Former Head of State and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has accepted responsibility for actions taken by his military administration while at the helm of affairs in the country for about 18 months between 1984 and 1985.
Buhari, who was a guest on ‘Talk to Aljezera’ a weekly half-hour conversation with global leaders, icons and alternative voices on Sunday evening, however disagreed with the allegations of brutality, highhandedness and convocation of secret tribunals levied against his administration.
When fielding questions from the presenter who asked if he would return Nigeria to the brutal period of military dictatorship, Buhari said: “To hold such view is to undermine the efforts we have made so far to stabilise this system – multiparty democracy.
“If you say I was a military dictator then I wouldn’t mind because I was a military leader and I was the head of state. And even then, those who wanted to be fair to the military ought to look into which parts of the constitution we suspended in order to have the opportunity that some semblance of discipline and accountability was brought into the Nigerian system.
“We suspended parts of the constitution and we made laws before we sent people on trial, so we take responsibility for whatsoever is the opinion of whoever expresses it. The culture of executing people was about drugs.
“We said cocaine and associated drugs were not developed or produced in Nigeria; people who wanted to make money at the expense of the life expectancy of the Nigerian people go to countries producing the drugs and not make Nigeria a transit camp for drugs, destroying Nigerian communities and extending the destruction to even developed countries just to make money.
“And we were concerned as nationalists that if people want to make money, they should work hard, sweat and make money, not to go and bring drugs, sell it and destroy our youths and sell it again to other countries and we made the law that whosoever did it should be executed. Let him go and spend the money elsewhere, not in Nigeria.”
He denied the allegation of cracking down on civil right groups and using secret tribunal, arguing that instead, his administration had a running battle with the media over the need to clarify facts about issues before going public with them.
“The second accusation made that we trampled on human rights is about the Nigerian press. We said we cannot stop the press from criticising our people or institutions but please let them have investigative journalism. Let them try and verify facts before they accuse government officials and others of misdemeanor and destroy their reputation. And we never had any secret tribunal.
“The tribunal we had, six of them throughout the country, we published those who were sitting on them, we got the intelligence communities; Navy, Army, Airforce, Police and the National Security Organisation (NSO) to form the investigative panel and based on documentation, people were charged before the tribunals and tried. There was nothing secret about it,” he said.
Buhari who said he was disappointed with the postponement of the election, expressed doubts that any meaningful impact could be made in curbing the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east within the six week period of the extension of the general elections initially slated for this weekend and February 28, but said since the period of extension is constitutional, he could not protest against it.
“We have to afford it because appropriate constitutional authority was quoted that up to 30 days to election, the days can be adjusted so that gave it whatever plausible credibility they needed, that is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). So, we are going to appeal to our supporters to give INEC the chance and reach the maximum allowed by the constitution – that 30 days to the swearing-in of the new central government, elections must be conducted so there is no more room for maneuvers as far as we are concerned.”
He, however, called the shift in date “disappointing and provocative,” arguing that “there was no need for it, because at the National council of State meeting, the chairman of the INEC gave a detailed brief of their activities from 2011 till date. He clearly said they were ready to hold the elections.
“If the same military could not secure 14 local government areas out of 774 in six years, how can we be sure they can secure those 14 local government areas in six weeks? I believe Nigerians are grateful to our neighbours that have eventually agreed to come and salvage our country for us for good neighbourliness; so that they too are not threatened by the instability from Nigeria.
“But the bottom line as far as informed Nigerians are concerned, is the massive corruption in government. Where the vote for orphans, for the military, the police and their training money go?”
The former military leader who said with his age as an advantage and his experience through his military and administrative careers he is capable of leading Nigeria, castigated President Goodluck Jonathan for not doing the needful to stop the activities of the insurgent in the North-east.
“The government is not prepared to fight Boko Haram. I made a statement earlier and some of the Nigerian press published the story. The troops deployed in Ekiti and Osun States during the elections; the number of the military, police and other law enforcement agencies deployed to rig election in favour of the ruling party, if effectively used in the North-east, the end of the insurgency could have been met,” he said.