By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The no-expense-spared wedding ceremony between Yusuf, son of President Muhammadu Buhari and Zahra, daughter of Emir of Bichi, Nasiru Ado Bayero has provoked a furious reaction from Nigerians.
Angry Nigerians, while speaking on the flamboyant and lavish wedding, described it as obscene and insensitive. They argued that the display of wealth is coming at a time millions of poverty-stricken are grappling with hunger, deprivation and insecurity.
Business Hallmark reports that the over one-month long marriage spanned several cities, including Abuja, Bichi and Kano.
Ten serving governors, it was learnt, had visited the elder brother of the bride’s father, Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, in June to formalise plans for the wedding.
The Bichi Emirate Council, in conjuction with the governor and the presidency,subsequently set up a 145-man committee to plan both the wedding and the formal coronation ceremony of the emir.
A week to the start of the event proper, armed security personnel from Abuja and neighbouring states started arriving the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport on their way to Bichi. Heavy security presence was visble right from Kano to Bichi, about 30 kilometres away.
Between Monday and Friday, families dignitaries and wellwishers started trooping in. Reports stated that over 100 private jets, not counting regular commercial flights, filled with dignitaries from home and a road, landed at the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport.
However, the figure was disputed by an air traffick controller at the airport who put the figure at ‘just 50’.
Also, all hotels and guestrooms in the state and neighbouring Jigawa were fully booked and filled to capacity.
On Wednesday, the ‘Kamu’ event was organised for the bride by her family. The ceremony is an Hausa/Fulani tradition where the bride and her friends are entertained to an evening of music and dance in a close relative’s home.
On Friday, the Wedding Fatiha, the most significant event of the entire wedding ceremony in Hausaland, took place at the palace of the Emir of Bichi, with over a thousand people in attendance.
As opposed to what obtains in many other tribes and cultures in Nigeria, in the Hausa culture it is a representative from the groom and bride’s family that usually does exchange of vows and not the bride and groom.
While Alhaji Aminu Dantata stood as representative of the bride, Alhaji Mamman Daura stood for the bridegroom. Payment of N500, 000 as bride price by the groom’s family was made by Daura.
They did this in the presence of Islamic clerics led by the Minister of Communications, Isa Ali Pantami, a qualified imam and other wedding guests.
After the traditional rites, prayers were offered by Pantami who prayed to God to bless the marriage and grant the couple responsible children and Sheikh Qaribullahi Nasiru Kabara, the leader of Qadiriyya Islamic Sect in West Africa, who prayed for the couple and advised them to live in peace and harmony.
The wedding fatiha was graced by top dignitaries, including top politicians, businessmen, technocrats, military officers, as well as traditional rulers from home and abroad.
They include former Goodluck Jonathan, Gambia’s first lady, Fatoumata Bah Barrow, former president of Republic of Niger, Muhammadu Issoufu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Mohammed Lawan, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and several state governors.
Also at the event were former First Ladies; Patience Jonathan, Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua, Hajiya Maryam Abacha, First Lady of Niger Republic, Hadiza Ben Mabrouk and First Lady of Guinea Bissau, Dinisia Reis Embalo.
Some wives of state governors and the Group Managing-Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari were also sighted at the event.
Others were ministers, members of the National and State Assemblies, emirs, diplomats, politicians and well-wishers, among others.
The festivities continued on Saturday, when the bride’s father Nasir Ado Bayero was officially coronated as the Emir of Bichi.
However, the newlywed couple and their guests did not attend the ceremony but garthered at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja for the wedding reception hosted by President Buhari and the First Lady, Aisha.
Chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the wedding reception, according to critics, was nothing more than a frivolous display of affluence and power.
Each guest, apart from been served expensive dishes of local and international delicasies and exotic wines, also went home with a pack of souvenir containing the latest brand of iPhone, a iPhone 12 Pro Max (customized), worth N589,000; a Apple iPad worth N645,000 and many other gift items.
A pack of the souvenirs, BH learnt, is conservatively estimated at N1.7million, making the total spending for the souvenirs alone at over N1billion.
Other events also took place before the main event. They include a polo tournament held in Abuja by the couple as part of the celebration.
