The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday drew questions from CNN International Correspondent, Christine Amanpour on a number of issues relating to his aspiration and his record as military head of state. Excerpts:
WHat is your reaction to the delay in the elections by six weeks, and President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise that the military will make inroad in the area of security of the North-East in six weeks?
My reaction is that of disappointment because the presentation made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was that they were ready to conduct the elections on the dates they fixed a year ago, and for them to be forced virtually by the military, which said that they cannot guarantee the safety of INEC staff, which made the commission to concede to the demand of additional six weeks…
But since six weeks is within the time stipulated by the constitution, we had to advise our supporters to remain calm, resolute and obey the law.
You are a former military general, and you ruled the country briefly. Why is it that the Nigerian military, today, cannot take on Boko Haram, and has failed to combat that terrorist organization?
The issue was made much clear when the National Assembly attempted to conduct a hearing after soldiers sent to the front without proper weapons were granting interviews to the foreign media.
The National Assembly attempted to conduct a hearing by getting the budgets approved by it in the last three years and inviting the service chiefs to come and explain why weapons were not procured and sent to the soldiers under competent leadership, but the hearing was scuttled.
This shows misapplication or misappropriation of resources and funds provided by the government, and also explains why the Nigerian military was unable to defeat Boko Haram.
You recently got a huge endorsement from a former ally of President Jonathan; that is former President Olusegun Obasanjo. How do you react to that and what will that do to your campaign?
It will certainly bring more supporters to us and more confidence again to us from those who were sitting on the fence before now (especially) because General Obasanjo is highly respected as far as the Nigerian nation is concerned. There is no serious issue that can be discussed without people seeking for his opinion and listening to it.
The headlines around the world are that the Nigerian presidential election is a contest between a failed president and former dictator, and you are the former dictator according to these headlines.
Some people say that you expelled 700,000 migrants years back, thinking that it would create jobs; that you banned political meetings and free speech; that you detained thousands of people; set up secret tribunals; executed people for crimes that were not capital offences. Have you changed, or are these what the Nigerian people should look forward to if you win the election?
All those things you mentioned with a degree of accuracy were what actually happened but they were under a military administration.
When the military under my leadership came on board, we suspended those aspects of the constitution that we felt would make it difficult for us to operate under the circumstance we found ourselves.
But I think I would be judged harshly as an individual by what happened during that military administration, or to extend what happened under a military administration to a democratic system.
Now that you say that you are a democrat, what do you think you can do to combat Boko Haram and the galloping corruption in your country?
We know how Boko Haram started. Certainly the Nigerian military has built a reputation for effectiveness, but it is a great embarrassment to the country that the military has not been able to secure Nigeria’s territory, losing 14 out of 774 local governments.
Equipment and training
I believe that it will not be difficult for an APC government to deal with Boko Haram because we know that the Nigerian military is competent. What we will do is to make sure the funds voted for equipment and training are properly utilized.
On corruption, there are complains by many people in your country over massive corruption. Can you face up against that? Are you committed to rooting out corruption?
We have to because there are serious citizens of our country who say that “unless Nigeria kills corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” And this was best illustrated by the hearings conducted by the National Assembly on the pension fund, power sector and petroleum industry, on which the country depends on for about 90 per cent of its external revenue.
The National Assembly conducted the hearings here in Abuja and the six-geo-political zones of the country. They sent their recommendations to the executive but they have been there collecting dust in the last 18 months.