In response to the ‘challenge’ he left for Bola Tinubu, the former president Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, broke his silence. He said that had the policy been put into place, Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, or APC, would have lost the most recent general election.
However, the former president applauded the actions taken thus far by the current administration in implementing the removal of the petrol subsidy and endeavor to equalize the Naira currency rate through a statement issued through his former spokesman, Garba Shehu.
According to Shehu, the statement was made in response to frequent questions from some detractors who questioned why it took Tinubu only a few weeks to end the petrol subsidy but Buhari took years.
He claimed that if the Petroleum Industry Act, which contains the withdrawal of the gasoline subsidy, had been put into effect earlier, the ruling party would have lost the 2023 election.
Shehu asked the wrong question in his statement headlined “Buhari didn’t fail to remove subsidy” when he said: “Why did it take the new Tinubu/Shettima presidency weeks to eliminate the petrol subsidy but Buhari didn’t do it for years.
“The significant subsidy for power. the fictitious subsidy for fertilizer. Christian and Hajj pilgrim subsidies. Recall them?
“The subsidy for diesel. the subsidy for aviation fuel. LPFO. Kerosene. We established the policies for cooking gas and the other subsidies we discovered in existence. Recall them?
For those who don’t remember, many of these subsidies were already in place when President Buhari was elected to office in 2015; all of them were eliminated by May 2023, including the annual fertilizer subsidy, which weighed 60–100 billion Naira (that’s trillion Naira in about 10 years, yes you read that right) heavily on the federal budget each year.
“So no, Buhari didn’t get rid of the fuel subsidy, but he did get rid of every other outrageous, budget-busting subsidy along the road that was stifling economic progress.
Why did Buhari “fail” to do these things? This issue has been asked repeatedly about the elimination of subsidies for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in Nigeria and that resulting from the dual rates of the Naira in the Central Bank and the parallel market.
“First of all, in my opinion, the party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is best prepared to respond to this topic rather than the former President. If the party declines to do so, we are compelled to say what is to follow.
“Secondly, we are aware that a Tinubu/Shettima presidency is now in place, and that there is a “New Sheriff in Town,” therefore we do not want to divert them from the difficult duties that they and the country must complete.
“Neither is it our intention to in any way detract from their prominence.
“The Tinubu/Shettima administration has done overwhelmingly well in terms of the timeliness of the choices to abolish gasoline subsidies and unify the currency.
“Even more critically, they have avoided any crises with great skill, handling the fallout from the decisions.
To this end, we hope and pray that our countrymen will continue to support the new leadership in making these admirable choices. In particular, we ask that the Labour leadership and civil society join forces with them to make sure that the promised palliative efforts are carried out.
“The President did not have sole authority to decide whether to eliminate subsidies, as was the case in our instance and, in our opinion, in all circumstances.
“That’s why it’s critical that we remind ourselves — and everyone else who has conveniently forgotten — that the Buhari administration had been on this course since the start of 2015,”
“Removing Naira and PMS subsidies was signaled and put on hold. Take the Petroleum Industry Act as an illustration. The crucial choice was postponed until later.
It could not have happened at a time when national tensions were high and no respectable leader would have stoked the flames.
Many people, especially those in the security community, believe that only a new administration with enough goodwill to fill a warehouse can do this. This is where the Tinubu government’s wit and tenacity come into play.
Last but not least, we need to be politically honest with ourselves. Due to the APC’s need to win an election, the Buhari administration was unable to continue in its last days.
“And that would have been the case with any political party running for re-election with a new leader at the helm.
“Poll after poll indicated that if the decision envisioned under the new Petroleum Industry Act had been made, the party would have been removed from office.
“Now that the election is over, we are in the best position to move forward with a capable leader in place as we currently have.
“In the wake of these significant economic and financial decisions, we have nothing but faith that the new administration will lead the country and all of its people towards a stable future.