President Muhammadu Buhari has said he declared his intention to run for another term in office earlier than he planned because the issue had dominated political discourse in the country.
His spokesman Mr Femi Adesina, in a statement quoted him as saying this yesterday while receiving the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby in London.
The president said: “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice. “We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others. We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting.”
He recounted some successes of the administration to his guest with whom he had built a deep friendship in recent times and was quite particular about strides in agriculture.
“We have cut the importation of rice by about 90%, saving billions of dollars in the process. People who rushed into petrol money have now gone back to agriculture. Even professionals have gone back to the land. Nigeria should be able to feed itself comfortably soon. I am so pleased,” the President said.
On the war against insurgency, the president stressed the need for continuous education of the people, “so that they can be free from religious manipulation.”
President Buhari noted that no true religion advocates the hurting or killing of the innocent.
On the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of Nigeria, Buhari said: “The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region.
“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gadaffi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram.
“Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons. The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions.”
Buhari also stated that “irresponsible politics” had been brought into the farmers/herders’ crisis, but assured that enduring solutions would be found, and justice done to all concerned.
On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by insurgents, reportedly because she refused to renounce her Christian faith, the president said: “We are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.
“There are too many fraudulent people around, who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”
Archbishop Welby said it was always a delight to see Buhari “whom I have tremendous respect for. You have my best wishes on your recent decision. I read your declaration speech. We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you.”
The Archbishop presented the president with a copy of his recent book, ‘Reimagining Britain. Foundations for Hope.’
More reasons why Buhari declared
Beyond the pressure from Nigerians that prompted President Buhari to “abruptly” declare his resolve to go for a second term as he said in London, credible sources said some people that the president have “high regards for” discussed elaborately with him over time and succeeded in convincing him to declare.
The sources said the “confidants of the president” made separate entreaties besides the ones made by APC governors.
“There is something fundamental beyond the declaration,” one of the sources said.
“That singular act that Buhari did at the APC NEC on Monday was symbolic because it would bring peace in the APC…Most of our troubles revolve around the ambition of some few individuals that want to be president.
“They remain in the party causing troubles here and there but their spirit is elsewhere. Their mission is that in the event he said he would not go for a second term, they would begin their campaign …He has shut their mouths now” he said.
Another source said despite the pressure on Buhari to declare, he refused to open up to anyone as to when he would declare “even after he consented to calls from the prominent people that mounted pressure on him.”
“The president is a man of surprises; he strikes when you least expected just like what he did during the last NEC meeting of the APC. The declaration was not captured in his speech, meaning even those who handle his speeches were taken by surprise. The good news is that with this declaration, those fomenting trouble in APC because of ambition would fizzle out,” he said. On February 22, President had asked for more time to consult when he met with the APC governors in the Presidential Villa, Abuja where they demanded that he should declare for a second term.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum and Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha said the meeting discussed various issues affecting the nation, including the state of the APC and the president’s second term bid.
According to him, the entire APC governors wanted the president to run for a second term in office because in their own assessment, he had performed well and it would be in the interest of Nigeria if he returns to power in 2019.
Okorocha said the president in his response to the governors’ demand, requested for more time to make his decision known to the entire nation.
Welby: What I told Buhari
Later on his Facebook page, Archbishop Welby said he discussed with Buhari the complex security situation in Nigeria and their government’s efforts to address it, adding that he also offered support in seeking a sustainable solution to the herder-farmer conflict.
“I expressed deep concern about the suffering resulting from raids on Christian communities and villages as far south as Delta State. We discussed the causes of such depredations, which have led to very many deaths and threaten an escalation of violence. I urged measures to restore confidence in the neutrality of the state, and spoke of the suffering of the poor in such tragedies.
“I also raised the urgent situation of Leah Sharibu – the 14-year old Dapchi Christian school girl still held captive by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam – and urged the President to do everything possible to secure her release.
“I briefed President Buhari about my pastoral visit to Nigeria in 2014 following the abduction of the Chibok girls, and assured him of my continued prayers for the release of all those still in captivity. The President promised that the Government would do all in its power to secure their release.
“No country or society can flourish without excellent education – so it was good to speak with the President about how education helps tackle poverty. I highlighted the vital role that churches in England play not just in educating a million children, but in providing them with values, identity and purpose.”