PRES­I­DENT MO­HAM­MADU BUHARI

THISDAY Style - - COVER -

With the Nige­rian elec­tions com­ing up next month, Arise TV News and it’s sis­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion, THISDAY News­pa­pers have be­gun hold­ing a first of its kind se­ries of one-on-one pres­i­den­tial de­bates to help vot­ers learn more about the two fore­front pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari and for­mer Vice-Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar. The first to par­tic­i­pate in this voter ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­ity, ex­clu­sive only to THISDAY News­pa­pers and ARISE TV News chan­nel is Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent and flag-bearer of All Pro­gres­sive Party (APC) who pre­ferred the in­clu­sive recorded ses­sion in­stead. The team con­sist­ing of the Chair­man/Ed­i­tor in Chief of Arise TV News and THISDAY News­pa­pers, Nduka Obaigbena, Eniola Bello, Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of THISDAY News­pa­pers, Kay­ode Komolafe, Deputy Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of THISDAY News­pa­pers, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of ARISE TV News, Se­gun Adeniyi, Chair­man of THISDAY Board and for­mer spokesman for late Pres­i­dent Umaru Musa Yar’dua, Bo­laji Adebiyi, Daily Ed­i­tor of THISDAY News­pa­pers, spent 90

min­utes with the Pres­i­dent in a no-holds barred in­ter­view fo­cused on is­sues like lapses in se­cu­rity, fight against cor­rup­tion, the econ­omy, poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and in­fra­struc­ture deficits.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu looked much health­ier and re­laxed, as he tack­led the ques­tions thrown at him no mat­ter how hard, which in it­self, will en­able Nige­ri­ans see him in a clearer light, ob­serve his body lan­guage and gauge his con­fi­dence level on the job. This defin­ing mo­ment will no doubt in­form Nige­ri­ans with the knowl­edge they need to de­cide who best to vote for, which is the sole pur­pose of this ex­er­cise. Nige­ri­ans, no doubt, ea­gerly await the next leg of the one-on-one Pres­i­den­tial se­ries com­ing up with for­mer Vice-Pres­i­dent, and the flag bearer of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar.

THISDAY Style has pro­vided an ex­clu­sive cour­tesy of As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor- State house cor­re­spon­dent, OMOLOLU OGUNMADE re­ports...

In 2015 you cam­paigned on a tri­pod of restor­ing se­cu­rity, im­prov­ing the econ­omy and fight­ing cor­rup­tion. Three years on, how will you as­sess the jour­ney?

Thank you so much. It is in­se­cu­rity first and I ex­plained that we would help se­cure the coun­try to man­age it prop­erly. The sec­ond agenda is the econ­omy and the third is fight­ing cor­rup­tion. On the econ­omy, the youths con­sti­tute over 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion and a lot of them are un­em­ployed. Po­ten­tially, they are very big dan­gers to the coun­try.

Of course, on cor­rup­tion, I was con­strained to go pub­lic in re­cent times. So many times on the prob­lem of cor­rup­tion, I have chal­lenged any of the elite to check in Eu­rope, United States and Asia; to check what Nige­ria was get­ting from 1999 to 2014, the 16 years of the PDP. Oil pro­duc­tion was 2.1 mil­lion bar­rels per day and oil price was over $100 per bar­rel. It went to $143 per bar­rel, but when we came, it col­lapsed to $38, $48 per bar­rel and was also os­cil­lat­ing be­tween $48 and $58 per bar­rel be­fore it picked up. I also went to the Cen­tral Bank. I said ‘any sav­ings?’ The gover­nor said ‘no sav­ings.’ This is what we in­her­ited and you know the state of in­fra­struc­ture more than I do – the poor con­di­tion of the roads, the rail was killed. What­ever way we can get money, that is why we are by fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

Let’s take it one by one. Let’s start with in­se­cu­rity. The North-east was a ma­jor prob­lem when you took over as a re­sult of the ac­tiv­i­ties of Boko Haram in­sur­gents. You have re­peat­edly said that the in­sur­gents have been tech­ni­cally de­feated. How­ever, in the last few weeks, killings and raid­ing of com­mu­ni­ties had re­sumed. What is the prob­lem? Why has the mil­i­tary been un­able to fight Boko Haram as they should? In Zam­fara State, the the gover­nor called for emer­gency rule; and in your state, Katsina, the gover­nor com­plained few weeks ago that kid­nap­pers and rob­bers have put the state un­der siege. In Benue, in Plateau, in Kaduna there are in­ces­sant killings. Why have you been un­able to ad­dress these?

