One of Nigeria’s best-kept secrets is that Aisha Buhari was not the first lady during Mohammadu Buhari’s tenure as military Head of State. Buhari’s First Wife
Many people are also unaware that Aisha’s famous five children (Aisha, Halima, Yusuf, Zahra, and Amina) are not Mohammadu Buhari’s only children.
Those who are old enough and have good memories will recall that Aisha Buhari was not the First Lady between 1983 and 1985 when Gen. Buhari was military head of state.
So, who was the First Lady then?
During Gen. Buhari’s military junta, his first wife, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari (née Yusuf), served as Nigeria’s First Lady.
Safinatu was born on December 11, 1952, in Jos, Plateau State. She was one of 13 children born to Alhaji Yusuf Mani and Hajia Hadizatu Mani.
Between 1959 and 1960, she attended Tudun Wada primary school in Kaduna. Safinatu later moved to Lagos with her family.
Her father worked as a private secretary to the late Musa Yar’adua, who was the Federal Cabinet’s commissioner for Lagos affairs during the First Republic.
In 1971, Safinatu graduated from Women Teachers’ College Katsina with a grade II teaching certificate. However, she was never able to put her skills to use. She married a year after graduation.
According to legend, Safinatu first met Muhammadu when she was 14 years old. This was when the then-major Mohammadu went to Safinatu’s father’s house with his friend, the late General Shehu Musa. Following that, the two fell in love.
They married two days after her graduation. At the time, Safinatu was 18 years old, while Buhari was 28.
Following the military coup that deposed Buhari as President on August 27, 1985, he was placed under house arrest in Benin.
In 1988, he was released from house arrest. He divorced Safinatu shortly after his release.
The reason for Buhari’s divorce from his first wife has remained a mystery. However, rumours circulated that Safinatu was accused of receiving financial assistance from Babangida while her husband was imprisoned following the overthrow of his government. According to the story, she did this despite her husband’s warning.
A year later, in December 1989, Muhammadu Buhari married his second and current wife, Aisha Halilu, who was then 18 years old.
Mohammadu and Safinatu had five children together during their marriage: four girls and one boy. Zulaihat (Zulai), their first child, was named after Buhari’s mother. Fatima, Musa (deceased son), Hadiza, and Safinatu are their other children.
Safinatu Buhari, Buhari’s first wife, was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998. She battled the disease for eight years before succumbing to it.
She died on January 14, 2006, and was buried in the Unguwar Rimi cemetery in accordance with Muslim funeral rites. President Buhari’s First Wife
Zulaihat Junaid (née Buhari), Safinatu and Mohammadu Buhari’s first daughter, died from sickle cell anaemia two days after giving birth at a hospital in Kaduna in November 2012.