A day after a media interview of President Muhammadu Buhari was aired by Channels Television, a private broadcast station; many of his comments during the almost one hour-long session have continued to generate reactions across and beyond Nigeria.
The latest television interview was one of the rare occasions that the former military general had sat down with Nigerian journalists to dissect issues relating to his administration since taking over power from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Under Buhari’s watch especially in recent times, Nigerians had experienced some of the lowest moments as a people especially with insecurity and poverty growing at alarming rates.
As a result of these issues and more, many across the country looked forward to the interview aired on Wednesday to find out what perhaps awaited Nigeria and its people in 2022.
But like in the past, President Buhari gave almost no glimmer of hope in his responses to important questions bordering on economy, security and development asked by the interviewers, which many had thought he would react to positively.
Instead, the President strayed in different directions from important questions asked to the shock of many Nigerians.
In one question, Buhari was asked if he was worried that the dry season could escalate clashes between herders and farmers in parts of the country, and what his administration was doing to avert such crisis.
Responding, Buhari said, “We cannot do much about the weather. But about the security, we have taken steps and we have seen the result. We thank God for that.
“For the weather, we can only pray and hope for the best. Concerning climate change, Nigeria, we are very susceptible to such issues because of our population and size of the country.”
When one of the journalists tried to rephrase the question by asking the President if he thought the problem between farmers and herder had been solved by his administration, he said, “The ministers of agriculture from Audu Ogbeh to Mahmoud now, one of the issues I discussed with them personally is to go and get the gazette especially of Northern states.
“There are grazing routes and the cattle rearers are confined to those areas. Anyone that goes outside is arrested and farmers are encouraged to lay their claims. If they don't have the money, their cattle were sold and the farmers are settled.
“We said we have to go back to this system again to make sure that we prepare the grazing areas so that farmers and herders don't clash.”
For a third time, one of the interviewers asked President Buhari what he thought could help bring a lasting solution to the herder/farmer crisis and problem of banditry in Nigeria, he said, “It is a problem of culture. You have to study it to understand.
“The life of normal herders...they depend entirely on them. They sell their milk; they sell their animals to pay tax and so on.
“So, if those cattle were taken away from them, they normally become wild because that is the only thing they know. It is a cultural problem. The way we will do it is to start from bottom up to make sure the grazing area and water points are secured to them.”
Moving away from the herders/farmers crisis, the journalists asked the President if he thought state policing was a possible solution to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria especially following rising crime wave across the country, he said, “The role of traditional rulers must not be undermined because in their areas they know who is who. We have to revert to that system for us to have an effective security.
“There were two governors that came to see me about problem. The governor of Oyo State and governor of...em em...Oyo State and one other state. I said because the herders were in their forests, the animals were going into neighbouring farms and eating all the crops. As far as I know, the farmers and herders have been co-existing in Nigeria, let them go and ask the local leadership what had gone wrong, why the break in communication between them and the herders.”
While being commended for the early passage of the 2022 national budget, Buhari was asked if he feared that the budget might not be able to achieve its purpose, he responded by saying, “My confidence that we can successfully implement the budget because in most Houses (of Assembly) our party is leading. It is APC in leadership.
“Look at the Senate President; he was in the House of Representatives for two or three terms before he went to the Senate. Look at Femi Gbajabiamila; I was watching on the television when he was an ordinary member. He was always fighting for the system he believed in.
“I consider myself lucky. My party is under competent leadership both in the Senate and House of Representatives. That is why you don't hear much about me. I allow them do all the things because I can't go against my party and I can't go against people I have absolute confidence in.”
When asked the type of economy he would want to bequeath to Nigerians at the end of his eight-year tenure in May 2023, President Buhari while completely deviating from the subject matter, said, “The economy is free economy. What is free economy? You allow people to make sure that their industries are patronised. You have to stop smuggling; you have to stop developed countries dumping goods in your country. Because of technology, we can produce faster. So, you have to protect your economy. That was why within ECOWAS, we encouraged our own industries.
“We are so far away in technology, if you allow dumping, unemployment is going to rise.”