From the main one that you men­tioned in the North­east, Boko Haram used to oc­cupy 17 lo­cal gov­ern­ments mostly in Borno and Yobe States but now, phys­i­cally, they are not hold­ing any lo­cal gov­ern­ment. They in­doc­tri­nate young peo­ple mostly boys and make churches, mosques, mo­tor parks and mar­kets their soft tar­gets. This you know be­cause you are re­port­ing it your­selves. There is re­ally what I can call fa­tigue in the mil­i­tary but there has been a war­fare on ter­ror­ism.

You talked of Zam­fara, Benue, you didn’t men­tion Taraba. You see, the prob­lem that you the press can help to solve is to ask for re­spon­si­ble re­portage. The rea­son is this, the num­ber of peo­ple killed in Taraba and Benue are not up to the num­ber of peo­ple killed in Zam­fara State but then, what the lead­er­ship of Taraba and Benue were do­ing, be­cause I went through news­pa­per ar­ti­cles, they were giv­ing it re­li­gious or eth­nic tone. This was very un­fair to Nige­ri­ans.

Orig­i­nal herds­men used sticks and cut­lasses oc­ca­sion­ally to cut fo­liage and give to their an­i­mals. But these ones are hav­ing AK47 ri­fles and peo­ple refuse to re­flect on the demise of (Muam­mar) Gadaffi. Gadaffi was in power for 43 years, at some stage, he de­cided to re­cruit peo­ple from Mali, Burk­ina Faso, from Niger, from Nige­ria, Chad and from Cen­tral African Repub­lic. These per­sons, we were not told were elec­tri­cians, brick­lay­ers but were trained to shoot and kill. But when the op­po­si­tion in Libya and Su­dan suc­ceeded in killing him, we en­coun­tered some of them in the North­east and they are all over the place in Mali, Burk­ina Faso, Niger. You know it. That is our prob­lem.

You asked what I have done about it. You will find out if you ask the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice and the gover­nor of Zam­fara State that we vir­tu­ally changed all the of­fi­cers that served for more than two years in Zam­fara State and we did a lot. There are is­sues that I can’t go pub­lic on as the com­man­der-in-chief be­cause it will af­fect the morale of the men in the front whether they are sol­diers or po­lice­men.

The sit­u­a­tion in the North­west or the North­east is rel­a­tively bet­ter. But kid­nap­ping got worse from Kaduna to Port Har­court, from La­gos to Maid­uguri and we are do­ing some­thing about it. The kid­nap­pers are or­gan­ised. They are damn self­ish. What they want is to get peo­ple who suc­ceed. They ei­ther kill their par­ents, spouses, chil­dren and make a lot of money. We are do­ing our best to track them us­ing tech­nol­ogy and us­ing com­mit­ted Nige­ri­ans who will re­port to us. I’m not de­fend­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges but you know that af­ter 16 years of PDP, with the re­sources that I just men­tioned to you, there is so much of re­sources at their dis­posal and they will do any­thing to use those re­sources at their dis­posal to dis­cour­age this ad­min­is­tra­tion but I thank God be­cause Nige­ri­ans are un­der­stand­ing and the lead­er­ship of this ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing its best un­der the cir­cum­stance and we as­sure Nige­ri­ans that our pri­or­i­ties re­main the same.

Why have you not changed the ser­vice chiefs and the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice. One, they have reached the end of their ten­ure and two, with height­ened in­se­cu­rity across the coun­try, they are not do­ing their job ef­fec­tively.

Well, I ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for that. But I as­sure you that I am not afraid of the sol­diers or the po­lice but my un­der­stand­ing of se­cu­rity is that when we have an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, we have to be care­ful in tam­per­ing with the heads of se­cu­rity. This is one of my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. I had been a gover­nor. I had been a min­is­ter. I had been a head of state. I had tried to come to this of­fice three times. I was able to come the fourth time.

So, re­ally, I mea­sure the op­tions crit­i­cally. When we are in the emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, if you re­move the ser­vice chiefs, if you don’t wait for ap­pro­pri­ate time to do it, you will cre­ate a com­pe­ti­tion in the ser­vice. There are many of­fi­cers in the ser­vice, but only one man can be­come the Chief of Army Staff. Only one man can be­come Chief of Air Staff. Only one man can be­come the In­spec­tor-gen­eral of Po­lice. Don’t for­get that it is this ad­min­is­tra­tion that ap­pointed all of them.

