Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says he meant to seek the recruitment of 50,000 youths into the Nigerian army, not the 50 million he had earlier said.
Tinubu said in a statement on Tuesday that his earlier demand for the recruitment of 50 million soldiers was an “accidental verbal mistake.”
While speaking at a colloquium to celebrate his 69th birthday on Monday, the APC leader sought the massive recruitment as a way of addressing Nigeria’s high rate of unemployment.
“Recruit 50 million youths into the army, take away from their (the bandits’) recruitment source,” he had said.
“What they will eat? Cassava, corn, yam in the afternoon… it is grown here. You create demand and consumption for over five million army of boot camps.”
The comment raised eyebrows among Nigerians who wondered how almost one in four citizens could be drafted into the army with the country’s population of about 205 million.
TheCable analysis also showed such move would cost Nigeria at least N2.6 trillion monthly judging from the N52,000 said to be the monthly earning of a recruit.
But in the statement issued by his media office, Tinubu said he gave the figure in error and only meant to say 50,000 youths.
“Asiwaju seeks the expansion of security personnel by 50,000 for the armed forces not the 50 million that was mentioned in error,” the statement read.
“It was an accidental verbal mistake of which we all commit from time to time especially when reciting a series of large numerical figures. He did not mean 50 million, which is almost a quarter of our total population.
“The crucial matter is that Asiwaju rightly observed that such strong recruitment would serve the twin-purpose of helping to tackle unemployment while at the same time enhancing the security of every Nigerian.
“Please forgive any confusion due to this innocent error. The most vital thing is that he set forth a wise and timely approach that would help us face two of today’s stiffest challenges.”
The statement also quoted the former governor of Lagos as canvassing for the recruitment of five million youths in all aspects of nation-building, ranging from infrastructural development to agricultural modernisation.
“He believes that the more job opportunities are presented to our youth the less some of them will be tempted into illegal and dangerous activities,” it added.
“As part of this overall approach, he believes that eligible youth should be recruited into the armed forces, police and other security agencies to augment the functional capacity of our security apparatus thus ensuring the better security and safety of our people.”