With barely 38 days to the end of his eight-year two tenures, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday asked for forgiveness from those his actions may have hurt during the administration.
Speaking inside the Banquet Hall of the presidential villa, Abuja, during a Sallah homage paid to him by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents led by the Minister, Mohammed Bello, he also thanked Nigerians for tolerating him.
The President, who said he was counting days, praised democracy as the best form of government, saying that without it, he could not have become president after already serving as military head of state given the side of the country he hails from.
He reminded the audience that he is from the extreme corner of Nigeria, Daura in Katsina State, which he said is just eight kilometers from the Niger Republic.
President Buhari spoke about his journey to the presidency and its frustration, reiterating how he was incarcerated for three years after the coup that ousted him from power in August 1984.
Recalling that he contested elections three times, in 2003, 2007 and 2011, without success, he added: “I dared the politicians and ended up at the Supreme Court three times. They laughed at me, and I responded, ‘God dey.’ God sent technology to my rescue, with Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC). The fraudulent people became unemployed.”
President Buhari said the flaunting of ethnic and religious cards in elections was “rubbish” as the presiding justices at the Supreme Court that squashed his cases were Muslims, from the North, Zaria in Kaduna State, Niger and Jigawa.
He stated: “It is good to reflect on what used to happen here, in FCT, especially on security. Security is not only about the North East, it also spread to the FCT and all over the country.
“Those who wanted to make our lives uncomfortable reached the FCT, and they have been marginalized.”
While stressing the strength of democracy as a system of government, Buhari stated:
“I have been counting the years. Democracy is good, otherwise, how can someone come from one end of the country to rule for eight years. My home town, Daura, is about eight kilometres to Niger Republic.
“When the Minister of Interior wanted to shut down petrol stations 10 kilometres from the border, there was a fuel station close to my house, and I pleaded if he could allow it to keep operating.:
The President stated that he decided to retire to Daura, which is far away from Abuja in order to get some respite, after years of work.
“I can’t wait to go home to Daura. If they make any noise to disturb me in Daura, I will leave for the Niger Republic. I deliberately arranged to be as far away as possible. I got what I wanted and will quietly retire to my hometown.
“In spite of technology, it will not be easy to get to Daura,” he added.
President Buhari said he accepted all the complaints and criticisms in good stead, knowing it was part of the leadership he prayed and asked from God.
He pleaded: “God gave me an incredible opportunity to serve the country. We are all humans, if I have hurt some people along the line of my service to the country, I ask that they pardon me.
“All those that I have hurt, I ask that they pardon me.”
President Buhari said he remains grateful to Nigerians, who voted him in 2015 and 2019, without any monetary incentive, with some trooping to the campaigns, and receptions in states just to catch a glimpse, saying: “I think it is a good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you, and thank you for tolerating me for almost eight years.”
In his remark, the Minister of FCT thanked the President for hosting residents for the 9th Eid-el-Fitr and allowing more people into the Villa for the last homage, before his handing over on May 29th.
Bello said the conceptualization and realization of the FCT was historic and deserved commendation, reminding President Buhari of his role as part of the military Recce Team for the capital in the 70s.
The minister, accompanied by Umaru Shagalinku, the man who started one of the oldest restaurants in Abuja, and some contractors, thanked the President for the privilege of serving in the same position for close to eight years.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, SGF, Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Senator Philip Aduda, and CAN Chairman in FCT, Rev. Timothy Amakum were also at the Sallah homage.
Earlier, the President had joined Muslims across the country who trooped to their various places of worship to observe the congregational Eid el Fitri prayers marking the end of the month-long Ramadan Fast.
Buhari worshiped at the Mambila Barracks Eid ground In Abuja, assuring afterward that nothing will stop the May 29 hand over date to the next administration.