Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
President Muhammadu Buhari’s political ally and erstwhile Governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Borno State, Waziri Mohammed Bulama has given an insight into the personality of the president, saying many Nigerians do not know the man well.
Bulama, a former state chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architect and currently the Deputy Director General (coordination), All Progressive Congress (APC) 2019 Campaign Council, identified two major character traits of President Buhari, describing him as non partisan leader.
The campaigns of your party has been based on the slogan ‘Next Level’ but many Nigerians have been asking what has changed in Nigeria in the last three and half years of President Buhari’s administration. What do you think?
We are doing our campaign on three issues. We went into contest and won the 2015 election. The promise we gave Nigerians is that we will restore peace and security to the country. The next thing we promised was to curb corruption, wastages of resources of government. We also promised to stabilised the Nigerian economy and grow it. Nigerians believed in these and that was why they voted us in. The situation in Nigeria as at 2015 was that these three fundamental things were lacking. The issue of Boko Haram and pockets of violence almost consumed Nigeria. In fact, Boko Haram had carved out certain parts of Nigeria and raised flags and was imposing taxes on the citizens in the North-East. Other parts of the country especially the North-West was not also free of violence. Boko Haram bomb attacks were recorded in Suleja and Kano. Nigerians were living in fear; fear of leaving their homes, going to market, travelling or moving from one point to another. Without security, there cannot be peace and without peace there can’t be development. We promised Nigerians we would restore peace and security for people to live normal life, work and produce. That has been done. On economy; as at 2015 Nigeria economy was at standstill. Nigeria was broke, there was cash problem. About 27 states were not even paying salaries. The Federal Government stopped paying contractors, suppliers and meeting its obligation as at August 2014. This statement was made by the chairman of all contractors in Nigeria in 2015 that the Federal Government has stopped paying because it had no money. The Federal Government itself was borrowing about N200 billion every month to pay salaries, sometimes in areas. Both the capital and recurrent expenditures were not being funded. So President Muhammadu Buhari ensured there is cash flow in the country, salaries are paid and projects are funded. There is the issue of waste and mismanagement of public resources. We felt that the lean resources available in this country should be used prudently and for public use. President Buhari said the country will always remain broke unless we block leakages and waste. We therefore focused on achieving success in these three areas and in the last three and half years, we achieved them. When you are measuring the president’s performance, you should look at what Nigeria was in 2015 especially in these three areas, the resources available to APC government from 2015 till date compared to previous administration and then what President Buhari has done. We believe we have achieved in these areas.
But the kind of insecurity facing the country now appears to be enormous with most parts of the country having one form of security challenge or the other; kidnapping, political assassination and banditry among others. Would you say there is improvement then from what the Buhari government met on ground?
There is a serious improvement in tackling the security situation we met on ground. Before 2015, the tactics and response of government towards tackling security were not working and that was why Nigerians decided to vote out that government. But since this government came on board, it has developed strategies to attack organised crimes in the country such as Boko Haram, pipe vandalism in the Niger-Delta, cattle rustlers, kidnapers who operate like kingpins and have networks. The government has empowered the security forces, gave them the right resources and right strategies to burst all networks of organised crimes. For instance, Boko Haram no longer operates in a defined territory as it was in 2015 when they held about 15 Local Government Areas, hoisted their flags. The military has burst camps where Boko Haram used to stay like in Sambisa, Kangaruwa to plan their attacks and train fighters. For us, it is a huge achievement. There are clearly pockets of attacks which sprung out but this challenge is no longer like organised crimes as they were in 2015. Government has deployed security personnel now to Zamfara State, North-Central and all other areas. The ability of the government to respond to security challenge now is far more re-assuring. Insecurity is a reoccurring problem and there will always be problem of insecurity from time to time; armed robbers, kidnappers among others. These are very common in the society but the most important thing is the ability of the government and the security agencies to respond adequately to tackle the problem as they occur. There are always challenges in terms of manpower and logistics. But as the country moves toward improvement in the capacity of the security forces, vide total security of life and properties, we will be seeing occasional breach of peace and security because criminals will always feel tempted to operate where they think they can perpetrate their acts and go free. This is very common in this country. The important question is; has this government improved the capacity of the security forces to tackle security challenges in this country? I think the answer is yes.
