President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday in Washington, tagged himself a converted democrat who doesn’t engage in double talks unlike the run of the mill politician.
He also cautioned western nations against frivolous issuance of travel advisories on Nigeria, urging the international media to be more objective in its reportage of the country.
The President made the remarks on Friday in Washington DC at an interactive session entitled, “A conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria”, co-hosted by the United State Institute of Peace (USIP), the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
He told the international community that despite the non- nonchalant actions and attitudes of some of friends and allies, Nigeria is nonetheless winning the war on terrorism, making significant progress in dealing with the threats to Nigeria’s and the sub-regions safety and survival.
A statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari also called on the United States to do more to improve the quality of governance in the West African sub-Region, warning that the survival of democracy is being challenged in the aftermath of the democratic set-backs witnessed in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The President said Nigeria’s agricultural revolution has led to the creation of over 13 million direct and indirect jobs in the last seven and half-years.
Further, he said Nigeria’s economy has registered positive growth in the last two quarters despite the gloomy outlook in global economy, and the war in Ukraine.
Expounding on steps taken by his administration to expand Nigeria’s economy since coming into power in 2015, the President said focused interventions in agriculture driven by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) transitioned the country from being a net importer of rice, Nigeria’s staple food, to becoming self-sufficient in its production.
“This same scheme has financed the establishment and operations of our fifty (50) integrated rice mills. It has also financed over 4.5million smallholder farmers, ensured the cultivation of almost 6million hectares of farm land and almost 700 large scale agricultural projects have been funded.
“This Agricultural revolution has led to the creation of over 13m direct and indirect jobs”, he said.
President Buhari also told the Washington D.C Community of global thought leaders and Democracy Advocacy Groups that the focus on the Agricultural Sector placed Nigeria in a better position to handle the systemic shock caused by both COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war on global food supply chains and attendant price spikes.
He added that the revolution in the sector has improved the country’s capacity in the agro-allied sector, making it more efficient in enhancing and maximizing production yields and post-harvest losses.
The President said: “The non-oil sector remains the future of our economy and I hope successive governments will consolidate on the gains we have recorded under my leadership.
“You will agree with me that the Russia-Ukraine war has compelled many economies to carry out reforms and re-adjust policies to cope with the challenges posed by the conflict.
“In this regard, we are paying more attention now to energy transmission and distribution through targeted collaboration with global companies like Siemens to improve our efficiency in the Power Value Chain.”
President Buhari also used the occasion to once again advise western nations not to be in a rush to eliminate the usage of fossil fuels in a bid to ensure a healthy climate.
He recounted that as a member of the global community, Nigeria has participated in several rounds of talks regarding climate change and various decisions emerging from COP26 and the just concluded COP27.
“But as I stated in my Washington Post article, there can’t be double standards, wherein Western nations use their influence and weight to turn the taps off global financing for fossil fuel transactions which are much needed by developing nations, yet when they feel the pinch they are quick to turn on their coal powered plants.
“We owe it to our people to create jobs and livelihoods and we can’t accomplish this without maximizing our comparative advantage in energy to build up our manufacturing and industrial base.
“Therefore, stronger commitment needs to be made to the fund for climate adaptation and mitigation, if indeed there is intent to establish equity and fairness”, he said.
On the positive growth recorded in the economy, President Buhari explained that Government spending on infrastructure has also been a critical aspect of the overall strategy in ensuring the economy rebounds.
“Our infrastructure deficit is widely known and with the volatility in capital markets, we devised creative ways of funding this infrastructure gap to build roads and thus improving connectivity between markets and facilitating trade.
“We devised investment tax credit schemes and the use of Sukuk bonds, to reconstruct, develop and rehabilitate over 20,000km of roads. Additionally, we have revitalized our once comatose rail and roads such that trains are now up and running along critical corridors in different parts of the country.
“Our efforts on corruption continue to pay-off as the relevant agencies continue to make impressive recoveries as well as secure Court convictions of those sabotaging Nigeria’s efforts for sustained development and growth.
“The major cash recoveries will be deployed in a transparent way towards funding these infrastructure gaps”, he added.
Contrary to what was obtainable when he assumed power in 2015, the President said no Local Government Area (LGA) in Nigeria is under the control of Boko Haram terrorists.
The President however acknowledged that Nigeria and the West African region have been negatively impacted by the events in Libya, Central Africa Republic, The Sahel and the war in Ukraine.
