From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has admitted that the long hours he spent working is telling on him because of his age, saying that he looks forward to the end of his tenure in 17 months to join his colleagues in retirement.
He stated his in an interview with a pre-recorded Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) aired on Thursday night.
Asked how he felt clocking 79 recently, he said: “Yes, I think COVID-19 has come to my rescue in the sense that the amount of people that you need to see you, can’t see you so that is losing no time.
“And about my age, yes, I see my colleagues, they are now resting and I assure you that I’m looking forward to the next 17 months when I too would have to be less busy.
“The age is telling on me, working now for 6,7,8 hours a day flight in the office is no joke. Questions of executive council memos from as many states as possible to be considered virtually every week. So, really it is a lot of hard work, but I asked for it and I cannot complain.”
The president also said that he does not expect Nigerian to appreciate him when he leaves office but to realize that he has done his best.
He said: “Yes, because, look, as you know I have been a governor. I have been a minister and I’m in my second term as President. So, I have gone through the system. And really, what else can I do with this country?
“I have given my best and I hope after I leave Nigerians will reflect and at least not show appreciation. I’m not expecting any appreciation. But what I’m expecting is for Nigerians to say yes, this man has done his best. This is the most I’m expecting from Nigerians. But it’s no joke. I’m telling you.
“Look at the problem we’re having in the southeast now. How many police stations were taken over, weapons missing. We closed the border with Benin, we closed the border with Niger. But we had to accept the reality that the weapons are coming from our own armories, police stations have been attacked and so on. So, the main problem is, I hope, i will leave a more secure Nigeria than what it is now.”
President Buhari expressed optimism that the insecurity in the country can be resolved before he leaves office, noting that the security forces are working hard on it just as more equipment and ammunition are being procured.
He stated: “Yes, the government is capable and is going to do it because members of the security, the armed forces and others, they are all security it depends on one Nigeria.
“So no matter, when people are selfish, is their self first. So, even for their own selves, they better stabilize Nigeria and I believe they will do it.
“I know we’re short on resources. For example, dealing with the militants, if people bother to reflect on how we found the northeast and south-south and how much progress we have made and acquiring some helicopters, aircraft, their maintenance, their ammunition, armored cars, you know to counter effectively, the bandits. They cost money and they cost time for training and adaptation.”
President Buhari rejected the notion that corrupt politicians defect to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to escaped punishment, noting that as far as he is concerned such defections has not stopped his government’s insistence on accountability.
Buhari said: “I don’t like to accept that joining our party will check our insistence on accountability. We are very serious about people who aspire to lead at whatever level by their performance, by their integrity both professional and personal.
“But the problem is that we have to work within the system. Even if you suspect individuals, unless there is evidence, there isn’t much we can do. So, really, it is the system that makes it possible for some people really to even be corrupt.”
When pressed on whether the defectors will not be allowed to go free, he said: “They can’t. Nobody can go scot free as far as I’m concerned.
“Imagine what the opposition could do to me if there is something along my record, a lot of confusion could have been caused.
“But luckily I think we try to find officers with integrity and that is the best thing for Nigeria leadership at all levels. Behave with integrity. If that is done, we will achieve better results. If that is not done, a lot of time will be wasted in talking, quarreling and a lot of noise.”
The president reiterated that he is not a kingmaker who will determine who becomes the next president.
He also noted that any governor that tries to impose a candidate on the people will face problems.
He said: “My position is simple, I think I succeeded in trying to get my position understood in the sense that I said, we start from bottom upwards; from polling units to wards, to local governments, to states and then to Abuja. So, the party, because I’m concerned about my party, the party, in all constituents they will know their positions, coming up. Therefore, when they come to Abuja, they are likely to work together.
“There is no kingmaker from Abuja, no constituency is being dictated to. All constituencies are supposed to produce their leadership in our party. What other parties are doing is their own business, but we want to make sure that our party members understand that they are respected. It is from polling unit, to ward to local government, to state and after Abuja. So those who want to be elected at any level, let them work for it. Nobody is going to appoint anybody.”
Asked if the current problem will be resolved and the convention will still go ahead, Buhari said: “We have timeframe we have to work because the four-year tenure is constitutional. It cannot be interfered by anybody. So, if the party couldn’t agree, then the opposition can take over. What did the PDP do? They said the opposition could not come together, but when CAN, ANPP, CPC, APGA came together, before PDP realized it, they were off, they are still are still off, they can see it.”