•He’s Nigeria’s most ethnic-chauvinist president—Ex-minister
•Winning election more important to him than national interest —Prof Ezeibe
By Luminous Jannamike; Steve Oko & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
In a stunning admission on Monday, former Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, revealed that the withdrawal of oil subsidy was not motivated by the country’s economic interests but rather as a political move to benefit the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its then-presidential candidate, leader, Bola Tinubu, in the February 25, 2023 elections.
This revelation, which came through a press statement by former presidential media aide Mallam Garba Shehu, has ignited a firestorm of criticism, raising broader questions about how national interests were prioritized throughout Buhari’s tenure and shedding light on a range of pressing issues that plagued Nigeria during his time in office.
Former President Buhari’s reported confession regarding the withdrawal of oil subsidy also triggered a wave of public outrage. Nigerians from all walks of life are now questioning whether their ex-leader’s decisions had been guided by a genuine commitment to serving the nation’s interests or instead driven by political calculations.
The decision to remove the subsidy has been met with widespread backlash, as it led to an immediate increase in fuel prices, exacerbating the economic challenges faced by ordinary citizens.
The former President’s admission further raised concerns about the governance ethics under his leadership. Critics argue that his alleged inaction or turning a blind eye to corrupt practices within his administration allowed a culture of impunity to thrive.
Voodoo contracts, oil theft, and massive stealing became rampant, further eroding public trust in the government’s ability to tackle corruption effectively. The lack of accountability contributed to the country’s economic woes and hindered its progress.
Another troubling aspect of Buhari’s presidency was his perceived inaction in addressing the escalating violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.
The President’s ‘body language,’ as some critics put it, was seen as encouraging these attacks, which resulted in countless lives lost, kidnappings, and disrupted farming activities. The failure of the military to respond adequately to these atrocities added to the growing sense of insecurity and instability in affected communities.
In light of President Buhari’s confession, Nigerian leaders from various sectors and civil society organizations have come forward to express their concerns and demand accountability.
National interests compromised during Buhari’s tenure —Isa Yuguda
Former Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State described the delayed removal of the fuel subsidy as a clear indictment of the President’s lack of political will, suggesting that national interests were indeed compromised during his tenure. Yuguda emphasized, “The issue of subsidy removal had been talked about so much under the previous government that it is comparable to motion without movement. It had been just a talk shop while the government lacked political will. Implementing policies, especially when vested interests and a cabal exist, can be very frustrating. It is similar to the issue of illegal oil bunkering and theft. It can be stopped, but the political will to do so is not there. There are so many interests involved, and that is what is leading Nigeria to where we are today. The subsidy regime should have been abolished back in 2012. Anyone who makes excuses against subsidy removal is a selfish person connected to the scammers that are harming this country.”
Other prominent figures, such as Prof. Charles Nwekeaku, Secretary of Igbo Elders Consultative Forum led by former Anambra Governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; the Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Head of Transparency International Nigeria and Chair Board of Trustees Amnesty International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani; and former Chief Imam of National Assembly Legislative Quarters Mosque, Shiekh Muhammad Nuru Khalid, echoed similar sentiments, calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations.
Politicians must not sacrifice the nation for their selfish political interests —Sheikh Khalid
Sheikh Khalid, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard from Saudi Arabia where he is currently observing the Hajj pilgrimage rites, emphasized the need for accountability, stating, “Former President Buhari’s admission is a wake-up call for all Nigerians. We must hold our leaders accountable for their actions and demand transparency in governance. Our democracy cannot thrive if political interests consistently take precedence over the welfare of the people. Politicians must sacrifice for the nation and not sacrifice the nation for their selfish political interests. This lack of accountability has undermined our country’s development and left ordinary Nigerians suffering.”
His confession represents a high level of irresponsibility —Prof. Nwekeaku
In a similar conversation with Prof. Nwekeaku, scribe of the Igbo Elders Consultative Forum, he expressed his disappointment, saying, “Nigerians trusted Former President Buhari to make decisions that would benefit the country, but this revelation shows that the trust was misplaced. How can we have faith in a government that sacrifices our well-being for political gain? In governance, national interest overrides every other interest. You don’t solve a problem by postponing it. His (Buhari’s) confession represents a high level of irresponsibility, lack of commitment, and insensitivity to the feelings of the people. It also confirms what many of us suspected all along—that corruption was given a free pass under his watch.”
