26 February 2015
Last updated at 14:48
Nigeria’s main presidential challenger Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out negotiating with Islamist militants if he wins elections next month.
“Boko Haram is not interested in peace – if they are interested in peace how can they kill 13,000 Nigerians?” the former military ruler told the BBC.
The 72-year-old also said that concerns about his health were unfounded and that he was as “fit as a fiddle”.
The elections, due on 14 February, were postponed over security concerns.
Mr Buhari, representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), will face incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on 28 March, in what analysts say will be the most closely contested since military rule ended in 1999.
Security officials had said they could not guarantee security for the polls in February, as they needed six weeks to give troops more time to beat back Boko Haram.
The group has waged a six-year insurgency in the north-east of Nigeria and in the last year taken over territory where it has declared a caliphate.
Earlier this week, President Jonathan has said the tide has “definitely turned” against Boko Haram as regional forces recapture territory.
Mr Buhari said force was the only option to deal with the insurgents, as peace was not something they wanted.
Boko Haram at a glance
- Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
- Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
- Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
- Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
- Controls several north-eastern towns
- Launched attacks on neighbouring states
Why is Boko Haram so strong?
Soldiers without weapons
“Why should they go and kill children when they are sleeping in their dormitories? Why should they bomb churches and mosques and market places and motor parks. They are not interested in peace,” he told BBC Focus on Africa television during an interview in London.
If he won the election, Mr Buhari vowed that no more territory would be taken by the militants.
During his visit to London, he said that an amnesty would not be offered to the militants as this would be an injustice.
He reiterated that he did not believe that the poll postponement was justified as other countries with security issues, such as Afghanistan and Syria, had managed to hold elections.
In response to ruling party allegations that the former military general was in London for a health check-up, he said he would race anyone who did not think he was fit.
“I’ve just toured 35 states of the 36 states, I have conducted town hall meetings in Lagos, in Kano, in Abuja and those that are accusing me I will challenge them [to a] cross-country rally and see how long they will last,” he told the BBC.
Mr Buhari’s brief rule in the 1980s is remembered for its strict campaign against indiscipline and corruption.
He promised that an anti-corruption policy would again be enforced from the time he took office.
“When we get to the government we will draw a line… whoever steals from the treasury, whoever misappropriates or misplaces public trust in him he will have to answer for it,” he told the BBC.