President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed regrets that he did not become President of Nigeria at an earlier age when he had the energy and vigour to serve the country better.
Now that he is 72, Buhari declared that he could only do the little he could for the nation, adding that his love for the country drove him into becoming the country’s Number One citizen at an older age.
The President, who addressed Nigerians resident in South Africa after the 25th meeting of the African Union, AU, yesterday, recalled that he was governor of the old North-East State and later Borno State as well as federal commissioner of petroleum when he was young which aided his performance in those offices.
While stressing that his love for the country had propelled his ambition since 2003, President Buhari stressed that at his age now, he can only offer little to the country.
Buhari said: “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 mainly, is because I love this country. I was in the warfront 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.
“We are going to remain one country, God has given us another opportunity to reorganise this country. Those who work hard, the society will pay them back,” he stated.
The President however urged Nigerians to be good ambassadors of the country and respect the laws and culture of their host nation.
He recalled that Nigeria had been a good Big Brother to South Africa and many other African countries, adding that he expects Nigerians all over the world to protect the pride of the country by being responsible.
Urging his audience to keep working hard to achieve their aims in life, Buhari recalled what he has gone through in courts since 2003 and said his determination to ensure Nigeria does not suffer the fate of countries like Somalia and old Soviet Union was the reason he kept on seeking the highest office in the land.
“I have gone to this extent to tell you that when you make up your mind about anything positive, don’t be discouraged. Keep on trying,” he said.
The President continued: “And please those of you who have the opportunity to come here and represent us, make sure you are always aware that you are representing Nigeria. The ambassador is the official representative of Nigeria here but you are all ambassadors of Nigeria and this need a lot of patience, a lot of restraint and a lot of self-respect and self-pride.
“I listened to the President of South Africa, he spoke to us at length about xenophobia; in the draft I was given, I cancelled xenophobia and replaced it with civil-disturbances.
“You all know how they came to where they are. For how long was South Africa under apartheid, at least black South Africans were reduced to virtually nothing! And the Murtala/Obasanjo regime were classified as frontline states; only God knows how much of Nigeria’s money were sent to these people to support them. And you know Namibia, Zambabwe, South Africa, Angola, it is in the history of Africa and the world that Nigeria was responsible for virtually financing the destruction of apartheid in Southern Africa.
“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,” he said.
The President also spoke on the money laundering scandal that threatened to rock the relationship between the two countries last year, saying he would take a second look at the matter.
“I’m told they are 83 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.
“We have a system in Nigeria. No matter what you say about the British colonialists, they built institutions for us, unfortunately we have destroyed those institutions.
“When Barack Obama came to Africa, he went to Ghana in his first trip; he refused to go to Nigeria. And he said Africa, or developing countries should have strong institutions instead of strong leaders. If he was in Nigeria, he would have known that it was strong Nigerians that destroyed the strong institutions. And paradoxically, maybe another strong Nigerian will come and revive the institutions and make them strong again.
“I met Obama, President of France, Chancellor of Germany, Prime Minister of Japan and members of the G-7; they invited me and I went. They are all anxious to help Nigeria to tackle insecurity, especially in the North-East and of course, with the use of technology.
“We are getting our facts together, our logistic requirements and so on. For the North-East, the Lake Chad Basin Commission- Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Benin, have tried to come in. We have developed headquarters in Ndjamena, a Nigerian General is heading it, we have dedicated a number of troops ourselves and the location where they will be and by the end of July they will be in place and then we will make sure that since Nigeria was a battle ground, we eliminate Boko Haram.
“In the South, the abductions and the money being taken we will reduce that as well.
“I could recall when I was in secondary school or a junior officer, when it was Christmas and New Year, businesses close virtually in the North, especially in Kano because Kano was the centre, all the Ibos would have gone home for Christmas and New Year but now at least two third of them don’t go. Because they will either get abducted or their wives, children or their parents and demands they will make for their release will be much more than their capital.
“And I went round Owerri about a couple of years ago, I was shown some houses that were built for almost N100 million but the owners don’t sleep in their houses. When they go to Owerri, they check into a hotel with their families. They will go into their houses during the day and run back to the hotel’s by 5pm and lock themselves up. What is the use?” he said.
He concluded by saying that his party will do everything possible to secure the country and kill corruption.
“That is why the APC’s fundamental campaign and discussions were on three issues. 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, they are people before me who said if we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill us.
“So this APC’s administration intend to kill corruption in Nigeria, we will do our best I assure you.
“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,” he declared.

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