General Buhari's military career included command of three of the Nigerian army's divisions, as well as political appointments as governor from 1975-76 of the then-North-Eastern State; federal commissioner (minister) for petroleum and energy, 1976-78; chairman, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 1978-79. Head of State from 1984-85, General Buhari spent 40 months as a political detainee after his ouster.

From 1995 until its abolition in 1999, he was executive chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), created to apply to Nigerian development the proceeds of a 1994 increase in the price of petroleum products.

General Buhari entered politics in 2002, becoming a member, and later presidential candidate, of ANPP, the principal party challenging PDP at federal and state levels, and now the governing party in seven states.