Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that if he wins the 2019 election, and he spent another four years in office, “I will leave some difference in that office.”
This is even as he has denied that he was slow at taking decisive actions as some people had assumed, saying he was trying to follow the law, especially as democracy is different from military rule.
He said this during an interactive session with a select group of Nigerian professionals based in the United States and Canada, on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, in New York.
President Buhari, who recalled that as a military Head of State, he hauled people in Kirikiri prison until they were able to prove themselves innocent, regretted that the elite allowed Nigeria to be mismanaged for 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule, without as much as raising a voice in consternation.
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President Buhari declared, “Under the PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund, of which he was Chairman), we did roads from Lagos to Abuja, to Onitsha, to Port Harcourt.
“Since then, the roads were not done, between 1999 and 2015, yet the elite did not say a word.
“I was called Baba Go Slow. Those who were going fast, where did they get to?
“In 1983, military officers gathered, and made me Head of State.
“I packed the politicians into jail, told them they were guilty until they could prove their innocence.
“We seized what they had looted, but after I myself was put in detention, the politicians were given back what they had looted. How many elite complained about that?
“Three times I contested elections; three times I went to court after the elections were rigged against me. No justice, but I said ‘God dey.’
The President told his audience in the Diaspora that his administration has done well in the areas of security, economy and anti-corruption, the three cardinal promises it campaigned on.
According to him, his administration had delivered within the available resources.
The president explained that Boko Haram had been decimated adding, it was most important for the country to be secured but regretted that the terrorist group was still targeting soft spots using girls for suicide bombings.
President Buhari also declared that “Boko Haram is not about religion but a pure terrorist group” adding, that is why we are dealing with them.
He said: “I’ve tried to do my best since I came. Security-wise, we are better. Boko Haram still conducts cowardly attacks, but the insurgency is not the same as it used to be.
“They are terrorists and have nothing to do with religion. We will continue to deal with them. Ask people in the North-east, especially in Borno State, they will tell you they can sleep with two eyes closed now.”
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On corruption, he regretted that Nigeria made so much money from 1999 to 2014 when the price of crude oil per barrel was above 100 dollars while Nigeria produced around 1.2 million barrels per day.
“Calculate 2.2 million barrels times 100 dollars times 16 years but everything went down the drain,” he said, reiterating that “if Nigeria does not tame corruption, corruption will tame Nigeria”.
President Buhari also recounted his bitter experience in politics saying that he suffered electoral corruption from 2013 when he started contesting for the Presidency and had at each point, pursued the case up to the Supreme Court, but lost.
“It was mainly the ordinary people that stood by me. That is why I am always conscious of them.
“They are my constituency. Even pregnant women on the queue would fall into labour, go to have their babies and still come back to vote for me. I will keep doing my best for the country,” he said.
The President explained that he had warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to ensure that every vote counts by allowing Nigerians to vote whoever they want without harassment.
The President said he recognised that Nigerians in the Diaspora were talented people and called on them to come to the support of the country, particularly, in education.
The Diasporas appealed to the president to get them more involved in issues about the country considering that they are important and major stakeholders.
The Diaspora Nigerians, in their scores, are top flight professionals, drawn from fields like medicine, engineering, sports, the arts, investment, academia, politics, agriculture, transport, education, publishing, and many others.
Most of them expressed the wish to come back home, and contribute to the change making a headway in Nigeria, to which the President replied, “You are contributing to this great country (America). If you want to help back home, invest in education in your constituencies. If you educate people, they won’t then accept nonsense from anybody.”
Earlier, the Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Mr. Benaoyagha Okoyen, in his address of welcome, commended the willingness of the Diasporas to support the efforts of the government’s economic growth and diversification plans.
“The purpose of this gathering is to allow Nigerians in Diaspora interact with Mr. President by offering useful suggestions for government to continually strengthen the existing bond of affection, identity and sense of responsibility for the Diaspora community, to actively participate in development efforts of Nigeria at home.
”I feel delighted to state the obvious that among Nigerians in the United States, we have some of the most celebrated and outstanding in various fields of human endeavours.
“I wish to report to Mr. President of the desire and passion of these Nigerians to contribute and maintain an effective working partnership with government to integrate their valuable contributions into the domestic growth mechanisms.
“More importantly, as human capital is a vital resource for the development of any country, I wish to call on Nigerians in United States America to utilise the opportunities to invest at home and be good ambassadors of change in Nigeria.”
The parley was put together by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters.
Representatives of USA chapters of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) also presented awards to President Buhari in appreciation of his performance, urging him to do more.