The President spoke with Nigerians resident in South Africa on Monday after taking part in the 25th assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Johannesburg.
He said, “I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.”
Despite his advancement in age however, Buhari gave assurance that his administration would make a difference.
Buhari explained that what brought him to his current position was his love for the country.
He recalled that he was in the war front for 30 months during the civil war, adding that like any other Nigerian, he lost relatives and loyal people to the war.
Buhari said considering the fact that two million Nigerians died during the war, nobody should come forward to talk about a breakup of the country.
He stressed that Nigeria would remain one country since God had given him another opportunity to reorganise its affairs.
The President promised that his administration would “kill” corruption before it wrecks the nation.
He added that the All Progressives Congress government which he leads was determined to secure the country and improve its economy.
“Our government is determined to secure the country, manage the economy, create employment and fight corruption. Some articulate writers have said if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. This APC administration intends to kill corruption in Nigeria. We will do our best, I assure you,” Buhari stated.
The President said he was at a time afraid that Nigeria might become a nation like Somalia which “self-centered elite” had succeeded in turning to a war zone in the last 20 years.
He said Nigerians were more vulnerable because the country has many nationalities who were merged in 1914 in spite of their religious and cultural differences.
Buhari stated that only crazy people whom, according to him, are not in short supply, would talk of dividing the country.
He said there was no big deal in the claims by those who accused him of jailing them because he was also jailed for over three years.
“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-a-half years. So, those who accuse me of locking them up, I too have been locked up; so what?” he declared.
The President said he would not have believed if he had been told during his days in the military that he would one day join partisan politics.
He explained that he joined partisan politics with a view to meeting the needs of the people.
Buhari said, “Why did I join partisan politics in spite of that? When I went home people knew that I have no money and I thought they will leave me alone, but they didn’t.
“They were coming to me asking me to do this and do that. I found out 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.
“But then I joined the opposition (the All Peoples Party). I didn’t want any political office at first, if I wanted, I would have joined the PDP(Peoples Democratic Party) then and maybe I would have got to where I am much earlier. But then, I wanted to go with the opposition.
“The second thing that finally convinced me to join partisan politics was what happened in the Soviet Union. You know the Soviet Union was an empire in the 20th century that collapsed without a shot being fired.
“Everybody went home, there was confusion. Now, there are 18 countries out of the old Soviet Union.”
Buhari said he believed that the best form of governance was democracy, but elections must be free and fair.
That, he said, was why he was in trouble and he had to move from the APP to the ANPP(All Nigerian Peoples Party) to CPC(Congress for Progressive Change) and eventually to the APC.
Buhari explained that he contested his defeats in 2003, 2007 and 2011 up to the Supreme Court because of his belief that elections must be free and fair.
He said, “In all those cases from the High Court to the 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 the PDP has won.
“But at last, the PDP has lost.’’
While explaining that he had occupied different positions like military governor of the North Eastern State, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Head of State and Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund, he stated people only remember his days at the PTF because he equipped hospitals and schools.
The President said, “I bought bed sheets and X-ray machines for hospital and buses for the schools.
“They (Nigerians) remember me more as chairman of the PTF than as a former Head of State, than a governor or a Minister of Petroleum.
“In spite of the fact that it was during my time that I signed the contract for the Warri Refinery, Kaduna Refinery, more than 3,500 pipelines and more than 20 depots.
“We got the tankers off the roads; we saved lives; we saved fuel and we saved the roads.
“But from 1999 till date, the PDP messed them up. That is why Nigerians decided to vote me.”
Buhari said despite the money politics being played in Nigeria, his victories during APC’s primary and the March 28 presidential elections had proved that Nigerians knew what they wanted .
He said some rejected inducement while some collected and still did exactly what they wanted to do when there was time to vote.
Buhari regretted that some “strong Nigerians” were responsible for the destruction of strong institutions in the country.
He said, “We have a system in Nigeria. No matter what you say about the British colonialists, they built institutions for us, unfortunately we have destroyed those institutions.
“When (Barack) Obama came to Africa, he went to Ghana; he refused to come to Nigeria. And he said Africa or developing countries should have strong institutions instead of strong leaders.
“If he was in Nigeria, he would have known that it was strong Nigerians that destroyed the strong institutions. And paradoxically, maybe another strong Nigerian will come and revive the institutions and make them strong again.”