INTERVIEW: Femi Adesina Says Buhari Will Probe Jonathan

INTERVIEW: Femi Adesina Says Buhari Will Probe Jonathan
July 20 05:11 2015 Print This Article

The special adviser to President Buhari on media and publicity, Femi
Adesina, has revealed some of the plans of the presidency in this
interview.

The presidential spokesman who is a staunch believer in the
president’s cause in this new interview has made some points cleared.
He talked about the many questions that need answers by Nigerians
about Buhari’s administration. Read excerpts from the interview below:

It has been more than 30 days since the new administration was
inaugurated. How do you assess it?

Well, I think that is a little bit unfair because you know how I will
assess the administration since I work with the President. But then to
be fair and impartial, I will say, yes, the President is on the right
course, maybe because there are also some facts that are previously
unknown, but I just know that the President is laying a foundation for
a new Nigeria. If he can continue on the wind of change that he rode
on to office and continue building on the same foundation, definitely
change will come. But he is laying a completely new foundation and,
when that foundation is fully laid and the country continues, you will
see that change is truly here.

When you were announced to be the Special Adviser, how did you feel?
Did you see it coming or you never expected it?

I was announced May 31, but if you remember, on May 20, ThisDay had
speculated the story. The moment ThisDay speculated it, anything could
happen. So, it was just a question of, will it happen or not? Since
ThisDay speculated it, we knew anything could happen, but, before
then, no. It could have gone either way anyway.

How does it feel settling down to work with President Muhammadu Buhari
in this capacity?

