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Nigerian President Begins Mission To Wipe Out Corruption

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

For more on today's meetings, I'm joined by Nigerian legal and political commentator these meetings I'm joined by Nigerian legal and political commentator Aminu Gamawa. He's here in Washington for President Buhari's visit. Thanks for coming in.

AMINU GAMAWA: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: And I want to ask you first about President Buhari's pledge to defeat Boko Haram. He's fired the top leaders of Nigeria's military. He's moving military headquarters to the front lines up in the North to directly take on the jihadist group. How significant do you see those moves as being?

GAMAWA: Well, these moves are quite commendable because Nigerians voted for Buhari because he promised to end the insurgency. And one of the reasons why the previous government lost in the election - for the first time in the history of the country, an incumbent lost an election - was largely because of his inability to provide a lasting solution to the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast. Buhari, a retired general who had a reputation of being tough on some issues, was regarded as a person who will save the situation, and that was why many people, especially the young people, supported and voted for him.

BLOCK: At the same time, Boko Haram attacks continue. There were a couple of horrifying attacks last week. How much patience do people have? How much room will they give President Buhari to try to defeat the Boko Haram forces?

GAMAWA: Well, people can wait on other things, but on security, people cannot wait because daily, people are being killed. But if you look at the nature of these attacks, the Nigerian military has recorded some successes by displacing and dislodging the camps - Boko Haram camps - in villages and towns. Most of the attacks are suicide bombings, and suicide bombings are hard to prevent. It requires not only the input of the government, but also the input of the communities in being (unintelligible) vigilant and in identifying what is happening in their communities.

But the steps taken already by President Buhari shows that he is committed and determined to end this problem. And I believe that Nigerians mostly are satisfied with what is going on. And we hope the attacks will stop, and we hope he will find a military and nonmilitary solution to this problem.

BLOCK: We heard President Obama refer to President Buhari's pledge to wipe out corruption in Nigeria and instill good governance. Are there people back home who are skeptical about that and fear what the course might be that this retired general, as you say - Buhari, who led a military coup back in the eighties - the course that he might take?

GAMAWA: Buhari is known for his stance on corruption. He is - he has a zero-tolerance for corruption. Sometimes, he's even accused of violating human rights in order to prevent corruption.

BLOCK: Yes.

GAMAWA: This is entirely a different political system. This is a democratic disposition, unlike the previous government that he ran, which was a military government. He intervened them to stop corruption. He is coming now - as he said, he's a born-again Democrat.

BLOCK: A born-again Democrat.

GAMAWA: A born-again Democrat. Yeah, he said that since the fall of the Soviet Union, he realized that there is no better system like the multiparty democracy. And I think since then, he's contested three times, and he lost. He contested the fourth time, and he won. I think that shows his commitment to democratic process, and it shows that he's not just doing it for the fun of it, but he is really determined. And I think that is why Nigerians gave him the opportunity. And we hope, and we pray that he will assemble the right team, adopt the right policies and have the right focus and discipline to rescue Nigeria from problem of insecurity and corruption.

BLOCK: Mr. Gamawa, thank you so much for coming in.

GAMAWA: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Aminu Gamawa is a legal and political commentator. He's currently doing research at Harvard University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.