Did ex-Nigerian president Buhari admit that cabals hijacked his government? 

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Mohammed Ali Ndume, a federal lawmaker representing Borno South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, has claimed in a recent interview on national television that the former Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, recently admitted that some individuals in power hijacked his government.

Ndume, who doubles as the deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, stated this on December 1, 2023 when speaking about the details of the country’s proposed 2024 budget.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was sworn in as Nigeria’s new president on May 29, 2023, presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill of N27.5 trillion to the joint session of the 10th National Assembly on Wednesday, November 29, 2023.

Ndume, when expressing the need for massive recruitment in the military, said: “I’m sure he (Tinubu) is going to do it because he has started well with this budget. I believe in him (Tinubu), he can change things. The president here is in charge, that’s one thing with him. Sometimes, people even think that Tinubu is too authoritative, he takes charge unlike our former president (Buhari).

“(The former president) will just give you an assignment, he will not look over you. That’s where the problem is and he knows that. That was the mistake president Buhari did, he ended up confessing these days that he had more kleptocrats in his government than people that they have interest at heart. I was here when I said there were too many kleptocrats in the (Buhari’s) government. And now he confessed recently that truly…he admitted that there were some kind of people that took over power themselves. But in Tinubu’s government, you can’t do that.”

Buhari served two consecutive four-year terms as Nigeria’s democratically-elected president from 2015 to 2023.

In November 2023, multiple media reports from Vanguard, Daily Trust, and The Cable, as archived herehere, and here, claimed that during an exclusive interview with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Buhari said that his government might have been hijacked by a cabal.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a cabal is “a secret political clique or faction.”

CLAIM

Ex-Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari admitted that cabals hijacked his government.

 

THE FINDINGS

Checks show that the claim is MOSTLY FALSE.

To confirm the authenticity of the claim, this researcher checked Buhari’s exclusive interview with NTA, which was posted on the broadcast service’s YouTube page on November 21, 2023.

In the interview, Buhari fielded questions bordering on his administration as president and as well addressed the speculations about his cabinet.

In the latter part of the interview, Buhari was asked to respond to the view by many Nigerians that he was surrounded by people who were corrupt. In response, he rather asked about what the citizens had done in their role to fight corruption.

“Well, what have they done in their own role to fight corruption as Nigerians? That is their own problem, it’s not my problem.”

He added: “You just can’t say such a person is corrupt. He has five cars when he should have only one. He has five houses when he should have only one and he has so many girlfriends or so many wives. But what have you done to stop it? Is it not part of your role or your duty as a citizen to make sure that if you see somebody who is corrupt, to blow the whistle? Why don’t you have the courage to blow the whistle? To say look, you are only treasurer for a local government, how do you manage to build house?

“He didn’t build the house in the air. He built it somewhere either in his village or he went to Abuja.”

When asked whether the impression that his administration was hijacked by certain cabals was a figment of imagination or not, Buhari responded that it must have been the former. He reiterated the question about what citizens had done in their role in the fight against corruption.

His words: “It must have been, otherwise, why didn’t they talk? Why didn’t they say it? What do the people think they form themselves into a cabal and they are so important that they are not being questioned. What did they do about it?  Don’t they have a role as Nigerians if things are being done by government.”

He was further asked if he felt that his government was hijacked, and he responded, “No, because I don’t deliberately allow anybody to misuse public resources for himself or for me. I didn’t allow it. I can’t act on what I don’t know. I couldn’t have acted on what I didn’t know. But if people know and they decide to sit on their knowledge and refuse to…they are part of the problem.”

Again, Buhari was asked if he had seen anyone who would have been like a possible cabal during his time in government.

“No no no… Nobody was above the law and I don’t have any evidence of anybody doing anything wrong and being allowed to walk away, no,” Buhari said in response.

This researcher’s evaluation of Buhari’s responses in the interview showed that he did not admit that his government was hijacked by cabals.

The former president, while disregarding the impression of having cabals in his government, stated that there was no evidence to show that his government was hijacked by cabals. This was corroborated by media reports from The Punch and Daily Post, as seen here and here.

Meanwhile, Mrs Aisha Buhari had earlier in 2018 alleged that a cabal was running her husband’s (Buhari) government, though the then President Buhari denied the allegation, the Punch reported.

The President’s wife, Aisha, during an interview with British Broadcasting Service Hausa, had first alleged that her husband was being controlled by a cabal.

Premium Times had also reported in December 2019 that Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said “it was improper to refer to the president’s advisers as a ‘cabal’ and it is not true that they influence critical decisions of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.”

Media reports show that those routinely fingered as members of the his cabal include President Buhari’s nephew, Mallam Mamman Daura; his associate, Isa Funtua; his then Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and his wife, Aisha Buhari.

THE VERDICT

The claim that Buhari admitted that his government was hijacked by cabals is MOSTLY FALSE. During the recent interview he had with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), he described the impression that his government was hijacked as a figment of imagination, stating that he didn’t allow such to happen.

* This fact-check was written by Raji Olatunji, a fellow of the ICIR’s Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy project, supported by the German Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.

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