Nigeria: Aisha Buhari may not back her husband at the next election
Abuja, Nigeria ( Reuters + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The wife of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says she may not back her husband at the next election unless he shakes up his government.
Aisha Buhari, who has never held political office but joined her husband on the campaign trail last year, told the BBC in a interview published on Friday that her husband did not know most of the officials he had appointed, and that many owed their positions to the influence of “a few people”.
Her husband, a 73-year-old former military ruler, was elected last year after a campaign largely fought on his pledge to crush the Islamist militant group Boko Haram and crack down on corruption.
Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy, is in recession for the first time in 25 years, largely due to a fall global oil prices, which has slashed the state’s main source of income.
The president’s critics say he exacerbated the economic crisis by opposing the devaluation of the naira currency for 16 months before yielding, and that it took too long to overcome months of wrangling with parliament to get the 2016 budget passed.
The president has not said whether he will seek re-election in 2019.
“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,” Aisha Buhari said in the interview.
She said people who did not share the vision of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had been appointed to senior positions because of the influence wielded by a “few people”.
The APC is a loose coalition of politicians that was united by a desire to remove the People’s Democratic Party of Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan rather by than a shared ideology.
“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,” Aisha Buhari said.
On the issue of whether the president was in charge, she said: “That is left for the people to decide.”
A government official, who did not want to be named, said the remarks were “a husband and wife matter”.
Aisha Buhari said improved security in the northeast, Boko Haram’s former stronghold, was the government’s biggest achievement. “No one is complaining about being attacked in their own homes,” she said.
On Thursday, 21 of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by the jihadist group in the northeastern village of Chibok in April 2014 were released after negotiations with the government.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram frees 21 kidnapped Chibok girls after 2-1/2 years
Jihadist group Boko Haram has freed 21 of more than 200 girls it kidnapped in April 2014 in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok, after mediation by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, officials said on Thursday.
Around 270 girls were taken from their school in Chibok in the remote northeastern Borno state, where Boko Haram has waged a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state, killing thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.
“I met them about an hour ago and I can confirm they are in good health,” Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said after meeting the 21 released girls, who were brought from the northeastern city of Maiduguri to the capital Abuja.
Their release, a boost for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, came after the Red Cross and the Swiss government brokered a deal with the group, officials said.
Dozens had escaped in the initial melee in 2014, but more than 200 girls are still missing. The kidnapping prompted outrage worldwide and the girls’ plight was publicized using a Twitter hashtag, #bringbackourgirls.
“In the next few days or months we will be able to negotiate the release of more of the girls,” Osinbajo told reporters.
A picture released by a presidency official showed one of the girls holding a baby when they met Osinbajo. Officials have accused Boko Haram of having married off the girls to its followers.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed denied reports that the government had swapped Boko Haram fighters for their release and said he was not aware if any ransom had been paid. He said a Nigerian army operation against Boko Haram would continue.
Switzerland “facilitated contacts between Nigerian representatives and intermediaries of Boko Haram” after a request from Abuja, a Swiss government spokeswoman said.
“We have nothing to add,” she said, when asked if it had been a prisoner swap.
In recent days, the Nigerian military has been carrying out a large-scale offensive in the Sambisa forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram, which last year pledged loyalty to the Islamic State militant group.
Boko Haram controlled a swathe of land around the size of Belgium at the start of 2015, but Nigeria’s army, aided by troops from neighboring countries, has recaptured most of the territory. The group still stages suicide bombings in the northeast, as well as in neighboring Niger and Cameroon.
Boko Haram published a video in August apparently showing recent footage of dozens of the kidnapped girls and said some had been killed in air strikes.
The militant group has kidnapped hundreds of men, women and children but the kidnapping of the Chibok girls brought it worldwide attention.
Authorities said in May one of the missing girls had been found and Buhari promised to rescue the others.
In recent months he had said his government was prepared to negotiate with Boko Haram over their release.