‘Why I’ll win in 2015,’ APC Presidential candidate explains

The former Head of State, who has contested four times for the country’s number one office, has given reasons as to why the next elections would seal the deal for him.

The Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari has expressed confidence in his ability to win the upcoming 2015 elections.

The former Head of State, who has contested four times for the country’s number one office, gave reasons as to why the next elections would seal the deal for him.

He stated this and more during an interview with Weekly Trust. Excerpts below:

Weekly Trust: This is your fourth stab at the presidency. Is there any factor that makes you feel this attempt will be any different?

Muhammadu Buhari: Yes. The first is the merger which gave birth to the APC itself. Since 2005, we realized that none of the opposition parties can go up against the PDP significantly. The party has no intention of ruling this country with justice, as we have seen in the sixteen years they have been around. For example, on the side of the economy, look at the Nigerian Airways, the railways and shipping line, where are they? Look at the expenditure on NEPA and the hearing conducted by the National Assembly on it. Then look at pension funds and the petroleum industry. The list is long.

There is no way they can tell you that there has been an honest attempt to punish corruption on a massive scale in this country. Secondly, out of ethical behaviour, Nigerian soldiers started granting interviews to foreign media, saying they were being sent to the warfront without proper weapons. And again the National Assembly attempted to conduct a hearing by going to find out what is being appropriated to the military or the Ministry of Defence for the last three, four years, which amounts to trillions of naira. And they invited the service chiefs or Chief of Defence Staff to tell them what is happening to the money, but that hearing was frustrated.

WT: You’ve been in the race for the presidency for over a decade now. Some people feel that as one of the pillars of the merger, you should have sacrificed your ambition so that a younger generation would aspire...

Buhari: I don’t want to personalise going for the highest office. If you could recall, I was being held on it by a number of people when I broke down in 2010, when I said after that attempt I won’t attempt again. But my supporters all over the country said since I didn’t say I have resigned completely from politics in the press statement I issued, I cannot refuse them. So my supporters ganged up and said I must compete. The party had not rejected me, either. An example is the just-completed primaries. If my supporters had not wanted me to attempt again, they would have voted me out. But you know the result, it was transparent. So since I didn’t resign from partisan politics, I felt I had a role to play to make sure this country is secure and efficiently managed.

WT: The current government has been criticised, even internationally, for under-performing. Do you think this would make coasting to victory relatively easy for you?

Buhari: Well, certainly they have made more than enough mistakes to be voted out. But most importantly, is for constituencies to be sufficiently mobilised to vote and make sure their votes count. We have the example of Ekiti and Osun, of recent. And we know that the only thing the PDP does is to rig elections, send compromised law enforcement agents to arrest opposition leadership, lock them up, then let them out after the elections. Also, they organise people to snatch boxes. All these have been displayed in court and in previous elections.

WT: What would be the very first action you would take against insurgency if you are elected?

Buhari: First of all, I’ll find out from the main source, the law enforcement agencies, their intelligence reports. What has been going wrong? How is it that fighting insurgents in one corner of Nigeria – the federal government, even with what is being voted for them – is asking the National Assembly to approve a $1billion loan to fight insurgency?

WT: Still on insecurity, you have commented about the Chibok girls’ situation in the past. What would have been your approach?

Buhari: When the Chibok girls were kidnapped, it took weeks before the president even accepted that they were taken. I don’t want to believe the intelligence system of this country has collapsed so badly that a disaster of such magnitude could happen without the president knowing for that long. It’s unbelievable. And of course you can recall the drama with the First Lady. Of course, there is God. There has always been God and there always will be.

WT: Do you ever feel that, with the colossal problems Nigeria is currently facing, you would fall short of expectations?

Buhari: I have my ideas of the needful. But there will be a government in place. If under my leadership, it should comprise of knowledgeable, tried and tested people. As I said earlier, I don’t believe the intelligence community is not sending reports. They’re either being ignored by executives at various levels or we’re not working hard enough. But the important thing is to know the facts on the ground and work around the clock to make sure that you make progress as rapidly as humanly possible.

WT: Corruption is a hot-button topic in Nigeria and some of your backers may have related issues. Wouldn’t your hands be tied when trying to deal with corruption?

Buhari: I try as much as possible not to make myself a hostage. So whoever helped me, as you suggest, to become the party’s flag-bearer, I want to assume he or she did it because they want to give the party the opportunity to win next year’s election, not because they want to hide whatever they may have committed against their country.

WT: Speculation was rife when you picked your running mate, about APC chieftain Bola Tinubu forcing a candidate down your throat. How true is that?

Buhari: Tinubu didn’t force anybody on me. The system is absolutely clear. If your party chooses you, you have got the right to pick. The party picked me as their presidential candidate. There are so many considerations. Support for the party, its constituencies, and the character of the person you recommend. All you do is to ask for names from the party, and they go through the processes, taking into account constituencies in the six geo-political zones.

You can’t have the presidential candidate from the northern political zone and then the vice president from there. It’s not politically acceptable. The party gave me the names and I picked one. Even the PDP accused me for being incompetent, that it took me six days to do it. The APC’s isn’t automatic. We go through a system.

WT: How is your relationship with Tinubu beyond politics and party activities?

Buhari: He’s a committed party member. I think, if not for him and Chief Akande and some of us, the merger wouldn’t have taken place.

WT: Some see your choice of running mate, Osinbajo, as unusual. When did you meet him and why did he become your choice?

Buhari: It wasn’t out of the blues. Who was my last running mate? He was a pastor and a Yoruba man. In 2003 it was Chuba Okadigbo, a Catholic. In 2007, it was Ume-Ezeoke, an Igbo man, a Catholic. In 2011, it was Bakare, a pastor. There’s nothing unusual about them.

Frankly, I met him through [Tinubu]. He brought a team of press men who grilled us for six hours on a Friday. I had to beg them for a Friday mosque break and they allowed me to go pray and come back. He’s a professor of Constitutional Law, has been a Commissioner of Justice and an Attorney General. He’s an intellectual and has got vast experience. Who else do we have better than that?

WT: But there were speculations that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State or Lagos State’s  Babatunde Fashola would emerge your running mate. Perhaps this is why your choice appeared unusual...

Buhari: To be fair, I defined the candidate’s right to choose his running mate, which is legal. Why should I be harassed for claiming my right? The party gave me the mandate.

WT: People say you were dictatorial when you were Head of State, but the tune seems different today, that then it was Idiagbon who was behind that approach. What was the true picture of things then?

Buhari: Idiagbon, may his soul rest in perfect peace, was very hard-working and loyal. That was his fault, being loyal. He’ll take instructions from me and implement to the letter. And because he refused to smile when he was in office, and was not sparing anybody, they put most of the blame on him. Now that he’s not there and I’m alive, they are shifting the blame to me. He was a committed Nigerian.

WT: What will you say to critics who translated your relationship with Idiagbon to say you’re weak?

Buhari: Give me the chance next year and see whether I’m weak or not.

WT: You just complained about how the society has been reduced to a religious and ethnic affair. What would you do if you become president come 2015?

Buhari: The way I’ll do it is by performance. It’s what is physically on the ground that matters, not what faith you practice. The constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria says you can belong to any religion or even choose not to. It’s your business. But the fundamental issue of Nigeria is security.

WT: The young are constantly online these days. Will your presidency be social media-friendly?

Buhari: Yes. I want the government to get to the people. I want an honest assessment of our performance to be conveyed to the public.

WT: What would you say is your philosophy?

Buhari: Social justice. From leadership of your family to whatever you become, make sure there is justice.

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