By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja –
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said that he had pondered over which country was appropriate for him to go on exile if agricultural harvests were not good last year and this year.
He hinged his intended action on the premise that he had inherited a badly managed economy in 2015 where windfall from the sale of crude oil was squandered without a thought for the rainy day.
Buhari who spoke at the banquet hall of the presidential villa when the National Council of traditional rulers paid him a courtesy visit, decried the manner in which the Paris Club Refund was spent by some state governors.
He expressed regret over the inability of the affected state governments to pay retirement benefits and outstanding salaries of workers, with the payment of the refund.
The delegation of the traditional rulers which cuts across the six geopolitical zones was led by the chairman of National Council of Traditional Rulers, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad III and Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi.
On why he had thought of going on exile, the president said nobody should deceive Nigerians on the management of the nation’s resources prior to his emergence as president.
He noted that the picture of the nation’s economy he painted after assuming the reins of government as president was the gospel truth.
Buhari said, “We know our limitations; we have to continue to strengthen our constitution, to strengthen the resolve of our people to live together, work together. We are lucky that last year and this year, the rainy season is good. If it were not good I must confide in you that I was considering which country to run to.
“But God answered the prayers of many Nigerians the rainy season last year was good and this year with the report I’m getting is good. We thank God for that otherwise there would have been lot of problems in this country”.
On the Paris Club Refund, Buhari said “we have to digress this much because I am living with the problems of the country day-by-day, and mostly those of the ordinary people.
He continued: “There are Nigerians that haven’t been paid for six months; there are Nigerians that have not been paid their retirement benefits for years.
“I’m appealing to the governors, (that was why we voted money, we borrowed money), please make sure anybody under you, pay them because most of them depend on that salary to pay rent, school fees”.
The president pledged that his administration would continue to do its best in executing developmental projects to uplift the standard of living of all Nigerians irrespective of their geo-political backgrounds.
Thanking the royal fathers for the visit and the continuous prayers of their subjects for his quick recovery while he was away on medical vacation in London for over three months, Buhari promised that he will rededicate himself to pursuing programmes that would deliver improved living condition to Nigerians.
The president also told the royal fathers to ensure that their subjects put an eye on public resources in their domains, adding that “we have to continue to strengthen our institutions and ensure that our people work and live together”.
Buhari stated that Nigeria should be able to use its population strength of being the biggest black nation in the world to its advantage.
On the general security situation in the country, the president said all hands are on deck to completely secure Nigeria so as to develop it further.
Earlier in his introductory remarks, before he selected one traditional ruler each from the six geopolitical zones to address the president, the Sultan of Sokoto noted that they visited the seat of power to express their gratitude to God for healing and transforming Buhari and bringing him back to drive the affairs of the country.
He said beyond felicitating with the president, they also visited to use the occasion to tell him to tighten his belt in order to be able to confront the many challenges facing the nation.
According to him, the goodwill speeches by the traditional rulers representing the zones and the prayers of all Nigerians for the president’s good health should serve as a tonic that should spur him to tighten his belt the more to satisfy the needs and aspirations of the populace.
He said, “We will continue to preach peace and stability, justice, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption.”
Speaking for the South West, the Oni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunnusi, joined his colleagues in thanking God for the safe return of Buhari and for restoring his health.
He said, “From South West we thank God for your life and we pledged to support you from our communities because we are closer to our people. We will continue to preach to our people that we should continue to foster peace in our country, we will continue to caution our youths against hate speeches.
“We cannot leave the development of the country all to the government but we have to work hand in hand. We assure you that we support all your initiatives”.
Speaking in the same vein, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, thanked God for Buhari’s return to Nigeria in good health, saying “we assure you of our loyalty and preparedness to do everything to promote peace and unity in the country.
King Jaja of Opobi who spoke for the South South royal fathers said the president should do all in his powers to bring down tensions in different parts of the country, especially the South South.
Taking his turn on behalf of the North Central, the Gbom Gwom Jos drew the attention of President Buhari to last weekend attacks in Bassa local government of Plateau State that left about 20 persons dead.
He stressed the need to step up efforts in the area of security so that the benefits of economic diversification can be enhanced.
The North Central traditional ruler also warned that it is immoral to play politics with issues of health and security, calling on all and sundry to put heads together for peace to reign.
He said, “The issues of health and security are not issues to play politics but issues we should put heads together so that the country can progress. We commend your efforts on security and agriculture. Agriculture will not find its proper definition in the face of insecurity.
“Few days ago just when we thought peace had returned to the Plateau, it was truncated by the attack on Ancha village in Bassa local government area of Plateau State, leading to 20 deaths”.
He commended Buhari for ordering the security agencies to fish out those responsible for the attacks and the reasons for the attack.
The South East representatives, Eze Eberchi Dick, from Abia State told Buhari to do something urgent about the deteriorating state of the roads in the region.
He remarked that the South East region had been praying for the president like all other Nigerians because Buhari remains their president.
He said, “Our hearts is full of joy that you are back. You shook our hands when you came in and that shows you believe in one Nigeria. We prayed for you and you are back. We prayed for you because your agenda for Nigeria is good.
“As your children, when we cry it is for you to ask us to stop crying that you will fix whatever is making us cry like the bad roads”.
The Lamido Adamawa, speaking for the North East zone summarized his remarks with a Muslim prayer for strength to President Buhari to take the country to an enviable height.
He said, “God brought you back to Nigeria and we are all very happy. We will continue to pray for God to strengthen you more and give you the courage to continue to do more for the country”.