General Mohammadu Buhari has regretted the slow pace of the judicial process in the prosecution of corruption and economic sabotage cases, recalling that as military head of state, he often jailed suspects and told them to prove their innocence.
But he added that as a democratic, he must stick to the reality of the situation.
The president was fielding questions at an occasion to mark his 77th birthday in his official residence at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday, Tribune reports.
Asked what message he had for the corrupt elements and economic saboteurs in the country, he said: “Well, as I said, I have learned in a hard way. When I came in uniform, I collected those who were leading, took them to Kirikiri and told them they were guilty until they could prove themselves innocent.
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“I put, based on almost all the geopolitical zones, committees to investigate them. Those that were found to have lived beyond their means, the balance was taken and were given to the states.
“But I myself was arrested, detained and they were given back what they have stolen.
“So, under this system which is supposed to be more accountable, but it is too slow for my liking, but I have to follow it.”
The president reiterated that he would not allow security forces to be used to thwart the people’s desire during elections.
He, therefore, admonished politicians to work hard for their election.
He said: “What I want to promise Nigerians that I will work very hard on is a free and fair election. All those that are going to succeed in the National Assembly and the Presidency, they better work very hard because I will make sure using the law enforcement agencies that elections are free and fair, nobody uses his office or his resources to force himself on his constituency.”
Buhari assured that he would continue his best to build his country and called for patience from the citizens.
Asked what message he had for Nigerians as he celebrated his new age, he started: “Patience and patriotism, that is what we see, as a rule, nobody can have his own way, we better accept the truth that we are one Nigerians, we keep on building.
“God has blessed us with land and people and resources. We must have the patience to exploit them and leave something for our future generations.”
He added: “I think I come to accept the realities of leadership in Nigeria. You can only try, it is a terrific country, no matter what you do, there are people on a daily basis that look for your faults and go to the press. So, you have to learn to live by that.
On how he felt at 77, the president said he was well adding: “Well, I think I feel well at 77. A lot of those at 77 are on crutches and I am walking on my two feet.”