• There’s Limit To What I Can Do At 72 • To Probe $9.7m Botched S’African Arms Deal • 143 Nigerians Killed In South Africa – Envoy
By Chesa Chesa – Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday night, expressed regrets at not becoming Nigeria’s leader again at a younger age, noting that there is a limit to what he can accomplish now at 72.
That notwithstanding, he vowed that his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would do its best to kill corruption in Nigeria, secure the nation and provide jobs for the teaming youths.
Addressing members of the Nigerian community in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he attended the 25th Summit of the African Union (AU), he recalled his past public service years as Military Governor, Petroleum Minister and Military Head of State.
Buhari said he returned to public service because of his love for the country and commitment to keeping Nigeria united, after a civil war in which many people died.
His words: “How I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man… Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.
“But what brought me here, I think is mainly because I love this country. I was in the war front for 30 months during our civil war. I lost a lot of loyal people to me… I lost a relative. A lot of Nigerians did too. We lost about two million Nigerian lives just to keep Nigeria one.
“So, nobody should come now and tell us rubbish. We are going to remain one country. God has given us another opportunity to reorganize this country. Those who work hard, the society will pay them back.”
Buhari stressed that “Nigerians are actually people of different cultures. But since 1914, we have merged, in spite of religion and culture, married across, produced children… and only crazy people can think of balkanising Nigeria. But we are not short of crazy people and that is the frightening part of it.”
He urged Nigerian residents in South Africa to remain law-abiding in their host country, pledging to continue discussions with his host, President Jacob Zuma, on issues concerning the 83 Nigerians in the country’s jails and those who were victims of the xenophobic attacks, which he would rather describe as “civil disturbances”.
Speaking off the cuff, the President also revealed that he would inquire from Zuma about the fate of the $9.7 million the administration of Goodluck Jonathan transferred to South Africa for a botched arms purchase.
According to him: “I refused to speak from this draft speech, because I wanted to speak to you from the bottom of my heart. Please, keep Nigeria’s pride close to your heart. Make sure you behave yourselves.
“If you find yourselves here, obey their law. Where you don’t obey their law, you will have to bear the consequences.
“I’m told there are 81 Nigerians in prison, I don’t know what they have done, but I spoke to the President of South Africa this afternoon. He wants to come to Nigeria. There are issues he wants to talk about, I will certainly talk to him.
“I hope our ambassador will send a comprehensive report about the court cases, about those who lost properties during the disturbances and at that time. I will attempt to ask him about our $9.7 million which was not correctly transferred.”
He further recalled his tortuous journey into politics since 2002 and the battles up to Supreme Court, explaining that he was convinced to go through all the stress, because his constituents did not stop making demands from him which he believed he could only meet if he joined partisan politics.
“So why did I join partisan politics in spite of that? When I went home people knew that I have no money I thought they would leave me alone, but they didn’t.
“They were coming to me asking me to do this and do that. And I found that the only way I could do it is by joining partisan politics. And maybe if I speak, even if I’m not a member at any level, people will listen to me.
“But then I joined the opposition, I joined APP (All Peoples Party). I didn’t want any political office at first; if I wanted I would have joined PDP (then the ruling Peoples Democratic Party), then and maybe I would have gotten to where I am much earlier. But then I wanted to go with the opposition”, Buhari stated.
The President observed the level of insecurity in the country, particularly kidnapping in the South and the Boko Haram menace in the Northeast, and assured Nigerians that he and the APC, which is now the ruling party, were equal to the task of confronting the challenges.
According to him, “that is why in the APC’s fundamental campaign, three things were identified. We have to secure the country, then sufficiently manage it by making sure the economy is put right and youths are employed and then try and kill corruption.
“I didn’t say this first. There are people before me who articulated that. It is article writers who said if we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption would kill us. So, this APC’s administration intends to kill corruption in Nigeria. We will do our best I assure you.
“So, having spoken off the cuff, I’m pleased with what I have told you. Being Nigerians, I can assure you that the three cardinal points of securing Nigeria, efficiently managing it by trying to build the economy again, generate employment and then deal with corruption, God willing, we are going to do them and we will succeed.”
Also speaking at the ocassion, Nigeria’s Consul-General in South Africa, Uche Ajulu-Okeke, had told the president that a total of 143 Nigerians were killed in South Africa between 2011 and 2014, while another 81 were languishing in Johannesburg prisons.
She said 21 have been convicted, adding that shops and other property worth millions of South African Rand, belonging to Nigerians, were destroyed during the recent xenophobic attacks.
Commenting, President of Nigerian Union in South Africa, Ikechukwu Anyene, congratulated Buhari on his election, urging him to facilitate compensation for Nigerians affected by the xenophobic attacks.