Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), one of the leading presidential aspirants on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has refuted insinuations that he is a religious fundamentalist.
He made the point in an exclusive interview with THISDAY Board of Editors over the weekend.
While admitting that he is a “practicing muslim”, the former Head of State argued that his career background and general orientation has never indicated a proclivity for religious intolerance or religious obsession.
According to him, “ I cannot disown my religion because of the accusations. People I worked with for more than twenty years and I rose from Second Lieutenant to General. All the commands and staff that I worked with along the line, most of my associates were Christians. For example, when I moved into Maiduguri to clear the Chadians, my number two man then was Ugwoke, a Christian”.
Buhari who said he has not been to Mecca in the last 12 years wondered why the tag of religious fanaticism sticks around him.
According to him ever since he joined partisan politics, his closest allies have been Christians.
Hear him: I joined partisan politics in 2002. By 2003, there were governors, there were senators, but I got the (presidential) ticket. I picked late Chuba Okadigbo. He was a Roman Catholic and an Igbo. And he was brought up politically by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. We were rigged out.
“In 2007, I picked Chief Umeh Ezeoke, he was an Igbo and a Roman Catholic. Again, we were rigged out. In 2011, I picked Tunde Bakare, a pastor. So how more Christian do you want me to go in picking a running mate?, he asked rhetorically, adding that, “I never picked a Muslim as a running mate?”
Speaking on corruption, the former Head of State explained that his fierce approach in dealing with corruption while as a military Head of State has to change, lamenting that a lot of the nation’s institutions have been compromised. He however stressed that he will not tolerate corruption in office, but that he would allow existing cases already in the judiciary to run their full courses.
More of the interview are in the Special Interview pull out.
Also speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, another frontline presidential aspirant in the APC, noted that the insurgency in Nigeria has dragged on because the military has not been fully equipped to combat the terrorism menace.
He said as a stop-gap measure, he supports the setting up of local militia to tackle the insurgency, arguing that, “After all, when the US realised that they couldn’t win the war in Iraq, they also resorted to using local militia help them fight their enemies in Iraq and it is still working.”
Speaking with so much confidence of his capacity, Atiku urged Nigerians not to wish him good luck, but to wish him success.
Asked if he has the capacity to fight corruption given his enormous and wide ranging business interests, Atiku insisted that he was strongly disposed to the fight against corruption having supported the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) while in office, adding that his business concerns will not necessarily have to do business with government.
He argues that all that is needed to toughen the war against corruption is to strengthen the institutions of government like the Police, the judiciary, the EFCC, ICPC etc.
Speaking on his readiness for the presidential task, Atiku explained that he has a blue print of what to do stressing that the APC offers Nigerians the prime opportunity to have a change of government.
“I believe the APC offers a better and well articulated direction of where Nigeria should be heading to. The PDP is in shambles as well as their manifesto and what they want to do really. So I believe Nigerians have got the opportunity to vote for change and I have always looked forward to a two-party system for this country.” -ThisDayLive