I didn’t know any of them re­ally. I fol­lowed the records and I thought that I picked the best men. Of course, their per­for­mance may be a bit

I ask you, where were the elite when there was ir­re­spon­si­ble ex­pen­di­ture of pub­lic money? Why did they tol­er­ate it? Ed­u­cate the peo­ple and see their re­ac­tion. Where were the elite when these peo­ple were tak­ing the money? The Nige­rian elite are sup­posed to know how much the coun­try is earn­ing, where it is go­ing. Why did they ac­com­mo­date ir­re­spon­si­ble ex­pen­di­ture of the 16 years of PDP?

dis­ap­point­ing, but I ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for not chang­ing them. But my rea­son is based on my own ex­pe­ri­ence. I think in han­dling the heads of mil­i­tary ser­vices, one has to be care­ful be­cause you don’t know the am­bi­tion of those com­ing up.

You said there was fa­tigue ear­lier. Don’t you think that these ser­vice chiefs are tired?

It is those of­fi­cers that are in the trenches. Of course, you can re­call that at a cer­tain stage, I told them to move the op­er­a­tional head­quar­ters to the North­east. It is good that you ar­range re­train­ing be­fore chang­ing them.

They are do­ing it but these things, they are the types that you don’t go pub­lic about. Some of them haven’t seen their fam­i­lies for six months. So, this ques­tion of morale may be cor­rect. It may be the wife that is tak­ing care of the chil­dren. But it is some­thing that must be done prop­erly. If you don’t do it prop­erly, then you will start blam­ing the lead­er­ship.

What of the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice? He is not only in­ef­fec­tive, he has be­come par­ti­san and the im­pres­sion out there is that you are only keep­ing him there for elec­tion pur­poses?

I have ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity. I don’t think I am afraid of him and I don’t think I have or­gan­ised a road­block to say that I will lose some part of my rev­enues if I re­move him. I will take ac­tion.

For al­most four years now, we know that oil price has plunged. You have stated many times the state of the econ­omy, how you met an empty trea­sury. How­ever, crim­i­nal­ity is high among the youth. We will like to know what you have done on the econ­omy be­cause unem­ploy­ment has moved to 23.1 mil­lion. How are you go­ing to as­sure Nige­ri­ans that you will fix the econ­omy should you be re­turned for sec­ond term?

Thank you very much. I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion was lucky. We prayed too hard to God. In our own case, we were very lucky in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the rain was very good. I am sure that you know that we vir­tu­ally achieved food se­cu­rity. You es­pe­cially who are re­spon­si­ble for in­form­ing Nige­ri­ans, you may have failed in my own opin­ion to fully ap­pre­ci­ate what was hap­pen­ing and what we did in agri­cul­ture. We made fer­til­izer avail­able and we are pro­duc­ing it lo­cally. We work to­gether with an­other African coun­try, Mo­rocco.

Se­condly, I called the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and the gover­nor of Cen­tral Bank. I spoke with them but what we in­her­ited from the colo­nial­ists is no longer vi­able. You take a fam­ily, maybe they have 15 hectares. If they want a loan to buy fer­til­izer to en­hance their agri­cul­tural in­put, they have to get a sur­veyor to sur­vey their land and take it to the bank as col­lat­eral to get loan. In the past, they might tell you from this tree to that tree is my own and not in terms of me­tres.

So, I called the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture. I said you have to do one thing. We want to go back and do what we were do­ing in the in the First Repub­lic. You re­mem­ber Awolowo’s Co-op­er­a­tive. It was the most suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment pol­icy then. I said ‘go and read about it and go and see how you can give farm­ers loans – soft loans with­out in­ter­est as long as the vil­lage head can say this fam­ily has got this land, that will be their col­lat­eral and then, you give them loans,’ and this suc­ceeded in what we did in 2016 and 2017 and 2018. I’m sure that you have felt it. We don’t im­port rice vir­tu­ally any more. We have stopped im­port­ing rice and we even ex­port grains. But we want self-suf­fi­ciency in maize so that chicken feeds can be made lo­cally. We have made tremen­dous progress in agri­cul­ture and some of the is­sues of unem­ploy­ment have been ad­dressed through agri­cul­ture.

I en­cour­age you to do some study on how much we have done in agri­cul­ture and peo­ple are less de­pen­dent on oil now and we have suc­ceeded in per­suad­ing the mil­i­tants (in the Niger Delta) that con­sti­tu­tion­ally are en­ti­tled to 13 per­cent deriva­tion. With 13 per­cent deriva­tion there, we can do pro­duc­tion. They can’t claim that they must be given ev­ery­thing. I have a lot of re­spect for those who did our con­sti­tu­tion. They did a lot of work. So, I am per­suad­ing the mil­i­tants to try and un­der­stand and ac­cept the 13 per cent deriva­tion in the con­sti­tu­tion. The rest be­longs to the coun­try. But what are peo­ple mak­ing trou­ble for? I sit here and won­der, what were they do­ing for 16 years? Did you know what was hap­pen­ing? Did you know the con­di­tion of the road from here to Onit­sha, from here to Port Har­court. The last we saw (road re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion) was in Abacha’s time.

