President-elect Muhammadu Buhari gave his first major interview after been elected the next civilian president of Nigeria under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC). Here is what he told Christiane Amanpour of CNN
Mister President-elect welcome to the program. How surprised were you by the scale of your win? This is the first time an opposition candidate has beaten an incumbent in Nigeria
Well I’m not surprised because of how we came into the merger, the main opposition parties in Nigeria decided to come together to face the ruling party, that is we had have a national spread and we have experienced political parties and politicians across the length and breadth of the country, so it’s not surprising.
Mister president-elect, Goodluck Jonathan the outgoing president conceded, he also said this showed that democracy is here to stay in Nigeria and you yourself have said that you want reconciliation, you said let me state clearly that president Jonathan has nothing to fear from me, he is a great Nigerian and still our president, that is what you said earlier, do you worry about reconciling the nation that has been so bitterly divided?
Well, I’m not because the actual division which was bothering about I think in terms of social instability, insecurity, is in the North, East and in the Delta area which I think there have been with the country long enough that we know how this started and what stage they are now and therefore we are confident that we will rapidly give attention to security in the country and I believe will effectively deal with them in few months when we get into office.
Mr. Buhari, how will you do it? Boko Haram has been a plague on your nation for years now, I mean the famous girls, the girls of Chibok who are still not returned – how are you going to do what the previous government didn’t do?
Well, I think firstly we have to register the cooperation of the neighboring countries Cameroon, Chad and Niger, although efforts was made by this administration it wasn’t good enough, and it was too late too. We expected the Federal Government at least four years ago to have sat down with these nations to make sure they don’t allow the terrorists free movement across borders, training facilities and movement of weapons – this was only done about two months ago, and we have seen a positive side by the way the Chad, Niger and Cameroonians, virtually fighting the Boko Haram more Nigerians are doing until recently, so really, we have seen enough and we have enough reinforcement agencies to face the Boko Haram squarely.
Because you said ‘we shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism, and I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will’…and as you said, it has taken militaries from other nations to help you so far – are the Nigerian military – or will they be – up to this challenge that the whole world is looking at, Mr. President-elect?
I believe they will be, and I believe if you can recall, the Nigerian soldiers out of all ethical expectations, were giving interviews to foreign journalists that they were being sent to face the terrorists and get more done because of lack of weapons and training and leadership, and then the National Assembly attempted to conduct hearing by finding out how much the national assembly approved in terms of budgetary allocation for weapons and training in the last three, four years, and they wanted to invite the [inaudible] chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff but that hearing was cut by the administration, so the performance of the military was and still is being affected by the corruption in the system.
You were a military ruler and you came to power after a coup in the 1980’s – you banned political meetings and free speech, detained thousands of people and had secret tribunals, executing people. Have you changed? Are you a real democrat?
The only thing you haven’t said is all that you allege I did happened under military administration. Since then I am a converted democrat and I attempted to get to office three times and three times I ended up in the highest court in the country – the Supreme Court. And the allegations that people were executed for offences that weren’t the death sentence – I think you are wrong. When we came into power on December 1983 as a military administration, we decided as a government to prescribe a death sentence on drug traffickers. So there was a law and we made the law before people were successfully prosecuted and executed.
What about corruption – it’s such a huge problem. You’re such a rich country but what are you going to do to differently make sure it’s not siphoned off into peoples’ pockets and that it’s dramatically reduced?
It’s very difficult from my experience. It’s on a record (?) that in every ministry and every place you go to in Nigeria there are documents about administrative instructions and financial instructions but those instructions were ignored because leadership at various stages were being held hostage because of their corrupt practices. And if we – and God willing we shall – make sure that corruption is eradicated in Nigeria.
Finally, you’re a very, very rich country – the biggest economy in Africa and yet the oil price is plunging. How do you tackle these big economic challenges in particular the inequality that you yourself have campaigned to try to bridge?
Well I think the [inaudible] of accountability at every step of leadership is one of the ways. The laws are there but the problems have been ignored for so long that a culture of [inaudible] has been [inaudible]. That has to be arrested immediately. People must be held accountable at various levels about public funds and property. And I assure you that if we successfully plug the holes on corruption there can be resources that can be utilized to improve infrastructure and I can work hard to investigate agriculture and mining and provide jobs to everybody unemployed before detailed studies are made and resources allocated for further training and infrastructure development in the country.