President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday spoke on national TV in his first-ever media interview in the last 5 years.
The interview, which was a pre-recorded video, took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday but was aired on Arise Television Thursday morning.
Across the media, both local and social platforms, are snippets and overviews of the major national matters discussed during the chat as well as reservations and debates among Nigerians over the entire show.
Insecurity, Nigeria’s debt profile, secession, unemployment, poverty, national projects, herders/farmers clash, national character and Twitter ban (sadly brushed aside, flaring up varying assumptions and implications) amongst others were discussed.
- INSECURITY: The President noted that he is in full gear of what is going on across the country. However, he said herders terrorizing the country are mostly not Nigerians but nomads from Niger and other neighboring countries. He defended police service against allegations of brutality, saying officers don’t wield their weapons against people to scare them but to ensure security. On Boko-Haram, the President said he has ordered the country’s military and police to be ruthless with terrorists in the country and deal with them in the language they understand. He went hard on state governors, demanding they sit up and handle the worsening insecurity in their respective states. According to the President, the governors should be able to tackle these security situations because they have “very effective traditional institutions” and security systems at the state and local levels.
- HERDERS/FARMERS CLASH: He directed the governors to deal with it, expressed support for open grazing as against the resolution of southern governors to ban it and enforce ranching. He said he has given approval to the return of the open grazing practised during the 1st Republic where herdsmen used designated grazing routes to move their cattle to several parts of the country and asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use.
- ON IPOB/SOUTH-EAST CRISIS: He was of the opinion that IPOB “don’t know what they’re doing”. He said the secessionist group is like a dot in a circle that is going nowhere. He stated that Igbos are the most dispersed people in the country with businesses spread across the federation.
- CORRUPTION: Buhari said fighting corruption in a democratic setting is a difficult task to accomplish, lamenting the war against corruption has not been easy for his government. He cited a situation where state governors continued to starve the local governments of funds saying “in a situation where N300 million is allocated to local government and they are given N100 million is not fair”.
- UNEMPLOYMENT: He said the level of poverty is almost unimaginable and youths are really scampering for what to eat. Hence, the heightened insecurity. But insisted the Nigerian youths must behave themselves in order to get jobs because their responsibility hampers foreign investments.
And from here, he diverted into #EncdSARS protest of last year.
- #EndSARS: Buhari claimed that the #EndSARS movement against police brutality last year was a plot to oust his government. The president stated that those who participated in the protest have made Nigeria unattractive to investors. When asked how he could improve foreign direct investment in Nigeria, he said, “This question was answered last year when there was the #EndSARS protest. You remember the young people that wanted to march here and remove me?” He added, “Tell the young people to behave themselves and make the country safe, then we can attract real investors to the country”.
- ECONOMY: He claimed that the South-South and South-East are beneficiaries of his government’s efforts on infrastructure. He also clarified questions about his government taking most infrastructural projects towards the Niger Republic, saying it’s imperative that Nigeria has a very good relationship with her neighbouring countries for the sake of security. He also noted that with the discovery of oil in the Niger Republic his administration wants the country to take its products for export through Nigeria, rather than through Benin Republic.
- APPOINTMENTS/NEPOTISM: Buhari defended his choices for appointments saying that those he appointed into offices in his administration have been on merit. Quite confusing it was as he initially said rank has to be duly followed but when questioned about the choice of General Farouk Yahaya as new Chief of Army staff over other senior officers, he said the badge shouldn’t be a major concern but the competence and experience of the person. “They trained in Zaria or Abeokuta, they come through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances, the crises and everything and they gradually rise to the status,” President Buhari told ARISE News. He further stated that Southerners are the majority in the civil service.
- TWITTER BAN: He avoided commenting about it totally. When asked when the government intends to lift the ban, he said; “Twitter? That I’ll keep to myself.”
- 2023 & BEYOND: Buhari declared that no single individual has the monopoly of power to seal the fate of his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The president said this clearing the air about the rumblings trailing the calls for zoning of the party’s presidential ticket to the South-East and his pick for a successor. He noted that all stakeholders of the party will make the decision on the matter, adding that he has no hand in who would be the next president.
“Nobody is just going to sit in Lagos and tell them what to do. This is what we are arranging.
“Succession plan depends on the party. The party will sit and make its decision by the constituencies they won.
“So those who want to be president, better join APC,” he said.
Afterwards, he said beyond 2023, he would return to his farm of cattle.