Barely three months after the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki raised the alarm that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been hijacked by some people close to him, wife of the President, Aisha, in an unusual outburst has alleged that a cabal of just two or three persons has caged her husband and driving people who should help his government away from him.
In an interview aired on the BBC on Friday, Mrs Aisha Buhari stated that the cabal has created so much problems for her husband, to the point of disconnecting him from the millions of Nigerians who voted for him in the 2015 presidential elections. She vowed she may not go out to campaign for her husband in 2019 if President Buhari decides to run for a second term.
According to her: “My view is that, it is envisaged that we may not have a peaceful four year term of governance. There would be worries here and there, even though I cannot lay claim that I brought about the government, it is the mass revolt of the people that insisted that enough was enough. Then some unknown people were brought in to lead the people. These people were not even around during our campaigns. What we promised and what we told the people as regards what we don’t want. But today, some of them are boasting that they are not politicians, even though they are occupying seats meant for politicians. I’m not happy with the manner with which things are going on, although it may seem that we have just begun, I know some appointments have been made here and there like those that actually worked for the party. But even those brought in to occupy some government agencies, you would discover are fighting with their state governors.”
When pressed to name members of the cabal controlling her husband, the first lady said, Nigerians already know them even as she pleaded with them to let her husband be, for the sake of the Nigerian masses who voted for him. “Everybody knows them, and those doing such shouldn’t forget that this government came to being, by individual votes. Even Buhari voted with a single vote. No one voted with five fingers or ten, 15 million. 429 thousand people cast their votes for Buhari. These people I’m complaining about are not more than two or three. I’m pleading with them to have sympathy for the people, open their arms to embrace all for the smooth sail of governance not even for today’s sake but even against 2019”, she stated.
Mrs Buhari also bemoaned the crisis rocking the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. “Since some have started dividing the attention of APC loyalists, this is also giving us serious headache within the party and you cannot fault them. This is because many in the party feel they were the ones who worked for the emergence of the President, but they are nowhere to be found today. Those who did not undergo any trouble; those who do not even have voter’s cards are the ones sitting on top of everybody. What I fear for them is the revolt of over 15 million Nigerians.”
Asked if the President is aware of the stumbling blocks the cabal is constituting within his government, she said, “whether he knows or not, those that voted for him know.
I don’t need to tell him anything, after all, he can see. Of all the people he appointed, assuming they are 50, if you ask him; he didn’t know 45 of them. Even me that has been with him for 27 years, I don’t know them”
Also, asked if she was insinuating that there are individuals within the government that are controlling the President, the first lady answered in the affirmative. Her words: “That is what I’m saying. Those of them that don’t have any electoral value should give chance to those that struggled and sweated for the party. And these same people have been saying publicly that they are not politicians. If so, how would one accept a letter appointing him to supervise political offices they did not sweated for. Since you know the appointment offered to you is not in line with your political inclination, why don’t you decline and say I can’t do it, I’m not a politician. The appointments of non-politicians will only make us have issues with the electorates.
“I agree with what people are insinuating about some few people controlling the affairs of this government and apart from Fashola, Amaechi and a few others, I don’t know the other people, and I’m sure he (president) too did not know them.”
When further asked, considering Buhari’s pedigree in governance and politics, if he is not truly in charge of his government at the momenttime, the wife of the President said
“It is true and it will shock some people who never expect such a thing to be happening. That such is happening and people have started complaining, then their complaints should be listened to. Otherwise, in the nearest future, if he wants to contest again or not, it is the same people that would make their choices for APC and I’m not hoping that the same people would retuen to this government again.”
Asked whether the President told her of his 2019 plans, the First Lady said she has not been told anything and warned that she may not back him at the next election unless he shakes up his government.
She said people who did not share the vision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were appointed to top posts because of the influence a “few people” wield.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.”
Asked to name those who had hijacked the government, she refused, saying: “You will know them if you watch television.” On whether the president was in charge, she said: “That is left for the people to decide.”
Mrs Buhari said her husband had not told her whether he would contest the 2019 election.”He is yet to tell me but I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”
Asked what she regarded as the government’s major achievement, she said it was to improve security in the North-east where militant Islamist group, Boko Haram has waged an insurgency war since 2009.
