•Scores legislators, police low

•Yet to discuss ministerial list, appointments

 

Jude Johnson 

 

The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed his role in one of the country’s most trying times in its journey to nationhood, explaining his roles in the 1996 military coup, counter-coup and devastating civil war pitting the rest of Nigeria against the then former Eastern region known as the Republic of Biafra.

Buhari’s comments is coming barely two days to his inauguration for the second term on May 29 and three days to May 30 memorial for Biafra war usually observed by members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), outlawed Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro-Biafra elements including those who have made it a ritual to honour their loved ones who died in the course of the war.

According to Thisday report, the President went down memory lane, reviewing his career in the military and said it was hellish even as he recounted that he lived through the momentous events, particularly in 1966, which witnessed coups, counter-coups and later a civil war.

Buhari spoke on Monday during a pre-recorded interview aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) last night and commented on various issues of national interest, including his second term priorities, shape of his next cabinet, the nation’s worsening insecurity and relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government among others.

Buhari, who in his assessment of institutions of government rated the National Assembly and the Police low in performance, said he expected a higher level of efficiency from military service chiefs, refraining from blaming them for the escalating insecurity situation in the country.

Responding to a question: ‘Who is Buhari?’ from the show anchor, the president said: “I think I went through hell throughout my career in the military. I was a lieutenant in Lagos during the first coup, January 15, 1966. If you bother about Nigerian history, you read about coup and counter coup, civil war, coup, counter coup. I was all in it, including in detention for three and a quarter years. So, I am fully qualified, you know, [to be called] as a suffering Nigerian.”

But he thanked Nigerians for showing him love, noting that after been rejected thrice in the presidential elections, they found him worthy of leadership in the fourth and fifth runs.

Speaking on his impending second term, he appealed to Nigerians to trust him to make a good judgment on the choice of his next set of ministers.

He said if no one has had any cause so far to accuse any of his first term ministers of corruption or any act of misdemeanour, Nigerians should then be confident that he would again make the best choice for his second term in office.

Disclosing that he was yet to discuss any issue relating to the next choice of his ministers with anybody and would not start the discussion with the interviewer, Buhari reiterated that Nigerians should trust him to decide on who among the ministers he will retain and those he will bid the final goodbye.

“I have said goodbye to them for the fours years. I haven’t discussed it with anybody. You won’t be the first person I will discuss it with. And anybody who hasn’t got any evidence against any minister should trust me – which of the minister I will retain; which one I will say goodbye and very sincerely to. I won’t go beyond that because I haven’t discussed it with anybody yet,” he said.

Buhari also lamented the strained relationship he had with the National Assembly, saying he confronted Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on their decisions to delay budget passage for seven months.

The president who said he rated the two leaders low on the issue of patriotism, said he told them that their action was harmful to the economy but his hands were tied by the constitution which orders him to pass through them.

He said: “I spoke personally to the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the leader of the House, Dogara. They could not deny it. I told them how do they feel to hold the country to ransom for seven months without passing a budget? I said for seven months they were hurting the country. So really, in terms of patriotism, I think I rated them very low indeed.

“Going by the provisions of the constitution, there are things that must pass through the National Assembly but to hold a budget for seven months cannot be justified.”

Asked how he felt on the rampant cases of kidnap and other forms of insecurity threatening the country, Buhari said he felt very bad, blaming the menace on people in the neighbourhood whom he said failed to expose the criminals living among them.

He also took a swipe at the police and traditional rulers, saying they ought to be at the forefront of the battle against criminal activities in various communities where they operate, but have failed.

While promising to reverse the trend, he said the police were not given uniforms and guns to impress people but rather to distinguish them and empower them to fight criminals.

He said: “I feel very bad indeed because there are failures of neighbourhood security in the sense that those who are perpetrating these atrocities against communities, state and the country, they come from somewhere in Nigeria.

“Their neighbourhoods know them. And we have the traditional rulers, then of course, the police at the frontline, the police in every major town and city in this country. As I said, they were not given the uniforms and the riffles to impress anybody but to secure the people. In this, I think the community leaderships and the police have failed this country.”

While alluding to his efficiency in his days as a military officer, Buhari said he was the only military personnel in his own time, who commanded three out of the four divisions at the time.

According to him, something went wrong with the military particularly between 1999 and 2014, which he said affected the sense of efficiency and accountability of military personnel.

He said: “You see, I was the only officer that commanded three out of the four divisions – the first division was in Lagos; the second division in Ibadan, the third division in Jos

“I am still expecting more but I am thinking of what happened between 1999 to 2014. I suspect that a lot of things went wrong, including accountability and efficiency of the military and other law enforcement agencies.”

Buhari also spoke on his frustrations and concerns in the last four years, pointing out that though some progress had been made in the anti-graft war, he is frustrated by the slow pace of the fight.

According to him, “In the process of going through the police, investigations and later prosecution, the process is slowed down and is frustrating.

“My frustration is that we cannot move faster in the prosecution and punishing the real big graft. We made some progress. We recovered a number of assets – fixed assets and money in banks, including in Europe and America, but under this system, you can’t be too much in a hurry, even including using whistle blowers.

“You have to go to the police to go through the rigmarole of full investigations before prosecution. That is my biggest frustration really.”

 

Insecurity: Military, police not doing enough 

Buhari has also in a report by Premium Times from the NTA interview, attributed some of the security challenges faced by Nigerians to the failure of the police and ‘likely’ deterioration in the military after he left service.

While responding to a question on rampant cases of kidnapping, across the country, the president stressed that those culpable have not been brought to book due to the ineptitude of the police.

“Those perpetrating this evil come from somewhere in Nigeria. Their neighbourhoods know them. The community leaders and also the police are in the front line. They (the police) were not giving the position and uniforms to impress anybody but to secure the people. In this, I feel the community leadership and police to some extent have failed this country.”

Buhari also spoke of a decline in the quality of the Nigerian military, saying he had passed through virtually all the top ranks having served in the Lagos, Ibadan and Jos divisions of the army.

“The security in relation to when I was in command has really gone down. I can not claim to know what happened after I left the military. But definitely, I did not know person to person all the service chiefs. I am still expecting more but I’m thinking of what happened between 1999 to 2014,” Buhari said.

“I suspect that a lot of things went wrong including accountability and efficiency of the military and law enforcement agencies,” he said.

He stated that the police and the judiciary will be focused on for improvement in delivering justice during his second term.

“I will try to make the police and the judiciary to be more efficient.

“There is no town where we don’t get a police station. They are supposed to be the front line of law and order.

“In some communities, if anyone steals, they know from which family who stole or which kind of criminal. This is what I want the police to achieve- absolute community security. To know the criminals around them and get them prosecuted.”

Noting the effect of insecurity on the economy, the president explained that the rate of kidnapping is capable of discouraging foreign investors.

“We are making noise that people should come and invest their money. But who will bring his money when his General Manager will be abducted?

“The government cannot build all the factories required and employ all the people and produce all the goods and services. What the government should do is to provide security and convince entrepreneurs both from abroad and local places to invest and encourage people to produce goods and services,” he said.

He urged Nigerians to expose kidnappers and thieves as their contribution to fighting insecurity in the country.

The president’s statement comes amidst worsening insecurity across Nigeria.