Chatham House: Buhari Says He’s a Reformed Democrat

by on February 27, 2015

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has said no corrupt politician will be appointed into his administration if he is elected president, proclaiming nonetheless that he is a reformed democrat ready to operate under democratic norms.

Buhari, who delivered a speech on Thursday at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House in London, also assured the international community that an APC-led government would ensure economic and political stability of the country.

He also said his administration would choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels through border controls and would take measures to tackle its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan, promoting infrastructure development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas.

The APC candidate, whose speech at Chatham House was preceded by pro and anti-Buhari protests, said corrupt persons would be screened out from his administration.

He however allayed fears of the war against corruption being turned into means of settling old scores or a witch-hunt.

“But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for president to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.

“There will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and corrupt persons will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process.

“Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and customs and excise will have one set of books only,” he said.

Buhari also addressed the issue of reforming the economy, saying: “We will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.”

He listed several aspects of the party’s manifesto, saying a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption.

Buhari, who said he is now a converted democrat, promised if elected, to lead the way, with the force of personal example.

While replying critics of his past role as a military dictator, Buhari said he had discarded the past and has sufficiently imbibed the democratic culture.

“I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time,” he said.

On insecurity, the APC presidential candidate said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government had failed in any effort “towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue”.

“Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service.

“We will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan, promoting infrastructure development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas,” he said.

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Answering questions from the inconceivably large crowd that attended the event, Buhari noted that nobody has the power to turn the country into a Sharia state, as doing that would amount to changing the constitution, “which is practically impossible at this time”.

Buhari said that there were other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focused on this year’s elections.

According to him, the foremost reason stemmed from the fact that the elections would be holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy.

“On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure.

“Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium.

“What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency,” he told his audience.

Also, Buhari, in an interview with Channels television, on the sidelines of the event, allayed allegations that he had travelled to the UK on medical ground, stating that in addition to his speech and meeting with his supporters in London, he decided to take time out to get a well-deserved rest, having campaigned non-stop for weeks in 35 states of the federation.

Prior to his address at the institute, supporters of APC and the ruling PDP had converged on Chatham House as early as 8.30 am GMT, chanting all songs aimed at dwarfing each other.

They also brandished placards boldly inscribed with words of support and against Buhari, and despite the rain that started shortly after the APC presidential candidate had started his speech, none of the supporters agreed to budge.

The situation almost got out of control when the demonstrators who were either hired, as alleged from different quarters, blocked the road at St James Square, venue of the event.

Their protests attracted more policemen who were deployed to keep them in check.

Some of the governors and APC leaders seen at Chatham House included Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Adams Oshiomohole (Edo), Bola Tinubu and Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

Meanwhile, at a different forum organised by the party’s local chapter and held at the Everlasting Arms Ministries, APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, accompanied by the party’s publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and other party faithfuls, told their audience that the country was yawning for change, which had compelled three main political parties to unite and fight one enemy called PDP.

“We knew our country is aching for change and that is why we were compelled to form APC to fight the existing ruling party. If we didn’t come together, we would have been more guilty than the PDP,” Oyegun said.

The party chairman described APC as a movement that has come to stay, adding that nothing would stop them.

He also likened the party to a fighting machine, which sooner or later would computerise the names of all their members.

However, reacting to Buhari’s much-expected speech in London, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation yesterday expressed shock that Buhari who refused to participate in a debate in his own country had gone abroad to sell his message “in a desperate attempt to curry favour with the people of that country”.

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In a statement by the organisation’s spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode, PDP reminded Buhari that the decision on the presidential election would be decided in Nigeria, not in London.

“We wonder whether General Buhari told his foreign audience whilst he was in London how much he loves Boko Haram. We wonder whether he told them that he once said that he believes that ‘an attack on Boko Haram is an attack on the north’ and that the Boko Haram terrorists should be appeased, pampered, resettled and paid allowances.

“We wonder if he told them that he was once nominated by Boko Haram to be their spokesman and representative during proposed negotiations with the federal government.

