Abuja — The State House has described as misconstrued, the various interpretations of President Muhammadu Buhari's comments in an interview granted to the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper on February 5.
In a statement yesterday by his media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu, the presidency stated that the wave of negative reactions to the president's remarks about the reputation of Nigerians abroad was as a result of an incomplete understanding of the president's point.
Shehu said: "President Buhari was asked about the flood of migrants from Nigeria and the fraudulent applications for asylum put in by people desperate to leave their motherland at any cost, and it was this question that elicited his response."
Shehu urged Nigerians to avail themselves of a full text of the interview, which he said was available on the Telegraph's website. He said it was preposterous for anyone to imagine that the President of Nigeria would describe all the citizens of the country he leads as "criminals", when he himself is a Nigerian - obviously not a criminal - and when there are many Nigerians of honest living making their country proud all over the world.
"Unfortunately, there are also Nigerians giving their country a bad image abroad, and it is to those Nigerians that the president referred in his comments," he said, adding that people might play politics and online games with the president's comments, but the fact of the matter remained that Nigeria's reputation abroad had been severely damaged by her own citizens.
"These Nigerians who leave their country to go and make mischief on foreign shores have given the rest of us a bad reputation that we daily struggle to overcome," Shehu said.
He also drew attention to the many efforts of Buhari to clean up the image of Nigeria, such as the war against corruption, stating that acknowledging a problem was the first step to preferring a solution.
He said: "Buhari is very aware of the problems the people of Nigeria face both at home and abroad, and he is not shying away from admitting them, even as he focuses on solutions to bring them to a permanent end."