In a partially aired interview on BBC Hausa, the First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, said she would not campaign for her husband if he chooses to campaign for a second term in 2019 unless certain changes were made. She suggested the government had been hijacked, saying that a “few people” were behind presidential appointments. In the interview, the president’s wife said 45 out of every 50 people appointed by President Buhari to occupy various positions in the government were people imposed upon his administration by power wielding members of his party. It is clear that for the government to function efficiently, the goals of key members of the administration have to be in sync but some of the language used by the first lady casts doubts over exactly what she advocating for.

Aisha Buhari explained that most of the people working with her husband, the president, are ‘strangers’ “who didn’t do anything” to ensure the government’s success in the 2015 elections. She said, “This worries us a lot now. Because they believe they are the ones who suffered but are nowhere today. Those who didn’t do anything, who don’t even have voters’ cards, are the ones in position doing everything.”

There is a subtle difference between the statement above and the previous assertions of sabotage by externally imposed appointees. While the previous statements painted a picture of sabotage and a lack of coherence in objectives between the president and his ministers, the latter statements point towards a desire to appoint those who they know personally or those lent them support during the campaign. As public perception of nepotism and tribalism has become synonymous with this  current administration, the second statement is not one Nigerians would welcome.

The coherence of objectives is a necessity in any government administration and it is important that the president is able to trust and believe in those he appoints to work diligently in line with his broad objectives. It is understandable therefore that the appointment of members whom the president is not familiar with or does not trust can undermine his control (broadly speaking) over his cabinet. The issue of allegiance can also undermine the president as a result. When powerful people within the party select appointees, said people pledge their loyalty to those that brought him into power rather than the president whom they serve. In cases where the president’s views and those of influential party members conflict, the internal discord within the presidency could be disastrous. It is clear that the head of a nation needs people around him that he can trust and is sure have objectives in line with those he was voted in to execute if expedient progress is to be made. Efficiency is governance becomes more of a necessity as Nigeria currently faces its worst recession in 25 years and continues to search for timely and innovate solutions.

This is not to say, however (as insinuated in the latter statement by the first lady) that the president should seek to predominantly appoint into his cabinet those he and his wife know personally or people who helped in his campaign efforts. To a certain extent politics would always play a material role in political appointments, sensitive government jobs should be awarded to those with competent and ethical track records, not based solely on personal relationships. While appointments by certain influential party members may undermine the government’s efforts, the appointment of cronies is should be far from the solutions. Members of the government should be selected based on competence and the degree to which a candidate’s objectives are aligned with those of the incumbent administration. This should be taken into account when appointments are considered in line with the rules pertaining to the representation of federal character pertinent in the country. This provision will ensure that selections are not made along tribal lines. As history has shown, however, adhering to the ‘federal character’ rule has not stopped leaders from appointing members into sensitive positions along ethnic lines

Aisha Buhari is right to fault the current undermining nature by which appointments were made but her latter suggestions leave much to be desired. Replacing one set of bias selections with another deals with one problem but creates another. Effective governance will always be hard to come by in a system that continually looks past meritocracy.


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