Former President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, broke his silence on the petrol subsidy removal ‘challenge’ he left for his successor, saying, had the policy been implemented, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Bola Tinubu would have lost the election.
In a statement through his former spokesman, Garba Shehu, Buhari, however, commended steps by the new administration in removing the subsidy and attempt to unify naira exchange rate.
Shehu said the statement was in response to queries by some critics who have questioned why it took Tinubu only weeks to remove the subsidy, which Buhari didn’t do for several years.
According to him, successive polls indicated that the ruling party would have lost the 2023 election, if the Petroleum Industry Act, containing the petrol subsidy removal, was implemented earlier.
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 fertiliser 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 yearly fertiliser subsidy that weighed N60-N100 billion (that’s a 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 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 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 the 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 a 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.”