In yet another response that ran contrary to the question, Buhari while being asked on the number of Nigerians his administration had lifted out of poverty so far, said, “I can’t tell you off hand. Only 2.5 per cent of arable land is being cultivated. So, we are going to turn our attention to agriculture for the time remaining for us.
“Unfortunately, there is political problem. In the South, there is problem of land ownership, very serious one based on families, the ruling classes and so on. But luckily in the North, all land belongs to government; they can take any land at any time.”
When one of the interviewers tried to bring the President back to the question by asking if there was a setback in lifting targeted Nigerians from poverty, Buhari again went off the mark by saying, “We have setback and it is resource shortage. We need to buy machinery. Tractors, clearing the land, dividing it and…giving people seeds and fertilizers and that costs money.”
Asked how much of the sufferings of Nigerians he understood, again the President shot overboard, declaring that, “I am aware of it but look at the vastness of Nigeria. Only 2.5 of arable land is being used. We realised this rather too late but we have to go back to the land.”
Economic indicators like inflation, unemployment, foreign exchange, foreign direct investment and several others under President Buhari’s administration had plunged further in recent times, leaving Nigeria and many of its impoverished households on the precipe.
When reminded by the interviewers that the numbers under his watch were far worse than where his predecessor left it in May 2015 and if that bothered him by any chance, Buhari said, “I am not sure how correct your calculations are but all I know is that we have to allow people to get access to the farm.
“We have to go back to the land. We need machinery, we have to build infrastructure and we have identified the infrastructure we need. We have to make the rail work; we have to make the roads.”
Desperate for a Nigeria that works for all, citizens have continually clamoured for restructuring of the country as according to the proponents, it will put an end to many of the crisis witnessed across the federation at the moment.
Asked if he believed in restructuring as the solution to Nigeria’s current problems, Buhari said, “Those who talk about restructuring, I want them to define what they mean in their own concept. Do they want more states? If they want, look at the map of Nigeria, at whose expense?
“I have been having problems with people from South-East. They said they wanted each geo-political zone about six states. I said okay, go and look at the map and see how many of the Eastern states will contribute to the other states. That was the last I had from them.”
Indeed, all through the duration of his latest television interview, President Buhari failed to address key questions asked, instead shooting off the mark on several occasions and showing strong signs of a man battling with chronic dementia.
Apart from speaking incoherently and sometimes inaudibly, he often forgot names of important people he meant to mention during the session.
SaharaReporters had in recent past reported how Buhari’s dementia affected his performance in government and slows down the decision making process.
In May 2021, this newspaper reported how Buhari’s worsening dementia and other undisclosed health challenges were taking a heavy toll on his ability to effectively coordinate meetings.
The President was said to have faltered during a meeting with security chiefs during that week.
Top sources in the Presidency had told SaharaReporters that Buhari was not only incoherent but spoke for only a short time.
It was learnt that he spoke in the same manner when he had a meeting with the Head of European Union delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States, Mr Ketil Karlsen, along with his team.
“The President’s health condition is worsening by the day and affecting his handling of national matters, especially on insecurity. At the EU delegation virtual meeting, he was responding off-key.
“At the meeting with the security chiefs, he was also off-key and spoke little.
“He was supposed to be at the graduation ceremony at the Nigeria Police College in Kano but the event had to be postponed because the President was not ready,” the source had revealed.
SaharaReporters in December 2020 had reported how the inability of President Buhari to make critical decisions on insecurity and the depressed economy had become worrisome to many Nigerians – a situation which his dementia and other undisclosed illnesses he was treating could have contributed to.
Buhari Is Tired, Abandons Duty At 5pm Daily Even If Nigeria Is On Fireâ Presidential Source | Sahara Reporters— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) June 7, 2021
SaharaReporters in December 2020 had reported the inability of President Buhari to make critical decisions on insecurity...
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At least President Buhari has jetted out of Nigeria six times for treatment, spending about 180 days since 2015 when he assumed office in his first term.
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language and thinking abilities – a condition which may be caused by the President’s old age or undisclosed medical condition.