Buhari: Those Who Want To Flee When I Take Over Are Free – Newspaper Interview

Buhari… Without a strong and clean leadership, Nigeria cannot be stabilised In this second part of General Muhammadu Buhari’s interview, he touches on the very essence of his challenge against the elite in the country. Just check out this exchange: General, that is why I asked about the lessons you’ve learnt in politics. ANPP was your party that time and see how they treated you. Do you know what? The decision to withdraw the case from court was not taken by the appropriate organs of the party saddled with that responsibility. Do you know that the decision to join the so -called government of national unity or unity government was not taken by the appropriate organs of the party saddled with that responsibility? Even the people to be appointed into that government, the decision ought to have been taken by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), and, more importantly, by its National Executive Committee (NEC). None of the party’s constitutionally-recognised arms took part in taking those decisions. So, what would I be doing in such a party? It was total anarchy. That is why I had to leave. We then formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). But, ACN was very hopeful that it would get you on board; that, too, did not work. ACN, even before it became ACN, when it was just AC, we were talking and there was indeed, hope. Yes, AC was thinking of even giving me the party’s presidential ticket. But, here we were, after getting a political party registered, I felt that the least we could do was to get the structure of CPC to be on ground first. There was no way I could have gotten a political party registered and then I would dump it the next moment because another political party had dangled its presidential ticket before me. That was never going to be the case and I do not have any regrets about that. People seem to forget the custom of loyalty. The custom of loyalty is a two-way thing. It has to go both ways. Your party chairman explained last week that there was nothing strange in the position you took by sticking to your CPC for the presidential ticket. But, there are some other people who insist that you are just too rigid, that there are certain approaches that you could adopt in achieving the same objectives without being seen to have compromised. Why are you so rigid? Well, I will try to answer you with what happened in ACN. When I didn’t accept AC’s ticket after registering CPC and making them understand that I was a party to the registration of CPC, the least I could do was to see that the party should be on the ground. And, if you believe that loyalty is a two- way thing, then you wouldn’t blame me for that. They kept saying that they had the structures, that their party was more firmly rooted and that they would mobilise more easily. Yes, I agreed. But, we, too, in CPC, we were already building our structures gradually and we were also mobilising massively. Okay, initially, we said we could go into an alliance, a sort of working alliance for the presidential election. The arrangement was such that we would provide the presidential candidate and they would provide the vice-presidential candidate. But, that did not work. But, why? That was because we had our congresses and we came out with a presidential candidate. We offered that they could have the vice- presidential slot and then we could discuss how to fill the other offices. But, then, again, this took a long time. January 15 was beginning to get too close. And, I needed to nominate a vice-presidential candidate. But, then, again, you would wonder, since we had our own presidential primary before they had their own, if they wanted to make any sacrifice, they wouldn’t have had their own presidential candidate too.

 Why, since the alliance talks were not really conclusive?

The truth was that they didn’t need to do that if they needed to make sacrifice based on the on-going talks about the possibility of an alliance. In any case, the reason is that you cannot have two presidential candidates in an alliance. That is not how it is done, it would never work. You would recall that in 2006, six parties, PAC, NAP, NCP, PRP, PSP and DPA did their primaries and conventions and adopted me. So, it is not something unique that ACN would have done to come into an alliance with us. There was nothing new in that. And, when you include ANPP, then you’ll end up with seven political parties. There was nothing unique in that had ACN adopted me if it was about good faith. We could have won that election but Nigerians know how that election went. PDP stole the election. There are fears in some quarters and it is serious. Some people say a General Muhammadu Buhari becoming President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria would spell doom for a section of the elite. There are even talks that some people would just head for exile. I’m sure you’ve heard this talk before. Well, it would appear that individuals are free to live wherever they choose to live and live comfortably. Individuals are also very free to leave the country if they so choose, especially since they would be able to afford it. Those of us who are sentenced to live in Nigeria will continue to live in this country because for us, we do not have any other country than this and we would not leave the country and go and seek comfort in another country. Well, if people would feel unsafe, they can leave the country. We would continue here. What I’m trying to say relates to a possible witch-hunt; some people may be afraid based on past deeds. If people feel unsafe to live under some leadership in Nigeria because of what they have done or because of some atrocities they have committed in the past and, therefore, would not feel safe to live under some type of leadership in the country, then may be they are using their sixth sense.

