Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 29. An official in Nigeria says the new president’s wealth declaration shows that he has been living “an austere and Spartan lifestyle” compared to his predecessors and other senior government officials, with $150,000 in his personal account. (Sunday Alamba/AP)
By the standards of sub-Saharan African leaders, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is dirt-poor.
According to a statement released by his government, he has $150,000 in his savings account. He owns five homes and two mud houses, an orchard and ranch with 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses and a variety of birds. He has bought two cars from his savings
“President Buhari had no foreign account, no factory and no enterprises. He also had no registered company and no oil wells,” reads the statement released by the spokesman, Garba Shehu, describing the president’s assets as “Spartan.”
The question on many minds is this: Is Buhari, Nigeria’s former military ruler and ex-head of the oil ministry, telling the truth?
Corruption, after all, is a major problem in Africa’s largest economy. Buhari himself has publicly said that more than $150 billion is missing from the government’s coffers. Still, the public declaration appears to be an attempt to show some much-needed transparency. Buhari was elected in March largely by promising that he wouldn’t tolerate corruption.
What’s clear is that Buhari has done what his predecessors — and most other African leaders — have never done.
Consider these five other African leaders. They have been labeled by Forbes Magazine as the “five worst leaders in Africa.”
1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea
He’s Africa’s longest-serving ruler, an autocrat who leads the tiny, oil-rich West African nation of Equatorial Guinea. Despite its vast natural wealth, the majority of its people live in deep poverty with no access to clean drinking water, proper educational or health facilities. One fifth of children die before age 5. The money has gone into the pockets of Mbasogo and his family. They own luxury properties in the United States and other countries, a private jet and a fleet of luxury cars.
2. José Eduardo dos Santos, president of Angola
He’s Africa’s second-longest-serving leader. Angola is the continent’s second-largest oil producer, and one of the biggest suppliers of oil to the United States. It also has massive diamond deposits. Dos Santos’s relatives hold key positions in his government and control a huge share of Angola’s economy, amid widespread allegations of corruption. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives in dire poverty, and a third of the nation’s children are malnourished.
3. Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe
He has ruled the southern African nation for a quarter-century. He was the architect of controversial policies, most notably the seizure of white-owned commercial farms. Though the country in recent years has seen an economic rebound, Mugabe remains one of the continent’s most autocratic rulers. He wields nearly total control of government institutions, and his loyalists have used violence to retain control. Human rights abuses are rife, while unemployment remains among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
4. Omar Al-Bashir, president of Sudan
Bashir seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1989 and has since disbanded political parties, the nation’s parliament and many privately-owned media outlets. Under his rule, civil war erupted, in which more than 1 million people were killed. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the killing and rape of civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region. A U.S. diplomatic cable, leaked by Wikileaks, unveiled that Bashir may have stolen as much as $9 billion from state coffers and deposited it into his private bank accounts in Great Britain.
5. King Mswati III, king of Swaziland
He is the continent’s last reigning monarch, presiding over a nation with one of the world’s highest HIV rates, where average life expectancy — 33 years — is among the lowest in the world. Despite his people’s suffering, the king leads a lavish life with a taste for luxury cars, first-class travel and expensive parties, even as the nation’s economy is in dire straits.