Omololu Ogunmade in London
President Muhammadu Buhari Monday told the British Prime Minister Theresa May at her No. 10 Downing Street office in London that he was more worried about the state of Nigeria’s security and the economy than the 2019 election, which he declared last week that he intends to re-contest.
The president, who made the remark while holding bilateral talks with the prime minister, recalled that his administration was propelled by a three-point campaign agenda: security, anti-corruption fight and economic revival.
According to him, as the 2019 elections draw near, politicians are pre-occupied with the forthcoming polls while he was more bothered by the state of the nation’s security and economy.
“We campaigned on three major issues, to secure the country, revive the economy and fight corruption. We have elections next year, politicians are already pre-occupied with the polls, but I am bothered more about security and the economy,” the president said.
Buhari, who was received by May at the entrance of Number 10 at about 1.40 p.m. Monday, walked along with her into her office where both leaders held a closed-door meeting for about 30 minutes.
Before the two leaders went into the closed-door meeting, the prime minister praised Buhari for his efforts in the global fight against terrorism, anti-corruption in Nigeria, sustenance of democracy and economic progress, stressing that Britain has a long history of trade relations with Nigeria.
Buhari, according to a statement issued by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, at the end of the meeting, told May that Nigeria made a temporary mistake when it stopped the teaching of History in schools because it deprived Nigerian pupils of the opportunity of knowing their past.
He commended British companies such as Unilever, Cadbury, and many others, which he said have “stood with Nigeria through thick and thin; even when we fought a civil war, they never left”.
The president did not mince words when like Oliver Twist, he called for more investments from Britain and thanked May for the support the country had given to Nigeria in the training and equipping of its military as well as in the fight against terrorism.
“Like Oliver Twist, we ask for more investments. We are encouraging more British companies to come to Nigeria. We appreciate the support you have given in training and equipping our military, particularly in the war against the insurgency, but we want to also continue to work with you on trade and investments,” he was quoted as saying.
The statement also said Buhari briefed May on the giant strides Nigeria has recorded through massive investments in agriculture, disclosing that rice imports had been reduced by 90 per cent, a situation he said had helped to put Nigeria on the path to food self-sufficiency.
“I am very pleased with the successes in agriculture,” he said, adding: “We have cut rice importation by about 90 per cent, made lots of savings in foreign exchange and generated employment. People who had rushed to the cities to get oil money at the expense of farming, are now going back to the farms. Even professionals are going back to the land. We are making steady progress on the road to food security.”
The statement also said Buhari told May that more investment was being made in education, observing that “people can look after themselves if well educated.”
He further noted: “In this age of technology, education is very important. We need well-staffed and well-equipped institutions to move into the next chapter of our development.”
According to the statement, the talks between both leaders focused on climate change and environmental issues, during which Buhari brought up the necessity for inter-basin water transfer from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad, which he said had receded.
He said: “Lake Chad is now about 10 per cent of its original size, and it is perhaps one of the reasons our youths cross both the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean, to get to Europe. But if there is inter-basin water transfer, about 40 million people in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and other countries stand to benefit.
“I made the case during the Climate Change Summit in France. If Lake Chad is recharged, it will reduce the number of youths coming to Europe to increase social problems.
“We brought back about 4,000 people from Libya recently. Almost all of them were below 30, and Libya was not their final destination. They were headed to Europe.”
The statement added that the British PM, in her remarks, told Buhari that Britain would continue to work with Nigeria in areas of training and equipping of its military, pointing out that her country was concerned about the abduction of young schoolgirls by Boko Haram.
She promised that Britain would continue to give Nigeria its needed assistance, the statement said. May also observed that the administration of Buhari had “been making good progress on the economy”, and encouraged him to remain focused despite the proximity of the elections and pick up in political activities.
May, while speaking on education and climate change, also told Buhari that “good grounding in education is good. It is important to equip young people for today’s world. It is also a good bastion and defence against modern slavery”.
She added: “The issue of the environment and climate change is very important, because of its impact on many countries in the Commonwealth. Stability at home is important, to curb illegal migration.”
Furthermore, she commended Buhari, whom she said had done much to improve trade and business in Nigeria’s interest, stating further that it was high time the country boosted intra-Commonwealth trade.