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Buhari’s fuel subsidy confession and limits of hypocrisy

Muhammadu Buhari

‘If the former president was genuine in his claims of messiahship to Nigerians, there was no reason he should not have laid the entire cards on the table and asked Nigerians to follow him in bearing the burden of the subsidy removal’

By Emeka Alex Duru


Even out of office, President Muhammadu Buhari, does not seem to be done with Nigerians.

He still carries on as one with grudges against other citizens for asking him to lead them. His haughty carriage and sense of entitlement indicate so.

Critics may, even, be correct that he derives joy in seeing Nigerians suffer. That perhaps, explains why his eight years as president remain the darkest moment in Nigeria’s history in terms of development and other indices of nation building.

Yet, he does not appear bothered.

He was in his elements the other day, in telling Nigerians that he deliberately delayed removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called Petrol, to enable his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, win the 2023 elections.

Buhari, who spoke through his spokesman, Garba Shehu, explained that he was being politically honest in taking the decision.

APC would have been thrown out of power if the measure was implemented by his administration, Buhari claimed.

Also read: Buhari reduced leadership quality in Nigeria – Northern group

“We must be politically honest with ourselves. The Buhari administration in its last days could not have gone the whole way because the APC had an election to win. And that would have been the case with any political party that was seeking election for another term with a new principal at its head”, Shehu argued.

That is not correct and Buhari knows it. He is only being deceitful and intentionally provoking Nigerians.

Leadership is about a leader being sincere to his followers and being predictable by them. If the former president was genuine in his claims of messiahship to Nigerians, there was no reason he should not have laid the entire cards on the table and asked Nigerians to follow him in bearing the burden of the subsidy removal.

Shifting the decision to his successor, was an exercise in bad faith. It amounted to playing the ostrich.  

Candidates of the ruling political parties anchor their campaigns on the policies and programmes of the departing administration and carry the people along.

Trust deficit comes in the moment there is a disconnect between the leader and the people. That was the experience Nigerians had with Buhari while he was in office.

A recollection of Buhari’s answer on fuel subsidy removal one year ago and his present chorus, shows how insincere he is to those that elected him. In June 2022, Buhari, in response to a question by global financial news organisation, Bloomberg, ruled out any suggestion of removing subsidy on petrol, saying that the measure was untenable.

  He said, “Most western countries are today implementing fuel subsidies. Why would we remove ours now?

“What is good for the goose is sauce for the gander! What our western allies are learning the hard way is what looks good on paper and the human consequences are two different things.

“My government set in motion plans to remove the subsidy late last year. After further consultation with stakeholders, and as events unfolded this year, such a move became increasingly untenable.

“Boosting internal production for refined products shall also help.”

Nigerians thought that Buhari was speaking for them in the explanation, but unknown to them, he was incubating something else.

He did not tell them at what point the variables he saw in 2022 changed. All that the citizens got was being slammed with extreme hardship following the subsidy removal from the first day of the inauguration of the Tinubu government.

 It had never been this tough for the country.

Since then, informed and sponsored commentators have been asking the people to bear the pains of the measure on ground that the subsidy regime was unsustainable and a huge pipe for siphoning the nation’s wealth by just a few.

They may be right, but are curiously, not offering much on the way out of the vacuum created by the measure.

 Since the announcement of the subsidy removal, a litre price of petrol has gone up from N185 to N500 or more in some parts of the country.

 In corollary, prices of basic items and services have risen. Virtually every Nigerian is presently angry. This is where the danger lies.

For Buhari to further mock them with nauseating tale on why his administration delayed the subsidy removal for the succeeding government, amounts to the proverbial adding salt to injury.

That is not what the people need from the former president. He has had his time and had mismanaged the country in many respects. He should take his rest and allow Nigerians recover themselves from his years of the locusts.

Buhari did not reflect the qualities of a leader Nigerians needed at the time despite the efforts by his handlers in packaging and selling him to the people.

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu had listed those attributes in his book, “Because I am Involved”.  He wrote: “We need leaders who are servants of the people, not their masters. We need leaders who will serve first the common man.

We require leaders who will ensure fairness and equity to the various groups.

“We need leaders who must be embodiment and at all times, exemplify the ideas of our nation. We need leaders who will keep alive the flames of our national aspirations.

“We want leaders who will be trusted friends of the people and protectors of the disadvantaged and oppressed.

“We require leaders who will have the right judgement both of people and situations. We want leaders who must be accountable to the people and are subjected to the collective will of the people”.

Bill Newman in his “10 Laws of Leadership”, adds that a leader must have a vision and the vision must be fulfilled by goals that work toward the achievement of the vision.

 Buhari did embody any of these requirements. He was more of a narcissist, merely excited at himself and enjoying the glamour of the office without assuming the responsibilities of the position.

The result was that all indices of development went south under him. He was in charge when the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) classified 133 million Nigerians, more than 60 percent of the population, as multidimensionally poor.

 Corruption waxed stronger under him with the Transparency International ranking Nigeria among the most corrupt jurisdictions in the world in its 2022 Corruption Perception Index.

Insecurity and unemployment which he promised to battle, soared more in his period. With him in charge, the major fault lines in the country were widened.

Even the 2023 election which he advertised would signal a legacy of transparency, turned out a charade. The courts are handling the disputes from the exercise.

But no matter how events turn out, Nigerians knew what happened and who did not win the election. So, there is nothing more that Buhari can tell Nigerians about the fuel subsidy removal.

His unsolicited confessions do not matter. The people tolerated him for eight years that he played games with the country. He should allow them have their peace.

.DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos

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