You said Nigerians should judge Buhari on what he has done but don’t you think Nigerians should also judge him on what he has not done and his capacity vis-a -vis his state of health to do what he’s promising to do again if given the mandate?
Buhari is a very effective leader. It is because of his effectiveness as a leader that he was able to achieve those records, those tangible efforts that he has undertaken. The concern people are raising about age, faculty and strength is expected. But in reality, Buhari is physically, mentally and psychologically strong. He is committed and focused on what he’s doing. A lot of people are trying to make issue out of the president’s age and his alleged lay-back way of doing things. He is rather sharp and alert. When you see him at close range especially when one is in a meeting with him, you will know that this man is much in control. He is emotionally sensitive. Two things are peculiar to Buhari that people may not know. One; he is an introvert. He doesn’t talk much and always careful about what he says whenever he speaks. He is not also an orator. The second one is that he sees himself as a statesman in politics and this is what he is. He doesn’t like playing politics with state issues and doesn’t even know how to do it.
As at 2002 when the political class persuaded him to join politics, he has achieved what every man would aspire to archive in life. In his military career, he retired as a Major-General having head several sensitive positions in the army. As part of military involvement in governance of the nation, he has also head known positions within the administration of Nigeria; minister, governor and head of state. So when politicians brought him into politics, he has been struggling to balance the partisan interest of politicians and national duty of a leader. He sees himself as a leader on a mission.. Therefore, as a man yearning for history, he struggles daily to balance partisan politics of politicians with his statesmanship, and sincerely it is not an easy thing for him. Don’t forget that partisanship is about serving personal and party interest and stakeholders’ interest but statesmanship demands treating everybody equally. Buhari is actually standing strictly on the path of statesmanship; he is conscious of what history will say of him rather than gains from political adventures of his party or himself. Nigerians should therefore see him as a leader who is on rescue mission sort. So because of that, a lot of people even around him don’t find his posture common. They don’t find him a nice, generous person. He is not someone who will create room for people to have access to the nation’s vault. He is not somebody who pleases everybody. Even those who are close to him have been making all sorts of statements as if Buhari does not appreciate those around him. You understand what I mean.
I have seen him chair the meeting of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) with very sharp memory and controlled mind. He is leading very strong people in a meeting where you have Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Rotimi Amechi, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and Senator Aliyu Wamako among others. These are people with very robust intellect and could debate issues from different angles and differ in views, but he is being able to control things even at such meetings. He plays leadership role, balancing different views and opinions. You don’t hear frictions. He keeps things under control because of his effectiveness as leader. He has revolutionised many things in this country from bad to good. For instance, a partisan leader even when he is seen as a statesman can destroy a country by his partisanship. In 1999, this country was handed over to a globally accepted man but partisanship took the better part of that leader. The party and leader served to satisfy the need of the party men. Recently in 2017 to be precise, that leader said during his rule, he empowered or created 25 billionaire Nigerians. That party policy is driven by partisan politics. The party built members, empowered and enriched them at the expense of the development of our country. At the end of it all, every major project, infrastructure of this nation suffered because the interest of the country was not served. It was subsumed under personal interest. The middle class collapsed completely and we have more billionaire while middle class became poorer. In 2014 when the then head of state was reminded that the economy was at standstill, he said ‘don’t you see the number of private jets we have in the country?’ This means the party has empowered individual party members to own private jets and to him, the nation’s economy was ok. Partisanship by leaders stagnates or destroys the country. Buhari is playing the role of a statesman, a leader who is out to save the life of the country. The policy structure of Buhari’s government since 2015 is to build public infrastructure with public resources and not individuals.
Why are you still supporting him if politicians are not comfortable with him? The interest of every politician is categorised into three Ps. One, personal interest, secondly party interest because you can’t stand election without being a member of a party. The third P is public interest. The essence of politics in truth and philosophy is serving the public interest. What President Buhari has done is to target the public interest because all of us are also part of the public. This is why I am backing him.