Yesterday evening President Muhammadu Buhari was interviewed by the renowned American correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, in the course of his visit to the United States.
Buhari was previously interviewed by Amanpour in February, before the presidential election. The Nigerian leader, who has been in office for almost two months, was asked direct questions, to which he gave clear answers. The interlocutors discussed the Chibok girls, Nigeria’s expectations from the US, hundreds of deaths caused by Boko Haram insurgents after Buhari’s inauguration. See these and many other interesting things as provided by Nigerian Bulletin in the full script of the July 21 program on CNN.
Amanpour: President Buhari, welcome back to the program.
Buhari: Thank you.
Amanpour: Mr President, you have asked the United States to help you in the fight against Boko Haram. What exactly did you ask in this regard? What do you need? And what answer did the president, Obama, give you?
Buhari: United States, leader of the G7, promised to do what they can to help Nigeria. So we have brought our requirements in terms of training, equipping and intelligence gathering for Nigeria to be able to fight Boko Haram.
Amanpour: And you mentioned the economy and the falling in oil prices over the last many months. How are you going to deal with that? Because that is really what your people want.
Buhari: My people firstly, I believe, they want the security in the country to be stabilized so that normal life, both in the southern part of the country, where the militants are still sabotaging oil installations and kidnapping people and demanding ransom, and in the northeast of the country, where Boko Haram is still active. This is the military occupation of Nigeria now and is the reality of (inaudible). Nothing will work until the country is secure.
Amanpour: But despite your vows to tackle Boko Haram, there are reports in your own country that there have been at least 400 deaths by that group since you became president. Added to that, Amnesty International reports that your military has totally lost the credibility and trust of the people because of the systematic human rights abuses, the killing of some 8,000 people. How do you expect your military to be able to go against Boko Haram, to get the trust of the people instead of being a platform for Boko Haram’s grievances?
Buhari: Well, I have just mentioned that, under Lake Chad Basin Commission, we have agreed to form a multinational joint task force. So whatever happened before that decision was taken, we have to allow further investigation to verify the question of human rights abuse. And with that, I’m sure you must have known the decision taken by this government, the federal government of Nigeria, in changing the military command.
Amanpour: What about the girls, the famous Chibok girls, the 200 or so who were abducted so long ago? Yet again there’s been a suggestion that the Boko Haram captors may trade them, may seek to trade them for incarcerated inmates, who they want to get out. Is your government willing to trade those girls in that regard?
Buhari: We have to be very careful about the credibility of various Boko Haram leaderships coming up and declaring that they can deliver. We have to be very careful indeed. And we are taking our time because we want to bring them safe back to their parents and to their school.
Amanpour: So are you in principle against or would you consider negotiating with Boko Haram if you can verify the credibility of those who approach you?
Buhari: I cannot be (inaudible). I told you our main objective as a government is to secure those girls safe and sound back to their schools and rehabilitated them to go back to normal life. So if we are convinced that the leadership has presented itself can deliver those girls, (inaudible) who will be (inaudible) negotiate what they want.
Amanpour: Let me ask you because, look, you came to power on a platform that you would do better than the previous president, in all regards: security, corruption, economy, et cetera. But there have been hundreds of people killed since you’ve become president. How can you do any better?
Buhari: I think I have — I can be held to my promises for the next three and three-quarter years ahead of me. And I think (inaudible) also is too early for anybody to pass judgment on my campaign promises.
Amanpour: What about your campaign promise to root out corruption? If they turned out that some of the guilty ones were members of your own party or your own associates, would you crack down on them, too?
Buhari: I just have to. There isn’t going to be any party member or any personality that can escape justice.
Amanpour: Mr. President, are you disappointed that President Obama is yet again not going to Nigeria, the biggest and most economically powerful country in Africa?
Buhari: Well, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed. But how I wished he will change his mind and go to Nigeria.
Amanpour: Did you ask him? Did he say he would?
Buhari: Well, I will ask him. I will send a formal invitation.
Amanpour: So finally, let me ask you about a previous African leader, a former African leader, the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre, who is being tried — or at least they’re trying to try him — in Senegal. And he’s refusing to cooperate. Do you support that process of trying an accused African leader in Africa rather than at the International Criminal Court?
Buhari: Justice is justice, whether it’s done in Africa or elsewhere in the world. The important thing is let justice be done, whatever evidence the prosecution has in Senegal. I think they should — you should proceed to make it available to the world and prosecute him according to international law on human rights.
Amanpour: So you — so you support that process?
Buhari: I support any process that is based on justice.
Amanpour: President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, thank you for joining me from Washington today.
Buhari: Thank you very much.