Fact-checking comments on religion, Boko Haram, Abacha attributed to President Buhari

IN the heat of the accusations and counter-accusations that Nigeria’s Minister for Communications Isa Pantami was sympathetic to terrorists and terrorist organisations, a collage of pictures of the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, with quotes attributed to him surfaced online. 

On April 22, 2021, a Twitter user, replied to a tweet about terrorism in Nigeria, with the collage which has eight quotes. The when or where the president made these statements were not indicated in the photo collage.

Aside from the tweet by @EdetZamani, a google reverse image search done by the FactCheckHub showed that the image had appeared on multiple places online which includes; Twitter here and here,  Facebook here, blog here, to mention but a few.

Further checks showed that the image has been online on or before 2018.

One thing that is common at the places where the picture was shared was the allegation of President Buhari’s religious extremism and intolerance. Some tagged it “Hate speech”.

The FactCheckHub verified the comments attributed to the president and rate their authenticity or lack of it accordingly. You can read about FactCheckHub’s rating gauge here.

Buhari Fact Check
The comments attributed to Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria.

Claim 1

I will continue to show openly and inside me, the total commitment to the Sharia movement all over Nigeria.

FINDINGS:  Media reports indicate that Buhari made this statement in 2001.

A South African online news platform News24.com  in a 2001 report sourced from a news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Buhari as saying  “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria,” and “God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.”

A  France 24 report titled, ‘Muhammadu Buhari: ‘The converted democrat?’ which was done after he won the 2015 election noted the above statement as one of the fails of Buhari.

The statement was later referenced in articles published by Vanguard  Newspaper and The Cable

Verdict: True

Claim 2

“Why should Christians be concerned when Muslims cut off their limbs? After all, the limbs cut off are Muslim ones”.

FINDINGS: There are several references to this statement on social media. However, the FactCheckHub did not find other sources to authenticate it aside from an article published in Vanguard Newspaper in 2014.

The article was credited to a former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode who claimed Buhari made the statement.

Verdict: Not enough information to validate or debunk the claim.

Claim 3

“No No No, Abacha did not steal Nigeria’s money”.

FINDINGS: In 2008, Buhari noted that the late military Head of State, Sani Abacha did not loot the national treasury.  This generated criticism from several quarters, including a statement from the Action Congress (AC) party issued by its then National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed.

Mohammed is the current Minister for Information under Buhari’s government.

In subsequent years, Buhari came to the defence of Abacha, and he has been repeatedly called out to tender an apology to Nigerians even as his government received recovered funds referred to as ‘Abacha loot‘.

Although the FactCheckHub could not trace the exact phrasing of the comment, the statement is consistent with Buhari’s stand on the issue.

Verdict: True

Claim 4

“I can die for the cause of Islam if necessary. We are prepared to fight another civil war”.

FINDINGS: This comment is a combination of two different statements.

2014 academic book edited by Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos titled ‘Boko Haram: Islamism, politics, security and the state in Nigeria’ referenced the statements.

Buhari was quoted to have said “I can die for the cause of Islam” while a former governor of a North-Eastern state in Nigeria was quoted to have added, “If necessary, we are prepared to fight another civil war. We cannot be blackmailed into killing Sharia”.

The book cited “Anarchists threaten nation’s unity”, Tell, 29 October 2001,  page 36 as its source.

This comment was also referenced on page 24 of the book: ‘Violent non-state actors Africa’.

The comment is Half True because only a part of it was stated by Buhari.

Verdict: Half True

Claim 5

“The declaration of state of emergency to fight Boko Haram in 3 northern states is a grave injustice against the north”.

FINDINGS: Former president Goodluck Jonathan had in May 2013 declared a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states after a series of deadly attacks. This move was criticised by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) who said Jonathan’s action was a declaration of war against Northern Nigeria.

A few weeks after, Buhari echoed a similar sentiment on a radio programme.

Even though not in the exact phrasing, Buhari had described Jonathan’s action as “injustice”.

He also compared the activities and treatment of the Niger-Delta militants to those in the north who he felt got the short-end of the stick.

His comment was reported and referenced in several places including here, here and here and more recently here.

Verdict: True

Muhammadu Buhari.
Muhammadu Buhari.

Claim 6

“We cannot be blackmailed into killing the Sharia idea. Sharia must be spread all over Nigeria”.

FINDINGS: The first part of the comment “We cannot be blackmailed into killing Sharia” has been linked to a former northeast governor. However, Buhari has also called for the implementation of  Sharia.

Buhari said, “God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country”. This was interpreted by some as a call for implementation across all states while those who came to his defence said it a call for full implementation in Muslim-dominated states.

The statement is Mostly False because it is partly a comment made by another person. However, Buhari had called for the implementation of Sharia.

Verdict: Mostly True

Claim 7

“Boko Haram members should be pampered and given VIP treatment not killed. It’s Injustice to kill them”.

FINDINGS:  Although not in the exact phrasing, Buhari in 2013  compared the activities and treatment of the Niger-Delta militants by the Nigerian government to those of the insurgents in the North East.

He said, “You see, in the case of the Niger-Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua sent an aeroplane to bring them, he sat down with them and discussed with them, they were cajoled, and they were given money and granted amnesty.”



    “They were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the north were being killed and their houses were being demolished. They are different issues, what brought this? It is injustice”.

    Verdict: Mostly True

    Claim 8

    “Muslims should only vote those who will promote Islam. We are more than the Christians if you add our Muslim brothers in the south”.

    FINDINGS: The FactCheckHub findings showed that Buhari in 2001 said people should vote for Muslim candidates.

    Tell Magazine of  July 30, 2001, in a special report titled, Riding the Sharia Tiger’ stated that Buhari speaking in Hausa language, made the call in Sokoto at a book launch on Sharia.

    A month later, this was referenced in another report.

    Verdict: Mostly True 

    Bamas Victoria is a multimedia journalist resident in Nigeria.

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