READ General Buhari’s Full Speech In London


Buhari speaks at Chatham House, London on
February 26, 2015
( APC Press Release) – Permit me to start by
thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk
about this important topic at this crucial time.
When speaking about Nigeria overseas, I normally
prefer to be my country’s public relations and
marketing officer, extolling her virtues and hoping
to attract investments and tourists. But as we all
know, Nigeria is now battling with many
challenges, and if I refer to them, I do so only to
impress on our friends in the United Kingdom that
we are quite aware of our shortcomings and are
doing our best to address them.
The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating
a lot of interests within and outside the country.
This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most
populous country and largest economy, is at a
defining moment, a moment that has great
implications beyond the democratic project and
beyond the borders of my dear country.
So let me say upfront that the global interest in
Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all
and indeed should be commended; for this is an
election that has serious import for the world. I
urge the international community to continue to
focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment.
Given increasing global linkages, it is in our
collective interests that the postponed elections
should hold on the rescheduled dates; that they
should be free and fair; that their outcomes
should be respected by all parties; and that any
form of extension, under whichever guise, is
unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the
dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of
communism and the end of the Cold War,
democracy became the dominant and most
preferred system of government across the globe.
That global transition has been aptly captured as
the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-
eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal
note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning
point for me. It convinced me that change can be
brought about without firing a single shot.
As you all know, I had been a military head of
state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened
because we were unhappy with the state of
affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the
drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the
prevalence and popularity of such drastic
measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought
our way to power. But the global triumph of
democracy has shown that another and a
preferable path to change is possible. It is an
important lesson I have carried with me since,
and a lesson that is not lost on the African
In the last two decades, democracy has grown
strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are
now so commonplace. As at the time I was a
military head of state between 1983 and 1985,
only four African countries held regular multi-
party elections. But the number of electoral
democracies in Africa, according to Freedom
House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in
1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006. According to
the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in
Sub-Saharan Africa conducted multi-party
elections between 1990 and 2002.
The newspaper also reported that between 2000
and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries
(Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully
handed over power to victorious opposition
parties. In addition, the proportion of African
countries categorized as not free by Freedom
House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003.
Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current
global wave of democratisation.
But the growth of democracy on the continent has
been uneven. According to Freedom House, the
number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped
from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while
the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not
free’ assuming for the sake of argument that we
accept their definition of “free” increased from
35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have
been some reversals at different times in Burkina
Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire,
Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali,
Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo. We can
choose to look at the glass of democracy in
Africa as either half full or half empty.
While you can’t have representative democracy
without elections, it is equally important to look
at the quality of the elections and to remember
that mere elections do not democracy make. It is
globally agreed that democracy is not an event,
but a journey. And that the destination of that
journey is democratic consolidation – that state
where democracy has become so rooted and so
routine and widely accepted by all actors.
With this important destination in mind, it is clear
that though many African countries now hold
regular elections, very few of them have
consolidated the practice of democracy. It is
important to also state at this point that just as
with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot
be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not
enough to hold a series of elections or even to
peacefully alternate power among parties.
It is much more important that the promise of
democracy goes beyond just allowing people to
freely choose their leaders. It is much more
important that democracy should deliver on the
promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of
lives and property, of transparency and
accountability, of rule of law, of good governance
and of shared prosperity. It is very important that
the promise embedded in the concept of
democracy, the promise of a better life for the
generality of the people, is not delivered in the
Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all
know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year
and this general election will be the fifth in a row.
This is a major sign of progress for us, given that
our first republic lasted five years and three
months, the second republic ended after four
years and two months and the third republic was
a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only
reason why everyone is so interested in this
The major difference this time around is that for
the very first time since transition to civil rule in
1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our
party the All Progressives Congress (APC ). We
once had about 50 political parties, but with no
real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning
from a dominant party system to a competitive
electoral polity, which is a major marker on the
road to democratic consolidation. As you know,
peaceful alternation of power through competitive
elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal,
Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The
prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa
will be further brightened when that eventually
happens in Nigeria.
But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the
whole world are intensely focused on this year’s
elections, chief of which is that the elections are
holding in the shadow of huge security, economic
and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous
country and largest economy. On insecurity, there
is a genuine cause for worry, both within and
outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no
other time in our history has Nigeria been this
Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the
terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our
nationals, displacing millions internally and
externally, and at a time holding on to portions of
our territory the size of Belgium. What has been
consistently lacking is the required leadership in
our battle against insurgency. I, as a retired
general and a former head of state, have always
known about our soldiers: they are capable, well
trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do
their duty in the service of our country.
