•Says ‘I told voters to take money, vote according to their conscience’
•Hints he’s eager to retire home to tend his over 300 animals
•Remove fuel subsidy before leaving, US envoy advises president
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said he was unhappy that some candidates lost out in the just concluded general election, but took solace in the fact that the people have now realised the power in their votes.
The president, who described the election as evidence of voters’ vibrancy and maturity, said he personally told voters at different instances to take money when given but vote their conscience, stressing that, given the chance of a free and fair election as well as non-interference in elections, Nigerians had proven capable of deciding their leaders without prodding.
Buhari, who hinted at some of his retirement considerations, said he planned to be a “big landlord” back at home, working on his farms and tending his more than 300 animals, adding also that he was eager to leave office.
But, this is as the outgoing United States Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, has advised Buhari to remove fuel subsidy before leaving office, adding that there were a few more things he needed to do before leaving office.
Buhari, who spoke yesterday at a farewell meeting with Leonard at the State House in Abuja, expressed satisfaction with remarkable passion towards democracy exhibited by Nigerians through the choices they made in the presidential, national assembly, governorship and state houses of assembly elections, adding that Nigeria’s democracy has truly matured.
According to him: “People are realising their power. Given the chance of a free and fair vote, nobody can tell them what to do. I am unhappy that some candidates lost in the election. But I am inspired by the fact that voters were able to make their own decision, to decide who won and who lost.
“With the currency change, there was no money to spread around but even then, I told voters to take the money and vote according to their consciences,” adding that he was completely satisfied with his own role in the election process, staying above it, without meddlesomeness or any form of interference.
He commended the outgoing US ambassador for the enormous achievements recorded in the Nigeria-US relations in the three and a half years that she had been here.
The president chronicled a number of challenges faced by Nigeria as the country strived to unite her diverse communities and achieve national development, while expressing his appreciation for the way the United States was able to hold together as a nation.
He therefore, expressed the hope that Nigeria would continue to make progress in building a nation out of our different and competitive communities, saying he enjoyed working with the ambassador and wished that she had more time to serve in the country.
Answering a question posed by Leonard, Buhari said he planned to be a “big landlord” back at home, working his farms and tending his more than 300 animals. “I am eager to go,” said the President.
Earlier, the US envoy said she was happy with the progress made in the Nigeria-US relations in the past three and a half years, specifically citing the recent institution of a five-year visa regime between the two countries.
She cited other instances to include active collaboration in security and the supply of military hardware as well as war planes and the soon-to-come fighter helicopters, and the cooperation in the health sector to fight HIV and Covid response, giving more assurances that US would continue to assist in the strengthening of Nigeria’s health sector.
She expressed her gratitude and that of the US government in the continuing role of the president in ensuring regional security and strengthening of democracy as a system of government, citing his strong response against the recent surge in coups-d’état in West Africa as worthy of commendation.
Leonard, however, hoped that even as he was preparing to leave office, there were still a few more things the president could do, among which she mentioned, the urgent need to remove fuel subsidy.