Deji Elumoye, Emmanuel Addeh and Udora Orizu in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, revealed that he had his own agenda regarding the person that would succeed him, but he would be playing his cards close to his chest until the 2023 general election because he did not want the fellow eliminated before his time.
Buhari spoke during an interview on Channels Television.
He promised to assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill only if the National Assembly removed the clause mandating political parties to conduct their election primaries directly. He had declined assent to the bill last month, saying it is undemocratic to constrain political parties to a mode of primary election, as provided in the bill. But, despite widespread clamour, he ruled out establishment of state police as solution to rising insecurity in the country, saying, “State police is not an option.”
Reacting to the president’s indisposition to the popular agitation for state police, National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, accused Buhari of being comfortable with the state of insecurity in the country. Ayu said this could be gleaned from the president’s declaration that “state police is not an option”.
Answering a question on his likely successor, Buhari said, “No, I will not tell you, because he may be eliminated if I mention his name.” But he added that it did not really matter who succeeded him, saying whoever wins the election will succeed him.
On the electoral bill, Buhari maintained that primaries must not be direct, but rather, people should be given options to make their choice.
He stated, “Personally, I don’t support direct primaries, because I want people to be given a choice. You can’t give them one option and think you are being democratic. Let them be given the three options, which are direct, indirect and consensus. If you could recall, ACN, APGA, ANPP, CPC and another party, we came together.
“PDP was over confident and thought they will rule Nigeria to the end of time. But the opposition, we came together and overthrew them. We didn’t overthrow PDP because of direct primaries but because of the opposition coming together and fighting the PDP.
“We must not insist that it has to be direct primary, it should be consensus and indirect. Once that’s done, I will sign the electoral bill. There should be options, you can’t dictate to people and you say you’re doing democracy. Allow them to have options to make a choice.”
The president assured that bandits, particularly in the North-west, explaining that progress is being made in the fight against insecurity.
He advocated more dialogue in solving the farmer-herder clashes across the country. According to him, “For Nigerians to be fair to this administration, is to try and find out from the time we won the election in 2015 till now in the three promises we made, which are improving security, economy and fighting corruption.
“In the North-west, it’s same people killing each other, burning villages. I think the only language they understand we discussed it with the law enforcement agencies, the service chiefs, IGP is to go after the terrorists. We named them terrorists and we are going to deal with them as such.
“If you go to those constituencies over the last four weeks, there’s improvement in the security. On farmer/headers’ crisis, we cannot do much about the weather but about the security, we’ve taken steps and we are seeing the results. For the weather, the ministers of agriculture from Audu Ogbeh to Mahmoud now, one of the issues I discussed with them is to go and get the gazettes on cattle routes and grazing grounds and the cattle rearers are confined to those areas.
“Those that go outside that one are arrested and farmers are encouraged to come and lay their claims. We have to go back to that system again to try and make sure we prepare grazing areas, so that headers don’t stray into peoples farms and into the towns and so on. We are working on that.
However, Buhari failed to either endorse or reject the suggestion by the Governor of Kaduna state, Mr Nasir el-Rufai for the carpet-bombing of the terrorists irrespective of the magnitude of collateral damage and casualties.
He stated that he campaigned on three fundamental issues, namely security, corruption and the economy, stressing that on the three promises, security in the north east, which he said was very bad when he took over, has now improved.
But he noted that while the renewed attack on the gunmen must be sustained, it was important to provide protection for communities and their leaders who were helping in providing intelligence to the security agencies.
“I think the only language they understand, we have discussed it thoroughly with the service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IG), and it is to go after the terrorists. We have labelled them terrorists and we are going to deal with them as such.
“I told you what we have done. We met at least four times with the service chiefs and law enforcement agencies, each meeting taking at least four hours. We have discussed thoroughly what to do with the situation.
“We met at least four times with the service chiefs and other law enforcement agencies, each meeting taking at least four hours. We have discussed thoroughly what to do with the situation. Luckily, I have a military background from civil war till now, so, we discussed and we tried to secure and make it safe for the leadership at community level.
“Because it’s very important, the best intelligence you get is from the local leadership. They know who’s who in their areas of responsibilities. You have to talk to them but you must make sure they are safe, because the bandits can be a source of insecurity to them or their families and we are very conscious of that.”
On state police as a solution to insecurity, Buhari opined that state police was not an option, alluding to the propensity for governors to abuse the security institution.
He said, “Well, the role of traditional rulers must not be undermined, because in their areas they know who’s who. So, we have to revert to that system for us to have effective security in the localities. For example, there were two governors that came to see me about the problem and I said as far as I know, the farmers and the herders have been coexisting in Nigeria.
“Let them go and ask the local leadership what went wrong, why the break in communication between the local leadership and the herders, why are they now extending to people’s farms.
“State police is not an option. Find out now the relationship between the local government and their governors. Are they getting what they are supposed to get constitutionally? Are they getting it? Try and see those people from local government let them tell you the truth about the fight between local government and governors.”
On the economy, the president revealed that the crude oil production quota from 1999 to 2014 was 2.1 million barrels per day. He said at a point, the production quota was reduced by half.
