The real reason Buhari divorced his first wife, Safinatu


The real reason Buhari divorced his first wife, Safinatu

Before President Muhammadu Buhari married his wife, Aisha, he had earlier been married to another woman, Safinatu. The marriage lasted for 17 years, producing 5 children, four girls and a boy.

Who is Safinatu?

Safinatu was born to the family of Late Alhaji Yusuf Mani, a fulani descendant of Shehu Usman Danfodio and Late Hajiya Hadizatu Mani, on the 11th December, 1952 in Jos, Capital of present day Plateau State of Nigeria.

An indigene of Mani Local Government in Katsina State, Safinatu started her primary school in Tudun Wada Kaduna (1959-1960) but was later transferred to Nasarawa Primary School now Dikko Memorial Primary School in Katsina when her father Late Alh. Yusuf Mani was transferred to Lagos to work as Private Secretary to Late Alh Musa Yar’adua who was Commissioner for Lagos Affairs in the Federal Cabinet of the First Republic.

After her Primary School, Safinatu proceeded to Women Teachers College Katsina where she obtained her Grade II Teachers Certificate in 1971.

How Buhari met Safinatu

Buhari, a major in the Nigerian Army met Safinatu aged 14, in 1966, when himself and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua had visited her father’s house. Safinatu’s father, Yusufu Mani was then working as a private Secretary to Yar’adua’s father, who was then Minister of Lagos Affairs.

With Buhari’s getting attracted to the young Safinatu, he paid numerous visits to her father’s house, before they both finally got married four years later.

An interesting thing about Buhari’s relationship with Safinatu was that shortly after the two met, the Nigerian Civil War started in 1967 and Buhari was deployed to the battlefields. This was one of the most tense periods in the life of Safinatu and she would later reveal that she was always worried during the war about the welfare of her lover and would ceaselessly pray for him.

In 1971, with the war over, the two lovebirds decided to seal it and they got married. Thus, all through the war, while Buhari was on the battlefield combating Biafran rebels, his heart was not only burning with the love of Nigeria, it was also burning for a young beautiful Fulani girl named Safinatu. She was 18 when they got married.

Their marriage

With their wedding in 1971, Buhari and Safinatu started a home together, giving birth to five children, Zulaihat, Fatima, Musa, Hadiza, and Safinatu. Musa however died at infancy, while Zulaihat died of sickle cell anemia after giving birth in 2012.

Safinatu was the first lady when Buhari was head of state between 1983 and 1985, living in the state house with him.

As first lady, she played host to the first lady of Gambia, Lady Jawara, who she travelled with to the ancient city of Kano, where they visited the city walls and one of the markets, in the company of the wife of the military governor of Kano State, Mrs. Halima Hamza. She also played host to the wife of the President of Senegal, Madame Diouf and the wife of the former French ambassador to Nigeria, Madame Drumets. At such times, she left the selection of the dishes for the state occasions to the catering officials and household staff.

The Babangida Coup

Everything changed for the family however when Ibrahim Babangida led soldiers to overthrow Buhari’s government on August 27, 1985, bringing to an end his tenure as head of state. Babanginda also locked Buhari up, keeping him under house arrest in Benin for three years.

The house arrest meant Safinatu and other members of Buhari’s family were deprived of unhindered access to their father.

Buhari’s release and divorce

Buhari was subsequently released in 1988, and one of the first things he did was to divorce Safinatu. This decision surprising to many, who believed both were a very close couple.

While reasons for the divorce was not given by Buhari himself, many believed he divorced her because of her releationship with Buhari while he was in jail.

According to City People, Buhari’s divorce of his wife, may have been a function of two things: one, Safinatu’s dealings with General Babangida and his wife, while he was in detention, when indeed, he had expressly told her not to have anything to do with them. Two, the fact that she had no son for him.

As the story goes, while Buhari was in detention, Safinatu had dealings with the Babangidas partly to help her cope with life, and also to get her to help reconcile Buhari with IBB. It was the attempt to use her for this purpose that got Buhari angry, moreso since he had warned her not to take offers from the Babangidas. But Safinatu’s defence was that the reason she collaborated with the Babangidas, who were then in power, was to see if she could use the privilege of her rapport with IBB’s wife to help secure his (Buhari’s) freedom. She also explained that she was pushed to accepting gestures from them, when life was getting unbearably tough for her and her kids.

A year after Buhari divorced Safinatu, he married his present wife, who was also then 18 years old. Aisha also gave birth to four daughters and one son.



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