He added that the removal of service chiefs and the appointment of officers who have served in the theater of operations and command the respect of their comrades will reduce the country’s insecurity.
He called the security situation in the north-east and north-west “overwhelming.”
However, he stated that the government is on top of the situation, adding that bandits are now being punished as criminals and are suffering severe casualties, but are unwilling to accept it for fear of losing their recruitment constituency.
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“Try to appreciate what the federal government has done,” he urged.
One, we replaced all of the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police.
We allowed them to go round and see the problem. They have been part of it all the time but now they are in charge and we made sure that their priority is to make sure they bring normalcy.
They have to accept the responsibility of their offices and perform. We are working very hard on this but we cannot give it much publicity so that we can take the criminals unawares.
“The problem in the North-east and the South-south we understand them, but the North-west, same people, same culture, killing each other, stealing each other’s cattle, burning their villages.
“As I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand. We have given the military and the police power to be ruthless and you watch it, in a few weeks’ time there will be a difference- because we told them, ‘if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve and the government cannot control the public.’
“If you allow hunger to permeate the whole society, the government will be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble. We are already in enough trouble. I can assure you that sooner than later you will see the difference.”
The president reiterated his commitment to go after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by treating them in the language they understand.
He added: “I said it, and we will do it. My statement about speaking the language (they understand) is very simple. It is meant for all criminals in Nigeria. What it means for the IPOB is that I will go after them through the military and police and rid them of their criminal tendencies. I have no regrets whatsoever…..”
On allegation that his appointments of service chiefs were lopsided as they did not reflect federal character, Buhari said he could not be forced to appoint unqualified people.
He added: “You’re saying someone who has gone through military and police training all his life should not be appointed to lead the military or police department he works with just because we must balance appointments? What are you saying?
The system didn’t restrict anyone from joining the military or the police, and if you decided not to join, we will not force you, but you too will not force us to bring someone who is not qualified in training and experience when it comes to leadership of these institutions just because we want to balance some appointments…”
On the appointment of Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, Buhari stated that he could not just pick anybody because of seniority, adding that he appointed someone who has been in the military, worked and fought with the soldiers, and is well known to them.
He said: “When you look at NNPC, military, the people who have been there for 18 years or 10 years, trained in Zaria, or Abeokuta. They came through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances and they gradually rise to that status.
Those positions have to be earned. There are people who have been there for 10 to 15 years. When you join, you go through the programme and you rise through the system.”
The president also downplayed the concerns over which region will produce his successor, saying his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has the final say on whether his successor will emerge from the South or the North.
According to him, the APC’s recently concluded membership registration is designed to rid the party of godfathers and give members across board a say in the party.
“We should allow the party to decide. I have just told you that we have started from the bottom-up and I gave the acting chairman the end of June to submit a report on the convention we are going to conduct and then arrange the general election, all elections till 2023.
We have started this from the bottom up so that members of the party will feel they are involved in decision making. Nobody is just going to sit in Lagos and tell them what to do. This is what we are arranging.