Former military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, clocks 70 today, full of gratitude to God for his life, but also filled with anger and regrets over the country’s decline in all spheres of life.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Sun in Kaduna, Buhari decried the state of infrastructure, the collapse of social values, indiscipline and corruption which he said could tear the nation apart.
“It is clear this is not the country our founding fathers dreamt of. This is not the country any Nigerian can be proud of. We have witnessed a systematic decline in everything we once held dear and took for granted. Is it the economy? Is it security? Is it employment generation? Is it electricity? You will agree with me we are not where we should be as a nation.”
The retired General traced the genesis of the nation’s woes to indiscipline and corruption, insisting that was the reason the War Against Indiscipline, WAI, was set up to address them. He lamented that corruption had eaten too deep into the nation’s fabric that if care was not taken, we would never emerge from it. “When we came into power, we identified indiscipline and corruption as the greatest bane of the country,” he said. “We immediately put in place the War Against Indiscipline programme.
There was the queue culture, where you had to queue up in bus stops, banks and so on. Even till today, you can still find Nigerians imbibing that aspect of our campaign. Unfortunately, we were overthrown before we could commence the war against corruption, the other component of our programme. You can see for yourself where the abandonment of the war against indiscipline and corruption has led our country. Indiscipline and corruption are our biggest problems.
If we can tackle these vices, things will be a lot better for us.” A former petroleum minister under the Obasanjo regime, Buhari said he was alarmed at the rot that had bedevilled the petroleum sector, a situation which has led to the comatose state of our refineries and the massive importation of petroleum products. “In my time, there was nothing like importation, “ he said. “Rather we were exporting refined petroleum products, yes refined fuel to other parts of the world.
You can go and check, the records are there. And during my time as head of state, we were exporting 100,000 barrels of refined petrol from this country. We had four functional refineries in this country. But they have all collapsed. This is the sad story of this country.” Buhari, who joined the army immediately after his secondary school education, rose to the position of head of state after the military’s overthrow of the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983.
He has run thrice unsuccessfully for the nation’s presidency. In 2015, there have been speculations on whether he would run or not. His answer: “Let’s wait and see.” In the two-hour interview, Buhari also spoke on other issues, including the controversial N2.8bn oil money allegedly stolen from the government coffers during his tenure as petroleum minister, which the maverick Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, sang about; the 53 suitcases; Decree 4 and the jailing of the two journalists, Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson; the execution of three young Nigerians over cocaine trafficking; his overthrow by General Ibrahim Babangida, amongst other issues.
On Babangida, he says: “I have forgiven him for what he did to me, but I have not forgotten. How do you expect me to forget? Yes, we were investigating some issues concerning Gen. Aliyu Gusau, his director of military intelligence before we were sacked. We were inching closer to him…”