Buhari’s government had been lying, deceiving, misrepresenting facts to Nigerians —Rafsanjani
For Rafsanjani, who heads Transparency International Nigeria and chairs the Board of Trustees of Amnesty International Nigeria, there was a disconnect between what the former president was doing and what his aides were saying to Nigerians. He said, “Firstly, Garba Shehu, the former presidential spokesman who reportedly made the confession about the reason behind the fuel subsidy removal could have done that to seek attention because he has always been contradicting himself. However, the former president had been docile and didn’t care about his public image and reputation, he allowed Shehu to be flippant in a disrespectful manner. The implication of Shehu’s confession is that Buhari’s government had been lying, cheating, deceiving and misrepresenting facts to Nigerians and did not mean well for the nation. On the other hand, now that we have succeeded in stopping the payment of fraudulent fuel subsidy, we don’t want another set of looters to emerge.”
Nigerians must probe Buhari’s administration —Prof Madubuike
Two-time Minister of Education and Health respectively, Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, said the ex-President unlike any other President since the history of Nigeria, placed the interest of his ethnic Fulani above any other consideration. The former lawmaker and Commissioner for Finance in the Old Imo State, further said he would not be surprised if Buhari sacrificed national interest at the alter of ethnic, party or personal interests in some of his actions and in-actions while in office.
His words: “Buhari was, and is still an ethnic bigot. Everything Fulani was his interest. Anything that would advance the fortunes of the Fulani he would do, and he achieved that through his party. At the end of the day Nigeria must rank him as the most ethnic-chauvinist President that the country has ever produced. If Nigerians can have the courage to investigate the eight years of Buhari’s leadership, then the outcome will determine what the next step will be”. Professor Madubuike who regretted that Nigeria was under state capture under ex-President Buhari, wished the authorities would be courageous enough to probe the former President’s administration.
Winning election more important to APC than national interest —Prof Ezeibe
Also reacting, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of a Think Tank, Professor Madubuike Ezeibe, said by Buhari’s confession, the ruling APC, was ready to undermine national interest to protect party interest.
He said that such confession was suggestive that the party might have directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to compromise standards provided the party’s interest was served. According to him, “if APC has confessed that winning election was more important to them than the national interest it is clear the party encouraged INEC to neglect the Electoral Act and election regulations including real time transfer of results (from polling units to IReV) just to ensure they ‘won’. This was the same attitude the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, exhibited which was the reason Buhari, Babangida and Abacha gave for truncating the second republic.
“Disaffection from elections also led to the crisis in the Western region which led to the truncation of the First Republic. The actors usually boast that nothing will happen but Nigeria has always been torn apart by this attitude of sacrificing National interests for personal and partisan interests. The only difference is that in the 2023 election, efforts to divide Nigerians along tribal and religious lines failed. That is the reason INEC chose to avoid transparency.
“Everybody should encourage the judiciary (our last hope) to collate the results from polling units so that if APC won the election, their government can have legitimacy but if they did not win, whichever party Nigerians chose would be declared winner so that we can have peace and progress.”
Buhari never wanted Tinubu to win —Coalition of Northern Groups
Also reacting, the Spokesperson of the Coalition of Northern Groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman said “The confession by the former President Buhari did not come as a surprise to us at the CNG. If anything, it is a confirmation of what we have been pointing out throughout the eight years of that citadel of poor governance, indifference, insensitivity and unprecedented plunder that was the Buhari presidency.
“We however disagree slightly with Buhari because everyone is aware by now that he never wanted Tinubu to win, and never worked for his victory. Instead, he supported policy directions and encouraged actions that clearly aimed to subvert it. The failure of the Buhari administration to announce the removal of the fuel subsidy was merely one out of the several indecisions, lack of courage and political will to tackle national issues around security, the economy and reintegration that characterized an administration wrapped in the crude cover of crass political opportunism and breathtaking ineptitude.
“It is part of the burdens of the shared legacy of the Buhari administration in the bombs and bullets of insurgents, bandits, and the deteriorating standards of living as politicians and top government officials fleeced the poor of resources to develop, officials whose personal greed and ambitions remained tied to the continuation of decay and destruction of a nation and a people.
