When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was running as a candidate last year, he counted on his wife to do a lot of the work for him. Twenty-eight years his junior, Aisha Buhari spoke to women and young people at rallies around the country, promising that her husband would end the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s north and bring back thousands of girls kidnapped by the group.
But on Friday, she voiced disappointment in her husband’s time in office, saying she will not support him if he runs for a second term — unless he makes major changes.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” she told the BBC on Friday. “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.”
President Buhari, who is on a state trip to Germany this week, responded to his wife’s criticisms by saying, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” That earned him a grimace from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is arguably the most powerful woman in the world. Merkel later laughed.
Buhari’s wife has herself proven influential: She opened a large beauty parlor in northern Nigeria and wrote a book about beauty based on her time studying in the United Kingdom.
Buhari took over the presidency last year, winning in a landslide election against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, who had lost support for failing to take Boko Haram seriously until it was too late. Buhari ran on a campaign promising increased security and a crackdown on corruption, and to limit government spending. But Nigeria’s economy continues to slump: This summer, it officially went into recession. To help stave off costs, Buhari’s office placed advertisements in local newspapers to sell two of his presidential jets. He also handed over two of his presidential helicopters to the Air Force.
But his wife said his government is being hijacked by outside players who are influencing him in the wrong direction. At 73, the president hasn’t yet decided if he’ll run for reelection in 2019. But if he does, there’s at least one person we now know he can’t count on for a vote.
“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,” she said on Friday. “I will never do it again.”
Photo credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images