General Muhammadu Buhari is one of the most un-understood or misunderstood leaders Nigeria has ever produced. But his honesty, consistency and strength of character have also marked him out as one of Nigeria’s most dependable leaders.
The statement he made when he was military head of the country rings in the ears of those who love Nigeria and wish it could be better governed. Gen. Buhari said Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians, that they have nowhere else to go, and they must therefore remain in the country and salvage it together.
What has been happening since the return to due process in 1999 is not salvage work. Instead of building the institutions, they have further been weakened. Security, Stability and Prosperity, which are the expectations of governance, had eluded the people and decline has been the most visible movement in their lives.
These movements from one tragic state to another in all facets of the life of the Nigerian can only make those who wish the country well sick. At the presentation of a book, The Sixteen ‘Sins’ of Muhammadu Buhari by Prof Tam David-West in Kaduna in July, the chairman of the occasion spoke of why Buhari joined politics. He said he pointed to some children roaming the streets and said, “Look at them. Your children and my children are in school. These are not and no one encourages them to be. They are entitled to care, definitely more care than we have been wiling to give. It is only in politics you can contribute to making them the worthy citizens of Nigeria they can be. I am going into politics to see what I can do for them…”
He did just that He signed on with the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), in April 2002, and was the party’s presidential candidate in the 2003 and 2007 elections. But once he stepped out and expressed his wish to contest the office of President, the past opened up.
Hark writers were at work. They said when he was head of State many people were jailed. No one asked why many people were jailed. They said he was a Muslim fanatic and he would turn Nigeria into an Islamic State.
Why? They said he said that no Muslim should vote for any Christian! But not many seem to be willing to accept that no such statement was made. So many were the questions to which ignorant people proffered answers that it became necessary to raise them for the General to answer them himself.
The questions, 49 of them, were asked and answered in 2003, yes in 2003! We are in 2010, less than seven months before the 2011 elections. While the past of all political actors is opening up for the whole world to behold, the same questions are still being recycled as reflected in recent interviews the General has granted.
We publish here those questions which two journalists, Mr. George Izobo, past president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists who for many years worked in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), and Richard Anyamele who has had varied experiences in all aspect of print journalism confronted Buhari with and the answered he gave.
After a total of seven hours of grueling questioning which the General described as an Inquisition, broken into two sessions, we came away with the conviction that those who are really seeking to know the truth about Buhari can find it from the answers he gave in response to the 49 questions we asked him.
But since 2003 a lot of water has passed under the bridge and no concessions seem to be forthcoming from those who have their yardsticks for measuring the development and growing of a democratic culture by questioning indiscretions through due process.
Between 2003 and 2007 elections which were nationally and internationally flawed, Gen Buhari was in court for a total of 50 months, questioning the conduct of the presidential elections even when his party the ANPP deserted him in 2007 and joined a government of national unity. As Buhari had predicted, joining the government would weaken the party, and it did.
On February 1, 2010 due to irreconcilable differences between him and the leadership of the ANPP, Gen. Buhari quit the party. And on March 17, 2010, he issued the following statement:
“It will be recalled that on Monday, the first day of February 2010, I announced the withdrawal of my membership of my erstwhile political party, the ANPP, on account of verifiable irreconcilable differences with the party’s leadership.
“I stated then that I would announce to the nation the name of my new political party for the information of my supporters, admirers and those interested in my political career and future.
“I wish to announce with a deep sense of history and duty that my new political party is Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
“The CPC was founded on my authority by my political associates as a solution to the debilitating, ethical and ideological conflicts in my former party the ANPP.
“Our application for the CPC was filed at Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on 26th of March, 2009; and we got a letter of approval and registration on the 28th December, 2009.
“I delayed my announcement in order to give time for further consultations, establishment and consolidation of party structures and also dialogue with other political parties and groups in the search for a broadly based political platform.
“Happily, the CPC has now established Protem Executive Committees in at least 31 states of the federation with the rest of the states now under consideration.
“The CPC is committed to change and positive development (and) will continue to interact with all parties and dialogue constructively with those parties that have compatible political ideologies with it.
“We hope this will lead to the founding of a broad-based platform on mutually agreed terms for the purpose of re-defining and balancing political competition in Nigeria on ideological bases.
“CPC will, therefore, work for electoral reform that will lead to transparently free and fair elections, internal democracy, efficient management of resources, reform of the judiciary, development planning, empowerment of women and youth and the promotion of private initiative and job creation”.
As we prepared to run the questions and answers first published in March, 2003, the Vanguard reported in its issue of Saturday, August 28, that an emergency meeting of the National Executive Council of the All Nigeria Peoples Party has suspended the executive of party leader Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.
