Speaking at a meeting with Nigerians in South Africa at the end of the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg, the president said the country has remained one because of the resolve of Nigerians.
“This is my first time of attending these types of meetings (AU) and they go on and on until about 1 in the morning. And then you are supposed to start in the morning again. Everybody is repeating what the other speaker has said instead of to keep their mouth shut. Anyways, it is a great experience,” he said.
“I have listened to the address paraphrased by the counsel-general, I’m pleased that wherever Nigerians are whether in South Africa or Saudi Arabia or Europe or Alaska for that matter, you’ll make an impact both positive and negative.
“There is no way 160 million people or more cannot make impact wherever they are. We have so many cultures and nationalities.
“At a point I was very frightened; [I] don’t know how many of you kept records. I was afraid Nigeria might be like Somalia. The Somalis are the same people; they are all Muslims but because the elites are self-centered, selfish, they have succeeded to make Somalia a war country for the last 20 years.
“For that reason, I said Nigerians are much more vulnerable, we have so many nationalities no matter how you look at it, Hausa-Fulanis, Kanuris, Ishekiris, Yorubas, Igbos. We are actually people of different cultures but since 1914, we have merged in spite of religion and culture, married across, produce children and only crazy people can think of balkanising Nigeria. But we are not short of crazy people that is the frightening part of it.
“But I assure you that after being in the military for 25 years, and getting to the highest rank and becoming head of state and under unusual circumstances. As head of state, I went straight to detention for three and half years, so those who accused me of locking them up, I too have been locked up, so what?”
Buhari went down memory lane in encouraging those in attendance not to give up on their targets and advised Nigerians to be good ambassadors of the country.
“So why did I join partisan politics in spite of that? When I went home people knew that I have no money. I thought they will leave me alone, but they didn’t. They were coming to me asking me to do this and do that. And I found that the only way I could do it is by joining partisan politics. And maybe if I speak even if I’m not a member at any level, people will listen to me,” he said.
“But then I joined the opposition, I joined APP (All Peoples Party). I didn’t want any political office at first, if I wanted I would have joined PDP then and maybe I would have gotten to where I am much earlier. But then I wanted to go with the opposition. I moved from APP to ANPP to CPC, eventually to APC.
“I contested in 2003, spent 30 months in the courts and ended up in supreme court. I contested in 2007, spent about 20 months in the courts, ended up in supreme court. I contested in 2011 and spent about eight months in the courts, all ending up in Supreme Court. Why was I doing it? I know the reason I believed in it! I told you I believe in this system, that election must be free and fair.
“In all those cases from high court to supreme court, we sent people to the field, they found out why the elections were not fair, they came to the court and gave evidence but in the end, they will say oh well! There were some flaws in the elections but PDP has won. At last the PDP has lost!
“I have gone to this extent to tell you that when you make up your mind about anything positive, don’t be discouraged! Keep on trying!”
Buhari said he had discussed diplomatic issues between Nigeria and South Africa with President Jacob Zuma and revealed that his South African counterpart would be visiting Nigeria, where both leaders would discuss the interest of both countries, including the controversial $9.3 million arms deal.
The money, which was meant for the procurement of arms to combat insurgency, was seized after South African authorities discovered it in a private plane which flew into the country from Nigeria.