Another wedding event that attracted criticism was the bridal shower. Pictures of a skimpy and revealing dress adorned by Zahra during her bridal shower some weeks to the wedding was condemned by many Nigerians who accused the Kano religious police, Hisbah, of double standard.
They claimed that the Islamic police would have arrested and imprisoned ordinary Kano citizens for wearing bare-chest gown and not covering their heads as expected of a Muslim lady, but allowed the bride to go scot-free despite commiting the same infraction.
Speaking on the development, renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, condemned the lavish spending of politicians who hired private jets to attend the wedding.
According to Gumi, the spending at the wedding was not necessary since many children are wallowing in kidnappers’ den and abject poverty.
“Some people are in captivity in bushes dying silently as kidnappers are holding unto them until ransom is paid. Others are suffering from hunger, as it’s everywhere. People are facing all manner of problems, yet politicians spend public funds on private jets.
“When Prophet Mohammed married off his daughter, who came from Mecca or Yemen? In the entire Medina no righteous persons to oversee the solemnisation?
“Some politicians are spending money to hire jets to go to a wedding while criminals are holding people to ransom in the bush. The criminals (bandits) are milking the people.
“Some people have never earned N1 million in their life, but bandits would demand N10 million. Many people have sold their houses, farms, everything and paid bandits for ransom, yet, some are not lucky to have their loved ones released unto them.
“In one of the states, some pictures of a dilapidated hospital were sent to me. The roof was blown off and a patient was lying on the bed. That governor is in Kano to attend a wedding. How many schools were rehabilitated? The money that should be used to cater for the people is the one they hire private jets to junket around. Are you not also a bandit?
“We vent our anger against ourselves, other tribes, but people are left killing themselves because of poor leadership”, Gumi lamented.
A public comentator, Obi Nwakanma, described the wedding ceremony as lavish, gaudy and insensitive, arguing that the current economic and security situation in the country demands a less frivolous display.
“The president apparently may have found something refreshing in Cubana’s shindig at Oba and may just as well wanted to out-Cubana Cubana.
“There is nothing wrong with a father, even as president, celebrating the marriage of his son proudly. I do grant the president the right to such simple pleasures. But imagine Buhari in 2014 when he was still wearing his mask. The mask of an ascetic and measured man. Incorruptible.
“It was even put out for effective public consumption by his publicists in those days that the man could not afford even paying for his own nomination form. He was a man not given to such excessive displays or appetites.
“But quite clearly, hungering always for some kind of superhero, we’re buggered, and almost fell for such easy and consoling myths about a Buhari of the imagination.
“No one ever saw this Buhari, the one Nigerians once saw in the pictures self-satisfyingly, and carelessly, picking his teeth after a hearty meal at Aso Rock while many children went to bed at night hungry as a result of some of the policies of his government.
“If that image felt nauseating and unfeeling, imagine the descent last Friday in Bichi. Governors, ministers, tribal chieftains, foreign potentates, captains of industry, political hangers-on. The federal government of Nigeria went on a furlough to Bichi to be at the wedding.
“Such a display of wealth and circumstance, in a moment when too many Nigerians have slipped into extreme poverty, and are worrying about the next meal; about the security of their lives; about numerous existential befuddlements occasioned by the president’s inability to provide effective, national leadership, is unwarranted”, Nwakanma said.
He insisted that the president owe Nigerians an obligation for exemplifying modesty and reserve, given the nation’s current situation.
“Raining down colourfully on Bichi is like sticking it to Nigerians who are lost about what next: what next can be done to survive this horrendous, nightmarish moment of intense poverty in the land; where next to get the next meal; where next to get school fees; how to pay the hospital bill, and so on.
“Money may not have been displayed in such brazen disregard for form as was done in Oba, but what happened in Bichi was a proper Arabian Night Wedding with all its foppery.
“Imagine how much, on tax-payer’s money the security alone for the event at Bichi might have cost the public. How much of tax payer’s money was spent organizing this fanfare of very loud nuptials at Bichi? How much came out of the president’s pocket: the entertainment bill?
“The security? The logistics? The man-hours spent by federal officers on the president’s private business? Who picks the bill? You and I. Just imagine it: the poor taxpayer has to pay to entertain a very exclusive crowd of politicians, billionaires, and the president’s hangers-on, at least a hundred of whom came with their own private jets to Kano”, he said.