Muhammadu Buhari was a bad president for Nigeria. Members of his party, the APC, and even some of his former aides (including at least one minister) are now finding their tongues.
This time last year, if former president Buhari asked Tinubu and his lieutenants to jump, they would ask ‘How high’. While he held sway as Nigeria’s president, Buhari was somewhat beyond reproach from certain quarters. Expectedly, many of those that would never criticise the former president or his administration were either members of his party, the APC, or appointees in various offices.
No matter how bad the economy may have been or the state of insecurity, even the incumbent President Tinubu, then a candidate for Buhari’s job, never criticised the former president. And while he is not talking, yet, those close to him are. And a commonly repeated line is that Buhari wrecked Nigeria’s economy and left the country broke.
It would have been unthinkable to hear this from APC stalwarts even seven months ago. As the recent utterances now show, many of those close to Buhari knew he was mismanaging the country and digging future generations into a sinkhole. But they lacked courage, either because they needed to keep enjoying the perks of proximity to power, or courage was simply never part of their existence.
Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, recently made headlines when he said the Buhari administration left Nigeria bankrupt before relinquishing power.
“Yes, we’re facing budgetary constraints,” he said at this year’s Chief of Defence Intelligence Annual Conference. “It is important for you to know that we inherited a difficult situation, literally a bankrupt country, no money, to a point where we can say that all the money we’re getting now, we’re paying back what was taken. It is serious!”
Buhari not only exhibited poor knowledge of managing any economy, much less that of Nigeria, but also lacked managerial qualities. One of his own ministers said this much.
Adebayo Shittu, a former minister of communication under Buhari, and one of his confidants and allies even from their CPC days, said during a Channels TV interview that he never supervised ministers or other appointees. “In Buhari’s government, if you don’t go and meet him, for the next four years, he probably would not ask of you,” Shittu said.
Comments from those close to the former president are suggesting he was not qualified to be a manager, not of people, not of resources, and certainly not a c country. The result in Nigeria today is the worsening economic hardship, inflation rates hitting an 18-year high, and foreign exchange shortages amongst a litany of woes that are prompting widespread concerns among Nigerians. The Buhari administration even saw 71 million Nigerians being thrown into abject poverty, with the country now crowned the world’s poverty capital.
Until his last days in office, Buhari’s aides, chiefly, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, continued to tell Nigerians that the problem of the administration was the huge liabilities inherited from the past government under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). They continued to look back to the point that moving forward was impossible.
Now that Nigerians thought such an excuse would never come up, with the Bola Tinubu administration being an extension of Buhari’s same APC party, the same tune is now being sung.
A question that comes up is; if Buhari ran the country aground, should he not be called to question? But before leaving office, Buhari had said no one should call him to come and account for anything. “Nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in any court, otherwise, whoever it is would be in trouble because all important things are on record. I made sure about that. Important issues are all on record,” he said last year.
And no matter the pits of hell Nigeria may descend into in the coming months, it is doubtful the Tinubu administration would call the reckless, nonchalant former President to account for his time in office. Also, as one commentator put it, “In the meantime, he is not even looking back. He is not even hearing you. I doubt if he reads a paper or even watches TV. You are all on your own o! He is done and dusted.”
On a positive side, Shittu’s insights draw a clear distinction between the leadership styles of Buhari and Tinubu. While Buhari’s nonchalant approach allowed ministers significant autonomy, it lacked the proactive engagement Tinubu is demonstrating. This proactive stance, including explicit warnings on performance to ministers, signifies a commitment to doing things differently.
But then, his administration is struggling to establish itself legitimately, while also being confronted with a multitude of economic crises that have pushed Nigerians to the wall. For now, some members of the same ship that delivered the incumbent president Tinubu are being cautious as they now suddenly criticise Buhari, but it may be a matter of time before all caution is thrown away and the former president is fully rammed under the trains.