*Promises British PM he won’t stay a day longer than his tenure
*Says UK’s help on security should start by first fixing Libya
*Justifies detention of Nnamdi Kanu, argues he’s flight risk
*Begs Nigerians to be tolerant of each other, lays wreath at Kigali genocide memorial
*Lauds economic, political relations between Nigeria, Jamaica
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, reassured Nigerians and the world that he would not stay in office a day longer than May 29, 2023, when his second and final term as president will end. Buhari spoke in Kigali, Rwanda, during the 26th edition of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), a biennial gathering of Commonwealth countries hosted by different member countries on a rotating basis.
The Nigerian president told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on the sidelines of the conference, that the first person, who tried to extend his tenure – an apparent reference to former President Olusegun Obasanjo – did not end well.
Buhari welcomed the British government’s security assistance to Nigeria, but said a good way to start was for the United Kingdom to first stabilise Libya.
The fall of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi, in 2011, after 42 years in power, in an uprising that threw the country into a protracted civil war, has been blamed for the crisis in the Sahel, which has had terrible implications for Nigeria’s security.
Buhari justified the continued detention of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. He said Kanu had jumped bail in the past, which made his bail this time difficult.
The president visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, toured the permanent exhibitions at the Memorial, and laid a wreath at the mass graves, where more than 250,000 victims of the genocide were buried.
He made a passionate appeal to Nigerians to be tolerant of one another and embrace peace.
Buhari, who also met with the Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, in Kigali, extolled the cordial political and economic relations between Nigeria and Jamaica.
A release by Buhari’s media adviser, Femi Adesina, said at the meeting with Johnson, the Nigerian president reiterated his resolve to respect the maximum term limit in the Nigerian constitution.
Johnson had asked if Buhari would run for office again, perhaps, unfamiliar with the country’s democratic system, but the Nigerian leader immediately retorted, “Another term for me? No! The first person who tried it didn’t end very well.”
Obasanjo had towards the end of his second term in 2007 attempted to seek a third term in office but met stiff resistance at the National Assembly. The federal legislature threw away the clause that sought to give a sitting president the right to seek a third term. But the former president has always denied having anything to do with the idea.
Addressing speculations that Kanu was not being allowed to see his lawyers privately, the president dispelled such insinuations, saying the detained separatist is being given every opportunity under the law “to justify all the uncomplimentary things he had been saying against Nigeria in Britain.
“He felt very safe in Britain, and said awful things against Nigeria. We eventually got him, when he stepped out of the United Kingdom, and we sent him to court. Let him defend all that he has said there. His lawyers have access to him. Remember he jumped bail before, how are we sure he won’t do it again, if he’s admitted to bail?”
On the British prime minister’s keenness to help Nigeria in the area of security, Buhari said helping to stabilise Libya would be a pragmatic and strategic first step to the deployment of such assistance.
The fall of Ghaddafi, with the active involvement of Britain, the United States, and France, unleashed armed groups on countries of the Sahel. “And they are causing havoc everywhere, as the only thing they know how to do is to shoot guns,” Buhari told Johnson.
Giving an update on Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari said there was a serious effort to educate the people on the fact that only an unserious person could kill innocent people, “and say Allah Akbar (God is Great).
“God is justice. You can’t take innocent souls, and ascribe it to God. And the education process is working, the people now understand Boko Haram as anti-God, and not about religion.”
On his part, Johnson said he was delighted to hear the good news on trade between Britain and Nigeria. He said the UK was further reducing tariffs on some goods going to Nigeria.
The prime minister described the relationship between Nigeria and the UK as “very strong attachment,” adding, “I just want to be sure that we are doing enough. It’s a massive partnership for us, and we need to capitalise on it.”
He offered condolences on some recent attacks in Nigeria, particularly, on churches.
Buhari paid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Rwanda genocide and prayed for healing for the survivors. He told newsmen that the lessons from his visit were the need for Nigerians to continue to be tolerant of one another, and for the country to also preserve its own historical antecedents from the Nigeria Civil War (1967-1970).
According to Buhari, “I went through all the experiences from 15 January 1966 to date. I was a governor, minister, and Head of State and went through detention. I returned to partisan politics and will finish my two terms as constitutionally allowed. We fought a 30-month bitter civil war and we killed about a million of each other. Nigeria went through this kind of terrible development process.”
Before departing the Memorial, Buhari wrote in the visitor’s book, “Remembering the victims of this dark history of the Rwanda Genocide, we pray that humanity will never experience this kind of hatred, wickedness and violence toward others, because of their ethnic background, religion, and beliefs.
“Nigeria is strongly committed to the prevention of mass atrocity anywhere in the world and believes that perpetrators of such crimes; and their enablers, anywhere in the world must be held accountable.”
At his meeting with the Jamaican Prime Minister, Holness, Buhari said, “Our relationship dates back in time, to generations ago. Thank you for strengthening it, particularly, on the economic and political fronts.”
Holness noted that Nigeria had been very supportive of Jamaica, with the two countries having commercial agreements in place.
He said, “The maiden flight from Lagos to Jamaica about two years ago was well received. We equally have relationships in the creative industry, sports and finance.”
Making reference to a recent opinion article written by Buhari, which was published in international newspapers, Holness said he agreed that the Commonwealth could be more than just a club of friends, who have affinity with the United Kingdom, “and become an economic powerhouse. All the elements are there: common language, large market, and many others. It can become a serious economic force.”