Former President Muhammadu Buhari has finally addressed the issue of petrol subsidy removal and its potential impact on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his successor, Bola Tinubu, during the last general elections.
Buhari’s response was conveyed through his former spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a statement.
According to the statement, Buhari acknowledged the steps taken by the new administration in implementing the removal of petrol subsidy and working towards unifying the Naira exchange rate. He also commended these actions.
Shehu explained that the statement was released in response to persistent questions raised by critics regarding the swift removal of petrol subsidy by Tinubu compared to the years it took for Buhari’s administration to address the issue.
The statement further highlighted that if the Petroleum Industry Act, which included the removal of petrol subsidy, had been implemented before the 2023 elections, polling data indicated that the ruling party would have faced a significant risk of losing the election.
In the statement titled “Buhari didn’t fail to remove subsidy “, Shehu wrote: “Why did it take the new Tinubu/ Shettima presidency weeks to remove the petrol subsidy when Buhari didn’t do so for years fails to ask the right question.
“The massive electricity subsidy. The fraudulent fertilizer subsidy. Hajj/Christian Pilgrim subsidies. Remember them?
“The diesel subsidy. The aviation fuel subsidy. LPFO. Kerosene. Cooking gas and the other subsidy policies we found in place, and put them firmly on the ground. Remember them?
“For those with short memories, many of those subsides were all in place when president Buhari was elected to office in 2015: all those in place were gone by May 2023 – including the annual fertilizer subsidy that weighed 60-100 billion Naira (that’s trillion naira in about 10 years – yes you read that right) heavy on the federal budget each year.
“So no, Buhari didn’t remove the petrol subsidy – but in vitally important stages he removed every other budget-busting, egregious, economic-growth-crushing subsidy along the way.
“So far I have refrained from answering these repeated questions on the removal in Nigeria of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS and that arising from the dual rates of the Naira in the Central Bank and the parallel market: Why did Buhari ‘fail’ to do these?
“First of all, my thinking is that instead of the former President answering this question, it is the Party, the All Progressives Congress, APC that is best suited to speak and failing to do this, we are forced to say what will follow here.
“Secondly, we are mindful of the fact that with a Tinubu/Shettima presidency now in place and for which there is a ‘New Sheriff in Town’.
“We do not want to distract them from the onerous tasks facing them and the nation. Neither is it our wish to take the spotlight away from them in any way.
“In terms of the timings of the decisions to remove fuel subsidy and unify the currency, the Tinubu/Shettima administration has done overwhelmingly well. Even more importantly, they have been most dexterous in managing the aftermath of the decisions by successfully avoiding any crisis.
“To this extent, our wish and prayers are that fellow countrymen will continue to support the new leadership in these very laudable decisions and, in particular, for the Labour leadership and civil society to work with them to ensure that the palliative efforts as promised are successfully implemented.
“The decision to remove subsidies, as in our case – and we believe in all situations – was not for the President to take all by himself.
“That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves – and all those who have conveniently forgotten – that Buhari administration had been on this pathway from the very beginning in 2015.
“Removing subsidies for the Naira and PMS was cued and put on hold. Look for example in the Petroleum Industry Act. The important decision was kept for a better time.
“It could not have come at a time when tensions were high in the country and no responsible leader would have added fuel to the fire.
“In the view of many-including those in the security circles- only a new administration with goodwill that fills a warehouse can attempt this, and here now comes in the wit and grit of the Tinubu government.
“Finally, 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.
“Poll after polls showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made.
“With the election now behind us, a capable leader as we now have in place is best positioned to move forward. We have nothing but confidence that the new administration will carry the nation and all its constituents into a stable future in the aftermath of these major economic and financial decisions.
“As they say, there are times when you have to lose in order to win.”