Buhari’s row with wife sig­nals Nige­rian in­er­tia frus­tra­tions

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A row be­tween the Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari and his wife has brought cracks in the rul­ing party right into the open, as frus­tra­tion grows over govern­ment in­er­tia in trying to drag the coun­try out of its first re­ces­sion in 25 years. Aisha Buhari pub­licly crit­i­cized her hus­band’s record in of­fice, say­ing she might not sup­port him if he seeks re-elec­tion in 2019 un­less he shakes up his ad­min­is­tra­tion, which she said had been hi­jacked by a “few peo­ple”.

The pres­i­dent tried to laugh off the re­buke from his wife of 27 years, say­ing “she be­longs in the kitchen” - but with­out ad­dress­ing the sub­stance of her re­marks, made last week in an in­ter­view with the BBC. The 73-year-old won last year’s elec­tion promis­ing a new era in the West African na­tion, where graft has en­riched an elite while most of the 180 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans live in poverty de­spite the OPEC member’s oil wealth.

Buhari came to power backed by his All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) party, a broad coali­tion of politi­cians who united to re­move his pre­de­ces­sor, Good­luck Jonathan, with­out hav­ing a joint plan on how to run the coun­try. Now, 17 months into of­fice, there are few signs of Buhari’s promised re­forms to di­ver­sify the econ­omy away from ex­port­ing crude, prices of which have halved since 2014.

Al­ready the naira is down 35 per­cent this year, making it one of the worst per­form­ing cur­ren­cies in the world, and the Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fore­casts the econ­omy will shrink by 1.3 per­cent in 2016. But crit­i­cism of the govern­ment goes be­yond an ap­par­ent lack of ur­gency in tack­ling the eco­nomic cri­sis. A be­lief is grow­ing that power is con­cen­trated among Buhari’s chief of staff and an in­ner cir­cle at the pres­i­den­tial villa, making it dif­fi­cult for min­is­ters to get the at­ten­tion of the pres­i­dent.

The First Lady is not alone in her views. Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki, the third most se­nior politi­cian in Nige­ria, took to Twit­ter to ex­press his con­cerns. “It has be­come clear that there is govt within govt of @MBuhari who’ve seized ap­pa­ra­tus of Ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to pur­sue their ne­far­i­ous agenda,” he tweeted in June. Buhari’s spokes­men de­clined to comment while the pres­i­dent him­self has de­fended his eco­nomic record in general terms. “I be­lieve that this re­ces­sion will not last,” he said this month. “We have iden­ti­fied the coun­try’s salient prob­lems and we are work­ing hard at last­ing so­lu­tions.”

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