1966 Coup, Counter-coup: I Was All in It, Says Buhari
• Rates N’Assembly, police low.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday went down memory lane, reviewing his career in the military and said it was hellish even as he recounted that he lived through the momentous events, particularly in 1966, which witnessed coups, counter-coups and later a civil war.
The president spoke during a pre-recorded interview aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) last night and commented on various issues of national interest, including his second term priorities, shape of his next cabinet, the nation’s worsening insecurity and relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government among others.
Responding to a question: ‘Who is Buhari?’
from the show anchor, the president said: “I think I went through hell throughout my career in the military. I was a lieutenant in Lagos during the first coup, January 15, 1966. If you bother about Nigerian history, you read about coup and counter coup, civil war, coup, counter coup. I was all in it, including in detention for three and a quarter years. So, I am fully qualified, you know, [to be called] as a suffering Nigerian.”
But he thanked Nigerians for showing him love, noting that after been rejected thrice in the presidential elections, they found him worthy of leadership in the fourth and fifth runs.
Speaking on his impending second term, he appealed to Nigerians to trust him to make a good judgment on the choice of his next set of ministers.
He said if no one has had any cause so far to accuse any of his first term ministers of corruption or any act of misdemeanour, Nigerians should then be confident that he would again make the best choice for his second term in office.
Disclosing that he was yet to discuss any issue relating to the next choice of his ministers with anybody and would not start the discussion with the interviewer, Buhari reiterated that Nigerians should trust him to decide on who among the ministers he will retain and those he will bid the final goodbye.
Buhari also lamented the strained relationship he had with the National Assembly, saying he confronted Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on their decisions to delay budget passage for seven months.
The president who said he rated the two leaders low on the issue of patriotism, said he told them that their action was harmful to the economy but his hands were tied by the constitution which orders him to pass through them.
Asked how he felt on the rampant cases of kidnap and other forms of insecurity threatening the country, Buhari said he felt very bad, blaming the menace on people in the neighbourhood whom he said failed to expose the criminals living among them.
He also took a swipe at the police and traditional rulers, saying they ought to be at the forefront of the battle against criminal activities in various communities where they operate, but have failed.
While promising to reverse the trend, he said the police were not given uniforms and guns to impress people but rather to distinguish them and empower them to fight criminals.
While alluding to his efficiency in his days as a military officer, Buhari said he was the only military personnel in his own time, who commanded three out of the four divisions at the time.
According to him, something went wrong with the military particularly between 1999 and 2014, which he said affected the sense of efficiency and accountability of military personnel.
According to him, “In the process of going through the police, investigations and later prosecution, the process is slowed down and is frustrating.
“My frustration is that we cannot move faster in the prosecution and punishing the real big graft. We made some progress. We recovered a number of assets – fixed assets and money in banks, including in Europe and America, but under this system, you can’t be too much in a hurry, even including using whistle blowers.
“You have to go to the police to go through the rigmarole of full investigations before prosecution. That is my biggest frustration really.”