By Mark A. Upaa
President Muhammadu Buhari in an interview on Monday, which was monitored by our reporters, during which he spoke on several far reaching issues has declared, he will soon take action on the retirement of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris. The President, who also noted that he has previously refused to change service chiefs to avoid competition within the services.
Buhari also challenged anyone with information on alleged shady deals involving his wife and son to publish it, even as he denied instructing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to stop the probe of former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who recently joined the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
When asked specifically about the IGP, the President said: “I don’t think I’m afraid of him, I will take action.” The IGP was expected to have retired on January 3 after completing his mandatory 35 years service but has remained in office. President Buhari had also on previous occassions twice extended, the tenures of other service chiefs including; General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Defence Staff; Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Chief of Army Staff; Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Marshall Sadique Baba Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, fueling speculations that the IGP’s tenure may also be extended.
This has generated much controversy in the polity, with opposition political parties and other major stakeholders imploring the President not to extend the tenure of the IGP to guarantee free and fair election. Explaining why he has not changed his service chiefs, the President said: “The head has to be very careful because you don’t know the ambition of the ones coming up behind.” He said the performance of the service chiefs might be disappointing but was quick to say that he took responsibility for not changing them. “My understanding of security is that when you have a case of emergency, you have to be careful with tampering with the head of services. This is again one of my personal experiences. ‘’I have been a governor, I have been a minister, I have been a Head of State, I came back, I tried to come back to this office three times but lucky on the fourth time, i was able to achieve my ambition. “I am measuring the options critically; when you have a case of emergency, if you don’t wait for an appropriate time to do it, then you create competition within the service. There are so many ambitious people waiting; only one man can be chief of army staff, only one man can be the inspector-general of police. Don’t forget that it was this administration that appointed all three. “I didn’t know them on a personal basis, I followed records and thought I picked the best. Then, of course, their performance may be disappointing but I accept responsibility for not changing them. My reason is based on my own experience.” President Buhari also accused the governments of Benue and Taraba states of politicising security, while giving the killings in their states religious and ethnic undertones. He said: “You talked of Zamfara, Benue and Plateau, You haven’t mentioned Taraba. The problem — I think, you, the press, television, radio and so on — should stabilise the country and ask for responsible reportage and leadership. “The number of people killed in Taraba and Benue states is not up to the number killed in Zamfara State. But then what the leadership of Benue and Taraba was reporting, I may not be reading every article, they were giving it religious and ethnic (undertone) which is very unfair to Nigeria.”
Buhari on his wife and son The President described as unfair, allegations that he was protecting some corrupt persons in his government while those in the opposition were being hounded. “It is a very unfair allegation against my integrity. I don’t think… anyway you are in a position to find out and if you do so, I don’t care. ‘’Publish it, even if my son or my wife has a company and they are involved in deals with Customs and and so on, bringing in illegal goods or whatever, I challenge you to do that.” On Akpabio On why former Governor Akpabio, who was under probe for allegedly diverting N100bn was left untouched, Buhari said he did not know but declared that he did not instruct the EFCC to do so. The President said he had formed the habit of following due process since his ouster as Head of State in 1985 when he was fighting corruption through rash methods.
“I don’t think when Akpabio moved to the APC, I said he should be left alone. I cannot remember asking the EFCC, the ICPC, the police or anybody to spare any corrupt person or incompetent person. I haven’t done it and I challenge you to expose any.” Asked if the anti-graft agencies were acting in line with his body language, he queried: “Why should they fear my body language?” On state police, President Buhari noted that though it was a good initiative, he wouldn’t want to be part of it. “It may be more efficient, which was why I congratulated the governor of Lagos State (Akinwunmi Ambode) when he started the Lagos State Neighbourhood Corps. It’s a good initiative,” the President said. He, however, said it could be problematic in the long run because most states could not afford to pay the salaries of their workers. He said: “Lagos State is richer than the Federal Government. How many states are there that can pay salaries and you now ask them to go and form state police? “Do you know what can happen if you can’t feed the police? Do you just give him uniform and a gun but can’t pay him salaries for six months? It’s going to be a problem and I don’t want to be a part of it.” Meanwhile, the President has expressed displeasure with the Police, saying if they were doing their job well, soldiers would not be seen on the streets. “I have a problem with the Police and I told them that, from my training and experience, the Police are supposed to be in the front line. “Now, Nigerians are seeing soldiers on the streets. This is not good for the Police and I told them this some months ago,”
On Monday, the President handed over his re-election campaign to, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, so he could focus on governance.