Now, we are do­ing the roads. We are do­ing the rail. In power (sec­tor), we are work­ing on gas from Mam­bila to Plateau with what is avail­able to us. So, I will rec­om­mend that you see the gover­nor of Cen­tral Bank and the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and most im­por­tantly, (Ba­batunde) Fashola, the Min­is­ter of Works, Hous­ing and Power and tell you how much of money out of what we have that we are ded­i­cat­ing to in­fra­struc­ture which we think will pro­vide em­ploy­ment, pro­vide the in­dus­tri­al­ists with fa­cil­i­ties to em­ploy peo­ple. I think that if you try to com­pare what we have done from the time we came in till now with the re­sources avail­able, I think you should be here to co­op­er­ate with me.

Your com­ment on food se­cu­rity with due re­spect, ac­tu­ally con­tra­dicts what we have. If we have achieved food se­cu­rity, we will not have the large unem­ploy­ment rate that we have. Agri­cul­ture is the largest em­ployer of labour, not man­u­fac­tur­ing. If we have achieved self-suf­fi­ciency in farm pro­duce, we will not have the rate of poverty that we have. It is an in­con­tro­vert­ible fact that Nige­ria has taken over as the poverty cap­i­tal of poverty of the world. So, how would we have achieved food se­cu­rity when we have 64 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in poverty? So, there is a con­flict in what you have said.

Well, there will be a con­flict be­cause you have the fig­ures and I have the facts.

Fig­ures are facts.

I am telling you. That is why I rec­om­mended that you see the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and the Gover­nor of Cen­tral Bank. How much money

I as­sure you that all the as­sets, houses and ho­tels be­long­ing to those we in­ter­ro­gated and ar­rested have been sold. Their bank ac­counts were frozen and the con­tracts given to their com­pa­nies were sold and I in­structed that all the money should go through the TSA. I think you should tell the peo­ple what we have done so far with loot re­cov­ery. We are still try­ing to re­cover hun­dreds of bil­lions of Naija stuck in Eu­rope and Amer­ica.

Nige­ria was be­ing al­lo­cated to im­port rice, to im­port other food items and how much we are spend­ing now on food im­por­ta­tion? It will be im­pos­si­ble if we look at the im­prove­ment on our money in terms of what the Cen­tral Bank has done. Our for­eign re­serves by which other na­tions as­sess our cur­rency, when we came in, was $24 bil­lion, but now it is $43 bil­lion.

I think some of these ques­tions, if you get to the Cen­tral Bank, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Min­istry of Works, Hous­ing and Power, they will an­swer them with facts and fig­ures be­cause they will tell you where we were when we came, where we are now and what we have been able to do with the re­sources avail­able to us. To be fair to this ad­min­is­tra­tion, this is the best we can do and peo­ple will un­der­stand be­cause they are ones who know what is hap­pen­ing. Last year there was heavy flood­ing in Bayelsa, in Kogi and in Kebbi. But notwith­stand­ing, Nige­ri­ans are very re­silient. They bounced back and we had rel­a­tively good har­vests. And I am as­sur­ing you about this good har­vest.

This is one of the great­est suc­cesses of this ad­min­is­tra­tion. Peo­ple are go­ing back to the farm. If you bor­row money from the Min­istry or Cen­tral Bank and went to the farm and af­ter har­vest, you give the money, no­body asks you for bal­ance but if you bor­row money from com­mer­cial bank, they will be chas­ing you around be­cause your cer­tifi­cate is with them.

De­spite your ad­min­is­tra­tion’s so­cial in­vest­ment pro­gramme, poverty rate is still very high. If you are re-elected, what will you do dif­fer­ently?

What I will do dif­fer­ently is to en­cour­age the peo­ple to go back to the land, seek for loans from the Cen­tral Bank and from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture so that they can pro­duce more be­cause I as­sure you that peo­ple have re­alised that by go­ing back to the land, farm­ers are no longer looked down upon.

