By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his long distance trekking on Sallah day was not about testing his physical fitness but to show respect to thousands of people who wanted to greet him on the fateful day.
President Buhari also said that the string of victory recorded by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in by-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi States is sufficient proof that 2019 elections will be won by his party.
The President explained why he opted to trek on Sallah day when he received some socio-political groups from Daura Emirate Council, who paid him Sallah homage at his private residence in Daura, Katsina state, on Friday.
He said the trekking had nothing to do with his bid to seek re-election in 2019, adding that he had since made his intention known to Nigerians about his political ambition.
The President, who spoke in Hausa, said: “Let me react to some media reports about my trekking on Sallah day insinuating that I trekked to demonstrate my fitness for 2019 presidential election.
‘‘They were not seeing me so I came down so they could see me.
“I didn’t need to convince anyone about my health and the decision to contest for a second term- a decision that I made public in April this year.
“After the prayer, I noticed that many people wanted to see me and I was in a black vehicle and security men were blocking them from seeing me.
“So, I opted to trek in spite of the security implications because I knew nothing would happen to me by the grace of Allah,’’ he said.
The President used the opportunity of his meeting with his kinsmen to inform them that he has directed the Ministry of Agriculture and the CBN to review the processes on the issuance of loans to smallholder farmers.
He said: ‘‘We want to make it easier for them to assess the loans, particularly the underprivileged people in the society.
“It has become necessary for the government to do this because banks will insist on collaterals which majority of farmers do not have.
“For our agriculture policy to succeed, we must be able to reach smallholder farmers with loans without collaterals. Collaterals are always a problem with smallholder farmers.’’
President Buhari also highlighted the achievements of the administration on local rice productions, which had expectedly led to the reduction of imports by over 90 per cent.
The President expressed delight that young people were returning to the farms and reaffirmed the Federal government’s commitment to implement policies to promote agriculture.
Earlier, the spokesman of the group, Malam Yusuf Mai’adua, applauded the President on his numerous achievements.
‘‘You have made us proud, the economy is back on the path of growth and you have laid a solid foundation for the development of the country,’’ he said.
Mai’adua disclosed the plans of the groups to organise a massive rally for his 2019 campaign, “as soon as the ban on political campaign is lifted’’, and invited him to make out time to attend.
Speaking when he received the representatives of the 34 Chairmen of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Katsina State, at his country home, Daura, President Buhari said, concerning 2019 that: “Coming against the backdrop of the victory in the Ekiti governorship election, the string of victory by our party, the APC, is a clear indication of the way things will go in 2019.
‘‘For those who are discerning; those who have ears and eyes they will see, hear and understand. Those who don’t understand are entitled to their mistaken assumptions.”
The President, therefore, emphasized that the victories in the recent polls were indeed “the sign of things to come.”
He thanked the leaders of the association for paying Sallah homage to him and for their message of congratulations on the performance of the party and the administration.
He assured them that he would continue to do his best for the nation.
Speaking on behalf of the members, the Chairman of ALGON in the State, Alhaji Mohammed Na’Allah, expressed their support and commitment to the success of the Buhari Administration.
At another meeting with the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Katsina State, President Buhari expressed his continued determination to respect the diversity of the country, saying that he would continue to run “a government that is fair and just to all Nigerians.’’
The President thanked the CAN leadership in the state for living in peace and harmony with other religious groups, and for supporting his administration in its policies and programmes
The CAN leaders, who spoke during the visit, the State Chairman, Rev. Nelson Onyeakachukwu, and an elder and coordinator of the Christian Pilgrimage in the State, Haruna Danjuma expressed happiness with the President’s performance.
They described him as the State’s good ambassador who had made everyone proud.
“Christians in Katsina are happy with both Governor Masari in the State and yourself at the centre. We will continue to support both of you,” the CAN leaders told the President.
President Buhari has also been receiving different other groups in Daura, Katsina State, including former classmates, Kano Traders Association, representatives of 5 Local Governments in Daura Emirate and Chairman of Good Governance Ambassadors of Nigeria (GOGAN) Chief Felix Idiga