President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday shocked his audience of eminent Nigerian traditional rulers when he said that there was a time he considered fleeing Nigeria because of the country’s enormous challenges.
Buhari said that besides the numerous problems faced by the country he was not comfortable with hunger arising from food scarcity due to poor harvest being added to them.
The President therefore expressed appreciation to God that because of last year’s rainy season which heralded a bountiful harvest this year the worst did not happen else he would have fled the country.
He spoke at the Presidential Villa in Abuja when he addressed a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar and its co-chairman, the Ooni of Ife, Ogunwusi Adeyeye.
The delegation was on a courtesy visit to the President, who recently returned from a three-month medical vacation in London.
Buhari told his bemused guests that while he contemplated relocating to another country, he was in a quandary as to which country to escape to.
His words: “We know our limitations; we have to continue to strengthen our constitution, to strengthen the resolve of our people to live together, work together.
“We are lucky that last year and this year the rainy season is good. If it were not good I must confide in you that I was considering which country to run to.
“But God answered the prayers of many Nigerians as the rainy season last year was good and this year with the report I’m getting it is good. We thank God for that otherwise there would have been a lot of problems in this country”.
The President reiterated that he met an empty treasury upon assuming office in 2015, but pointed out that he would continue to implement programmes and projects to improve the lives of Nigerians.
He also noted that security was imperative for national development and sought the buy-in of all Nigerians, even as he advised that Nigeria should be able to use its population to its advantage.
Some of the traditional rulers spoke for each of the six geo-political zones.
The Chairman of the South East Traditional Council, Eze Eberechi Dick, assured Buhari that the region prayed for his recovery from illness and will continue to pray for him to deliver on his good agenda for the country.
Eze Dick, however, tasked the President to do something about the deplorable federal roads in the South East zone, as a listening leader that he is.
“Our hearts are full of joy that you are back. You shook our hands when you came in and that shows you believe in one Nigeria. We prayed for you and you are back. We prayed for you because your agenda for Nigeria is good.
“As your children when we cry it is for you to ask us to stop crying; that you will fix whatever is making us cry – like our bad roads and we believe you will do something about them,” he said.
Speaking for the South-South region, the King of Nembe, Edmund Dakouru, expressed commitment to government programmes but urged Buhari to fix the economy, declaring that “we know there is tension here and there but as traditional rulers we don’t eat politics.
“The economy has to be fixed. Coming from the region that produces the mainstay of the economy, even though the country will soon diversify the economy; before we diversify, let’s protect the one that we still have.
“We are pleased to work for peace and stability of the region so that we can all see the benefits of the commodity,” he said.
On behalf of the North East zone, the Lamido Adamawa, Barkindo Mustapha, told Buhari: “God brought you back to Nigeria and we are all very happy. We will continue to pray for God to strengthen you more and give you the courage to continue to do more for the country.”
Speaking for the North West zone, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said that the traditional rulers identify with Buhari’s commitment to national security, while for the North Central region, the Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Buba Gyang, thanked God for bringing the President back to the country healthy.
Gyang cautioned against playing politics with the President’s health and commended his efforts on security and agriculture.
He, however, recalled that “a few days ago just when we thought peace had returned to the Plateau, it was truncated with the attack on Ancha village in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, leading to 20 deaths.”
He commended Buhari for ordering the security agencies to fish out those responsible for the attacks and the reasons for the attack.
On behalf of the South West zone, the Oni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, joined his colleagues in thanking God for the safe return of Buhari.
“We will continue to preach to our people that we should continue to foster peace in our country, we will continue to caution our youths against hate speeches. We cannot leave the development of the country all to the government but we have to work hand-in-hand. We assure you that we support all your initiatives,” he said.
The Sultan of Sokoto, while thanking God for bringing the President back in sound health, urged him to tighten his belt and take on the mantle of leadership as the monarchs were prepared to support him.
He said that with a monarch from each political zone assuring Buhari of their support, he should take the comments as honest and the tonic he needs to work harder for the nation.
He said: “We will continue to preach peace and stability, justice, transparency and accountability and anti-corruption.”