Nigerians on Saturday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately reshuffle his cabinet, following the revelations made by his wife, Aisha.
This call came on the heels of the displeasure expressed by the President’s wife that her husband does not know most of the appointees in his cabinet.
Aisha Buhari had, in a British Broadcasting Corporation interview, noted that the Buhari’s government was hijacked by a few people, who were behind 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.”
Following Aisha’s comments, which have since gone viral, many Nigerians said the President must take urgent steps to reconstitute his cabinet and remove incompetent ministers and aides.
According to an online poll conducted on The PUNCH website, Facebook page and Twitter handle, majority of Nigerians were in support of a cabinet change.
On The PUNCH website, punchng.com, 77 per cent voted ‘yes’ to the question “Do you think President Buhari should reshuffle his cabinet following Aisha’s criticisms of his choice of ministers and aides?” While 23 per cent voted ‘no,’ over 3,000 people participated in the poll.
On Facebook, over 300 Nigerians responded to the same question. Again, more than 70 per cent of them said the president should replace underperforming ministers. Most of the respondents said Aisha had inside knowledge of the workings Buhari’s government.
One of them, Chris Ukam, said, “Anybody castigating Aisha Buhari is an illiterate and lacks wisdom. Who doesn’t know that Buhari appointed third-class ministers?”
Another, Onifade Victor, said, “Wives are highly sensitive and know when a man is derailing. Capital ‘yes,’ PMB should reshuffle his cabinet. They have been staying together for a long time and his wife knows him better than anyone else.”
Similarly, a Nigerian, Nura Muhd, said Buhari’s wife spoke out in his interest. “Yes, his wife will be the person to protect him. But since she publicly criticised the way he’s doing things, we support her for him to correct (things).”
In the same vein, Usuf Folmy said, “Please buckle up. No one loves you more than she does. Swallow your pride and kick some people out of your government. They don’t mean well for Nigeria.”
Also, Ogundele Joshua Akanfe said the cabinet change was long overdue. “I think it is overdue, especially the so-called aides he swiftly hired without due consultation. PMB was elected to serve the Nigerian nation and not to satisfy certain individuals. Yes, he should change majority of his aides and ministers that are found wanting.”
Other Nigerians praised the president’s wife and described the BBC interview as ‘courageous.’
Writing on Punch’s Facebook page, Abiodun Ogunbe said, “Since 1960, I have not seen any First Lady that was so honest and bold to tell her husband the truth like Aisha Buhari. She is a God-fearing woman that deserves an award.”
Paul Nweke also wrote, “In fact, if possible, remove all the ministers. None of them is living up to expectations. They are all disappointments.”
Another commentator, Daud Olaolu, urged Buhari to listen to his wife for posterity’s sake. “Absolutely, the First Lady is not the first person to complain about all these parasites within President Buhari’s cabinet. My thinking is that some of the people in PMB’s cabinet don’t believe in what PMB or All Progressives Congress stands for. Otherwise, how can a SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) spend N270m to clear grass when the country is in a recession and citizens can hardly afford to eat?
“The fact is that most of the people within PMB’s cabinet will find their way into the next government and start to criticise the administration that they participated in bringing it down due to their non-patriotic act. Nigerians will not remember any of them but PMB and his family will always be remembered for any negative or positive development in the nation’s history,” he stated.
Prominent Nigerians, including civil society groups and socio-political associations, also joined the call for a reshuffle of Buhari’s cabinet.
In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said a reshuffle of the president’s cabinet was imperative, owing to concerns over the state of the country.
Adeniran, who commended Mrs. Buhari for her comments, said Buhari’s ministers had not lived up to the expectations of Nigerians.
He said, “We as a group have expressed our concerns over the underperformance of Buhari’s ministers. The comments credited to the president’s wife justified our assertion that a change in the cabinet is imperative. There are many misfits in the present cabinet that need to be removed.
“The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has not shown us that she can handle the job. The economy has been nose-diving. In terms of infrastructural development, all we have been getting are excuses from the government. The Minister of Justice is only repeating the mistakes of his predecessor. He has not been able to bring any of the corruption-related cases to a logical conclusion. I think a change in the cabinet is very important. We will not join others to condemn the president’s wife because she has freedom of speech.”
The Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, expressed similar views but noted that a change of cabinet should not be strictly based on the president’s wife’s comment.
According to him, if a minister is not performing well based on expectation, such a minister should be changed.
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Abdullahi Jalo, said the alleged poor performance of the Federal Government was due to the fact that “the president has been cornered by a cabal.”
Jalo, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH, said only three of the ministers were qualified to handle the ministries assigned to them.
The PDP chieftain observed that Adeosun, unlike the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had no “strong economic management experience.”
He said the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, was unpopular in the political terrain, adding that this has affected the running of the government.
He said, “Buhari has been cornered by a cabal. Many of the people in his cabinet do not have the support of the people. The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, is from the South-East. He was a former Senate president. He is rooted in politics. Unlike Anyim, the current SGF, Lawal, has no experience.
“In terms of economic management, nobody knows Adeosun. How could she be given the portfolio of finance ministry? The ministry requires the expertise of someone who is connected to the movers and shakers of economic management. As long as Buhari surrounds himself with a cabal, I don’t think he will succeed.”
The President of the Ohanaeze Youth Council, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the Igbo socio-political group also backed the call for a reshuffle of the president’s cabinet.
He said, “The comments of the president’s wife should be seriously considered. We need fresh people in this government. Also, the president should address the lopsidedness in his appointments and make them reflect Federal Character. We need technocrats who can help us to reposition our economy.”
A prominent member of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, noted that Buhari should be blamed for the state of the nation.
He said pieces of advice given to the president, which would help to transform the country, were turned down by a prominent ally of Buhari.
Abdulrahman also accused the president of nepotism. He stated that many of the ministers were hampered by lack of funds.
Commending the president’s wife for expressing her displeasure, Abdulrahman said if an independent research was conducted, 99 per cent of what Buhari’s wife said would be found to be correct.
The ACF member added that Buhari’s wife expressed the minds of both the Peoples Democratic Party and the APC.
In his reaction, the spokesperson for the Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, expressed concerns over the hardship in the country, adding that many of the ministers did not have access to the president.
“The President has to work on this. Many of his ministers do not have access to him. Some of them have to go through someone in order to engage the president,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Meanwhile, shortly after Mrs. Buhari’s interview, unknown groups have started went viral to spread messages on social media accusing her of intentionally wanting to bring her husband into disrepute. Some of the messages stated among other accusations that the First Lady was in the same camp with some aggrieved persons in the APC. Another said the president’s wife was fighting to remain relevant because her husband was no longer listening to her.
Even though the sources of these messages could not be traced as of press time, the messages were shared many times on social media.