“He treated as enemies those of us who tried to wake him up to the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster that criminal activities have created with about five million of our fellow citizens internally displaced with hundreds of thousands of orphans, hunger and malnourishment, previously unknown in our land becoming alarming features of existence.
“Buhari’s confession is part of the unfortunate eight years under a leader who had spent a large part of his life asking all Nigerians to trust him to lead, but ended up getting the nation critically endangered by officials who failed to lead with justice and sensitivity to its plural nature and the limitations of our political process.
“Buhari’s confession had only proved that the nation was not wrong when it insisted that his image and vision were not being served by the quality and competence of almost all of the people he assembled to work with him and see the nation through its most difficult period.
It is a vindication for those of us who were labelled enemies for insisting that the Buhari administration could do much better in managing the economy, in the all-important fight against corruption within the laws of the land, and in rebuilding a nation united around the values of justice and honest enterprise.
It is a vindication for those of us who reminded him daily that hunger was stalking millions of homes, inflation was making life difficult by the day; people were losing jobs, businesses closing down, and infrastructure was decaying. It is also a belated admission that in the last eight years, he led an administration that had acquired the reputation of being the worst in the history of our nation in terms of any capacity to generate confidence in achieving credible national goals.
Our constitution was set aside for selfish interest — Rev Joseph Hayab
In his own submission, Rev Joseph John Hayab, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, said, “During Buhari’s administration, most of the decisions and actions taken were from a political lens and for their political successes regardless of how the citizens felt and what happened to them and the country. Nigerians have not yet heard the whole stories of the poor and inhuman decisions that the Buhari administration took when they were in power. The honeymoon will soon be over and we will hear more from both those who benefited from the system and those who were sidelined but could not speak due to fear. Governance is about the people and national development, but sadly Buhari and members of his team brought every good thing down to the level that even outside this country people were wondering if we, the citizens have brains and what happened to our eyes that we could not see the many atrocities committed in our country. Our constitution was set aside for selfish interest. Those in authority were only doing what they liked as against our common agreement. What they are telling us today should not be mentioned even in a zoo but because they have divided citizens along religion, ethnic and sectional lines and we cannot team up to fight them, that is why they are now speaking out without shame.”
Other political analysts and experts have also commented, highlighting the damaging impact of prioritizing political gains over the welfare of the nation. They argue that such actions not only erode public trust but also hinder Nigeria’s development and progress. The need for stronger institutions, checks and balances, and a commitment to transparency and accountability has become even more apparent.
Dr. Chidi Azubuike, a renowned political analyst, commented, “President Buhari’s admission reveals a deep-rooted problem in our political system. It highlights the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to ensure that our leaders prioritize the interests of the nation over personal and party gains. It is time to strengthen our institutions and establish a culture of good governance that places the people at the center.”
Chris Kehinde-Nwandu, a member of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, said: “The fact remains that even the election (ex-President Buhari referenced) is still being disputed. Many still believe that the election was flawed. The fact that he came out to say he delayed the removal of subsidy is no news because it was supposed to be removed long ago, but he delayed it until the tail end of his administration.”
Mnena Kwaghor, a victim of Fulani herdsmen violence, tearfully shared her harrowing experience, saying, “I lost my husband in a brutal attack by Fulani herdsmen. Thinking about the former president’s confession, it breaks my heart to see that he may not have taken decisive action to protect innocent lives because of political interests. How could Nigerians have trusted a government that failed to prioritize the safety and well-being of its citizens?”
Former President Buhari’s recent admission regarding the withdrawal of oil subsidy has opened a Pandora’s box of questions about how national interests were handled during his time in office. The confession underscores the need for a critical examination of government ethics and the impact of political considerations on the welfare of the nation.
As Nigeria moves forward, it is crucial to learn from these experiences and ensure that future leaders prioritize the interests of the country above all else. It is a call for Nigerian citizens to remain vigilant, demand accountability, and actively participate in shaping the future of the nation.
By holding their leaders responsible for their actions, Nigerians can strive for a more transparent, inclusive, and prosperous Nigeria, where national interests are safeguarded, and the well-being of the people takes precedence.
The path to a better Nigeria lies in learning from the past and working towards a future where governance serves the people’s interests, uplifts the nation, and fosters unity and progress.