It is a rare opportunity. Out of 170 million people you have been
called to work for your country, it is a rare opportunity, and I will
say it feels good. I have left positions that are eminent. I have been
the Editor-in-Chief of a national newspaper, President, Nigerian Guild
of Editors. I was satisfied in those positions, but then, coming to
serve your country can’t be compared with anything. So that is why I
left those positions to come and serve because I believe in the
President. If it was another administration led by someone that I
don’t believe in, I wouldn’t come, but I came because I had always
believed in President Buhari.
Were you prepared for this assignment irrespective of the fact that
you have occupied other positions?
If you had spent 29 years in journalism like I have done, then you are
prepared for a lot of things including this assignment. If that is the
question, yes, I have a background that prepared me for this
assignment. But if your question means did I think it was going to
come, I will say no, I didn’t think it was going to come. My mind
didn’t go to it and I have always supported President Buhari since he
was a military Head of State. I had admired him. In fact, the day he
was overthrown was one of the worst days of my life. I felt very sad
for Nigeria; very sad for him and his family, very sad about
everything. I didn’t think that government should have been toppled.
If that government had lasted, Nigeria wouldn’t have been where it is
today. So, when he attempted to come through the ballot box since
2003, I had always supported him and, even when it seemed like he
stood no chance, I still believed he was the best candidate. In 2011,
I had always said we needed a correlation in order to get PDP out. So
when that correlation came through the emergence of All Progressives
Congress, APC, I felt there was a good chance in 2015 and it has
happened. But to think that I was going to work for him, no, it didn’t
cross my mind.
What are the attributes that really drew you to the President?
The first one is his simplicity. I just love his simplicity. He is a
very simple man. Then I like the fact that he is very straight
forward. I like people who know where they stand with anybody. It is
either yes or no. When he says yes, it is yes; when he says no, it is
no. Then, of course, integrity, to me, counts a lot. The fact that
every man can testify that he is a man of integrity gets me because I
love integrity and then transparency and accountability. A country
like Nigeria where anything goes and then you see a man that has
chosen to be transparent and accountable. Look at all the positions he
has held in this country, yet he remains a simple man. I love that
kind of person. Why can’t I support him? Why can’t I point Nigeria to
that kind of person? He is good for our county? So that is why I did
it.
But many Nigerians don’t really share these ideas. Some will be quick
to dismiss all these, saying that beyond the facade, you may discover
many others things when you dig deep.
Well, if they say that, they have a right to their own opinion but
then we want to see the evidence to justify that. You don’t need to
look far. Just look at the positions the President has held: governor
of North-Eastern State, which is now six states: Borno, Yobe, Bauchi,
Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba. Then he went on to become the Minister of
Petroleum Resources and held that position for three and a half years.
Can you hold such position and not have oil blocks? If anybody thinks
President Buhari has an oil block, let him show it to us? After that,
he became Head of State and he was there for 20 months; after that, he
was Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, and we know all the
achievements he made in that position and then today President. Not
many Nigerians have this kind of pedigree and who are not going to be
stinkingly rich. I am not saying President Buhari is a poor man, but
then I don’t think he is stinkingly rich when he held all those
positions. He should be stinkingly rich and it is only a very rare
Nigerian that will not be stinkingly rich after holding those
positions.
You said when he was toppled you were truly sad. Now he has another
opportunity! What do you crave for? Or do you say he has changed from
who he used to be and perhaps may not realize those things that he
would have truly accomplished if his government then had continued?
Whether he has changed, yes, I would say he has changed in some areas
and, in some areas, he remains the same. You know that age tempers a
man. Age has tempered him but for good. Remember, after he was
inaugurated, some officials of the former administration were about
travelling out and the security officials and agencies were stopping
them and, you will recall that a statement was issued that they
shouldn’t be stopped. That shows you that the man is really temperate
now rather the old Buhari. The military man would have packed all of
them immediately he was inaugurated and they would be heading for jail
and then you would be sifting the weeds from the shaft there after.
So, that already shows that he is a different man, a more mature
person, a more reflective person, a more contemplative person and that
can only come with age. Again, you would see what played out in the
National Assembly. You know he is a man who wants to respect the
Constitution. That shows he is already different from the soldier that
ruled this country.
If he was a person that didn’t want to respect the Constitution, he
would have interfered in the selection or the election of the
leadership of the two chambers, but he left them and said anybody that
emerged, he will work with. What he didn’t know is that not everybody
was going to respect the rules and we saw what played out. In terms of
whether he is a changed man, yes, he is a changed man. He is a true
democrat now. There are so many things that have come up in just six
weeks of the administration that show you that this is a man that
respects the Constitution and will continue to respect it. So, he is a
changed man in those areas, but then there are some areas like
accountability, transparency, integrity; of course you know that he
will never change in those areas and that is the reason he was
elected. Imagine a man who was a military leader 30 years earlier
getting elected just on the basis of integrity, transparency and
accountability; you know that kind of man will never change that.
Some persons argue that if this man doesn’t exercise his authority,
things might still go wrong because a leader is a leader. Being the
