Aisha Buhari, had in a BBC Hausa interview, expressed her displeasure in President Buhari’s government, saying that the President does not know most of the appointees in his cabinet.
She also suggested that the President’s government had been hijacked by a few people, who were behind the presidential appointments.
In the interview, Mrs. Buhari said, “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.
“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.”
When asked to name those who had hijacked her husband’s government, she refused, saying, “You will know them if you watch television.”
On whether President was still in charge, she said, “That is left for the people to decide.”
Mrs. Buhari added that her husband had not told her whether he would contest the 2019 election.
She said, “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.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Buhari’s comments on her husband’s government have attracted both applause and criticisms by Nigerians.
For instance, the Convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid mohammed, praised Aisha for forthrightness and described her comments as “100 per cent correct”.
Mohammed, who said Aisha’s honesty earned her his respect, added that she could have said more, considering the information at her disposal, but chose to be diplomatic.
He said, “From the bits I heard by myself and from friends whose judgements I respect, everything said by Mrs. Buhari is true. In fact, given the fact at her disposal, she has been very diplomatic because she could have said a lot more and mentioned names and positions like I did in the interview I had with Saturday PUNCH some weeks back. But she didn’t do that; she confined herself to what she said, which are all factual.
“Some of the facts she said are matters in which I have privileged information and knowledge, so I believe she was telling the truth and I do not want to question her motivation or listen to what people say. I believe it is in the interest of this country to listen to what she says before we are driven into a ditch by her husband.”
According to Mohammed, Aisha had the right to have made the comments because she was “speaking about her country and her nuclear family and she is the closest human being to the President.”
“When the chips are down, it is she, her children and Buhari’s children from his first marriage that will carry the burden. So nobody has the right to tell her what is appropriate or inappropriate,” he added.
National Publicity secretary of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba organisation, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, also said being the “closest person to the Presiddent”, Aisha’s comments should not be ignored.
Odumakin said as Aisha noted, President Buhari should reshuffle his cabinet to accommodate competent people.
“The fact remains that being the wife of the President, her views cannot just be thrown away like that,” he said.
“You can count on your fingers the cabinet members that know what they are doing there. There is no impartial observer of the government that will not agree that this cabinet has not performed well. It took a long time for the President to appoint his cabinet members and we had expected something more. The President should reshuffle the team and make sure he puts on board people who can deliver.”
Mr. Victor Borubo, Ijaw National Congress Spokesperson, who stressed that he was giving his personal view and not that of the organisation, described the issues raised by Aisha “as valid”.
Borubo also called on the President to reshuffle his cabinet as suggested by his wife, saying, “A good number of people in the President’s cabinet are misfits and square pegs forcing themselves into round holes. So to that extent, I agree that a lot of the cabinet members should simply give way. What if a man he says is not corrupt is incompetent, what good is he to us?”
Chief Dele Momodu, the publisher of Ovation Magazine and a former presidential aspirant, also praised Aisha Buhari for her comments.
Momodu said the President’s wife said what he and some other supporters of the President had been saying for long and that if care was not taken, the party could further be divided.
He said, “Aisha Buhari’s comments are welcome. She has done what most Nigerian women and men cannot do — speaking the truth as it is, not minding that she’s a beneficiary of power. It shows she’s a forward-looking, intelligent and responsible woman who knows that life doesn’t begin and end in Aso Rock.
“If she had been telling her husband and he had not listened to her, now she has put it on record as a yardstick to judge her in the future. She should be celebrated.
“What she said is what many of us had been saying before, that some people have hijacked this government from the President. I have said it before and I remember the [Senate President] Dr. Bukola Saraki had also said it.
“Some people are saying she has no right to speak such things, but that’s not true. She has every right to do so, as the President’s wife and a public figure. Before the President won the election, she campaigned for him.
“So, she has the right to express what she feels about her husband’s government because she has so much to lose if her husband fails.”
