PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has said he would leave for neighbouring Niger Republic after handing over as President if he is not able to get enough rest in Daura, his home town in Katsina State.
Buhari said this while addressing guests who came to celebrate with him on the occasion of the Sallah Day in at the State House on Friday, April 21.
Buhari, in a statement by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, stated that he can’t wait to retire to Daura, far away from Abuja, in order to get some respite after years of work.
“I can’t wait to go home to Daura,” he said.
“If they make any noise to disturb me in Daura, I will leave for the Niger Republic.”
“I deliberately arranged to be as far away as possible. I got what I wanted and will quietly retire to my hometown,” he added.
The President said he remains grateful to Nigerians who voted him in 2015 and 2019 without any monetary incentive, with some trooping to campaign rallies in different states just to catch a glimpse of him.
He told his audience that his journey was not all smooth, and he was incarcerated for three years after the coup that ousted him from power in August 1984.
Buhari noted that he contested elections three times in 2003, 2007 and 2011 without success.
He said the flaunting of ethnic and religious cards in elections was “rubbish” as the presiding justices at the Supreme Court that squashed his cases in previous elections he contested before 2015, were Northern Muslims from Zaria in Kaduna State, Niger, and Jigawa states.
He highlighted the strengths of democracy as a system of government, particularly in providing opportunity to participate and fostering a sense of belonging among citizens.
“God gave me an incredible opportunity to serve the country. We are all humans; if I have hurt some people along the line of my service to the country, I ask that they pardon me. All those that I have hurt, I ask that they pardon me.
“I think it is a good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you, and thank you for tolerating me for almost eight years,” the President said.
The ICIR reported that Niger Republic has been the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy under the Buhari’s administration in the last seven years.
Checks by The ICIR show that the neighbouring West African country has received more attention from the Nigerian government and enjoyed a more special, closer relationship with Nigeria than other African countries under Buhari.
Nigeria under Buhari embarked on a $2 billion railway that runs from Kano State to Maradi in Niger Republic. Maradi, the second-largest city in Niger Republic, is regarded as the centre of the country’s developing oil industry. Buhari performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the new rail line on February 9, 2021.
In 2020, Nigerians were shocked after the Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Niger Republic for the importation of petroleum products from that country, a country that only joined the league of oil-producing countries in 2012.
The action was criticised by some Nigerians, particularly oil and gas industry stakeholders, who questioned the sincerity of Buhari’s roadmap on local refining, which involves introducing modular refineries in Nigeria.
Apart from other interventions, including agreeing in principle to cooperate on building an oil pipeline and refinery with Niger Republic in 2018, the Buhari administration again came under intense criticism last year after it approved the purchase and donation of vehicles worth N1.4 billion to Niger Republic.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told journalists that the donation was to help Niger Republic address its security concerns.
She said such donations by Nigeria to its neighbours were common.
Reacting to Nigerians who had expressed shock and displeasure over the action, Ahmed said it is the President’s prerogative to take such decisions after a careful assessment of the situation.
Foreign affairs experts, who analysed Nigeria’s relationship with Niger Republic in separate interviews with The ICIR in 2021, suggested that although the country have had cordial relations with neighbouring countries, personal motives may have informed Buhari’s emphasis on Niger Republic.
A former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Bola Akinterinwa, told The ICIR that Buhari has a ‘personal relationship’ with Niger Republic but he did not explain the nature of the relationship to Nigerians.
“Buhari has relationship with them (Niger Republic) but I don’t think that is why he may be giving priority there. If Buhari is trying to give priority to Niger Republic it may be because of his own personal affiliation to them, you can’t rule that one out,” he said.