Many Nigerians would have read with keen interest the report from the BBC about an interview President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, granted the corporation.
She said, among other things, that the president “does not know” most of the top officials he has appointed: “The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.”
She added: “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.” This was because a “few people” were wielding influence around the president. Mrs Buhari didn’t name the chosen few, instead suggested: “You will know them if you watch television.”
Listen to a clip of the interview here.
She also suggested that her husband was not running the country when asked whether he was in charge: “That is left for the people to decide.”
On whether the president should run for re-election, Mrs Buhari was even more withering in her response: “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.”
Most informed Nigerians, especially Naijiant.com readers, should know the “few people” that have hijacked the Buhari administration and are behind most of his appointments. Straight after Buhari won the (s)election, the transition plans for the incoming administration were taken over by a cabal led by the president-elect’s nephew Mamman Daura.
Daura installed his adoptive son Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff to the president, and only a handful of appointments have not been cronies of those two. For example, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama went to Cambridge University with Kyari and the president’s Chief of Staff was best man at Onyeama’s wedding. The so-called “kitchen cabinet” led by Daura has marginalised the usual suspects in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that expected to get a major share of the spoils of office. No APC bigwig has been excluded more than Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State, who many credit for being the force behind Buhari’s victory.
An informed source told Naijiant.com, which we reported at the time, that there was an agreement between Buhari and Tinubu before the former was handed the presidential ticket for the APC, that Tinubu would be allowed to choose nine ministers in the event of a Buhari victory.
Tinubu ended up not even being allowed the pleasure of having his own man as the ministerial nominee from Lagos State. A former Tinubu protégé and former Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola ended up as the nominee – against the wishes of his former “godfather”.
Tinubu has reportedly been seething and licking his wounds ever since. Mrs Buhari’s comments about the appointment of people that did not share the vision of the APC must be seen as an acknowledgment of the marginalisation of Tinubu.
The president’s wife is also closely associated with former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who has also been excluded by the cabal that has hijacked the presidency. The former Vice President was reportedly behind the hiring of a US PR firm to prepare the grounds for Mrs Buhari’s trip to the United States in August – allegedly to quell the rumours that she would have faced arrest in the US in relation to her alleged involvement in the Halliburton bribery scandal. Atiku, who is also alleged to have received bribes from Halliburton, is eyeing a run for the presidency in 2019. It is difficult not to see his fingerprints on the comments Mrs Buhari made in the BBC interview.
As with most commentary in Nigeria, there is precious little altruism in what the president’s wife had to say. The cabal around the president may have cornered lucrative positions and juicy deals for themselves and cronies, however, this doesn’t mean Mrs Buhari is concerned about what is good for the country. Her comments are more likely driven by greed and the feeling that the cabal are siphoning what she feels she and her allies are entitled to.
Those comments also provide an insight into the detached incompetence and the lies of the Buhari administration. They support the suggestion that the president never really had a clue how to run anything and abdicated responsibility for governing to the cabal. There is a rumour that he retires every day at 4pm to Mamman Daura’s guesthouse in Abuja where he drinks fura da nono (native yoghurt) and nothing is approved unless Daura/Kyari are satisfied.
Mrs Buhari’s admission that the cabal chose most of his appointees and that he “does not know 45 out 50” of them, exposes the lie that the long delay in nominating ministers was due to some due diligence being carried out on the nominees. As we suggested at the time, the delay was due to infighting over the spoils of office between the cabal and the like of Tinubu, who thought that they were entitled to be powerbrokers on the basis of their contributions to APC victory.
It appears greed is tearing the ruling APC apart and they are unravelling faster than many would have predicted. Naziru Mikailu, the BBC journalist that interviewed Mrs Buhari, said her “decision to go public with her concerns will shock many people, but it shows the level of discontent with the president’s leadership”. Perhaps, going public will shock many, but what she said is no surprise because we told you so.