Former Military Head of State, Major General Muhammed Buhari, has denied being a religious bigot with a plan to turn Nigeria into an Islamic country if voted into power as president.

Buhari, who was alleged to have called on Muslims to oppose the presidential bid of Olusegun Obsasanjo, a Christian during the 2003 election, said this in Lagos when he paid a visit to the Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr. Ola Makinde, recently.

Buhari was accompanied on the visit by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari, Director General of his presidential campaign, Alhaji Sule Hamma, Hon. Farouk Adamu, Alhaji Abba Kyari and Barrister Joy Nunuwe.

The aim of the visit was to get the support of the Christian cleric for his ambition to become president next year.

Buhari would be contesting in next year’s election on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party which he formed after leaving the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the platform on which he had contested twice for the presidency.

The former head of state indicated that he was ready to face anyone who could prove that he had said he would make Nigeria an Islamic state. He said he understands the fact that Nigeria remains a secular country.

“I have a lot of respect for the religious and traditional institutions in the country and that is why I have decided to always begin my consultation with visits to religious and traditional leaders across the country.

“In 2003, I wrote to all the religious leaders in the country and during my campaign tours, I visited them. I visited Christian leaders, the Ulamas and traditional rulers across the country,” he added.

Buhari said he deliberately used the period of the Ramadan to start the campaign process by visiting spiritual leaders, with the aim of explaining his vision to the nation and letting Nigerians know “our feelings about the problems of the country and how we intend to solve them and recreate the Nigeria of our collective dream.”

He said people who see him as a hardliner are wrong. He added that it was erroneous for anybody to describe him as a hardliner, saying if he was one, he would not be building bridges across the length and breadth of the nation.

Buhari also called for the conduct of free and fair elections in the country. He expressed confidence that in an ideal situation, he would defeat the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 elections.

“Elections must be free and fair and this is what we have been fighting for. Let the elites go and deliver their constituencies. Let them tell their people the truth and allow them to choose who would represent them”, he added.

“What we need is a free and fair election. We were in court for 30 months in 2003 and in 2007, we were in court for 20 months which means between 2003 and 2007, we were in court for 50 months. We were not doing it for a joke. I believe in democracy and I believe in social justice,”

Ola Makinde had earlier confirmed that Buhari had told him that he was not a religious bigot. “Buhari said he did not say any such thing; but I made him know that we will no longer accept any religious killing in any part of the country. We must work together. I am telling you and anybody that we will not condone any more religious killings and therefore we will not vote for any religious bigot to rule this country.

“We will fight that with the last drop of our blood. I know how many people who were killed in Jos. We don’t have that kind of crisis in the South. Most of the people they killed in the North are Southern Christians,” he said.

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