The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Femi Adesina, was on Radio Continental on Friday, July 22,2016, and responded to salient issues affecting the nation. Excerpts:
ALLEGED LOPSIDED APPOINTMENTS
What I would like to say is that this government takes feedback very serious. The feedback that has come on appointments in the last few weeks has been well noted. They are being processed and would inform what is going to happen going forward and be assured that the processing would come with something good for every part of the country. That is not to say that those appointments do not have their merits. All of them can be defended, but the feedbacks are well noted.
Under the presidential system, there is what is called presidential prerogative, and there are some appointments the president can make and he does not necessarily have to consult . Not all appointments are subject to federal character, as there are some that can be done by presidential prerogative.
HARD TIMES IN THE LAND
We know that things are very difficult in the country. But that is not peculiar to Nigeria, as a number of countries like Venezuala are going through tough times. Nigeria is not immune from that because it is part of the global system. In the recent past, on a radio interview, I had been asked: ‘Does government know that people are suffering and that people are complaining?’ I answered that government is aware of what the citizens are passing through, and the radio station went further to ask if I know that a man exchanged his son for a bag of rice? And I responded that I wasn’t aware, but that the support base of this administration is still very strong, and people who are ready to pass through this difficult times patiently are more than those who criticize the governments . But a mischievous person went on social media and twisted my comment, claiming I said only a few Nigerians are hungry. That particular station re-ran the interview for clarification, but of course the wailers would prefer to hear their own mindset and not the clarification. I didn’t lose sleep over it because that wasn’t what I said. I also live in this society, people have that erroneous feeling and belief that when you serve in a government, you are in a cocoon and far removed from reality, which is not true. Our wives and children go to the market, we also feel the harsh situation. Yes, Nigerians are passing through tough times, but tough times don’t last , only tough people do. I said, and I repeat again, that the tough times we are going through are the consequences of the past. But some people say they don’t want to hear about the past. How can you not want to hear about the past? How do you determine the future if you don’t want to hear about the past ?
BUT THE GOVERNMENT HAS LESS THAN THREE YEARS TO SPEND NOW
Yes, even one week in government is a long time. The times would change and those who believe it would see it . Those who are ready to be patient would eat the fruit of the land. A lot is being done to make life better for Nigerians. The Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, says technically, Nigeria is in recession. Why do we have government? Government is there to alleviate the plight of the people and make things better. The onus is on the people to then be patient, knowing that this government is out for their interest and cares for them. It is not a magic wand that can be waved and everything happens. It is a process, and a painstaking one that something good would come out from.
PRESIDENT BUHARI’S PLAN
Almost at every forum, the president would talk about agriculture and solid minerals. Agriculture would take two to three planting seasons before you see the dividends. It has been said repeatedly that by 2018, Nigeria would not need to import some agricultural produce again because the policy being put in place and the empowerment being given to farmers in different parts of the country would ensure that by that year, things would have changed . What we are passing through can only be temporary. There is also a timeline that would see that we don’t import fuel again by 2018 and by 2019, we would be exporting. If we have these time-tables, why don’t we trust, believe, pray and join hands with government so that these come into being?
CASH CRUNCH/ NIGER DELTA AGITATIONS
Let me start first with your statement that there is no cash in the economy, by giving this information. In 2014, this country was making averagely $3.2 billion from petroleum every month. The last statistics that I have available is that of April, 2016. Do you know how much we made? $550 million, compared with $3.2 billion in 2014. Now, it was after April that the sabotage went up in the Niger Delta, and instead of 2.2 million barrels of oil daily, we are exporting about 1.6 million, and you can imagine how revenue has dropped. If it was $550 million in April, you can imagine what it would be if the sabotage continues. The onus is on everyone to know and realize that this is our country and whatever we do to it, is what we get from it.
The government is not averse to negotiation. Even when things are done through force of arms, at the end of the day, they would be concluded through negotiations. The president specifically instructed the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to engage in dialogue with the militants. One problem is that there are scores of groups in the Niger Delta, not just a group. When they meet with one, the rest would say they are fake and a particular one is the real one. This is a major challenge.
You will always have complaints and allegations that the fight is tilted towards witch- hunting or at a particular group. The outgoing American ambassador to Nigeria says the anti-corruption war is proceeding well and that America is happy with it. While we don’t need the US to validate the war, it is still instructive. Naturally, people who are affected will not keep quiet.
In terms of strategy, anybody that has questions to answer would be called in, irrespective of who he is. The president is also fair minded enough to say if anyone has not been indicted, no one should be tarred with the brush of corruption. It is not true that when you serve in government, you become automatically corrupt, it is not.
About recovered funds, the president said in Kaduna that funds recovered would be used for infrastructure. The vice president has also repeated the same. The recovered funds would be used for roads, electricity and other infrastructure. Whether it is already in use, is the people in Finance that would know about that.
On the issue of amnesty for those people who return money voluntarily, it does not mean that there will be a blanket amnesty, but each case would be taken on the recommendation of the attorney general of the federation. Each case would be taken and the recommendation of the Attorney General will be very important.
ARMY CHIEF AND DUBAI PROPERTY
What I would say is that this government does not just pounce on people and drag them to court, so that it can be seen or heard that it is fighting corruption. It follows a due process. The last I heard on that case is the Code of Conduct Bureau coming out to say that yes, the houses in Dubai were declared in the name of one the wives of Lt Gen Tukur Buratai. So, if the Code of Conduct Bureau is satisfied that no law has been breached, then that is it.
Don’t forget what the President said recently: We are on this war, and anyone who is indicted will answer for it. I will just say, let’s hang on the words of the president. Investigation is not necessarily an indictment, however.
In a recent interview granted by the president to THE INTERVIEW magazine, he was asked why he entrusted three key ministries in thands of one person, and he said it was a queation of capacity. That when he sees that someone has the capacity, he will assign task to him and that was why those ministries were handed over to Mr Babatunde Fashola. He said the reward for hard work is more work.
I visited Mr Fashola in his office recently, and I went away very glad and hopeful . My hope was rekindled in the country. The Minister referred to when he was governor of Lagos, and that people did not hear much from him in the first year, because he was planning. But by the second year was when people began to see much developments. He said by the second anniversry of this administration, we would see results of what he would have done in the three ministries. He told me that the government priority roads: Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Lokoja, and Port Harcourt-Enugu, would be done, that we should wait and see how far they would have gone by May next year.
These are the kind of things that we should love to hear as Nigerians but some people are just cynical. Rather than cynicism, we should be hopeful.As a person, I am positive that this government would deliver, and deliver well.