“No-one is complaining about being attacked in their own homes. Thankfully, everyone can walk around freely, go to places of worship, etc. Even kids in Maiduguri have returned to schools,” Mrs Buhari said, referring to the city which was once the headquarters of the militant group.
The unnamed members of the cabal
One name that has been repeatedly mentioned as having a strong influence in Mr. Buhari’s appointments is his cousin, Mamman Daura who holds no official position, but believed to be the most powerful man in the presidency and is said to have Buhari’s ears.
There had been rumours within the Presidential Villa of him having clashes with Mrs. Buhari over his influence on the president.
Aisha and some members of the All Progressives Congress are also believed to be frustrated with the influence of Abba Kyari, who is the President’s Chief of Staff.
It is alleged that ministers sometimes have to get the approval of Kyari and Mamman Daura before funds can be released to them.
The president is also said to have failed to make some of the changes he promised to make in his cabinet including the sanctioning of top officials who have been accused of corrupt practices.
Her decision to go public with her concerns shows the level of discontent with the president’s leadership, the BBC quotes its reporter Naziru Mikailu, as saying.
Our fears confirmed- Nigerians
Some Nigerians have also reacted to the first lady’s statement saying she only confirmed fears that all is not well with Buhari’s government.
Some are of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with what she said in the BBC interview, adding that she said what many people including APC members have been saying in private.
“The First Lady merely confirmed what we have been pointing out. We have said it that the Buhari administration has since derailed,” said Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, national leader of the Northern Emancipation Network.
Suleiman told Newsmen that most organizations and individuals that genuinely worked for Buhari’s success have been ditched and are as angry as the first lady.
“Sadly, Buhari’s popularity rating dropped drastically a few months after he was sworn in. Most of those that worked for his electoral victory have since had sufficient reason to regret ever doing so.
“Obviously, the affairs of government have been hijacked by a handful of people that have not been active participants in the Buhari project. Then unfortunately, the man is refusing to heed wise counsel even when the country is headed the wrong direction. Perhaps, now that the warning bells are sounding right from his bedroom, he may begin to listen, “ Suleiman said.
Incidentally, the Northern Elders Forum was also thinking along the same line when it held its annual political and economic summit at the Arewa House Kaduna earlier in the week.
Capturing this mood in his keynote address, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said: “Moving from where we are to where we need to be will require patience and fortitude. Until we get there, it will be President Buhari’s lot to assemble Nigerians to advise him and take forward his vision. He will need people who will convey his concerns and compassion; who will reach and bring comfort to millions who suffer in an economy under recession; and people who will combine his personal integrity with competence and commitment.
“The nation is not wrong when it insists that President Buhari’s image and vision are not being served by the quality and competence of many of the people he has assembled to work with him and see the nation through this difficult period. Those who insist that President Buhari’s administration can do much better in managing the recession, in the all-important fight against corruption within the laws of the land, and in rebuilding a nation united around the values of justice and honest enterprise are not his enemies. Most of them are people who voted for him because they shared his belief that we can live secure lives; that leaders do not have to steal our resources and that our children can live in, and work in a nation they can be proud of.
“When northerners say they bear the brunt of bad or poor governance more than other Nigerians, they speak from a solid experience of living under leaders who were inept and corrupt and governed poor people. When the economy deteriorates, we feel the pain more sharply than other Nigerians. With security, we can feed ourselves and feed the rest of Nigeria. But when the cost of inputs become prohibitive, threats to lives limit productive capacities, herds are stolen or limited by hostile and damaging political interests, the economy of the North suffers. We recognize that restructuring the Nigerian economy involves a tremendous boost in productivity of the assets which the North is blessed with. We look forward to a restructuring process that involves our assets and our interests, but we ask the President and our Governors to pay close attention to relieving the hardships and stresses which these critical and strategic transitions will involve. We ask to be involved as genuine partners, not as targets of policies and programmes that are designed in capitals. We ask that our current limitations are understood by leaders and policy makers, so that our current disadvantages are not compounded by poorly-designed policies. Our people are hardworking and we have no desire to depend on any section of the country beyond what is made necessary by the logic of an inter-dependent economy.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki had on June 27 said some individuals within Mr. Buhari’s government were running a “government within the government”.
“It has become clear that there is a government within the government of President Buhari which have seized the apparatus of executive powers to pursue their nefarious agenda,” Saraki had said in a statement at the time. The presidency swiftly dismissed the view then.