Also, the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party in the 2015 general election, Chief Martin Onovo, said Aisha said the truth and that her comments were reflections of the President’s weaknesses.
“It has been obvious for long that the President is not in control of the government. If you have been watching the situation of things, different officials in the APC hold different positions and always differ on issues.
“If the President is in control, this wouldn’t have been so. It shows weakness on the part of the President. He has always appeared to be constrained by some forces despite the powers conferred on him by the constitution.
“The President should know that authority and responsibility go hand-in-hand, so for whatever is happening, President Buhari should take responsibility.”
Onovo called on the President to display strength and not allow a cabal to run his government.
He said, “When a cabal runs a government, they further their selfish interests because they are behind the policies made. Hence, if the President cannot run the government, it shows weakness and failure.
“He should encourage national unity by inviting all groups and parties to participate in his government because diversity encourages innovation and development.”
Also, a former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on New Media, Mr. Reno Omokri, commended Mrs. Buhari for speaking out, though he described her as a “wailer.”
He wrote on his Facebook page, “Wow! This is explosive! Even Buhari’s wife has turned to a wailer! Aisha Buhari has told the BBC what we have been saying all these months. You need to watch/read this interview. It is well worth your time.
“His wife’s decision to go public with her concerns will shock many people, but it shows the level of discontent with the President’s leadership. Now, will all those who have had a field day attacking me for my criticism also attack the First Lady?”
The Special Assistant to Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose on Public Communication and New Media, Mr. Olalere Olayinka, also described the President’s wife as a “wailer.”
Obviously referring to the President Buhari’s supporters, he said, “Start attacking Aisha Buhari. And to the wailers, [there is] no need to wail again. Let Aisha Buhari do the wailing for now,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the same vein, reactions have been trailing Aisha’s interview on various social media platforms, where the news has been trending, with majority of them backing the wife of the President.
In a Facebook comment, Michael Gabriel said Mrs. Buhari’s comments showed how “poor” President Buhari was performing.
“It’s shocking to hear — that it’s coming from the First Lady herself only shows how abysmally the present government has performed so far,” he said.
“This is honesty. Even if it could cost her marriage, this woman still spilled the truth. We need people like her.”
Ifeanyichukwu Chigozie also said on Facebook that going by Mrs. Buhari’s comments, it was apparent that the current economic downturn was as a result of nepotism and corruption.
He said, “Nigerians are suffering, yet people are pretending as if everything is fine. The value of naira has dropped by 70 per cent over one year, yet you (President Buhari) are still blaming the previous President.
“We kept complaining of bad economic policies, nepotism and massive corruption, but our complaints were dismissed. It feels good now that Aisha Buhari is on-board with us.”
Mohammed Tahir also said, “Aisha Buhari must be commended for her courage. Her action should not be viewed as trying to gain favour from her husband. She has been with him for 27 years, she knows him well and he knows her well.
“She is the only one who will stand by him in victory and in failure, we won’t be there. Therefore, we must listen to her very attentively. To me, she is patriotic and wants to free her husband from the cabal.”
Alphonsus Ogbennaya said on Twitter, “This is patriotism and love for her husband at play. Her advice must have been rejected privately, that’s why she went public, because if her husband fails, she and her kids will also share the blame. Thanks, Aisha, for your boldness.”
But some others condemned the President’s wife’s comments.
A political analyst Hatab Fadera also said it was wrong for Mrs. Buhari to have gone public with her opinions.
He said on Facebook, “I think it is her fundamental right to say in public whatever she feels is not right. However, I refuse to understand the necessity of her points. I disagree in total that she has to necessarily know who the President can and cannot appoint.
Reacting to the development, an Abuja based legal practitioner and former National Secretary of the Labour Party, Kayode Ajulo, expressed doubts over the authenticity of the story.
He said, “I doubt it if the President’s wife said some of the things being ascribed to her.”