In a recent interview with Media Trust, former Head of State, General Muhammad Buhari stated that he was not too old to be the President.
Some gunmen recently attacked your home town, Daura. Did the attack affect you personally?
Well, it affected me personally because the way I see it as a former military man, the attack was very efficiently planned and executed. It was the phase one of the agenda to destroy Nigeria. They attacked the security; the police stations in the town were destroyed, and I suspected they must have used incendiary bombs because you cannot repair the police stations. You have to demolish, bulldoze them and rebuild them. They stationed what in the military we call cut off group; they stationed their men on all roads leading to Daura. People approaching Daura were attacked and the soldiers that were coming from Katsina town to give a helping hand to the police were ambushed and shot. I visited the soldiers that survived the ambush at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina.
Not long after you came back from Daura, you said President Goodluck Jonathan should resign. Why should he resign just because of an isolated insecurity episode?
No, I think I explained myself as briefly as I could. For the last 14 years there have been extreme security challenges in the country but in the last two years it was even worse. There are two fundamental things that make a nation state viable— its security and its economy. The two years under this person, the security and the economy of the country have been compromised and this was why I said he should resign.
Unless you are telling me that you don’t know the things that went wrong in the last two years from bombing of 1st October, 2010 to now. MEND said they were the ones that did it and he came out as President and said that MEND members were not the ones. Subsequent investigation and prosecution of those who did it in South Africa proved that they did it. How can a president do that? Then look at Baga, Bama and other cases that are happening daily from Kano to Maiduguri. So what is he still doing there?
This insecurity problem, the President has tried the stick approach and he has also tried the carrot approach. If you are to be in charge, what else will you do differently?
Well, I will really go by what happened which you and I know. Firstly, how did the militancy start? How did Boko Haram start? What actions did the respective administrations at state level where those things started took? The militants, based on reports in the newspapers, were trained and armed by some party heavyweights to get rid of their opponents.
When they succeeded and won the elections, they asked those boys to return the weapons, the boys said no way. The politicians withheld their allowances, and then kidnapping started. So you will get a secondary school dropout with an AK-47 getting about 50,000 dollars per day. If the same person goes to school, he can only earn N100,000 monthly after putting 20 years in his education, so how do you expect him to forget it? It doesn’t make sense to him. This was how militancy started.
And when late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was very generous, he pardoned them, he discussed with them, he gave them money and he arranged training and re-absorption programme for them, the thing went slightly down. Abduction has been institutionalised in the South-South and the South -East and it is coming up all over the country.
How did the Boko Haram crisis start? The military arrested their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to the police. The police killed him and his in-law and levelled their houses. They became mad and the situation deteriorated from then up to now.
You see how the challenges started and how they were initially handled but now look at what happened in Baga and Bama. I tried to draw a parallel with what happened with Margret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and insisted on having her convention at Brighton. The British security tried to stop her from holding it there, but she insisted. The hotel she put up in was blown up and some people died. Did the British law enforcement agents cordon off the area and shoot everything that moved? So there is a big question mark about the competence of our law enforcement agents.
Looking at that statement by former militant leader Asari Dokubo, what will happen in 2015?
When was he born? Did he know how many Nigerians died to keep Nigeria one? Maybe he was born after those events. But those who saw the 15th January 1966 murder of political and military leadership of some parts of the country and saw the counter coup of 29th July 1966 and those who participated in the 30 months civil war wouldn’t talk like that. He is just a spoilt child. He didn’t know what he was talking about. We wish God will bring us to 2015 and we wish to defeat Jonathan and we’ll see who can divide this country.
Talking of 2015, is it clear in your mind whether you will contest or not?
I’ve always been a very clear person. I’ve never been a confused man. I made a statement in tears when I saw how insensitive Nigerians are and they didn’t realise it until when my tears were dry. It is now their turn to cry now when there is no security and the economy is comatose. Is now their time to cry.
So will you comfort Nigerians now that they are crying?
I put it back to my party. I believe in multiparty democratic system. I sincerely believe in it and this is why I’m in it for the past 10 years. If my party which by God willing is going to APC, in approach to the processes of 2015 general elections give me the ticket, I will favourably consider it.
You were fairly clear in 2011 that you were through with running for elections. Given what you have been saying recently and which you just repeated now, could it be said that you have now become a normal Nigerian politician who says something and later changes his mind?
I expect people to say that but every situation is unique in itself. I have never denied the fact that I said I’ll not present myself but I was also very clear that I’ll remain in partisan politics to the end of my life. I did not say I will not participate again. People came with different convincing reasons that I should reconsider it and I told them that I’m prepared to reconsider it.
You recently turned 70 and by 2015 you will about 72. Is it appropriate to run for office at that age?
Why not? I’m not a lawyer but I try to go by the rules. I think participating in voting and looking for political office by our constitution is from the age of 18 and they didn’t say when you reach the age of 100 you shouldn’t participate. So I’m even relatively young to seek for election. So it is up to firstly my party to give me the opportunity to participate and then secondly is for Nigerians to vote me or reject me because of old age.
Given the kind of political estate you built within short period of time with millions of followers, we haven’t seen a conscious effort on your part to groom a successor.
When you are running a system unless you are so primitive, I’m sorry to use that word, you don’t have to choose a leader for your supporters. You should allow the system to identify and pick its leadership. This is the beauty of the system.