President Muhammadu Buhari may have stirred up a fresh controversy over his real age. He said on Monday he thought he was 74 but was told he was 75.
Buhari spoke when the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, led a delegation to pay him Christmas homage at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President, joined by some state governors and other top government officials, celebrated his 75th birthday penultimateSunday. He is believed to have been born on December 17, 1942, in Daura, in present day Katsina State.
While thanking his guests for the visit, Buhari recalled the health challenge that kept him away from the country for months earlier in the year, admitting that 2017 had been a tumultuous year for him.
The President said he had recovered well from the sickness because he obeyed his doctors who instructed him to be eating and sleeping well.
He said: “I am very grateful (to you) for taking time out on a very important day to come out and spend it with us.
“It has been a tumultuous year. I am thinking I am 75. I thought I was 74 but I was told I’m 75.
“I have never been so sick, not even during the 30-month civil war that I was stumbling under farm of yams or cassava.
“But this sickness…I don’t know, but I came out better. All those who saw me before said I looked much better when I came back.
“But I have explained it to the public that as a General, I used to give orders. But now, I take orders. The doctors told me to feed my stomach and sleep for longer hours. That is why I am looking much better.”
Buhari stated that he appreciated the visit because he respected good neighbourliness both at individual and national levels.
He said that was why immediately after his inauguration as President in 2015, his first foreign trip was to Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic.
“If you are in good terms with your neighbours, then you can make some savings for development. But if you start fighting your neighbours, then, I am afraid the resources you have you will lose it in trying to be very clever.
“So, I try to be very close to my neighbours both individually and nationally. I thank you very much for being very good neighbours,” he added.
The President admitted that 2017 had been a tough year for Nigeria, expressing the hope that next year would be more prosperous for the country.
He stated, “It has been a tough year for Nigeria and I hope next year will be a much more prosperous one.
“But those listening to the press and the majority of us know that the rainy season was very good and some states have got very good information from home.
“I never knew that the people from Kano, who are more resourceful, used to go to my area and hire farms. This year, nobody hired farms, and nobody regretted it.
“The second one is that the governor of Sokoto State said all the people that really used to go to Mecca were farmers but he didn’t tell me if they took additional wives.”
The FCT minister had spoken about how his administration averted a crisis that would have resulted in a bleak Christmas for the FCT.
He said some youths in the Bwari Area Council clashed in the course of celebrating the Yuletide.
Bello said it took the timely intervention of security operatives in the FCT to put the situation under control.
The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, FCT Chapter, Jonah Samson, said it was a good thing that Buhari was celebrating the Christmas festivities with Christians.
He said, “Christmas is a season of joy and celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we are here to appreciate your leadership style, especially in fighting corruption and impunity which were seen as the hallmarks of Nigeria.
“All these have changed by virtue of the way and manner the Buhari administration has strengthened the fight against corruption,” he added.