Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd)
By Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) Thursday became the first aspirant to publicly declare his interest in the 2015 presidential election, putting an end to speculations on his retirement from active politics.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has challenged the opposition to a public debate on the state of the nation following the celebration of 13 years of democratic rule last Tuesday.
Buhari, who contested in the presidential elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and came second on each occasion, has rescinded his decision not to contest again.
Addressing the media Thursday, he said he would be presenting himself to the party and the Nigerian people again in three years’ time.
He said: “I broke down in tears last year during my campaign. The last time I ever broke down in tears was when I was addressing troops which I commanded during the civil war (1967-70).
“Having seen how rich this country is and how God really blessed Nigeria, the whole world is almost envious of Nigeria for what we have… land for farming, solid minerals, petroleum. I think God has given us so much and then I saw how most Nigerians cannot afford to educate their children, most of them cannot afford proper medical care and most of them cannot get drinking water. Go and find out how much we have earned between 1999 and now and how many schools we have built in the country. Where did the money go?
“When I was going to contest election last year, I said that after the elections, I would not submit myself to election in 2015, but then also said I would remain a party man but would not vie for posts. However, since then, it has been like hell was let loose… members of my party, associates, individually and as groups, put pressure on me. There is a certain group of party members who asked me whether I will rescind my decision. I told them it was up to the party. They clapped and said I must run. I have withdrawn my decision not to run.”
The presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in last year’s election, who recently caused a stir when he spoke about bloodshed if the 2015 elections are rigged, criticised party members who recently said they had expelled some national leaders from the party.
“It is just not legally possible. The National Executive Council of CPC were elected according to the constitution of the party for a four-year term and according to the constitution and the Electoral Act, to my understanding, nobody in this country can remove this executive till the next four years until the next convention. So how can any group come and constitute themselves into the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and dismiss the executive of the party?” he asked.
On his assessment of the one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the former Head of State said: “I think we are reversing because of the situation in the petroleum industry and I and you have watched the hearing on the probe conducted by the National Assembly and I am sure you know about the pension scam. Nigerians who worked for 30 and 35 years were dying while some people formed a syndicate stealing billions of naira of pensioners’ money. The culprits are now on bail and they will start looking for way out.”
But apparently due to the poor rating by opposition political parties on the state of the nation, the PDP has challenged the opposition parties to a series of public debate on issues of national development and project inspection, to compare achievements, instead of engaging in “unconstructive criticism on the pages of newspapers”.
The party, in blaming the opposition parties of deceit and playing to the gallery, said the economy grew by 7.45 per cent in 2011, stating that as at mid-May 2012, the foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months.
According to the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, Jonathan’s Democracy Day address to the nation had chronicled the giant strides taken by the PDP led government in all sectors of the nation’s life, stating however that as the president is doing all that is humanly possible to ensure stability within the polity, the opposition leaders are constantly sowing seeds of discord.
Reiterating what the President said on the Democracy Day, the PDP said, “One of the sectors that the PDP government has taken as top priority is the power sector. We have finished the repair of all our power plants. We are accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. By mid 2010, the national power output was about 2, 800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. We are also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of sub stations. We have completed the design for the construction of both Mambila and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid.”