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Former President Muhammadu Buhari has defended the naira redesign policy that his administration introduced at a time when the nation was heading into general elections, saying that it was meant to show Nigerians that there can be no shortcut to power.

The policy implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under its then governor, Godwin Emefiele, was seen by many Nigerians to have engendered hardship due to the scarcity of currency.

In his first interview since leaving office, which aired on Monday night on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Buhari said: “The motivation is to try and make Nigerians believe that there is no shortcut to successful leadership in the sense that service is not easy, as I said after three attempts and ending up in the Supreme Court.”

Asked why he initiated the policy at election time, Buhari responded: “Nigeria, believe it or not, we’re an underdeveloped country. We get so impressed by our material things and sometimes ruthlessly don’t care how we make the money. You should be rich, have a fantastic house, flashy cars, and go overseas regularly.”

“A lot of Nigerians will say that is very stupid. They would rather have the quickest or fastest way of getting there, and the only way of doing it is to try to accumulate some money, to have a lot of money, and see how you can compromise so many people and maybe institutions and get what you wanted to get.

“But I think patriotism if you sympathise with your own people, ordinary Nigerians, and how they struggle to maintain their households, how they struggle to keep their children in school, to make sure they don’t suffer, those who are sensible enough realise it is not easy and it is a difficult way of doing things.

“Do they have the courage to take the difficult way of doing things and make sure that they bring up their children well by suffering themselves?” He wondered.

Buhari said his greatest achievements were in the areas of security and economy, noting that under his administration, territories that were held by Boko Haram in Borno State were recovered.

The former president, who said he never took Nigerians for granted, also pointed out that he did not acquire personal property in his eight years at the helm.

He said, “I have been living now in peace for about six months. When I was head of state, I didn’t build anything; I didn’t acquire anything. So, I didn’t compete with Nigerians having been in power to have companies and favour those companies or give myself big or large land areas, plots in Abuja, you know, and give it to favour people.

“That’s why I am living in peace because Nigerians have their own way of knowing, and I think they will wait for the day to harass and take on all those they think have cheated them.”

He alleged that Nigerians are also adept at holding leaders hostage and encouraging leaders to make mistakes and use them to justify hundreds of their own mistakes.

The former president declared, “Accountability. Nigerians are damn clever. I think they will encourage you to make one mistake, and then they will do a hundred. You will be tied up. You cannot explain because you are a hostage. They like holding their leadership as hostages. This is my idea. That is why I think I was overly careful.

“I made sure you wouldn’t say, ‘Oga, I’ve got an account in Saudi Arabia; you’ve gotten an account in Switzerland; you haven’t gotten an account. From there, you have to obey him instead of him obeying you.”

Buhari asserted that because he had no money, people laughed at him over his ambition.

He said while he resigned himself to fate by believing “God dey,” the advent of technology in the electoral process saved the day for him after three trials.

Buhari recounted how, after the Supreme Court verdict on his third attempt, he was laughed at because he did not have money and could not buy influence

“I was expecting sympathy, and the crowd that I was addressing laughed at me. I said God dey and God sent technology, permanent voters cards, before fraudulent Nigerians will come and say, ‘I will bring you 50,000 votes; how much will you give me?’ ” He said.

The former president disagreed that there was a cabal in his government, insisting that there was no evidence that his regime was hijacked by a select few.

He wondered why those who made the claim never spoke up, adding, “Why didn’t they talk?”

When asked why he tended to trust too much and hardly fired personnel, Buhari said that he did not interfere with the job of his ministers.

“I don’t have any evidence of anybody doing anything wrong and being allowed to walk away. No.⁣⁣ No, because I don’t deliberately allow anybody to use public resources for himself. I allowed people to do their job as I understood it,” he stated.


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