I ask that as a preamble to the issue of corruption in Nigeria. At a point, the index gave hope but at some other time, the index showed the opposite, went down again and some people say the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not doing enough to fight corruption. How would you tackle the issue of corruption?

 One of the things that CPC would do is to strengthen the institutions. We already have the police.

In CPC, we have said that security, prosperity will bring stability. We have been harping on these three things before.

 If we empower the police, they will do their work very well.

There are too many boards or commissions handling this or handling that. We would look at the ones that would still be relevant to strengthen the police. We will make the military more efficient by training and re-training and also by providing equipment and machinery.

In EFCC, there are volumes of representations which they cannot cover because of inadequate manpower or lack of resources. We would do our best to strengthen the institutions by managing resources judiciously. We have financial regulations in every department and every ministry and, in every state and they have to work.

There must be a proper accounting of public funds in all the three tiers of government and what is lacking is that judicious use of public funds. This is the aim of CPC.

People say you are a good man and that you mean well. (Cuts in) Thank you very much.

 The question then is: You would not be in every ministry or every government department or agency to properly monitor these things. So, how much confidence would you have in your points men because you gave an instance of politicians attempting to highjack elective tickets even in CPC?

The laws and regulations on accountability in all these places you have talked about are not lacking at all. People just choose to do what they like. People just refuse to respect the laws of the country.

What CPC would do is to ensure that there is a proper and judicious use of the country’s resources for the good of the people. The laws are there.

You look like a man too much in a hurry and when you interface your person with the slow wheel of democracy, especially recognising that CPC may not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly, how would you tackle the challenges of achieving results within this context?

Let me answer your question like this: You remember when Obama went to Ghana, he said what Africa needs are strong institutions and not strong people. In the case of Nigeria, I dare to say that we are unique.

We need strong people to create those institutions and strengthen those institutions for effectiveness.

The truth is that, without a strong and clean leadership in the country, Nigeria cannot be stabilised.

The other side of the coin is that you may not even be able to strengthen the institutions if you are not strong and firm as a leader.

Followership and leadership: Which one should come first?

 Look, Nigerians cannot be taken for granted any more. As a state governor, you cannot be stealing state funds and then you expect the people to fall in line and be disciplined. It will never work. Everybody responsible for some part of the treasury would also be pocketing the money because they know what the governor is doing. If the president of the country is spending monies outside the approved budget or acts outside the approved regulations from the Office of the Accountant-General, Nigerians would rise against such a person and would not even obey such a leader and they’ll do whatever they like. That is why we have had this mess on ground since 1999. The infrastructure we met, we refused to build new ones and even the ones on ground were not being properly maintained. Don’t forget, we used to have four functional refineries in this country with more than 480,000 bpd capacity. We had more than 20 depots. I don’t know how many pumping stations. We had more than 3,500 kilometre length of pipelines. In 12 years, the PDP government could not maintain them and instead we are importing petroleum products at world market prices, something that we produce in this country!

This is the height of corruption, by killing the petroleum industry which the country depends on. Why can’t we refine our own crude and sell in our own country?

Instead, we give people contracts to import products and sell to Nigerians at world prices. You chose as your running-mate, a Christian. Would I be right to say you are gradually coming to terms with the realities of the Nigerian polity by not being too rigid and picking not just a Christian, but a pastor as your running-mate? It all started with the problem of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was then ill. Some people wanted to capitalise on that to create political crises and unconstitutionality and Pastor Bakare came all the way to Abuja to tell the people a piece of his mind that people needed to be careful and not plunge Nigeria into needless crises. He was determined. At the same time, I made two appearances publicly and I also sent a message across to say that the constitution was very clear on succession plan. From the National Democratic Movement (NDM), I signed a letter, counter-signed by Atiku Abubakar and we went to the National Assembly to caution them on what to do and what not to do regarding the matter – we sent copies to the Senate President and the Speaker. That was where our interests conjoined.From that time I realised I had met a patriot because our focus was purely Nigeria at that time and you could see the determination. So, when this opportunity came, I just knew that I had no better choice other than Pastor Bakare.

Finally on the issue of consensus, you turned it down because in the beginning, the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), was presented as representing the North sans partisanship.

Look, even in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where they had their problem of zoning, that issue of consensus was tenuous. It was even said to be a northern consensus but in that same North, some leadership of the North-Central did not believe in it. I always said it and I mean it, it was mainly a PDP affair. They should go and deal with it since it is their problem


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