Former Head of State and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, has blamed the government of Goodluck Jonathan for the lingering security problems in the country, saying that his government failed to do the needful at the early stages of the insurgency.
In an interview with Channels Television, which was monitored by Chuks Eze, he addressed various national issues and said that for the country to regain its lost values, the present administration should be voted out in 2015.
If elected President of Nigeria, how would you tackle the challenges facing the Nigerian economy as a result of the dwindling oil prices, especially as the nation’s economy relies majorly on proceeds from oil sales?
I think that it is absolutely necessary to make people account for their mismanagement of our oil industry, where our economy depends up to 95 per cent. I think we should do what will check supply to the oil market because other things that should complement our earnings, such as agriculture and mining, for instance, will take some time. The immediate plan should be how to stabilise the oil market and stop wastages from the top to bottom so that whatever revenue is realised is judiciously applied to the economic development of the country. But without introducing discipline into accountability, I’m afraid, even if the oil price goes back to the good old days of over a hundred dollars per barrel, we will not witness any positive difference. If we look from 1999 to date, what Nigeria realised, in terms of inflow of foreign exchange, we have never received it since the amalgamation. But when you look at our infrastructure, you will notice a custom of resource mismanagement. And only a discipline government can get us out of the woods.
As an Army General, who should understand the workable tactics that should be employed to best tackle the issue of insurgency, what do you think is the best strategy?
It is a pity that we in Nigeria believe that we are incapable of dealing with insurgency. If we could fight a civil war successful for such long months without borrowing a kobo when, General Yakubu Gowon was Head of State with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Minister of Finance and deputy chairman of the Executive Council, how is it that the present insurgency, which started in some sections of the country, appears difficult for the present government to handle? Now they have rushed to National Assembly to ask for N1 billion loan to fight insurgence. I think that Nigerians have to vote the present government out for us to get our values back.
What do you make of the present administration’s efforts in fighting the Boko Haram?
It is unsatisfactory. Imagine if you have got a daughter among the 220 Chibok girls, within the age of 14 and 18. Imagine how you would have been going to bed and waking up. Our own government cannot mobilise the law enforcement agencies, including the military, to, at least, know where those children are, so their parents and Nigerians can have confidence in the government and feel secured. I think the insecurity that is gripping the nation is greatly intolerable.
What do you think should have been done differently from what they have done now?
Firstly, as early as the Boko Haram started, I expected the leadership of this country to get together with the leadership of our neighbouring countries, such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger and get into a serious agreement about cross-border mobility of the insurgents, on arms and training facilities. That is the first step I think that should have been addressed. But that did not happen until recently, not up to two months ago, according to what I saw in the press. And look at what is happening right now. There is an aircraft in Kano loaded with ammunition meant for one of our neighbouring countries. We have always suspected that arms and ammunition had always come in through Nigeria. Although Cameroon has declined information to the press, they are fighting insurgency more successful than Nigeria.
If you are given the APC presidential ticket and you go ahead to win, what are the first thing you will do as president?
The first thing is to get credible intelligence. Why did the military fail to perform, in spite of our number and in spite of the huge resources being voted and given to them? So, we have to get the intelligence report and again, we get the presidents of the neighbouring countries to make sure that Boko Haram is denied the facility to move around to train and bring weapons into the country.
With our various request for international support from America, France and our meeting with government of some neighbouring countries, do you think that the Nigerian military still has the capacity to fight the insurgency as required?
It is capable. That was why I said that when the Nigerian military, out of tradition, was speaking to the foreign media houses, out of tradition, telling them that they were pushed to the (war) front without weapons, many of us were agitated.
Would one then be right to say that the problem is not about the capacity of the military?
The problem is that the soldiers said they were sent to the (war) front without being given weapons. If they were not given enough weapons to fight, you cannot fight with your fists. You must have appropriate weapons to do it.
Are you saying that the insurgents are more equipped than our own army?
That was what the soldiers were saying.
Do you see any sabotage in all of this?
The only sabotage is corruption, mind-bugging corruption.
In what sector?
The government sector. The National Assembly collected details of the money appropriated for the recruitment and training of the military and they were disgusted that the Nigerian soldiers in the field were complaining that the insurgents were more armed than they were; yet, money was being given to the military, by the Nigerian government, to procure weapons and have proper trainings, to be able to face the insurgents. What is happening to the money?
Some statements have been attributed to you about the conduct of elections, to the effect that you would strongly stand against the results if it does not come in your favour. This stance had led to serious violence in the past. What is your reaction?
Well, I have attempted to be president three times and ended up in the Supreme Court those three times. Does that show any sign of lawlessness?
But remember that the outcome of the 2011 general elections resulted to massive violence in Bauchi, which lead to loss of many lives.
That is left for Bauchi alone. And don’t forget that there was an enquiry, led by a retired judge, to find out why there were reactions after the 2011 presidential elections. Government has got the report of the panel of enquiry; what have they done with it?
Do you think that elections should be conducted in states currently under state of emergency in 2015?
Why not? There are countries fighting war, yet they are conducting elections.
Even when there is curfew in some of the areas concerned?
They should lift the curfew and let them have the election. No Nigerian should be denied the opportunity to elect who they want to represent or lead them.
You were detained after being removed from office via a military coup in 1985. Have you forgiven the man who detained you?
I have said it so many times that those who said I should forgive and forget were not being honest. There are things in life that you will never forget. But I have forgiven the persons who were responsible for removing me and detaining me for up to three years and who failed to raise any charge against me, either of theft or even indecent behaviour in office.
Are you sorry for bringing to an end the Shagari’s government?
No, I am not sorry because I mentioned the reasons why we did it. And we proved our case.
That was a democratic process that you terminated?
So, when you are in a democracy, you are entitled to steal the treasury dry, put people into upright position and destroy institutions and infrastructure?
So, you blame Shagari for that?
Don’t personalise it. I blamed the Second Republic for that. And when we came out, we told the nation why and conducted enquiries – documentary ones, not just hearsay.