President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday thanked Nigerians for the honour to serve for two terms, 2015-2023, asking for pardon from those he might have hurt while discharging his duties.
He was speaking at an occasion to mark his final outing as president on a Sallah Day, before handing over to the incoming administration.
With less than 37 days left in office, the president recounted his leadership roles in the country for more than forty years, serving variously as a military officer, military governor, minister, and Head of State, and returning as a democratically elected president in 2015.
Buhari told residents of the Federal Capital Territory led by the Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, on Eid-el-Fitr Sallah homage, that his journey was not all smooth as he was incarcerated for three years, after the coup that ousted him from power in August, 1984, and contested elections three times – in 2003, 2007 and 2011, without success.
He said: “I dared the politicians and ended up at the Supreme Court three times. They laughed at me, and I responded, ‘God dey’. God sent technology to my rescue, with Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC). The fraudulent people became unemployed.”
The President noted that the flaunting of ethnic and religious cards in elections was “rubbish” as the presiding justices at the Supreme Court that squashed his cases were Muslims, from the North, Zaria in Kaduna State, Niger and Jigawa.
“It is good to reflect on what used to happen here, in FCT, especially on security. Security is not only about the North East, it also spread to the FCT and all over the country.
“Those who wanted to make our lives uncomfortable reached the FCT, and they have been marginalised,’’ he added.
Buhari highlighted the strengths of democracy as a system of government, particularly in providing opportunity to participate, and fostering a sense of belonging among citizens.
“I have been counting the years. Democracy is good, otherwise how can someone come from one end of the country to rule for eight years. My home town, Daura, is about eight kilometres to Niger Republic.
“When the Minister of Interior wanted to shut down petrol stations ten kilometres from the border, there was a fuel station close to my house, and I pleaded if he could allow it to keep operating,” he added.
The president stated that he decided to retire to Daura, which is far away from Abuja, in order to get some respite, after years of work.
He said: “I can’t wait to go home to Daura. 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 home town.
“In spite of technology, it will not be easy to get to Daura.”
The president also said he accepted all the complaints and criticisms in good stead, knowing it was part of the leadership he prayed and asked from God.
“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.”
He said he remains grateful to Nigerians, who voted for him in 2015 and 2019, without any monetary incentive, with some trooping to the campaigns, and receptions in states just to catch a glimpse.
He said: “I think it is a good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you, and thank you for tolerating me for almost eight years.”
In his remark, the minister of FCT thanked the president for hosting residents for the 9th Eid-el-Fitr, and allowing more people into the Villa for the last homage, before his handing over on May 29.
Bello said the conceptualisation and realisation of the FCT was historic and deserved commendation, reminding Buhari of his role as part of the military recce team for the capital in the 70s.
The minister, accompanied by Umaru Shagalinku, the man who started one of the oldest restaurants in Abuja, and some contractors, thanked the president for the privilege of serving in the same position for close to eight years.
The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, SGF, Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Senator Philip Aduda, and CAN Chairman in FCT, Rev. Timothy Amakum, were also at the Sallah homage.
NEW CITIZEN is a Nigerian online newspaper that reports or comments on the burning issues of the moment. Based in Abuja, it is managed by some of the best hands in Nigerian journalism, bringing together decades of active journalism.