President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed 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.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the President stated this when he received some socio-political groups from Daura Emirate Council, who paid him Sallah homage at his private residence in Daura, Katsina State, yesterday.
Buhari said the trekking had nothing to do with his bid to seek re-election next year, 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 and I was in a black vehicle and security men were blocking them from seeing me.
So, I opted to trek, in spite the security implications, because I knew nothing would happen to me, by the grace of Allah,” he said.
The President used the opportunity to inform his kinsmen that he has directed the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (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 smallholders farmers with loans without collaterals. Collaterals are always a problem with smallholder farmers.”
The President 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 and expressed delight that young people were returning to the farms, just as he reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to implement policies to promote agriculture.
Earlier, spokesman of the group, Mallam Yusuf Mai’adua, applauded the President on his numerous achievements, saying: “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.”
Mai’adua disclosed the groups’ plans 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.
In a related development, the President has said the string of victory recorded by the APC in by-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi states was sufficient proof that the party would win next year’s elections.
Buhari stated this when he received representatives of the 34 chairmen of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Katsina State, saying: “Coming against the backdrop of the victory in Ekiti governorship election, the string of victory by our party, the APC, is a clear indication of the way things will go in 2019.