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I am Not an Attack Dog in Defending Buhari, But…. – Femi Adesina

Sola Akingboye and The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina in his Presidential Villa's Office.

…Says the Worst Fulani Killings Occurred Under Jonathan

The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has reiterated his commitment to his duty as Media aid to the office of the President in the wake of the lingering public outcry against the incessant herdsmen killings across the country.

While chronicled Fulani attacks in recent time, the eloquent Adesina berated those linking atrocities committed by nomadic Fulani herdsmen to President Buhari, insists that the worst Fulani killings occurred under previous Presidents who he said are not Fulanis, among other issues of national interest. He spoke with SHOLA AKINGBOYE at his Presidential Villa office. Excerpts:

The unchecked herdsmen-farmers killings across the country by the government is worrisome and still generating public outcry. What do you have to say on this?

You see, the easiest thing to do is to criticize the government, and there are people who knows how to do that in our country, but have they tried to find out the proper situation of things?

Meaning they are mare speculations?

I will give you some statistics, because many attributed the prolong crisis to the fact that the President is a Fulani man.

Can that be another insinuation?

Between 2012 and 2013, when you have the president from the South-south; in 2013, there are nine different attacks; deaths were in hundreds, in fact, the number of death in the nine attacks were one hundred and ninety (190) in 2013. In 2014, there were fifteen different attacks, which was herdsmen against the people in Benue, and the number of deaths were two hundred and thirty-one (231) minimum. Between January and May, 2015, before this administration came on board, there were six attacks, and that shows you that the worse herdsmen attacks happened in early 2015.

Hmmn?
Was the President at the time a Fulani man? It shows you that, it is the problem that has been there intractably, and it is the duty of the government to guaranty the security of lives and properties. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to find an end to this matter, which is what Buhari led government is doing. So, anybody that is saying that, the herdsmen killings are happening because the Fulani man is in power is not being fare at all.

But who is to blame?
Is this the first time that a Fulani man will rule Nigeria? Many Fulani men have ruled Nigeria before Buhari. This is suffice to note that, under the tenure of the President that came from the South-south, there were many attacks, deaths were in hundreds.

Are we justifying that here?

We are not trying to justify that, what we are saying here is that, what is happening now is a question of criminality, and that criminality must be tackled.

Is anything happening from President Buhari’s end to that effect?

Because the President is a man of few words does not mean is not doing anything. I have been with the President many time, even when he gives extreme instructions to Security Chiefs against the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen.

Looking at insecurity holistically, how far can you measure the achievement of Buhari government with claims of degrading the insurgents, while the bombing continues?

Its evidenced, by the time this government came in 2015, the insurgents’ attacks were rampant, say four times daily in some instance, and Boko Haram occupied about seventeen Local governments out of the 774 Local governments in Nigeria.

Of course

They seated and administering those jurisdiction, had their flags planted in many towns and villages, but as we speak today, you wouldn’t see Boko Haram administering any village or their flags planted anywhere. All the seventeen Local Government they were controlling before this government came to power have been taken away from them. Roads that have been closed for years have been re-opened and there were states who could not have NYSC Orientation exercises for many years. Today, orientations have resumed in those places. Talk to the average man in the North-east, he will tell you the relief this government have brought to him.

Are you saying the war has been won against insurgents?

Boko Haram has been decimated, what we have now is just the mopping up process, but having said that, the mopping up process is as important as the real war against the sects.

Closely related is the recent controversial one billion-dollar ($1,000,000,000,) as planned security vote to fight insurgency. If insurgents have been degraded, why the huge sum?

Firstly, it was not a demand by the government, rather it was a request by the governors that decided to give it out. Two, it was not to fight Boko Haram, it is to fight insecurity generally, which includes armed robbery, kidnapping, herdsmen-farmers clashes, unrest in the Niger-Delta and everything that constitutes to insecurity, that is what the fund is all about. It is proper to secure a country before we can manage that country, because economy will not grow, there will be no development, socio-political wellbeing of the people will be topsy-turvy. So, security is key, and that money is not for Boko-Haram, it is for security generally.

What other areas of achievement can you attribute to Buhari government?

I will refer you to a document we released late last year, of everything this government achieved in 2016 alone.

We would love to have it

I will make it available to you, and is in diverse sectors; infrastructures, economy, and real sector in particular.

Expatiate.

In 2015, Roads have N18m in the budget, but in 2016 alone, this government spent N1.3tr on capital projects; in 2017, over N1tr was also spent on capital projects. By the time all this begins to manifest in the next two three years, Nigerians themselves will be amazed. We are in gestation stage as regards some of the projects on ground, and the President highlights some of the things that must be done in his January 1st nationwide broadcast. By the end of this year, Lagos-Ibadan rail line would have been completed and many more.

But in the face of all this, the National Assembly still claimed the budget is underfunded?

(Laugh). You know under any dispensation; the agenda of the Executive is always different from that of Legislative. Some other people have different agenda.

Nigeria is technically out of recession, agreed; but hunger everywhere, people are yet to feel the impact?

