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Nigerian ex-military ruler vows order for nation if elected

Nigerian ex-military ruler Buhari promises to bring order if elected as president, arguing that the people are tired of Goodluck Jonathan's policies and could initiate an Egypt-style revolution

AFP , Wednesday 16 Mar 2011
Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the flag-off of presidential campaign at Mapo square, Ibadan, Nigeria, Monday (Reuters).

Nigerian ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who carried out a strict "war against indiscipline" while in power, has said he would bring a new dose of order to the nation if elected president next month.

In an interview with AFP ahead of the 9 April presidential election, Buhari also said an alliance among opposition parties to take on incumbent Goodluck Jonathan remained a possibility, though negotiations have so far failed.

The ex-military ruler's period in power after a coup on New Year's Eve 1983 to August 1985 included public executions of alleged drug dealers at a Lagos beach, the jailing of politicians accused of corruption and the muzzling of journalists.

While his anti-corruption efforts won praise in one of the world's most graft-ridden nations, he was also accused of running a police state.

Buhari said in the interview on Tuesday that "corruption and indiscipline" remained the biggest threats to Africa's most populous nation.

"Nigeria is not developing as its resources should enable it to develop because of political anarchy, indiscipline in society," said the retired general seen as the main challenger to Jonathan.

The west African nation is ranked among some of the world's poorest countries despite being the continent's largest oil producer.

Asked whether he had any regrets over his past record, Buhari said, "no, I don't, because we put the rules in place before we prosecute people or detain them or we shot them."

"We said anybody who is caught trafficking drugs is executed and we executed a few," he said, stressing he operated under a military regime that ousted an inept and corrupt civilian government.

"We thought people have to know the law and obey it, making society more organised and more productive, but when everybody is doing what he likes or what she likes, all you have is anarchy.

He said that "now under a multiparty democracy system, your press can have their field day, but the important thing is that laws that are in place must be obeyed."

While Jonathan is viewed as the clear favourite in the election, Buhari, 68, may benefit from a north-south rift within the country over which region should control the presidency for the next four years.

Many in the country's mainly Muslim north say it is that region's turn to hold power and oppose Jonathan, a southern Christian.

Buhari, a Muslim from the northern state of Katsina and running under the opposition Congress for Progressive Change banner, could see a certain amount of support swing his way over the issue.

He has held alliance talks with another opposition party that is strong in the country's southwest, the Action Congress of Nigeria, but negotiations have failed to reach an agreement.

Buhari carried out a "war against indiscipline" while in power that sought to instill public order, but his regime faced accusations of widespread rights abuses.

In one case, his regime was accused of being behind an incident that saw a former transport minister accused of corruption and who had fled to London kidnapped, drugged and stuffed him in crate bound for Nigeria.

Buhari, making his third bid for the presidency since military rule ended in 1999, said if elected his administration will ensure laws are strictly complied with.

"You don't have rules and regulations and ignore them and carry on doing things the way you want," he said. "We will make sure people who are given trust will have to manage it according to the rules and regulation."

Amid a pre-election surge in violence, Buhari said "the country is so insecure."

"There is virtual political anarchy. People do whatever they like in spite of the laws and regulations which are in place," Buhari said.

He has picked a Christian cleric and outspoken pro-democracy activist, Tunde Bakare, as his running mate.

Buhari said Nigerians are tired of mismanagement by Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party, which has won every presidential vote since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

He predicted the country could see an Egypt-style revolution -- a prospect others see as less likely in Nigeria.

"It's likely to happen this year because people are fed up," he said. "Those regimes ... were 20, 30, 40 years old, and this regime is just 12 years old and they have completely wrecked the country."

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