In a meeting with a selection of Nigerian professionals, Mr. Buhari offered a survey of the country’s crises but said he did not regret seeking the office of president. “I prayed so hard for God to make me President. I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can't complain since I prayed for the job. In the military, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major General. I was military governor in 1975 over a state that is now six states. I was head of state, got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which had N53 billion of that time in Nigerian banks.
Mr. Buhari has been in the US for close to a week to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
In a press statement, Femi Adesina, a senior presidential adviser on media and publicity, revealed that the professionals who met with Mr. Buhari included “top flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, I.T experts, a judge, a top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an import specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors, two straight A students.”
“I am very pleased with this meeting,” President Buhari told his audience, adding, “Wherever you go in the world, you find highly competent and outstanding Nigerians. They not only make great impact on their host countries and communities, their financial remittances back home also help our economy, particularly at a time like this, when things are down.” He implored the professionals to lend a hand in order to fix the problems in their home country.
Mr. Buhari blamed the country’s current economic woes on the fact that “we did not save for the rainy day.” He added: “For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure. Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel.
“I asked, where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked,what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars? I did not believe, and still do not believe.
“In most parts of Nigeria, we eat what we grow. People in the South eat tubers, those in the North eat grains, which they plant, and those constitute over 60 per cent of what we eat. So, where did the billions of dollars go? We did a lot of damage to ourselves by not developing infrastructure when we had the money.”
Focusing on the Nigerian military, President Buhari recalled that they earned international respect serving in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, wondering how the same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in Nigeria. The Nigerian leader remarked that Islamist insurgents had planted their flags in the 14 local government areas, declaring the territory a caliphate, adding that it was his government that sacked the insurgents.
“We raised the morale of our military, changed the leadership, re-equipped and retrained them. [The] USA, Britain, and some other countries helped us, and today, the pride of our military is restored,” said Mr. Buhari.
Speaking further on Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, President Buhari said the insurgents “ran riot, killing innocent people in churches, mosques, markets, schools, motor parks, and so on. And they would then shout Allahu Akbar. But if they truly knew Allah, they would not do such evil. Neither Islam nor any other religion I know of, advocates hurting the innocent. But they shed innocent blood, killed people in their thousands. Now, we have dealt with that insurgency and subverted their recruitment base.
He told his audience that those who looted Nigeria’s treasury were behind the militancy in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where oil pipelines and other infrastructure have come under incessant attacks.
“Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta and began to sabotage oil infrastructure. We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can't pay salaries,” said Mr. Buhari.
He told the professionals that their country needs “quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them.”
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