President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday for the first time since he was re-elected for a second term in an interview with Arise TV spoke on a wide range of issues.
Buhari who defended the policies of his government, spoke on issues ranging from insecurity to infrastructure, agitation for secession, #EndSARS crisis, unemployment, farmers-herders crisis, the ruling party and his legacy.
Below are some of his take on the issues raised…
Buhari said, I agree there is youth unemployment, I also agree that until the youths stop destroying investments in their domain, no other investors will come to their areas to provide jobs.
Look at Lagos, for example, a serious governor procured over 200 new buses for his people and some youths said they were angry and burnt all those buses without thinking twice.
Tell me how that will bring jobs for them.
The youths must assure investors that investments are safe in their communities.
Relationship with Chad, Niger
When I came I went to Chad, Niger and Cameroon. If we are not in a good relationship, Boko Haram would have done worst to us. I told one French man that you people sat down in 1885 with a rule and pencil and drew lines. I have a cousin in Niger Republic.
There are Hausas, Kanuris and Fulani in Niger Republic; there are Yorubas in Benin Republic. You cannot simply cut them off. Read the plan to see how we are rehabilitating the rail.
Niger has discovered oil, too. We don’t want to allow them to go through Benin Republic. We want them to come through Nigeria. When we send the rail up to Maradi, they will send all their exports through Nigeria rather than Benin Republic.
The president then reiterated his statement that IPOB members will be treated in the “language that they understand”.
“I was encouraged by what I heard, nobody told me. Two statements from the south south: one by the elderly people, they said this time around there would be no (secession). And again the youth made the same statement; such encouragement.”
“So that IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about.
“In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them.”
On Lopsided appointments
I will not pick somebody to fill a particular position just to balance up, while neglecting those who had passed through the training and ranks.
“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, he said.
“And you think, you will just pick somebody just to balance up. These positions have to be earned. There are people who have been there for 10 to 15 years. Just because someone would say there is nobody. If you do not join, you are not forced to join. When you join, you go through the rigmarole. You go through the problem.”
On what he is doing to make the people of the south-east feel included in his administration, Buhari said people from the south-east are in the south-east, adding that they must pass through the process.
“You better get the list of our civil servants, if you think there are no people from the south-east. There are people from the south-east,” he said.
On #ENDSARS Protest and foreign investment
The president condemned the high level of destruction during the #EndSARS protest.
According to him, such incidents scare away investors and government jobs are very scarce at the moment.
He said, “You remember the young people that wanted to march here and remove me? Tell the young people to behave themselves and make the country safe, then we can attract real investors to the country.”
“Go to any governor now and ask him to give you contract or to give you a job, he’ll tell you there’s no vacancy. The same thing with the local government. So, you may have a good degree, but you may die without having a job. Why? Because nobody is going to invest in an insecure environment. So I told them to tell the youth that if they want jobs, they will behave themselves, make sure Nigeria is secure, so people can come and invest.
“Look at the 200 buses bought by the former governor of Lagos, some of these boys went and burnt the vehicles. Who will go and invest their money in an unstable environment? Nobody will.
“It’s just common sense. So you behave yourself, you make Nigeria secure, and people will invest.”
ON insecurity, Shoot-on-sight order still in place
The president said the shoot-on-sight order is still in place, and that as commander-in-chief, it is his responsibility to ensure the lives and properties of Nigerians are secured.
“I have charged the inspector-general to leave no stone unturned in rebuilding the morale of his officers and men, especially in the aftermath of the mindless violence associated with the EndSARS protests, as well as the recent spate of attacks on police stations in some parts of the country,” he said.
“A nation that turns its Police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence and destruction is a nation on the path of self-destruction. We will act firmly and decisively against any and all persons fomenting or carrying out attacks on our Police Force and other security personnel.
“Let me also use this opportunity to reiterate that my directive to security agencies, to shoot any person or persons found illegally wielding AK-47s and other assault weapons, remains in place.
“As commander-in-chief, my primary responsibility remains the security of the country and the safety of all citizens. Despite the many challenges we are facing, I want Nigerians to rest assured that we will secure this country. We will secure our infrastructure, our highways, our communities, and our forests, and we will secure the lives of our people.”
Boko Haram sustained by unemployment
The war against Boko Haram which has lasted for over a decade is being hindered by the high rate of poverty and unemployment in states in the north-east, according to Buhari.
“As I said, the only way we got them around is that ‘you can’t kill innocent people and say God is great’. That worked very well but we have a problem of unemployment,” he said.
“A lot of youths are looking basically for what to eat, not to talk of accommodations and others. The level of poverty is almost unimaginable. So this is our problem.
“But those who are really keeping in touch with what we are doing know the difference between the time we came in and now. And the people of north-east and south-south are the best judges for the performance of this administration.”
According to him, Babagana Zulum, governor of Borno, is “working very hard and taking a lot of risks” in his efforts to restore peace in the state.
Bandits to be treated in ‘the language they understand’
The President also said the military and the police have been given the order to “be ruthless” against bandits terrorising the north-west region of the country.
“Problem in the north-west; you have people over there stealing each other’s cattle and burning each other’s villages. Like I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand. We have given the police and the military the power to be ruthless. You watch it in a few weeks’ time there will be difference.”
”Because we told them if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve. And the government can’t control the public. If you allow hunger, the government is going to be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble. We are already in enough trouble. So we warn them sooner than later you’ll see the difference.”
On Open grazing
The President 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.
The President said the grazing routes were designated in the 1st Republic when “Nigerians use to obey laws” but those routes had been converted, but when asked he agreed with the AGF’s position on open grazing he said,
“You want me to contradict my attorney-general?”
“What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the 1st Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there.
“If you allow your cattle to stray into any farm, you are arrested. The farmer is invited to submit his claims. The khadi or the judge will say pay this amount and if you can’t the cattle is sold. And if there is any benefit, you are given and people were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills in some places there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.
“But I am telling you, this rushing to the centre (sic) so I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.”
The President also lamented the style and utterances of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on open grazing.
Buhari said indeed, he is a Fulani man but Ortom was being unfair to him, adding he had told Ortom that the herdsmen perpetrating the attacks are not the Nigerian ones.
He further stated that the Tivs, which form the majority in Benue, and the Fulanis had been engaged in cultural conflicts for a long time.
On Farmer/Herder crisis, and State police
President Buhari also touched on the farmer/herder crisis being witnessed across the country, noting state governors complaining of herdmen attacks in their states should find a lasting solution to the problem.
According to him, two South-West governors visited him to complain about herdsmen encroaching on farmers’ lands in their regions.
“You know these people more than I do, and you are democratically elected to protect your people. Don’t sit idly expecting me to do everything, take action,” Buhari said.