President of Nigeria, he is the leader of the party in all
ramifications. There is a proverb in my place that an elder doesn’t
sit idly while the goat dies in tethers. He can’t be sitting while
things are going wrong.
If you also permit me to quote another proverb or a saying that a
tiger doesn’t proclaim its tigress. A tiger doesn’t need to come out
and say ‘I am a tiger’. When he does that, go and check properly, he
can be a cat, but when you see a tiger, you know it is a tiger. So, he
doesn’t need to ride over everybody before they know that he is a
leader and indeed he is a leader. He has the traits, the
characteristics and all the potentials. He has everything it takes to
be a leader. He doesn’t need to throw his weight around before
everyone knows he is a leader.
Let me take you back a little to the issue of allowing the last
government officials to travel. Does that mean that he has hands on
probity, assuming there was something to probe?
He has said it that money in billions of dollars will be recovered.
But you know the world is too small a place for anybody to hide if you
are running from justice. The world is too small a place to hide. You
will be fished out. So, there is no need that you say they should not
be heading for jail if eventually the law goes after them. Very few
countries can they hide in and how long will they hide? So, it doesn’t
mean that anybody that has ill gotten wealth will not regurgitate it.
They will. Remember when he went to Germany for the G7 summit, he met
with President Obama and Obama told him to just give us information on
where the loot is hidden and we will help you recover it and the
government has been working on that. So, that shows that looters will
never go free.
Is he going backwards? I mean where is he going to start to probe?
He can’t afford to go too deep into the past or else it will be
destructive for his administration. There are some things you can’t
close your eyes to while you don’t want to shine the torchlight into
the dark recesses of our past; immediate past where things are
evident. The Yoruba have a saying that the corpse we buried, the leg
is sticking out and, if you bury a corpse and the leg is sticking out,
you can’t pretend. When there are trails all over of the monies in
billions and trillions, then a responsible government can’t close its
eyes to that.
Let’s look at insecurity. In the last two weeks, the bombings have
increased. People have expressed fear that the government’s efforts in
the past one month and two weeks haven’t really paid off because I
know that the President, immediately he was sworn-in, travelled to
places and there was this assurance. But then it does appear much
hasn’t been done in that direction?
Let me draw an analogy. One day, the world woke up to hear that Osama
bin Laden had been killed by the US Navy Seals. But did you know how
long it took to plan that operation? It took 24 months of painstaking
planning. Drills, simulations, all that happened until they got him. I
am not saying it is going to take 24 months before this government
breaks the back of Boko Haram. I am just telling you that planning
needs to be carefully done and that is what is being done. In his very
first week in office, he went to Niger, Chad and why did he go?
Because of this Boko Haram thing and one major reason he went to G7 is
because of the Boko Haram issue because the leaders of G7 said ‘come
and let us know what we can do to help’. After that, the leaders of
Chad, Niger, Benin Republic, Defence Minister of Cameroon also came
here under the Lake Chad Basin Commission. They are planning. Before
the end of this month, after he comes back from America, he is going
to Cameroon and why is he going there? Still on Boko Haram and you
know there is a multinational task force they are contributing to and
Nigeria has released 21 million dollars for the joint task force. That
is money Nigeria can use in other areas but it has invested 21 million
dollars in that joint task force. That shows seriousness and I think
July 21 has been picked as a date for that force to swing into action.
Nobody can fairly accuse this government of not doing anything about
Boko Haram. It is doing a lot and, eventually, we will see the end of
insurgency.
Let’s also look at the appointments so far made by the Buhari
government. The government has been accused of lopsiding the
appointments. It has been people from the North. That’s the impression
out there.
Those people from the North, are they Nigerians? So, if they are
Nigerians, they have the right to be appointed and then I am sure
there could be up to 500 appointments still ahead. Federal Boards that
just got dissolved alone had 601 appointments. They are going to be
filled. The cabinet is going to be constituted. Other persons and
aides are going to be appointed. As at the time they began to talk,
only nine appointments had been made and they said eight northerners
and one southerner. They forget that some of those appointments are
statutory, the next in rank. They just have to be the ones that will
take those positions and some of those again are security chiefs.
Security is an area where you take the very best. It is not something
you subject to emotional considerations or other primordial
sentiments. Take the very best who can deliver particularly at a
critical time like this. So those who have started counting, I think
it is premature. There about 500 appointments left to be made and,
when those appointments are made, that is when they can begin to
analysis. Doing it after nine appointments, I think that is hasty and
fault-line in our country. Nigerians are too suspicious of leadership,
other ethnic groups, too suspicious of many things. If we are less
suspicious, then this wouldn’t have come up yet.
There are still these feelings from the members of the public that
President Buhari and his political allies in the South-West, people
like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have fallen apart; that, in fact, the
President has disappointed the South-West that massively voted for him
at the polls. How do you address this sentiment?
I am glad that you used the word “these feelings” which is different
from reality. Just a couple of days ago, Bola Tinubu himself came out
to say there was no rift between him and the President. I think things
that are unfolding are part of our political experience, political
development. You will see that in the next dispensation, most of the
things that happened now will not happen because the actors would have
learnt. If the President in the next dispensation wants to leave the