They are be­ing re­spected and as I told you. From per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, we are very happy with what farm­ers are do­ing. Look at the ef­forts we made in fer­til­izer. We have stopped im­port­ing some fer­til­izer now be­cause we are get­ting the raw ma­te­ri­als from Mo­rocco and we have got the gas here. We have got so many fer­til­izer fac­to­ries on ground and we are get­ting it half the price it used to be. They are avail­able vir­tu­ally in all states. So, I think we have made some progress.

As much as you said you are do­ing a lot in agri­cul­ture, peo­ple are afraid to stay on their farms now be­cause of the vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties of herders and cat­tle rustlers. How are you ad­dress­ing this chal­lenge?

I have told you what we have been do­ing. I think the law en­force­ment agen­cies must be more ef­fi­cient in deal­ing with ab­duc­tors, cat­tle rustlers. Again, it is what we can find out from the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment. I called him and said I knew that there used to be cat­tle tracks and graz­ing ar­eas and this was in the First Repub­lic and any cat­tle rearer that al­lowed his cat­tle to stray into some­body’s farm was ar­rested. The farmer would bring the es­ti­mated cost of the dam­age done to him and the cat­tle rearer would be asked to pay. If he couldn’t pay the money, his cat­tle would be sold. But be­cause of oil, ev­ery­body rushed to the city to drink oil. There is po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity in the land but we have gone back to the land and we are not re­gret­ting it.

Crit­ics have ac­cused your ad­min­is­tra­tion of se­lec­tive jus­tice be­cause once politi­cians be­ing pros­e­cuted de­fect to your party, they sud­denly be­come saints and so peo­ple believe that you have not been firm in the fight against cor­rup­tion.

That one too, I will have to il­lus­trate it with the nasty ex­pe­ri­ence I had in this coun­try. When I came in the mil­i­tary uni­form, I was much younger than this. You know what I did. I’m sure you read about it. I got the pres­i­dent, the vice-pres­i­dent, the gov­er­nors and min­is­ters and took them to Kirikiri and said you are guilty un­til you are able to prove your­self in­no­cent and we had a num­ber of com­mit­tees to in­ves­ti­gate all those that were ar­rested and what they took were taken away from them ex­cept a ju­nior Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion from Ji­gawa State Bil­iaminu Us­man, he is late now and Adamu Ciroma, a gover­nor of Cen­tral Bank and Min­is­ter of Fi­nance.

These two peo­ple were the only ex­cep­tions. But what hap­pened? I too was ar­rested and de­tained and those who stole pub­lic funds were given back the money. How many Nige­ri­ans raised their hands? Now, I come back, I’m try­ing to go through the sys­tem and you are call­ing me Baba go slow, what else can I do? Mr. Pres­i­dent, are you say­ing that you are sat­is­fied with the fight against cor­rup­tion?

I have to stop you. I didn’t say so. When I was try­ing to be in a hurry, I too was ar­rested and de­tained. If you don’t know it, I know it be­cause I was the one who suf­fered... You know more than I do but I as­sure you that when­ever we have the time, I think I will have to ask the EFCC to give you the num­ber of as­sets re­cov­ered and the amount of money. That was why I said they should in­tro­duce the use of Trea­sury Sav­ings Ac­count (TSA) so that all the money com­ing to the gov­ern­ment would go through one ac­count so that what is go­ing in and out will be seen be­cause there are some min­istries and agen­cies with so many bank ac­counts.

I as­sure you that as­sets, houses and ho­tels be­long­ing to them were sold. Their bank ac­counts were frozen and the con­tracts given to their com­pa­nies were sold and I said all the money should go through the TSA. I think you should tell the peo­ple what we have done so far with loot re­cov­ery. Hun­dreds of bil­lions of Naira that are stuck in Eu­rope and Amer­ica, we are still try­ing to get.

The ques­tion is on the se­lec­tive ap­pli­ca­tion of jus­tice in the fight against cor­rup­tion. The im­pres­sion is if some­body is close to you, you will close your eyes no mat­ter the amount of money he has stolen once he de­fects to your party. Godswill Ak­pabio for in­stance was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion but since he came to APC, his sins have been for­given him.

Well, thank you very much. I want to as­sure you that I will not spare any­body. I don’t think Ak­pabio, what­ever he did when he came to APC, that I said he should be left alone. I can’t re­mem­ber ask­ing the EFCC, ICPC, the po­lice to spare any cor­rupt per­son un­less I don’t have the facts and I told you what I went through when I tried to try ev­ery­body spon­ta­neously. I haven’t told any­body to spare Ak­pabio and I chal­lenge you to pro­vide ev­i­dence.

Your body lan­guage

Why should they watch my body lan­guage?