According to him, “When we came in, somehow the militants were unleashed in the South-south, and production went down to half a million barrels per day. But look at what we did within the time frame with the resources available to us?”
Buhari expressed displeasure at the state of electricity in Nigeria.
When asked if he was happy with the country’s electricity production capacity, the president replied, “I am not because I identify that no country can develop without infrastructure and infrastructure means road, rail and power. This government is working very hard on the road. Try to imagine what was happening between Lagos to Ibadan six months ago and what it is now. We are doing from Lagos to Kano the rail, road from here to Kaduna to Kano. So we have to get the infrastructure right and then Nigerians will mind their own business. But when the infrastructure is not there, the roads are not there, the rail is virtually killed, no power, what do we expect people to do?”
The president noted that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) was 100 per cent government-owned, saying his government inherited the Distribution Companies (Discos).
He alleged that the owners of Discos bought them based on geo-political zones rather than merit.
Buhari said, “The people that own them, who are they? They are not electrical engineers, they don’t have money, it is just a political favour. To remove a system and reintroduce one is no joke. Luckily we have the TCN and that is the transmission. If we can get our technology right, we will cut the cost on transmission and the likelihood of sabotaging the lines and so on.”
The president advised Nigerian youths to use their education and exposure to improve themselves and not depend on government.
He said, “I wish when they go to school; when they work hard; when they earn their degree, they don’t do it thinking that government must give them jobs
You get educated because an educated person is certainly better than an uneducated person even in identifying personal problems. So, education is not just meant to hang on to the government to give you jobs and then what the colonialists indoctrinated in us to believe – have a car, have a house; start work by 8am and close by 2pm.”
Speaking on the possibility of releasing the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, Buhari ruled out the option of pardon. But he acknowledged the possibility of a political resolution.
Buhari said, “Nigerians know that I don’t interfere with the judiciary. Let him be listened to. For those, who are saying that we should release him, no, we cannot release him. There is a possibility of political solution.
“If people behave themselves, all well and good, but you can’t go to a foreign country and keep on sending incorrect economic and security problem against your country and think that you will never have to account for what you have been doing. Let him account for what he has been doing.”
Asked what comes to mind whenever he heard the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari responded, “failure”.
Meanwhile, Ayu accused Buhari of being comfortable with the insecurity in the country.
Ayu also criticised the president for pushing the blame for the incessant killing of farmers by terrorists to locals along grazing routes.
The PDP national chairman was responding to some of the issues raised in Buhari’s interview on Channels Television.
Ayu’s Media Office quoted the PDP national chairman as saying, “It appears the continued killings in some localities of Nigeria, particularly, in the North, and more specifically in President Buhari’s home state of Katsina, may not matter to him with his statement that state police is not an option.
“Watching President Muhammadu Buhari this evening on Channels TV during an interview session was a gratuitous waste of time, because there was nothing new coming from the president. As said by many before now, to expect anything new from our president would be a misplaced and unfortunate expectation.
“From the economy, to insecurity, killing of innocent farmers by terrorists (which some erroneously term farmer/herder clashes) and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president, who has nothing new to offer.
“He again repeated the impotent argument regarding killing of farmers by terrorists, reminding Nigerians of grazing routes. Well, what the president failed to reference is that the herders plying the grazing routes before, neither carried AK47s, nor did they engage in raping of women and despoliation of the assets of those along the routes.
“Mr. President’s position of saying the locals should be asked what went wrong, flies in the face of reason and contemporary realities. Tied to that, but not limited in scope, is the issue of insecurity and a re-organisation of the Nigeria Police to accommodate present, peculiar, environmental and social challenges.
“In President Buhari’s view, state police is not an option. Yet, it appears the continued killings in some localities of Nigeria, particularly, in the North, and more specifically, in his home state of Katsina, may not matter, hence, the need to have a security system that feeds on local intelligence and nuances, which the federal police cannot adequately provide, is not an option to our president.
“To him, it appears that continuing the same process while expecting a different output and outcome is the best way to go. We ask, is he comfortable with the killings in the land while the status quo persists?
“Nigerians should remind President Buhari that people evolve and societies evolve. Therefore, being trapped in a time capsule of the past about state police is not an option Nigerians are willing to accept from him.
“On the economic front, nations of the world who enjoy the benefit of direct foreign investments (DFI) ensure that their countries are safe for investors to pour in their resources. No amount of propaganda will obviate the realities on ground and which embassies and foreign missions observe.
“Therefore, to ensure that investor confidence is restored, a safe environment must, of necessity, be created. Our government is trapped in the mentality of believing its own lies that Nigeria is better today than it was under PDP. To those who share this fallacy, we ask: Would they wish for their lives to be like Nigeria under this present regime? The lives of Nigerians today tell the true story.
“The more Buhari promises to lift Nigerians out of poverty, the poorer Nigerians become. To further dwell on the entire interview would be to waste valuable time. But we implore Nigerians not to relent, because hope is on the way and, like one writer said, hope is better served as breakfast and not dinner, as the APC regime of President Buhari is doing, promising El Dorado in the dying days of its tenure.”