PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has rejected accusations of ethnic bias against him in some quarters, especially the Southeast.
Buhari said seven states of the North are only represented in his cabinet by junior ministers (Ministers of State), while the Southeast, where he secured only 198,000 votes, have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers.
The President, who said this Thursday night during a dinner with leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, disclosed that during the days he struggled to become President, he enjoyed the support of people of other ethnic groups and religious affiliations, which helped to disabuse his mind in a dispassionate way about ethnicity and religion across the country.
He recounted: “You know that tribunal for presidential election started at the Court of Appeal. The President was my classmate. I missed only four of the court sittings.
“For that first phase in 2003, we were in court for 30 months. My legal leader was Chief Mike 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 disclosed why he does not make decisions in a hurry, despite criticisms that has trailed his actions and inactions on some burning national issues, adding that he was fully aware of the issues confronting the country and he is guided by historical antecedents.
Buhari said he decided to host the party chiefs to assure them that he was aware of the country’s problems and would always reflect on the incidents that preceded his assumption of office.
“…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.
“Virtually, to do anything, I will sit and reflect and continue with my clear conscience.”
He also dismissed insinuations that he was favouring the north.
In his remarks, APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said Buhari’s comments indicated that he had the feelings of Nigerians at heart, adding: “I was very touched by what you said. I hope it is understood in the proper perspective.
“It indicates quite clearly that you have listened to what people are saying. It has been such a terrible misrepresentation. You have seized this opportunity to say that you are not what people are saying. There are so much misconceptions. Look at the example you have given, that those who stood by you through the periods of problems and struggles are not people of the same religious persuasion.”