The Chief of Army Staff is not there be­cause he is from Borno. The Chief of Air Staff is not there be­cause he is from Kano. The Chief of Naval Staff is not there be­cause he is from the South-South. Even in Min­istries, you just don’t change Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries like that be­cause of the places they come from or their faces.

It is up to Nige­ri­ans to de­cide who they want as Pres­i­dent but I as­sure you that I have warned the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies that they must re­spect Nige­ri­ans. Nige­ri­ans must be al­lowed to choose who they like. I have been ask­ing Gov­er­nors in the last six months to do voter ed­u­ca­tion be­cause ev­ery or­di­nary Nige­rian is an im­por­tant per­son as he has one vote and I have one vote. Let them feel im­por­tant. Let them use it for their own un­der­stand­ing.

There has been a lot of crit­i­cism about your ap­point­ments into the se­cu­rity agen­cies, that they were lop­sided. Do you think this is a fair crit­i­cism?

Well, all I know is that the ser­vice chiefs, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, I ap­pointed them when I came. The for­mer IG of Po­lice left and this one was ap­pointed. I know that there is a quota sys­tem but then, if you are a field of­fi­cer, in the mil­i­tary es­pe­cially where I served, for many years, you don’t pro­mote peo­ple by their states of ori­gin. If you do it, you are go­ing to have the shock of your life. It will af­fect the morale of oth­ers that they will be­come de­fi­cient and it will af­fect the coun­try.

I had told you about the ap­point­ments of ser­vice chiefs that you have to be care­ful about who you ap­point. You have to be sure of their loy­alty. You have to be sure of their com­mit­ment to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, their ac­cept­abil­ity by the com­mand and the ser­vice and that will be de­ter­mined by their train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence. It is a very sen­si­tive is­sue.

In Zam­fara, I had to di­rect the IG to move all of­fi­cers that had been there for more than two years. So, re­mov­ing the ser­vice chiefs or the IG, you can make your ob­ser­va­tion but it will have con­se­quences. The Chief of Army Staff is not there be­cause he is from Borno. The Chief of Air Staff is not there be­cause he is from Kano. The Chief of Naval Staff is not there be­cause he is from the South-south. Even in min­istries, you just don’t change per­ma­nent sec­re­taries like that be­cause of the places they come from or their faces.

Do you have any­thing against state po­lice and/ or the use of mer­ce­nar­ies so that we can flush out crim­i­nals?

State po­lice? I have my prob­lems with the po­lice and I told them that with my ex­pe­ri­ence, they are sup­posed to be on the front line. Now, un­til Nige­ri­ans see sol­diers on the street, they don’t believe they are safe. That is not good for the po­lice. I told the po­lice this some months ago. Now, when we came in, there were states that were not pay­ing salaries. We had to do what we called bail out twice. Up till now, there are some that owe work­ers up to six months. When you can­not pay the salary of N18,000 min­i­mum wage, you want to in­crease it to N30,000. My bud­get speech was not se­cret. I read it out. Where do we get the money?

The po­lice are a ma­jor se­cu­rity or­gan­i­sa­tion. Al­low­ing the states to have po­lice may be of no ef­fect. I con­grat­u­lated the gover­nor of La­gos State when he started the neigh­bour­hood po­lice. It is a good thing but La­gos State is richer than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. How many states now can’t pay salaries? Then you ask them to go and set up the po­lice. You give a po­lice­man uni­form and gun and you don’t pay him for six months? I don’t want to see an­other bat­tle.

Now, mer­ce­nar­ies. I told you ear­lier, I was in front at the civil war. God spared my life. I think I am so pa­tri­otic the way I in­ter­pret is­sues. I don’t like to ask South Africans or any­body to come and fight for us. I don’t like it. With about 190 mil­lion of us, we can­not mo­bilise to fight in­sur­gents from get­ting into our coun­try? What is the use of our num­ber then and the re­sources? I feel very strongly about it. I am not say­ing I will not con­sider it but it will take time be­fore I get con­vinced about why we can­not have the mil­i­tary and the po­lice to flush out in­sur­gents and ab­duc­tors.

You once said you wished you were younger in han­dling the chal­lenges of your of­fice. On re­turn from your med­i­cal va­ca­tion, you did say that you had never been that sick. Do you think you are healthy enough for the rigours of the cam­paign, con­sid­er­ing your age and health sit­u­a­tion? Do you think you have done enough for Nige­ri­ans to trust you with an­other four years?

