PRESIDENTIAL candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, has restated his commitment to battle insurgency in the country, saying his government would lead the military in waging war against Boko Haram Islamist group.
He said this on Thursday, after delivering a paper, entitled: “Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition,” at Chatham House, London, where he opened up a discussion on the importance of democracy for Africa’s future, and, in particular, why delivering dividends of elected government matters both to Nigeria and the international community.
While Buhari was at Chatham House, London, President Goodluck Jonathan paid a surprise visit to the frontline of the war against terror, meeting with members of the armed forces in reclaimed territories of Mubi in Adamawa State and Baga in Borno State.
The president left the Presidential Villa at about 10.00 a.m. for the discreet trip where he applauded Nigerian troops for proving their mettle once again, through the rapid recapture of territories formerly held by insurgents in the North-East.
This came as supporters of President Jonathan and Major-General Buhari took their battle for supremacy to the Chatham House, London, where they both besieged the venue, in solidarity with their leaders.
Supporters of President Jonathan staged a rally in support of the re-election bid of the president, as they drove through the streets of Saint James Square in the early hours of Thursday, alerting residents to the planned solidarity march.
Also, Buhari’s supporters were not left out, as they marched out to the venue of the lecture to be delivered by their presidential candidate at Chatham House, bearing placards with various inscriptions in support of the APC presidential candidate.
Buhari, at Chatham House, blamed the earlier setback suffered by the military in fighting Boko Haram on the Federal Government, saying the government had failed to adequately motivate the military.
“Nigerian soldiers are well trained and capable of fighting insurgency, but they are not well motivated by government,” Buhari stressed.
Buhari urged the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment, saying “it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates.”
He charged that the elections should be free and fair; that their outcomes should be respected by all parties and warned that “any form of extension, under whatever guise, is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.”
Buhari said he took responsibility for whatever happened under his watch as a military head of state, but now contesting the presidency for the fourth time as a “converted democrat,” while promising that he would subject himself to the rigours of democratic elections and operate under democratic norms.
“I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.
“Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch,” Buhari said.
When asked to state his position on Sharia if elected to government, Buhari said “Sharia is limited to inheritance, marriage and others, but hinging it on the constitution as it is already a constitutional practice, he said “if anyone wants to change Sharia they have to change the constitution.”
Buhari applauded the multi-party democracy, which he said is the best form of government, adding that if well implemented, “change is coming democratically for Africa.
On the issue of his age and health, the APC presidential candidate said his doctors had declared him fit, stressing that “I have been declared fit.”
He warned against what he termed “Somalianisation” of Nigeria and not allow for any setback in the system, adding that Nigeria’s constitution is a guarantee that Nigerians would accommodate differences.
Under his government, Buhari said it would be zero tolerance for corruption, but he would have to draw a line in his corruption investigation as he said it would take too much time to investigate corrupt practices from 1960 to date.
“Corruption would have no place in my administration,” Buhari stressed.
Still answering question on Boko Haram insurgency, especially on a belief that any war against Boko Haram is seen as an the attack against the North, Buhari said most northerners have been affected by Boko Haram attacks.
“It is misguided to say attack on Boko Haram is an attack on the North,” he said, while stressing that he was determined more than ever before to ensure the insurgency was brought to an end in the region.
He frowned on the unemployment rate in the country, saying “lack of jobs, facilities and a basic will to survive is a problem in rural and remote areas.
“We must have a deliberate campaign to tamper high expectations. Change is possible, but this time through the ballot,” Buhari said.
“Almost 60 per cent of our youth is unemployed, and we have one of the highest levels of inequality in the world,” he said, adding that “over 60 million Nigeria are impoverished.”
Jonathan visits recovered territories of Mubi, Baga
President Jonathan, according to a statement by his Special Adviser, Dr Reuben Abati, the president addressed officers and men of the Nigerian Army in both towns, which were recently recaptured from Boko Haram.
He said the president declared that he and all Nigerians were very proud of the bravery, competence and patriotism with which they were now undertaking operations to expel the insurgents from all parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
He also quoted Jonathan as saying that with their recent successes, which had overwhelmingly turned the tide against Boko Haram, the Nigerian military had proven beyond any doubt that it remained fully capable of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
The military’s recent victories against Boko Haram, Jonathan told the troops, had also proven conclusively that all those within and outside the country, who cast aspersions on Nigerian soldiers and questioned their ability and willingness to overcome the insurgents, were misinformed and wrong.
Jonathan was accompanied on the trip by the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki and all the service chiefs.
He assured the troops that the Federal Government would ensure that they received all the equipment and logistics required to complete the ongoing mission to reassert government’s effective control over all areas formerly held by Boko Haram.
Abati revealed that while in Mubi, the president, accompanied by the Adamawa State governor, Mr Bala Ngilari and the Minister of Youth Development, Mr Boni Haruna, paid a courtesy call on the Emir, Alhaji Isa Ahmadu.
He assured the emir that the Federal Government would ensure normalcy was speedily returned to Mubi and other towns and settlements.
President Jonathan also undertook an aerial inspection of other towns and areas recently recaptured from Boko Haram, including Monguno.
Before returning to Abuja, the president met and conferred with the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, in Maiduguri.
Jonathan, Buhari supporters besiege Chatham House
In London, hundreds of supporters of President Jonathan later gathered outside Chatham House to praise his administration.
The supporters carried placards with various inscriptions, as they gathered at 10, Saint James Square, venue of an event organised by Chatham House, in which Buhari was one of the key speakers.
The London Metropolitan Police were faced with the challenge of controlling the crowd, as hours after Jonathan supporters had started their rally, the APC supporters in London also appeared, praising Buhari and APC national leaders.
Ejike Amadi, a member of President Jonathan’s support group, said “I just came back from Nigeria. The roads, railways, agriculture, education, power sector, among many other sectors, have not had it so good.
“The recent drop in the pump price of petrol by the president is a pointer to the fact that he handles national issues with the interest of the people at heart.”
The national coordinator of the Solidarity for Good Governance, UK chapter, Hakeem Idris, in his address, enjoined Nigerians to vote massively for the re-election bid of President Jonathan, saying “let’s join hands to work for the victory and the unity of Nigeria.”
On his own part, Mrs Funke Adesida, a nurse at the London’s St Thomas Hospital, said, “I have come out this morning because the only thing that can now make any difference to Nigeria is to unite together and support the president. This is a chance we do not want to miss at any cost.”
APC chasing shadows -PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Thursday, berated the theatrical appearance of Major-General Buhari at the Chatham House, saying it was part of plots to desperately seek international endorsement for him.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, on Thursday, by its national publicity secretary,Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP declared that APC was only chasing shadows, as such deception antics would not save it and Buhari from total electoral defeat at the poll.
According to the PDP, “a script well written, a script well acted, all a truthful lie. The messenger belies the message.
“That stage may have lifted the badly deflated morale of the members of APC, but the vanishing performance is incapable of redeeming the forlorn fortune in the bad sale the APC standard-bearer is in the March 28 presidential election.
“Bottom-line, we wish to urge Major-General Buhari to quickly channel his message and energies home and meet with Nigerians who are choking up with questions on his capacity to lead.”
The PDP, however, commended President Goodluck Jonathan for boosting the morale of the nation’s gallant soldiers with his visits to Baga in Borno State and Mubi in Adamawa State.
According to the PDP, “his able leadership has resulted in the huge successes recorded by our Armed Forces in the fight against insurgency.”[Tribune]