Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has given reasons why he declared his intentions to run for a second term in office. The President had made the declaration on Monday during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC).
“I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice,” Buhari explained Wednesday in London at an audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby.
“We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others. We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting.”
This was according to a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
Buhari laid out to the cleric, with whom he has built a deep friendship in recent times, some of the successes of the administration, with a particular emphasis on the strides recorded in agriculture.
“We have cut the importation of rice by about 90%, saving billions of dollars in the process. People who rushed into petrol money have now gone back to agriculture. Even professionals have gone back to the land. Nigeria should be able to feed itself comfortably soon. I am so pleased,” he said.
The President also told Welby about his administration’s efforts in the war against Boko Haram, stressing the need for continuous education of the people, “so that they can be free from religious manipulation,” adding that no true religion advocates the hurting or killing of the innocent.
Responding to Welby’s comment on the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of Nigeria, Buhari noted: “The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region. These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram. Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons. The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions.”
He lamented that “irresponsible politics” has been brought into the farmers/herders’ crisis, but assured that enduring solutions would be found, and justice done to all concerned.
On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by insurgents, reportedly because she refused to renounce her Christian faith, the President said: “We are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations. There are too many fraudulent people around who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi Girls back, and the Chibok Girls.”
The Archbishop said it was always a delight to see President Buhari, “whom I have tremendous respect for,” adding: “You have my best wishes on your recent decision. I read your declaration speech. We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you.”
The Archbishop presented President Buhari with a copy of his recent book, ‘Reimagining Britain. Foundations for Hope.’