Getting out of recession is not a magic wand. It is said in 2012, that the economy slowed down, and it led to recession progressively at the end of 2015 or early 2016. If it took two to three, four years for economy to get into recession, why would people think that exiting recession would immediately translate to impact on the lives of the people. No! it may take a while. It took a while for economy to go into recession, it will also take a while for the impact out of recession to be felt by the people. When the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said the economy is out of recession, President Buhari said: “Yes, it good news”, but he would feel happier if it touches the pocket of average Nigerian, and we would get there.

How do you defend the report by NBS, that about seven million Nigerians have lost their jobs under the present administration due to arch economic policy?

It is only natural when an economy goes into recession that there would be job losses. This is because the recession means the economy that contrasts, rather than expanding, it reduces so opportunities will also reduce. But on the contrary, when an economy gets out of recession, and economy begins to expands, that tells you there will be more opportunities for jobs. Jobs that have been lose can be regain, companies that down sized can recall some of the staff when things begin to change. The target for the Nigerian economy is that, there would be seven percent (7%) growth between now and 2020, according to ERG people. If we attain that, do you know how many job that will translate to?

Then the Ministry of Labour and Employment made us to understand that between 2015 and now, about eight million jobs have been created.

How real?

Yes. You may need to meet the Bureau of Statistics to verify, but that is what the Ministry have come up with, including the informal sector like agriculture, you need to know how many people have been employ in the Agric sector. Mining is also getting bigger; do you know how many people also have the opportunities in Mining sector? So, it is not all gloom and doom for Nigeria. The job that were lost were in the formal sector as released by the NBS, but the Ministry of Labour and employment has also come out to say that, at least eight million jobs have been created. Though that is still a tiny dent in the employment situation.

Having passed through many stages at newsrooms as a journalist, to become the founding Editor of the Sun Newspaper, now at the apex office as SA Media to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Tell us the experience?

I think there is an ability within me, this is because without having played actively as a professional journalist, up to becoming the President of the Guild of Editor. If you don’t have the amplitude professional experience, is going to be very difficult. For me, I see the job I am doing now as an extension of what I was doing before, because you have to ensure that everything that the President does, gets reported, and you need to continue to think like a reporter or a news manager. This is because getting news reported is like you think like somebody in the News room. You have to ensure your statements gets to press, because no one send information when the Newspapers have gone to bed. So, you must also run against deadline, therefore I continue to think like news manager, in managing the image of the President; whatever he does needs to be amplified, and that is what I am trying to do, getting many Nigerians to know about what the President does.

Does that include handling opposing views?

If the President comes under attack, I need to defend him. It is part of my job to defend him. But in defending him, I am not an attack dog, you know some people will defend to the point of being called an attack dog, that is not my style. When people say things, I think is fare comments, I let it fly; when they say things, I think is their opinion, I let it fly; but when they have been deliberately malicious, and they have not understood what issues are, then I can respond and educate them.

Will you have endorsed President Buhari for second term in office?

Yes, I will If he wants, he is the one that will decide that and it is the people of Nigeria that will elect him.

Why do you think Nigerians still need Buhari?

You have a President that is not stealing your money. You have a president that does not allowing people to steal in his government, I am not saying there may not still be some extracts, but anybody caught stealing will face the music. You have a President that is building a new foundation for your economy. The economy we run over the years was broken economy, the main brick for the Nigerian economy came in 2015, when the oil prices went from $110 per barrel to $29 per barrel, Nigeria just collapsed. So, this President is building a foundation for the economy, which will not be dependent on oil; Agric sector, Manufacturing sector, Solid Mineral are the new foundation for the Nigerian economy, so that, whatever happened with the Oil sector at the international market will not affect Nigeria again, and you don’t want that kind of President to consolidate on what he has started? That is why I believe he wants a second time, Nigerians should give him.

What about his age considerations?

Asking for second term, if he does it, it is at his own convenient. But at 75, he needs time to be with his own grand-children, and play with them, but if he asks for the second term and gets it, it is at his own convenience, and that shows he has the love of Nigeria at heart and ready to serve, age no age.

This interview will be incomplete without asking about the recovered stolen money, even the opposition keep asking – where is the money?

The issue is that, the opposition is using its own standard to judge other people. Under the PDP government, whatever was recovered was re-looted again. However, this is a government of due-process. What the law says is that, no money gets out without appropriation, so government don’t have the right to spend it when the money was recovered until they are appropriated.

What is Buhari government doing?

Money recovered from 2015 were approved in the 2016 budget, particularly on infrastructure, I told you N1.3tr was spent on capital project, the recovered money from the previous year were part of it, and during the budget presentation by the President last year, he gave the specific figure of the money in that budget that was recovered.

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Sola Omosola Akingboye
Sola Omosola Akingboye
Sola Omosola Akingboye graduated from Lagos State University, Ojo and also an alumni of International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. The Abuja based Media Consult is a member of NUJ, FCT Chapel; Member, Nig Energy Correspondents and affiliate of other proffesional bodies such as Believe in Nigeria Initiative (BINI); Change Agent for Positive Transformation (CAPT); OSHA Association for Industrial Safety in Nigeria. He is currently an Associate Editor and Chairman Editorial Board Informavores.com.ng.

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