leadership of the chambers of National Assembly to elect their own
leaders as President Buhari has done, the party will need to play its
own part. Everybody involved will play his or her own part so that
what has happened now will not happen again. It is part of the
learning curve, but for anybody to say the West is disappointed, it is
not true. A lot of people who voted for President Buhari in the West
have been loyal to him. Even those who didn’t vote for him are
beginning to see that he is a leader worthy of their support and they
are giving their support.
Do you really believe in the Presidency of Mr. Buhari to radically
move this country away from what it used to be, judging from the fact
that he is an old man now? Won’t his age really affect him?
You have heard the saying that old wines are tastier. Buhari is like a
wine that gets better with age. I said this earlier and, I repeat
again, he gets better with age; sound, sober, contemplative, not rash.
You see what is happening now, Boards have been dissolved. There are
terminations and new appointments. You know he could have done that in
the very first week and then he could have made mistakes, but this is
the sixth week and he is doing all those things and I think, at the
end of it, all Nigerians will be glad that they elected him. I don’t
foresee failure; no, it will not happen, but it will demand that
Nigerians will give him support and work with him but I believe in the
change that was promised to this country.
Just before current appointments, you were a practising journalist
and, ordinarily, you would have been worried that this government,
after six weeks, hasn’t appointed even the Chief of Staff. We are
talking about the time it has taken, yet no Chief of Staff, let alone
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and then
Ministers. But I remember, before now, they repeatedly said they will
hit the ground running after inauguration. What has happened?
One thing is clear, it is constitutional to have a cabinet because the
Constitution says there must be a Federal Executive Council and
Ministers must be appointed from at least one state each. I said
earlier that the President respects the Constitution. So, that shows
you that he is going to constitute a cabinet. Now, you can’t compare
one administration with another.
Obasanjo appointed his Ministers in July. Yar’Adua also in July, but
that is not a reason for any other government not to appoint earlier
than July or even later than July. Each government responds to the
situation and circumstances in which it finds itself. What this
administration met on ground is an Augean stable and it needs to be
cleaned up. I can tell you that Nigeria was left in a mess by the last
administration and it needs some clean up and, without a clean up, you
continue to build on a wobbly foundation and, one day, that structure
will come down. So, why don’t you then take your time to lay a fresh
foundation and build up on that foundation that is what President
Buhari is doing.
The cabinet has not come but it will come and, when it comes, it will
be building on a freshly laid foundation. You see that in the past few
weeks, he has been taking briefings from Permanent Secretaries in
different ministries. When the Permanent Secretaries conclude their
own, chief executives of parastatals and agencies will also come to
brief, so that we have a complete picture of what is happening in
government and then, after that, anything can happen. When the
Ministers themselves come, they will be glad that they are coming into
a system that is cleaned up for them. If they had come immediately,
this house cleaning won’t have been done because they would have
occupied space and continued in the old fashion. So, let Nigerians,
who trusted this President and gave him their mandate, continue to
trust him that he is working for them and he is doing the best for
them.
Some people in the South-East aren’t happy at the appointments of
Service Chiefs because they feel that none of their sons was there. If
we are talking of engaging the best hands, couldn’t you have found
some of the best hands in the South-East?
Mark the word of Mr. President, all the Service Chiefs he appointed he
never met anyone of them except the Chief of Army Staff that he met
casually in Chad. He was the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task
Force. So, all of them got appointed based on their service records.
Now, are we going to say that we will subject efficiency to ethnic and
regional balances? I am not saying that it is not constitutional.
There is federal character in our Constitution, but there are some
areas where you can’t sacrifice efficiency for ethnic or regional
balancing. Get the very best that can do the job particularly at a
time of crisis like we have in security. So, I don’t think it would
have been proper shopping for people to fill positions as critical as
Service Chiefs if they aren’t the very best we can get.
The President is going to the U.S. Let me say it is the mother of all
visits. What should Nigerians expect from that trip?
Three key things are going to be on the table in America. They are
more than three but these three will be key. First is the fight
against insecurity. Nigeria is going to be asking for America’s
assistance in terms of intelligence and in terms of equipment. If this
succeeds and we get all that we want of course, we know it is going to
make an impact on the war against insurgency; so that would be a key
achievement of that trip. Again, something that would be on the table
in America is the anti-corruption war. If we have money outside in
billions of dollars, you know what that means in Naira. That is more
than an annual budget.
If we recover that money, it is to the benefit of our country. Then
the third thing will be the Nigerian economy. America used to buy 30
percent of Nigeria’s oil. Now, it is less than five percent because
they discovered Shale oil and gas. So, in what way can America boost
our economy? This will be a major thing and, at the end of it all,
this will be to the benefit of Nigerians and, of course, a visit to
America, like you said, is the mother of all visits and the fact that
the American President has invited our President shows that they
believe in what is happening in Nigeria. Don’t forget that the same
Obama came to neighbouring Ghana and never came to Nigeria. The fact
that he invited the Nigerian President shows that the acceptability
rate of Nigeria has gone up in the international community.

Culled from Vanguard

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