“life As President Muhammadu Buhari’s Daughter” – 20-year-old Zahra Speaks
Sitting with Zahra was such a joy, her personality shines through like the sun and everything about her is sweet and ladylike. She was dressed in her abaya and looked tall and lean like a gazelle. This was probably one of my longest interviews because even off the record, we had so much to talk about. She had just had a hydro facial and asked someone to bring me a natural juice concoction of carrots and some other great healthy ingredients. We agreed to do an interview and she invited me to the presidential villa where we sat in a room called The Blue Room.
Having known each other for a while, we jumped straight into conversation about so many different things and the issue of the rumours surrounding her came up. The night before, someone had told me that Zahra had some people sent out of a boutique. Zahra clarified that she was not even in Nigeria at the time the event supposedly occurred. “I was in Guildford when I heard all these things coming through and I was surprised. I was in Selfridges when someone stopped me to ask if the story was true- I was not there. I was in my sitting room in Guildford”
With that out of the way, we got straight into the interview-
So, how would you describe yourself?
That’s a very difficult question. Whenever people ask me to describe myself, I say I am just normal. I try to be nice; I am an easy going person.
I see that you and an ambassador for a charity organisation, how did that happen?
After uni, I was trying to settle down and my mom would have meetings with people. I was always interested in charity work. I kept saying that if anyone needed my help, they could just let me know since I am not doing much at the moment. And Kiki, who is the founder of ACE, gave my mom’s friend a good presentation of what they do at ACE. So she said, “Oh Zahra I have someone for you, she could just come and give you a presentation too.” Right after the presentation, I was impressed so I decided to volunteer for one of their outreaches and after that she asked me to be their ambassador and I felt why not.
What are some of the things you spend time doing?
I read a lot of different things and sometimes books that will help me relate with people better because I have to interact with a lot more people now
Who inspires you and what motivates you?
My mom inspires me. Whenever she is ready to do something, (she is such a fiery woman) she just gets up and gets it done and it is always for a good cause. Even my interest in charity work, I know it’s something I get from her. Since we were kids, she encouraged us to give to the less privileged and we enjoyed doing that. And.. My motivation is our position. We know that we are here to help Nigerians, it is not about us and even way before getting into this position, the less privileged have always been my motivation.
A while ago, a fake twitter account was created to appear to be you and many people believed it was you. The account made some controversial statements. How do you feel about someone impersonating you online?
I don’t feel good at all because the first question that comes to your mind is ‘why would someone want to be me?’ And why would you want to taint someone’s image? I knew many people would be tricked into thinking it was me, that bothered me and when the fake controversial comments came out about me talking about a president, I was hurt because this wasn’t an insult to my family only, it was to the whole of Nigeria because it is just like saying members of the first family don’t have a proper upbringing. Why would I insult a president? Why would I insult any person in general? It’s just not right. So I asked them to come up with that press release because that was the only way it would get out to people as soon as possible. That was not me and I wouldn’t do such a thing.
ML: How old are you now?
ZB: Are you sure you wanna know?
ZB: you wanna guess first?
ML: Let me see, you just finished uni, so 20?
ZB: Yes! Haha!
ML: I am sooo good at guessing ages!
In what way has your life changed since your father became president?
It hasn’t changed so much, just that we are restricted from doing so many thing because of security precautions and we see our dad less, that has really changed! Changing where you live, that’s the biggest change. Moving from a flat in Guildford and then moving out from our house in Kaduna and Abuja then the way there are more people around that you’re not familiar with. So, having to be more diplomatic about so many things.
Sometimes when you are thrust into the spotlight, there are some relationship changes. Some people pull back and just stick to family.
Do you have the issue of having to deal with a lot of people trying to get closer to you?
It’s actually very hard to get to me ‘cause I have been changing numbers so people can’t really get me and the second thing is, not too many people know me personally. The problem comes up once in a while, when people now want to be closer to you but you just have to do what you have to do.
Is there anything you want to say to young Nigerians today?
Yes! Find out what your passion is and go for it. You’re very elegant.
What are your tips on being a lady?
That’s a tough one, I guess it is just part of me and it is not something that I try to do. The first thing is- understanding that you’re a lady in the first place would make you do certain things in certain ways. I value tradition and when you’re a lady, you just have to present yourself in a certain way. I really admire the way Queens and Princesses are. I even watch Downton Abbey and admire that era.
Before the 2015 Presidential elections, Nigerians discovered your twitter and it blew up. People found your pictures and they were all over the blogs and social media. What do you have to say bout that?
Some people thought I was the one who gave the pictures out but I did not even know it happened. I was in my room, just before I went for yoga that evening and I got messaged with a link to a blog so I looked through it and I felt no one would care about it so when I was through with my yoga, I opened my phone and messages, missed calls and so many followers on twitter came through and I was wondering what was happening. All my friends were calling me to look at it. It was a crazy time and it is something you don’t expect at all and then right after it happened, my first prayer was “Oh God, help me help people with this fame that I have right now” so that’s how I became an ambassador I guess.
Soon after, you deleted your twitter account. Did it have anything to do with all the attention?
Yes it did. I was getting too much attention and naturally I do not like attention like that. I would always try to quietly do my thing but then I realized that anything I said was a topic and that was exam period, there was a lot of stress and I just didn’t want any of that and obviously there were a lot of comments –good and bad and so I was just like maybe it’s time to step out of this for some time.
Do you ever see yourself in politics? Or do you have other ambitions?
(laughs) no. Politics? I can’t. And I am still working on any other ambition. I just want to build up on how to help people; that is the main thing for me. And actually, fashion. I’m not into trendy fashion; I’m just into dressing properly and looking good and presentable most of the time.
Do you have to deal with any negativity now, because of your father’s position? And how do you handle that?
I think there is negativity but people try to conceal it so it is not as difficult as if someone were to show you openly.
It makes you doubt people sometimes and if they are genuine but honestly from my side, I just treat you like anyone else and just try to be fair.
So this is the last question, which so many people want to know. Are you getting married?
(A lot of giggling takes place) Eventually! Maybe I have a potential.