In a reflective interview with the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari delved into his presidency, challenges faced, and decisions made during his eight-year tenure.
This marks his first interview since stepping down from office roughly six months ago. The interview provided a rare glimpse into Buhari’s perspective on his presidency, the challenges faced, and the decisions made during his tenure, offering insight into his motivations and reflections post-leadership.
Buhari, while maintaining that he did his best during his two terms in office, expressed uncertainty about whether the expected results were achieved.
“God gave me the opportunity to serve my country, but I did my best. But whether my best was good enough, I leave for people to judge,” he stressed.
Speaking about the controversial naira redesign policy endorsed in the twilight of his administration, he asserted that it was to safeguard his integrity and demonstrate to Nigerians that success doesn’t come through shortcuts.
Addressing the complexities of governing Nigeria, Buhari characterized Nigerians as a challenging population, noting that while they often know the right actions, they frequently refuse to follow through, believing they know better than their leaders.
“Nigerians are extremely difficult. People know their rights. They think they should be there, not you. So, they monitor virtually your every step. And you have to struggle day and night to ensure that you are competent enough,“ he added.
When pressed about the integrity of individuals surrounding him during his tenure, the former president dismissed concerns, attributing it to being “their problem” and questioning the critics’ own actions in fighting corruption at their levels.
Responding to inquiries about a perceived cabal influencing his government, Buhari conceded the possibility but emphasized that he wasn’t aware of anyone breaking rules without consequences.
Regarding his leadership style, Buhari defended his approach, stating that he allowed individuals to carry out their assigned tasks, indicating that he wouldn’t change his methods if given another chance under Nigeria’s current system.
Throughout the interview, Buhari occasionally veered off-topic but reiterated his efforts to maintain accountability during his administration.
He disclosed being persistently ‘harassed’ by visitors to his residence daily, implying that he would have left Nigeria if not for the border closure with a neighboring country. However, he expressed contentment with the freedom to wake up at his leisure, emphasizing that he doesn’t miss anything after leaving office.
Reflecting on his tenure’s achievements, Buhari admitted uncertainty about meeting all his goals but highlighted progress in combatting Boko Haram in Borno state and the northeast, claiming significant degradation of the terrorist group during his tenure.
Regarding foreign matters, the former president acknowledged being primarily occupied with local issues, citing national security as his greatest challenge.
Buhari distanced himself from acquiring excessive wealth during his presidency, attributing his peaceful post-office life to this conscious decision. He claimed that attempts to lure him into compromising situations were avoided to prevent exploitation of the country and maintain his integrity.
In a poignant moment, Buhari reflected on past electoral losses, expressing gratitude for the introduction of technology in the 2015 elections, which aided his victory. He recalled the hardships faced due to lack of financial influence but emphasized his faith in divine intervention.
“Instead of people expressing sympathy, people laughed at me because I didn’t have money, because I couldn’t buy influence in any form, either from influential people or others. And I said ‘God dey’. And he sent the Permanent Voter Card (PVC). Meaning you now have only one vote,“ he stated.
Addressing the naira policy’s criticism, Buhari said Nigeria’s status as an underdeveloped nation and highlighted the need to tackle materialism and unethical wealth acquisition. He underscored that the policy aimed to emphasize the absence of shortcuts to effective leadership.
“Whether Nigerians believe it or not, we are an underdeveloped country. And in that sort of situation, there’s materialism and sometimes ruthlessly they didn’t care how they made the money.
“…I still feel that the only way I could deprive these people was just to make sure that my integrity became unquestionable…I think as a developing country we still have a long way to go.
“The motivation (for introducing the policy) was to try and make Nigerians believe that there is no shortcut to successful leadership,” he added.
On the Ethiopian/Nigerian Air debacle, Buhari admitted to providing individuals with a free hand to carry out their responsibilities, potentially acknowledging a shortcoming in his oversight.