Says ‘I joined politics to keep Nigeria one’
By Ben Agande
Abuja—President Muhammadu Buhari regretted yesterday that those he regarded as ‘strong men’ have destroyed institutions in Nigeria but promised that his administration would do its best to ensure that institutions bequeathed to the country by the British colonial leaders were restored.
The President who spoke in Johannesburg, South Africa while meeting with the Nigerian community there after the African Union meeting also said in spite of what he described as ‘crazy people’ who are trying to ensure the breakup of the country for selfish reasons, Nigeria will remain an indivisible country.
His words: “We have a system in Nigeria. No matter what you say about the British colonialists, they built institutions for us, unfortunately we have destroyed those institutions.
Obama’s first trip to Africa
“When US President, Barack Obama came to Africa which was his first trip, he went to Ghana, but he refused to come to Nigeria. And he said Africa, or developing countries should have strong institutions instead of strong leaders. If he had come to Nigeria, he would have known that it was strong Nigerians that destroyed the strong institutions. And paradoxically, maybe another strong Nigerian will come and revive the institutions and make them strong again.”
President Buhari stated that though he would have wished to be president at a much younger age, he would still do his best to ensure that the country moves forward.
Speaking on why he joined politics, President Buhari said he wanted to meet the expectations of the teeming masses of the people who had continued to troop to him to request for one favour or the other.
He said: “I was afraid Nigeria might be like Somalia. The Somalis are the same people, they are all Muslims but because the elite are self-centered, they have succeeded in making Somalia a war-torn country for the last 20 years.
“For that reason I said Nigerians are much more vulnerable, we have so many nationalities no matter how you look at it, Hausa-Fulanis, Kanuris, Ishekiris, Yorubas, Igbos. We are actually people of different cultures but since 1914, we have merged inspite of religion and culture, married across, produced children and only crazy people can think of balkanising Nigeria. But we are not short of crazy people and that is the frightening part of it.
Joining partisan politics
“In April 2002 when I decided to join Nigeria’s partisan politics, I invited a few people to my ward in Daura, where I told them that I myself and those who knew me in the military would not have believed that I will join Nigerian partisan politics. But there I found myself in it.
Two fundamental reasons were responsible for my entry into politics. After being a governor of now six states – Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba, and Gombe, I was Petroleum Minister under Obasanjo for three and half years, then Head of State, then chairman of PTF. And the most irritating thing was that of all these positions I have held before, people didn’t remember, they only remember my days at PTF because I bought bedsheets and put in hospitals and some x-ray machines and some buses for the schools. They remember me more as chairman of PTF than as a former Head of State, than a governor or a minister of petroleum, in spite of the fact that it was during my time that I signed the contract for Warri refinery, and Kaduna refinery. More than 3,500 pipes were laid with more than 20 depots, we got the tankers off the road, we saved lives, we saved fuel, we save the road itself. But from 1999 till date PDP has messed it up. That is why Nigerians decided to vote me.
“My election is a proof that Nigerians know what they want once they make up their minds. You can give them the money, some refused to take it, some took it and said it is our money and they did exactly what they wanted to do.
“So why did I join partisan politics in spite of that? When I went home people knew that I have no money and I thought they will leave me alone, but they didn’t, they were coming to me asking me to do this and do that. And I found that the only way I could do it is by joining partisan politics. And maybe if I speak even if I’m not a member at any level, people will listen to me.
“But then I joined the opposition, I joined APP (All Peoples Party). I didn’t want any political office at first, if I wanted I would have joined PDP then and maybe I would have got to where I am much earlier. But then I wanted to go with the opposition.
“The second reason I had that finally convinced me to join partisan politics, was what happened to Soviet Union.
“You know the Soviet Union was an empire in the 20th century that collapsed without a shot being fired. Everybody went home, there was confusion. Now there are 18 countries out of the old Soviet Union. They were more advanced than the western countries in science because they wanted to go to space specifically in 1957, and they had more nuclear war heads and systems than NATO.
“And that was when I decided and I believed that the best form of governance is multi-party democracy with a big caveat, election must be free and fair. And that was why I was in trouble.
I moved from APP to ANPP to CPC, eventually to APC.
“I contested in 2003, spent 30 months in the courts and ended up in Supreme Court. I contested in 2007, spent about 20 months in the courts, ended up in Supreme Court. I contested in 2011 and spent about eight months in the courts, all ending up in Supreme Court. Why was I doing it? I know the reason. I believed in it!
“In all those cases from High Court to Supreme Court, we sent people to the field, they found out why the elections were not fair, they came to the court and gave evidence but in the end, they will say oh well! There were some flaws in the elections but PDP has won. At last the PDP has lost!
“I have gone to this extent to tell you that when you make up your mind about anything positive, don’t be discouraged! Keep on trying!
“How I wish I became head of state when I was a governor, just a few years as a youngman, now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do. I was in the war front for 30 months during our civil war, I lost a lot of loyal people to me, I lost a relative, a lot of Nigerians died too. So nobody should come now and tell us rubbish! We are going to remain one country. God has given us another opportunity to reorganise this country. Those who work hard, the society will pay them back” he said.
While enjoining Nigerians in South Africa to be good ambassadors of Nigeria, he promised that he will discuss with President Zuma to return Nigeria’s money that was seized from South Africa during the Jonathan administration.
“I’m told there are 83 Nigerians in prison, I don’t know what they have done but I spoke to the President of South Africa this afternoon. He wants to come to Nigeria. There are issues he knows we will like to talk about, I hope our ambassador will send a comprehensive report about the court cases, and about those who lost properties during the disturbances. And at that time I will attempt to ask him about our $9.7 million which was not correctly transfered.
World leaders ready to assist Nigeria
President Buhari also said he has spoken with world leaders and they are ready to assist Nigeria tackle the insurgency problems in the country.
“I met Obama, President of France, Chancellor of Germany, Prime Minister of Japan and members of the G7, they invited me and I went. They are all anxious to help Nigeria to tackle insecurity especially in the north east
“We are getting our facts together, our logistics requirements and so on. For the north east, the Lake Chad Basin Commission – Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin, have tried to come in. We have developed headquarters in Njamena, a Nigerian General is heading it, we have dedicated a number of troops ourselves and the location where they will be and by the end of July they will be in place and then we will make sure that since Niigeria was a battle ground we eliminate Boko Haram” he said.