I will ask you again to do an in-depth study of where we were in 2015 when we came in and where we are now on se­cu­rity, econ­omy wise, the three things we cam­paigned on and find out what we have done. The first thing I told my party was that if the party nom­i­nated me, I would con­test. I don’t want di­ver­sion of in­ter­est be­cause of the amount of time that Nige­ri­ans spend in talk­ing. If I didn’t say so, the num­ber of peo­ple that would come out within the party that they would con­test, only God would know and they would di­vert at­ten­tion from se­ri­ous is­sues but mer­ci­fully, they de­cided to leave the party.

Up till now, hav­ing lost count, there are 91 par­ties. For­tu­nately, a lot of them don’t have money to pay for the con­test. I think 48 or more have the money. So, I think I am strong enough to go and cam­paign. It is up to Nige­ri­ans to de­cide but I as­sure you that I have warned the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies that they must re­spect Nige­ri­ans. Nige­ri­ans must be al­lowed to choose who they like. I have been ask­ing gov­er­nors in the last six months to do voter ed­u­ca­tion that ev­ery or­di­nary Nige­rian is an im­por­tant per­son and he has one vote and I have one vote. Let them feel im­por­tant. Let them use it for their own un­der­stand­ing.

What do you think are your chances of win­ning?

I con­sider that with what we have done in 2015 till now with the re­sources avail­able to us, I think we de­serve an­other chance. That is why I ask Nige­ri­ans and also ask you to use your in­sti­tu­tions to do some re­search and find out where we were, where we are now and where we are go­ing. The three things I men­tioned, I believe we could do bet­ter.

We in­tend to do bet­ter but se­cu­rity is num­ber one. I said it from day one, the coun­try has to be se­cured to be pro­vided for. The coun­try has to be se­cured and those do­ing ab­duc­tions, I hope God will give them the senses to re­alise what they are do­ing to the coun­try. No­body can in­vest in the place where there is no se­cu­rity.

INEC Com­mis­sioner, Amina Zakari was part of the elec­tion that you lost in 2011 and was also part of the one you won in 2015. There is how­ever a con­tro­versy that she’s your niece. What is your ex­act re­la­tion­ship with the woman?

I saw her try­ing to ex­plain her­self. She was ap­pointed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Jonathan. Is Jonathan a Hausa/Fu­lani man? And you said she was there when I lost elec­tion. So?

But is it true that you were the one who rec­om­mended her?

No. Not at all. All the past pres­i­dents from the time that I came out of de­ten­tion to the time that I came here, none of them asked me to sub­mit any rec­om­men­da­tion ei­ther to his cab­i­net or for

any ap­point­ment. None of them asked me to bring a name. We have no blood re­la­tion­ship but she is a com­plete Nige­rian. Did you study His­tory in the uni­ver­sity? Then, you would have known about Fu­la­nis and the indige­nous peo­ple they met here – the Hausas and the Ka­nuris and so on.

Oth­man Dan Fo­dio came and over­ran vir­tu­ally the Hausas but some other modern colo­nial­ists came. They re­in­stated them. In my town, they re­in­stated the Hausas. I am from a Hausacon­trolled area. She is from a Fu­lani con­trolledarea. If that is blood re­la­tion­ship, I ac­cept it.

In your party, in some states such as Ogun, Imo, Zam­fara; even in Rivers, we have a can­di­date cam­paign­ing and we have an­other can­di­date who left your party for an­other party but is still cam­paign­ing for you. All your sons are fight­ing. The sec­ond ques­tion is this. Are you go­ing to have the same team, same process if you are re-elected? Mem­bers of your team, some have done well, some have not done well. Is there go­ing to be a new process in ap­point­ing them? If yes, has the process started? So, let’s start from the po­lit­i­cal side. Some of them have adopted you. So, you have not lost any­thing.

My adop­tion, I hope it is not for their self­ish rea­sons. The im­por­tant thing is that the party has been very im­par­tial. There are three pro­cesses – di­rect, in­di­rect and con­sen­sus and the party ought to be able in each state to choose one of the three that it agreed with but all the same, how can a gover­nor sit and say, ‘you will be gover­nor. You will be deputy gover­nor. You, go to Sen­ate. You, go to House of As­sem­bly?’ It’s been ex­tremely se­ri­ous. The party has been very fair. I don’t know why you the elite will not ed­u­cate the peo­ple. Those who can­not re­spect them should be voted out.

But you are en­cour­ag­ing them.

No. I have told the po­lice and the law en­force­ment agents that if any­body tries to rig this elec­tion, I will deal with them.

But you are en­cour­ag­ing anti-party ac­tiv­i­ties. Take the case of Ogun State for in­stance, the guy had been here to see you twice.