The meeting was said to have been attended by 21 chairmen of the party from Anambra, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Rivers, Sokoto, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Lagos and Ebonyi, Kebbi, Jigawa, Edo, Benue, Beyelsa, Plateau, Kano, Kogi, Kwara and Imo States and the FCT.
Former Governor of Kogi State and founding member of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, and the former governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun were also said to be in attendance.
In the Sunday Vanguard of August 29, Chief Odigie-Oyegun confirmed in Benin that the Ume-Ezeoke NEC had been removed. The sacked executive had outlived its usefulness some two years ago and would have been removed then.
Chief Ume-Ezeoke has however dismissed the decision of the new body.
The current developments in the ANPP seem to confirm the fears of Gen, Buhari that the leadership had deliberately ruined the party to assist the ruling PDP to cripple the opposition.
Prince Tony Momoh
Member, The Buhari Organisation (TBO)
August 31, 2010
49 Questions were asked in 2003 and the answers were published in a booklet entitled Many Questions and Buhari’s Answers. It was edited by Tony Momoh who was at the time the Chairman of the National Media and Publicity Committee of the ANPP Presidential Campaign Council. The questions were blunt, and so also were the answers.
QUESTION 1:You sacked an elected government in 1983 and thereby showed your disdain for the rule of law. Why are you now seeking popular mandate?
ANSWER: I think the statement is not well premised. Let me start by saying that what happened was a state of development in our political history. If you recall, it came immediately after that government was re-elected for a second term. There were widespread complaints about the process of the election. People were really angry. That is one.
Secondly, the economy was in shambles. You recall the conditions at the time the military took over in terms of the infrastructures, balance of payment situation and the conditions of living nationwide. There were clear indications of insensitivity to the plight of the citizens, clear instances of bad governance.
Earnings from petroleum products had gone up but hardship was rising and expanding by the day. I was the immediate past petroleum minister or commissioner of petroleum. The price of crude oil at our time was $18 per barrel, but it was $42 per barrel during the second republic.
We had two million barrels per day allocation from OPEC. By the time we took over, no one knew how much Nigeria owed. All the foreign reserves by previous administrations were gone. Despite increased foreign earnings, the nation was indebted to such high figures no one knew the exact amount.
The nation had no line of credit. These were the conditions and the reason the Army took over the government.
Q 2: Why are you now asking for popular mandate? Don’t you see some contradictions?
A: I don’t see any contradiction. Let us revisit the situation before we took over. Workers were owed huge arrears of salaries. We had to find over N63 million to pay the backlog.
The debt profile was too high although no one knew exactly how much. We decided Nigeria would not borrow more. We embarked on servicing both medium and long-term debts. And we serviced the debts consistently for the 20 months we were on the saddle.
Every month, we would look at what we had and decide what would go to debt servicing. We came on a rescue mission and we believed that if we didn’t do it, the crisis, social, political and economic, would have been far more damaging to our corporate existence.
Q 3. Why do you now want popular vote?
A. Nigeria is back to square one. The economy is terribly bad. The level of insecurity now is as high as in wartime. Ethnic tensions and conflicts mount month after month and this is not limited to one part of the country but covers the whole landscape.
All over the country, young men are roaming about without jobs. There are too many dropouts but those that managed to go through school have nothing to show for going to school. The situation is not just bad but hopeless.
These are the reasons I am into this project. I do not want or wish that the military veer from their constitutional duties because the political class is proving once again its inability to provide good governance.
Q 4. So, you decided to come through due process. But the experience of Nigerians is this: once a soldier, always a soldier, President Obasanjo is displaying the dictatorial traits of soldiers and you are considered a tougher soldier than he was while you were in office. Will you not then be worse than Obasanjo if you are elected president?
A. I made a statement to the effect in 1989 when communism collapsed in the Soviet Union that democracy is the best form of government. But I did put a caveat to the statement that elections must be free and fair, and that the process must be efficient. Otherwise, the system will collapse.
But I believe democracy is the best, I believe in democracy but we must have the discipline to sustain it, discipline to respect public will. We must make that sacrifice and this is a duty for the elite. The Nigerian elite must have the discipline to respect the constitution.
Q 5. The issue is that the present President does not follow due process; he does not have high regard for the other arms of government that include the judiciary and the legislature. Will you follow due process and respect the constitution if you are elected president?
A. I have made the commitment very many times. I believe firmly in the constitution and if I become the President of Nigeria, I will convince both the legislature and the judiciary that we work together.
There are possibilities for anyone who wants to make changes in the constitution. The method is provided. There is an in-house mechanism. I don’t think any chief executive should act in disregard of the provisions of the constitution.
I will not do it because as an elected president you swear to defend and uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic.
Q 6. You enacted Decree Four of 1983, which prescribed punishment for journalists if they published whatever amounted to an embarrassment to the government even if the report was true. Why were you so disdainful of the media?