Just like his security chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that marauding herdsmen in various parts of Nigeria are foreigners.
The President said in London on Wednesday that the armed herdsmen who have killed thousands of Nigerians and destroyed their property, especially farm lands were trained by the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi.
Buhari, who is on official trip to the United Kingdom, made the assertion when he received the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby in London. He however failed to disclose whether Gadaffi trained them to specifically attack Nigerians or not.
Some of the President’s security chiefs, defence minister, and the Department of State Services (DSS) had said that the armed herdsmen were from neighbouring West African states.
Buhari told his guest that he decided to announce his re-election bid for 2019 early because Nigerians were distracting him with speculations about whether he would seek their mandate again or not.
The President had declared his intention to run for another four-year term in office during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja last Monday, with almost a year before the presidential poll next February, a move that the opposition had criticised.
Responding to Welby’s concerns about the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of Nigeria, the President said that “the problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region.
“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gadaffi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram. The herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons.
“The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions,” he said, adding that despite the “irresponsible politics” being brought into the farmers/herders’ crisis, enduring solutions would be found, and justice done to all concerned.
According to the President, “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice.
“We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others. We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting.”
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, who disclosed this through a statement from London, said that Buhari recounted the successes of the administration to his guest, with whom he has built a deep friendship in recent times, and was quite particular about the strides in agriculture.
He said: “We have cut the importation of rice by about 90 per cent, saving billions of dollars in the process. People who rushed into petrol money have now gone back to agriculture. Even professionals have gone back to the land. Nigeria should be able to feed itself comfortably soon. I am so pleased.”
On the war against insurgency, he stressed the need for continuous education of the people, “so that they can be free from religious manipulation,” adding that no true religion advocates the hurting or killing of the innocent.
On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by Boko Haram insurgents, reportedly because she refused to renounce her Christian faith, the President said that, “we are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.
There are too many fraudulent people around, who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls,” he said.
In his response, Archbishop Welby said that it was always a delight to see President Buhari, “whom I have tremendous respect for,” adding: “You have my best wishes on your recent decision. I read your declaration speech. We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you.”
The Archbishop presented Buhari with a copy of his recent book: “Reimagining Britain; Foundations for Hope”.