November 26, 2022

Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria’s unelected head of state turned elected president

Gen Buhari Image Courtesy: Chatham House
Muhammadu Buhari at the Chatham House in London in April 2015. Image Courtesy: Chatham House

Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:20 am

Muhammadu Buhari was elected as the President of Nigeria in 2015 and re-elected to a second term in 2019. According to the Nigerian constitution, he cannot run for a third term in 2023.

President Joe Biden speaks with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after a meeting on the Build Back Better World initiative, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, during the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Buhari has also held the position of Nigeria’s unelected military Head of State from 1983 to 1985 after serving as Major General when a military coup d’état ousted the elected President at the time, bringing an end to the Second Nigerian Republic.

The former unelected Nigerian ruler, Muhammadu Buhari has claimed to be politically born again and described himself as a converted democrat. Buhari became the first Nigerian Presidential candidate to defeat the incumbent when he beat President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan in 2015.

President Buhari is a member of the All Progressives Congress, the largest Nigerian political party, which considers itself to be ideologically center-left.

Buhari’s socio-political and economic philosophies hav been termed Buharism. This ideology places an emphasis on moving the political economy away from the control of elites and into the control of a productive class.

Shortly after taking office, Buhari established the National Social Investment Program, which is meant to lead to a more equitable distribution of resources and economic opportunities.

As a candidate and as President, Muhammadu Buhari has preached anti-corruption, progress, and economic equality. However, he has also been widely criticized as his administration has been compared by some to a military regime rather than a democratic republic. Buhari’s critics question how reformed he really is and the extent to which he has embraced the civil liberties that are fundamental to democracy.

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In 2022, nonprofit Freedom House gave Nigeria a freedom score of 43/100. This is a 7 point decrease from 5 years prior when Nigeria scored a 50/100.

Nigeria’s most pressing issues during Buhari’s presidency include the rise of extremist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram which have threatened national security. The ongoing clash between insurgent groups and federal security forces have caused regional economic instability.

In June of 2021, Twitter deleted several tweets from President Buhari and temporarily suspended his account for comments made about insurgency in Southeastern Nigeria that were deemed as misinformation. Shortly thereafter, Buhari and the federal government issued a nationwide ban on Twitter which it upheld through January of 2022. This ban drew condemnation from the international community and institutions including Amnesty International, alleging that it indicates an “alarming backsliding on human rights across Nigeria.”

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