You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our
military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many
other peacekeeping operations in several parts of
the world. But in the matter of this insurgency,
our soldiers have neither received the necessary
support nor the required incentives to tackle this
problem. The government has also failed in any
effort towards a multi-dimensional response to
this problem leading to a situation in which we
have now become dependent on our neighbours
to come to our rescue.
Let me assure you that if I am elected president,
the world will have no cause to worry about
Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will
return to its stabilizing role in West Africa; and
that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost
to the enemy because we will pay special
attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out
of service, we will give them adequate and
modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we
will improve intelligence gathering and border
controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and
equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism
and tough on its root causes by initiating a
comprehensive economic development plan
promoting infrastructural development, job
creation, agriculture and industry in the affected
areas. We will always act on time and not allow
problems to irresponsibly fester, and I,
Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the
front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in
regional and international efforts to combat
On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has
brought our economic and social stress into full
relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014,
Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest
economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion
and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on
the bright side, inflation has been kept at single
digit for a while and our economy has grown at
an average of 7% for about a decade.
But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on
account of mismanagement, profligacy and
corruption, has not translated to human
development or shared prosperity. A development
economist once said three questions should be
asked about a country’s development: one, what
is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening
to unemployment? And three, what is happening
to inequality?
The answers to these questions in Nigeria show
that the current administration has created two
economies in one country, a sorry tale of two
nations: one economy for a few who have so
much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the
other economy for the many who have so little in
their vast ocean of misery.
Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in
extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million,
almost the population of the United Kingdom.
There is also the unemployment crisis simmering
beneath the surface, ready to explode at the
slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult
population and almost 60% of our youth
unemployed. We also have one of the highest
rates of inequalities in the world.
With all these, it is not surprising that our
performance on most governance and
development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on
African Governance and UNDP’s Human
Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in
the prices of oil, which accounts for more than
70% of government revenues, and lack of savings
from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor
will be disproportionately impacted.
In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to
start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to
swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under
the present administration: waste and corruption.
And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way,
with the force of personal example.
On corruption, there will be no confusion as to
where I stand. Corruption will have no place and
the corrupt will not be appointed into my
administration. First and foremost, we will plug
the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue
producing entities such as NNPC and Customs
and Excise will have one set of books only. Their
revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly
audited. The institutions of state dedicated to
fighting corruption will be given independence and
prosecutorial authority without political
But I must emphasise that any war waged on
corruption should not be misconstrued as settling
old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for
President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not
In reforming the economy, we will use savings
that arise from blocking these leakages and the
proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our
party’s social investments programmes in
education, health, and safety nets such as free
school meals for children, emergency public works
for unemployed youth and pensions for the
As a progressive party, we must reform our
political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity
and productivity of the Nigerian people thus
freeing them from the curse of poverty. We will
run a private sector-led economy but maintain an
active role for government through strong
regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions
and incentives to diversify the base of our
economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve
the productive capacities of our people and create
jobs for our teeming youths.
In short, we will run a functional economy driven
by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by
itself, but as a tool to create a society that works
for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria
has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity
of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe
the people will choose wisely.
In sum, I think that given its strategic importance,
Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic
consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we
need to get this critical election right by ensuring
that they go ahead, and depriving those who want
to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling
democracy. That way, we will all see democracy
and democratic consolidation as tools for solving
pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as
ends in themselves.
Permit me to close this discussion on a personal
note. I have heard and read references to me as a
former dictator in many respected British
newspapers including the well regarded
Economist. Let me say without sounding
defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule,
though some might be less dictatorial than others.
I take responsibility for whatever happened under
my watch.
I cannot change the past. But I can change the
present and the future. So before you is a former
military ruler and a converted democrat who is
ready to operate under democratic norms and is
subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic
elections for the fourth time.
You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a
question I ask myself all the time too. And here is
my humble answer: because the work of making
Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still
believe that change is possible, this time through
the ballot, and most importantly, because I still
have the capacity and the passion to dream and
work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in
the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will
be proud of.


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