Is it not his state? Is it not for the peo­ple not to vote for him? I don’t tell peo­ple what they should do. Vote for the peo­ple that are qual­i­fied by your con­science to be voted for.

The sec­ond part of the ques­tion, if peo­ple want you to come back, they will like to see that on May 29, there are changes. If you are re-elected, are we go­ing to wait for an­other six months be­fore you con­sti­tute your cab­i­net?

No. You will not have to wait that long. Maybe that is the rea­son I haven’t sought to make any cab­i­net change. Some­one brought a paper and said I had not been fair to the South-east. I took the paper. I told him that when I won the elec­tion, I stud­ied the votes that I scored from all the geopo­lit­i­cal zones. I said I got 198,000 and some­thing, from the whole of the South-east which vir­tu­ally any of the lo­cal gov­ern­ments could give me up coun­try but I took the Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs, the Min­is­ter of Labour, the Min­is­ter of In­dus­tries, Trade and In­vest­ment, Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy from the South-east. These four, I never knew them from Adam but from seven states of the North, I chose min­is­ters of state who are un­der such min­is­ters. How fair do you want me to be? So, I threw him away with his paper.

You have kept re­fer­ring to the Nige­rian elite in this in­ter­view. Is it that they are very crit­i­cal of you or it is be­cause you have ma­jor­ity of your sup­port­ers among the masses?

Ex­actly. You have an­swered the ques­tion. I told you my grudge against the Nige­rian elite. I chal­lenge you to check the records from Eu­rope, Asia and Amer­ica. This coun­try was get­ting 2.1 mil­lion bar­rels per day at over $100 per bar­rel. It went to $143 per bar­rel but when we came, it col­lapsed and I told you that I went to the Cen­tral Bank and said, ‘oya, this is what is hap­pen­ing. Why?’ I re­fused to re­move him (CBN Gover­nor) be­cause he had to give ac­count of what had been hap­pen­ing. The rail was killed. There was no power.

About 2.1 mil­lion bpd x 100 x 16 years, yet there was no pro­vi­sion of in­fra­struc­ture. The rail was killed. But see what we have done from May 29, 2015 till now with what is avail­able. I ask you, where were the elite when there was ir­re­spon­si­ble ex­pen­di­ture of pub­lic money? Why did they tol­er­ate it? Ed­u­cate the peo­ple and see their re­ac­tion. Where were the elite then when these peo­ple were tak­ing the money? The Nige­rian elite is sup­posed to know how much the coun­try is earn­ing, where it is go­ing. Why did they ac­com­mo­date ir­re­spon­si­ble ex­pen­di­ture of the 16 years of PDP?

Are you con­vinced that N18,000 min­i­mum wage is what a Nige­rian worker de­serves?

I can only try to an­swer you by giv­ing you facts. The facts I want to give you is that there are more un­em­ployed Nige­ri­ans than the em­ployed. Two, these states they couldn’t pay the min­i­mum wage. There are states ow­ing up to six months salaries now. You even know more than I do. In the pri­vate sec­tor, there is no prob­lem. If you can’t pay, you re­trench but can the state gov­ern­ment, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment af­ford to cre­ate more unem­ploy­ment?

I think it is bet­ter to get N18,000 than to get noth­ing. This is what I believe. When I pre­sented the bud­get, I thought I was very sin­cere. I told them what we were earn­ing. How we are go­ing to spend it be­cause of in­fra­struc­ture or the eco­nomic per­spec­tive of it. What is the essence of the elite’s crit­i­cism of my bud­get? We ought to do much bet­ter hon­estly. What are the ar­eas you feel you are most chal­lenged in this elec­tion apart from your zone, the North­west, peo­ple you think will vote for you.

You know that you had in­ad­ver­tently an­swered the ques­tion. I think more of the or­di­nary peo­ple than the elite. I think about the or­di­nary peo­ple. I believe that the or­di­nary peo­ple feel the im­pact of my ef­fort es­pe­cially the farm­ers be­cause the farm­ers, the money they get from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Cen­tral Bank, once they get the money, they pay back.

I con­sider that with what we have done with the re­sources avail­able to us from 2015 till now, I think we de­serve an­other chance. That is why I ask Nige­ri­ans and also ask you to use your in­sti­tu­tions to do some re­search and find out where we were, where we are now and where we are go­ing.

PRES­I­DENT MUHAM­MADU BUHARI & NDUKA OBAIGBENA, CHAIR­MAN/ED­I­TOR IN CHIEF, THISDAY GROUP & ARISE TV NET­WORK

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