Barely seven months before the 2015 general elections, former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, has revealed how his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, will select its presidential candidate.
Buhari, who is a national leader of the opposition party, made this disclosure in an interview he had with a team of editors from the leading Hausa Newspaper, Rariya, in his office in Abuja, recently.
According to the interview, the former Head of State talks about the state of insecurity, the unemployment of Nigerian youths, lack of confidence in the presidency and so many issues confronting the country.
Below are excerpts from the interview published by Premium Times on Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, with permission from Rariya:
If you become the President today, how will you tackle the myriad of problems confronting the country and restore confidence in governance?
First I have to secure the country, because unless you secure the country, nothing can be done properly, So, first it is security and then how to manage the country, that is by resuscitating the economy, the infrastructure, getting the factories reopened, getting employment and goods and services. It is much easier to damage than to rebuild, but everybody agrees that Nigeria is an incredibly resourceful country, both materially and human wise. So it is a question of the elite getting their acts together and making sure the country is organized in such a way that it can be secured and managed well. It is not easy because a number of the institutions have being compromised. What do you do with the Nigerian Police in terms of their efficiency? The military itself? The judiciary?
The recent happening in our country, especially the abduction of more than 200 girls from their school is unbelievable. For those of us who experienced the civil war, we can’t reconcile how a group like Boko Haram would come and collect from one school more than 200 children and after three months, the Federal Government cannot do anything. So for those of us coming from the 1960s to now, it is unthinkable for any group to emerge in Nigeria to hold everyone to ransom. I mean the so-called Boko Haram. I said this about six months ago. I said no religion advocates hurting the innocent. So the religious toga that Boko Haram is wearing can be exposed. You can’t wrap yourself with explosives and go and kill people in markets, churches, mosques, and motor parks, and also go and slaughter children in their sleep. It’s simply terrorism. This is my clear understanding of it and it is the duty of the Federal Government to stop it. Unfortunately, so far, the Federal Government has failed.
There was the unfortunate attack on you in Kaduna and then there was an investigation. Has there been any progress concerning that incident?
You are asking me of progress. Have you forgotten that over 200 girls are missing for over three months now and nothing has happened? Ok. I know I’m a former Head of State and I decided to be in politics of opposition. Imagine your daughter being among the missing girls. So to come and talk to me about a near-death situation while over 200 children are still missing is insensitive. I do not expect anything to come out of the investigation into the attack on me honestly.
The question is if we see a Buhari presidency today, will these things be pursued vigorously?
Well, people have to be accountable, but there is a limit to what one can do if one finds himself as the president of this great country today. Earlier on, I talked about institutions being compromised so with who are you going to work? Whoever finds himself as the leader of this country next year, I hope he will not be overwhelmed by the problems and just sit back to watch the decay instead of doing something practical.
I think this is the right time to ask you this question. Are you going to contest the next election or not?
Well I have to say that I am a loyal party member. Yes I have my own rights and so on, but being part of the merger, and the merger is not a political accident. I participated in the presidential elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011 so for me to participate in the merger process is not an accident. I realised that my experience in partisan politics from April 2002 to now is the only way I think of in confronting this amorphous ruling party, the PDP. I think the way forward for our country is for the opposition parties that have representations in the state legislatures and in the centre to come together and face the PDP. Unless that is done, we cannot stop the bad system. I have said it often that I am a converted democrat since 1991 when the Soviet Union, an empire of the 20th century, collapsed without a shot fired. People panicked, left nuclear sites, missile sites and now there are 18 or 19 republics. That was when I came to the conclusion that the democratic system of government is the best form of governance.
No doubt you have achieved a milestone because this is the first merger in the history of Nigeria. You have organised a convention. How satisfied are you with the results of the convention? What role do you envisage for yourself in the primaries?
The most important thing is to remove self if one is serious. That’s what I call stabilisation of the system. As I said, we realised that no single opposition party could do it, so we came together. You can’t always have it your way. We insisted on having the registration because when we registered under the same party we can come together and discuss our differences. This is what we are doing. Differences exist and will continue to exist, but being in the same party, we have to find a way of getting over our differences. For example, we had to do what is called harmonization committee and especially when we were joined by five PDP governors with their structures. Naturally, they crushed my poor grassroot supporters. This is the reality on the ground. Forget about me. I convinced our colleagues that the first thing to do is to have the party on the ground; the party needs to be on the ground. Let us go and start from the grassroots. That’s where we are now. We are trying to kill the delegates system, we are going to do direct primaries. We will start from the ward and come up. The convention will just be to ratify it. So even for those who have so much money, there will be no delegates to buy, the people will have their way. And that is how our candidates, including that for the presidency, will emerge.
Do you think we should hold Jonathan responsible for the serious malaise we find ourselves in? Is his government incompetent or in your view? Do you talk to him or offer any advice?
The normal thing is that the leadership is held responsible for whatever goes wrong. If things go wrong in your house, who will you hold responsible? Is it not you Mai Gida? It’s the same thing. It’s the leadership. Now when I talked about our past leaders — the Sardauna and Awolowo — and the most serious issue was provision of education. If you educate people qualitatively and properly, you don’t have to bother too much really. There is a level below which they will not agree to live. They will look after themselves and their environment but when you ignore education, and people can’t educate their children you are gradually killing the whole country, not only your own community. This is very obvious.
There is a kind of campaign out there that your party, the APC is so insensitive that it is contemplating the so-called Muslim/Muslim ticket. Is this a rumour or a possibility?
Well, when I started first in APP in 2002, who did I pick as my running mate? Was it not late Okadigbo? A Christian and Igbo. Who did I pick in 2007? Umezuoke a Roman Catholic Christian and Igbo. Who did I choose in 2011? Pastor Tunde Bakare. Is he not a pastor? So, what was the pattern of the voting? It was not based on religion. Anyway as I said, I am a loyal party member. My party will decide.