and the “sudden” return of Mrs. Buhari to the country to stop the wedding such as #TheWedding, #BUSA19, #AISHA, #Presidentialwedding and several others.
A video purportedly showing her locked up in za oza room at Aso Villa after she returned from London has also been shared and viewed over and over again on the social media.
Nevertheless, many are quick to ask what could be responsible for this misinformation. In fact, it was hilarious listening to a few cabinet members who mocked journalists in Aso Rock.
All eyes were glued towards the prayer arena yesterday by the inquisitive journalists to confirm any indication of a wedding ceremony.
One of the ministers who walked along the corridor after prayers remarked as he laughed: “You are all waiting to cover the wedding? Sorry for you oh! Hahahaha.”
Another jokingly said: “It’s for people with the right colour of cap that will have access to the reception.”
Yet another Presidency official joined in the humour, saying the ceremony had been concluded after Jummat prayers.
It was evidently clear that the purveyors of this rumour must been viewed as mere jokers, what former President Goodluck Jonathan would call “Beer parlour gossip.”
No wonder, in discountenancing the rumour, even Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, asked: “Are you the Best Man?” in a reply to a text sent to him.
Some Presidency officials also posited that such falsehood should be discountenanced and consigned to the dustbin, while others said it should be regarded as one of those tales orchestrated from the opposition camp to mislead and divert public attention from the good works of the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
But pundits posited that the primary antidote to unwanted rumours is clear communication, as leaving out important details in conversations can cause people to “fill in the blanks” without really understanding the situation.
In an environment where public officials fail to engage constantly with citizens, this kind of rumour is bound to happen.
In a tweet yesterday morning, @Sadiya_Farouq, the Minister reportedly wrote: “There have been several speculations in media regarding marriage between myself and Baba Buhari. I will like to clarify this, that me and Baba Buhari have been old-time friends and Her Excellency, Aisha, is my good friend and a sister. I will like to maintain this good relationship.
“Dear Nigerians, please kindly ignore all rumours, as this is not true.
“We’re currently completely focused on making sure we have a better Nigeria. Let’s continue to pray for our dear country Nigeria. God bless.”
The President’s wife left the country early August to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj (Muslim pilgrimage) and has remained there, though some believe she has since travelled to London.
Unlike most wives of former Nigerian leaders, known for their ostentatious media appearances, Mrs. Buhari, though a stylist, has remained less flambouyant. But her disappearance of the crusading socialite from public scene and ceremonies may have given verve to the rumour, especially considering her public criticisms of some of her husband’s appointments, his administration’s policies and implementation.
Sadiya, 44, born on November 5, 1974, hails from Zurmi in Zurmi Council of Zamfara State.
A 1998 graduate of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna, where she studied Business Administration, majoring in Actuarial Science, she was the national treasurer of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari’s former political party, which merged with others to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
A source close to her from her hometown, who preferred anonymity, said he spoke to her late on Thursday and she dismissed the rumour, saying nothing like that was in the offing.
According to Muslim tradition, such ceremony is normally held at the bride’s father’s house or her uncle’s, where her father is late, but it was gathered yesterday that there were no signs of such in her family house or hometown.
Sadiya was said to have been once married to a very wealthy Zamfara State-based businessman and one-time chairman of the defunct All Peoples (APP), Ibrahim Ruwan Doruwa, but the union did not last.
Before now, there were rumours in the state that she would soon get married to one Musa Zubaru.