Zainab is the daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ally turned foe, Buba Galadima. She was a technical assistant on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) projects in the Office of the Vice President during the first tenure of Buhari. In this interview, she shared her experiences in the State House. She also spoke about the relationship between the Buharis and Galadimas and why her father parted ways with the president.
You served as a technical assistant in the Office of the Vice President, how would you describe your experience?
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It was one of the challenging moments in my life. It was frustrating; and because of many issues going on, it was a bit stressful for me. You could say I worked there, but I wasn’t really on salary because I was somewhere else and wasn’t given an appointment letter until I finished my tenure as councillor in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It was in 2017 but the letter was as good as nothing, It was written by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the president, Mr Abdul Rahman Ipaye. The appointment letter had no terms spelt out. The argument was that we could not be under the government; hence we would get donor agencies that would fund the programmes we were under. To be honest, I was victimised, frustrated and treated with disdain.
Don’t you think your father’s verbal attacks against the government contributed to that?
Yes, as human beings we tend to judge others based on pre-perceived opinions. Because you are associated to an enemy of theirs, they tend to be judgemental, and that affected me a lot.
What were the reactions of the Buharists to you following the incessant attacks of your father?
It was mixed. Some respected that he was airing his views, which does not reflect my own opinion, while others saw me as an enemy, to the point that a mentee of my father championed a campaign to ensure that I was given the boot in the Villa, but the vice president liked me. The person had to engage in manipulation through the forces he could control.
At a point I was not allowed to enter the Villa; I had to contact one chief security officer before I could be granted access. I was not having a tag that would have granted me free access into the Villa. The tag was given to me when my father started R-APC. Before then, my name was on a permanent list of those pasted on the pilot gate into the Villa. It wasn’t only me, there were a couple of others. I had to come in, stand at the pilot gate and get cleared before I could go in. But one day, I came and found out that my name was removed from the list.
What other things were you denied?
I was never given any salary or allowance. I was just there.
How were you surviving?
I am privileged enough not to depend on what government would give me. Even if I don’t have any money, I know that I can’t go hungry because I have family and friends.
At the end of your tenure, were you given any package?
No, I was only given a commendation letter from the vice president.
Do you think you were not reappointed because of your father’s role?
Yes. In the first place, it was not really a job, from the letter. After we won election, my father told me that if I did not get anything I shouldn’t bother myself. He said that good things would come. He made it clear that we all made sacrifices and there would come a time when my sacrifice would pay off and I would be where I am supposed to be. So I should not take the appointment as a break or the utmost accomplishment I would make.
Were your colleagues paid?
Yes, most of my colleagues were paid. I don’t have any regret working there because the experience I had is now part of my curriculum vitae and it counts for something.
Did you complain to the vice president that you were not being paid salary?
Yes, several times. He would instruct that the situation be addressed, but immediately I stepped out, nothing would be done. But he and everybody knew.
In a recent interview, your father said seven of his children were unemployed; are you one of them?
Yes. I have seven degrees but no job. I have tried to look for a job, but nobody wants to give me. I believe that I am harmless but some people see me as a threat, especially being a northerner, a woman, a Muslim, educated and a daughter of Buba Galadima. Not even that, even if I look for a contract, they would not give me.
The impression they give people outside is that the government is so bighearted to employ me. Even Festus Keyamo made a statement; after that, I went to him to give me a job because they told him something and he grabbed it. He did not sit down to look at the situation. I could sue him because it was a lie.
How would you compare the relationship between the Galadimas and Buharis before the 2015 elections and now?
The wives and children have a very good relationship, but obviously, they are in power, so we do not go to visit them unless we are invited. But we are friends for life, and no matter how long they would be there, they would still meet us outside. That is the relationship. I have a very good relationship with the daughters; I go to their houses and they come to mine.
As somebody who was in the Villa, would you say that Buhari is in charge of this administration?
I was not in the office of the president, so I don’t know. And don’t forget that they see me as a daughter of an enemy. I wasn’t privy to so many situations. There was a certain place I could not cross over to. But people are in charge of what they are in charge of and I believe that there are things some people do that he is not aware of. They take some decisions that he is not aware of. I don’t think it is everything they let him preside over.
During your days in the Villa, did you meet with the president?
No, they never allowed it. There was a day the president saw me from afar and screamed my name to come; and they were all surprised because ordinarily, he would not stop for anyone. He stopped to ask if I was okay. I believe that was the beginning of my problem. They interpreted it to mean that if I were given a free rein with the president, it would be over for them. This is how the people on the corridors of power think. Everybody is trying to pull somebody down. You will hardly find somebody that would help you up. That was the beginning of my challenge.
Do you mean your challenge started in the Villa before your father started criticising the government?
Yes. They noticed that my father was not in the corridors of power, and during the convention, he was campaigning for Kwankwaso. To some people, that was a sin.
Why do you think your father dumped Buhari for Kwankwaso?
He joined Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, not because he thought President Buhari would not get it. In fact, he had used many mediums to encourage him to run again, but he said he was done. So, my father made up his mind too. He had started working with Kwankwaso before Buhari showed interest again. And my father is a kind of person that is very loyal.
But it was widely believed that your father joined the Kwankwaso presidential campaign team because he was a sitting governor while Buhari was far from state resources.
No, that was not the case. Material things have never been the motivation for my father to take an action. During President Buhari’s first tenure he was offered juicy jobs, which he rejected.
Have you ever asked your father to stop attacking the Buhari administration?
Yes, I did.
What was his reaction?
I told him he was throwing me under the bus, but he said he could not stop since that’s how he had been since childhood.
How would you assess the performance of this administration?
I am not happy because there is lack of communication between the people and the leaders. I think what they need to do is to sit down and sincerely address issues.
There are some people that do not feel or share the same view like others in terms of making it better, but I think those people need to be put aside. This is very crucial and would determine whether the All Progressives Congress (APC) would come back in 2023 or not. I can’t believe that we sacrificed our years, tears and blood. People died because of this thing and their expectations are not being met. It is a shame.