“We wonder if he told them that he was the one that ordered and organised the violent injecting, crating and disgraceful kidnapping of a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the name of Alhaji Umaru Dikko from the streets of London 31 years ago when he was in power.

“We shall state our views about General Buhari’s stage-managed show of shame at Chatham House at a later date, and at that time, we shall go into far more details.

“For now, all we can say is that it is truly pitiful that a former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria believes that it is more important to win the hearts and minds of the British public than it is to win the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people,” he said.

Fani-Kayode stressed that Buhari could run to any foreign country in the world to say anything that he likes, “but at the end of the day the decision as to who will lead Nigeria as from May 29th this year will be determined by no one else but the Nigerian people. The game is on here and not in London”.

In his Twitter handle, Fani-Kayode also denied allegations that he had sponsored the anti-Buhari protesters in London.

Similarly, the PDP, in another statement yesterday, said it had noted the theatrical appearance of Buhari “in that well produced orchestra at the Chatham House, London”, describing it as a well written and a well acted script.

“It is a well written script, a script well acted, all a truthful lie. The messenger belies the message,” the ruling party said.

In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, PDP added: “The stage was targeted to secure a desperately needed endorsement of the international community but the world is hardly fooled by theatrics of desperation. APC is chasing shadows.

“That stage may have lifted the badly deflated morale of the members of  APC but the vanishing performance is incapable of redeeming the forlorn fortunes in the bad sale the APC flag bearer is, in the March 28, 2015 presidential election.

“The bottom-line, we wish to urge General Buhari to quickly channel his message and energies home, meet Nigerians who are choking up with questions on his capacity to lead.

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“He may realise, ultimately too, that politics in this instance is local and shall be decided locally. The ultimate endorsement lies with the people of Nigeria.

“We wish to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for boosting the moral of our gallant soldiers with a visit today to Baga in Borno State and Mubi in Adamawa State.

“His able leadership has resulted in the huge successes recorded by our armed forces in the fight against insurgency.”

Also joining the PDP to pillory Buhari, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, who has turned out to be a thorn in his flesh, yesterday declared that the Chatham House lecture was a face-saving decoy to rescue the former head of state from ridicule.

Fayose, who reiterated that he had nothing personal against Buhari, said he would not relent in exposing the hypocrisy of the APC and alleged attempt to delude Nigerians into a booby trap as it happened under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Fayose, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, wondered why Buhari did not appear at an APC-organised rally in London on Wednesday if indeed he was not in a hospital bed.

The governor added that the much-talked about lecture was a face-saving measure to cover the true situation with Buhari, adding that most of those attacking him (Fayose) were doing so because he had stuck out his neck to expose the lies of the APC.

The governor, who said he owed nobody any apology for exposing the hypocrisy of APC leaders, accused them of placing personal interests far above the national interest.

Fayose said the APC had not only packaged lies and tried to foist such on Nigerians, but had compromised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rig the election if it had held on February 14.

Fayose recalled that as the ad hoc chairman of PDP committee to shop for a presidential candidate to replace former President Olusegun Obasanjo, “a crop of suitable, brilliant, healthy and competent northern politicians in the PDP were shortlisted by me for Obasanjo to pick from, but he overruled the list and asked me to contact the late Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua because he preferred him”.

“In fairness to the late president, he objected to the offer on health grounds, but Obasanjo insisted that he must be the president. I am not against the North, rather if Obasanjo had picked from the list of names submitted by my committee to him, certainly, a northerner, replacing Obasanjo would have ruled this country till 2015.

“So as an insider who saw everything and who again has seen a repeat of the episode of 2006, I must talk.

“There is nothing bad in allowing President Jonathan from the South-south to complete the two terms he is allowed constitutionally and in 2019, a real candidate from the North, not one manipulated by the South-west APC, will emerge to take over.

“These APC leaders operate in deceit, and the well being of this country is secondary to them. That 2006 scenario is again being re-enacted with Obasanjo and APC leaders branding General Buhari to be the president of this country.

“I am not wishing General Buhari dead, but the fact remains that he is too old to govern a complex country like Nigeria and we don’t want a president that will govern by proxy,” he stated.

Source: This Day

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