President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday said that contrary to widespread allegations of ethnic and religious bias against him and his government, he was one Nigerian who was detribalized and religiously accommodating.
The president pointed to his ministerial appointments as proof of his non-bias, while also citing his experience in politics including close interaction and association with persons of different tribe and religion as the source of his open-mindedness.
Buhari said this during a dinner he hosted in honour of chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that the number of substantive ministers he appointed from the South East where he got only 198,000 votes was enough proof that he was not favouring the North as being alleged in some quarters.
“There is something that hit me very hard and I am happy I hit it back at somebody.
“Seven states of the North are only represented in my cabinet by junior ministers, ministers of state.
“In South East, I got 198,000 votes but I have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers from there.
“You are closer to the people than myself now that I have been locked up here, don’t allow anybody to talk of ethnicity. It is not true,” he said.
Buhari also noted that throughout the period of his struggles to become the President, he enjoyed the support of people of other ethnic grouping and religious affiliations.
He recalled, “There is one thing that disabused my mind in a dispassionate way about ethnicity and religion across the country. You know that tribunal for presidential election started at High Court of Appeal. The President was my classmate. I missed only four of the court sittings.
“For that first phase, 2003, we were in court for 30 months. My legal leader was Chief Ahamba (SAN), an Igbo man. He asked the panel of judges to direct INEC to produce the voters register to prove that the election was done underground.
“When they came to write the judgment, they completely omitted that. Another Igbo man, a Roman Catholic, in the panel of judges wrote a minority report.
“I went to the Supreme Court. Who was the Chief Justice? An Hausa Fulani, a Muslim from Zaria. After 27 months, Ahamba presented our case for two hours and 45 minutes. The Chief Justice got up and said they were going on break and when they returned the following day, they will deliver the judgment. They went away for three months. That was what made it 30 months.
“And when they came back, they discussed my case within 45 minutes.
“In 2007, who was the Chief Justice? A Muslim from Niger State. The third one (in 2011), who was the Chief Justice? My neighbour from Jigawa State. The same religion and the same tribe.”
The president also attempted to invalidate another criticism against him which is that he is too slow.
He said he always took ample time reflect on issues before making decisions with a clear conscience.
He said, “I keep telling people that while I was in uniform, quite reckless and young, I got all the ministers and governors, and put them in Kirikiri. I said they were guilty until they could prove their innocence. I was also detained too.
“I decided to drop the uniform and come back. Eventually, I am here. So really, I have gone through it over and over again.
“This is why I am not in a hurry virtually to do anything. I will sit and reflect and continue with my clear conscience.”
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