“Our region is awash with small and light weapons that continue to seamlessly circulate as well as cope with the influx of foreign fighters”, he said, adding that Nigeria and other regional bodies in Africa and the rest of the world are working assiduously to deal with these existential threats to the very existence of humanity.
President Buhari commended the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Multi-national Joint Task Force, consisting of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Nigeria, for demonstrating great bravery in the fight against terrorism, while paying the ultimate price in securing collective freedom.
“Despite the difficult times we face, we continue to spend very scarce and lean resources to ensure that we have a well-resourced military force to take on this task.
“Ideally, these are resources that could be spent on Education or Healthcare or other social services, but without peace we have learnt the hard way that our children cannot go to school or seek good healthcare.
“We are nonetheless winning the war and making significant progress in dealing with the threats to Nigeria’s and the sub-regions’ safety and survival.
“This steady progress is in spite of the negative reportage in international media as well as the nonchalant actions and attitudes of some of our friends and allies to sufficiently appreciate our efforts in the fight against terrorism.
“Rather than focus on negativity, which is what Travel Advisories have become, Nigeria, the sub-regions of Africa and the rest of the world can work more concertedly together to combat terrorism and prevent violent extremism, both of which are challenges to global peace and stability and not just Nigeria and Africa alone.
“Notwithstanding these attitudinal deficits from some friends and allies, Nigeria remains open to working with the International Community and other development partners, to enhance global security and stability.”
Making a strong case that a secured and stable Nigeria is indispensable for the overall peace and prosperity of not only the country but Africa, with huge implications for global peace and stability, the President underscored the need for strategic partnership with the USA to fight common challenges, such as terrorism, climate change and entrenching democracy in Africa, together.
The President disclosed that Nigeria is on the verge of commissioning her New Counter Terrorism Centre that would serve as a hub for counter-terrorism coordination and research in West Africa.
“Our efforts are driven by our Terrorism Prevention Act 2022, the National Counter Terrorism Strategy as well as the Policy Framework and National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE)”, he said.
On the 2023 elections, President Buhari reiterated his avowed determination to ensure the conduct of free, fair and transparent national elections, whose outcome would be largely accepted to the contestants.
“Since 2015, the conduct of our elections continues to steadily improve. From the 2019 general elections, the by-elections and the off-season elections in Edo, Ekiti, Anambra and Osun States were conducted in largely improved contexts to the satisfaction of contestants and voters.
“That is what we hope for in 2023. Through the observatory roles of the International Community, the credibility of the elections can be further enhanced to make the acceptability of the outcome to the contestants and political parties a non-issue.’’
On democracy in West Africa, President Buhari said Nigeria would ‘‘aggressively work together to improve the quality of governance in the West African sub-Region, where the survival of democracy, is currently challenged.”
He noted that this can be done through targeted investments that can enhance dividends of democracy and creations of robust means of livelihood for the people as well as promote accountability and transparency by the political class.
“I call on all of you here present, to continue to partner with us and our electoral body, for the needed collaborative efforts which are critical to deepening and stabilizing democracy in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
“The recent reversals witnessed in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea are most unfortunate indeed and ECOWAS continues to effectively remain engaged with these countries in order to restore democracy to all the Member-States of ECOWAS as indeed the entire African Continent.”
President Buhari thanked Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and his team for inviting him back to the Institute after the last visit in 2015.
Recounting his outing in 2015, shortly after he assumed Office, wherein he spoke extensively on the vision and the focus of his administration in the three critical areas of security, economy and fighting corruption, President Buhari said: “I am therefore, exceptionally pleased today, that this stage which served as my opening act has once more presented itself as the curtains are almost being drawn, for the opportunity to share experiences and discuss the last seven and half years.
‘‘When I met you in 2015, I was not unaware of the enormous domestic and international goodwill that I attracted. Although I am a converted democrat, and not your run of the mill politician and therefore, less inclined to engage in double-talks.
“My Advisers may not be happy with me in this regard. I am however, measured in speaking but always certain that the truth I shall speak and this has huge consequences in a political space wherein this is an exception rather than the norm.”
Responding to a question on the readiness of INEC to conduct the 2023 elections, the President said INEC is ready “because I made sure they were given all the resources they asked because I don’t want any excuses that they were denied funds by the government.”