•President Jonathan escaped trouble by not staying put, his profile today better
•How and when my love for Buhari developed
•My saddest day was when Buhari was overthrown as Head of State
•Why I think bandits should not be declared terrorists
•S/East not playing right politics; how they can get Presidency
•No cabal but influential Nigerians in Villa
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Perhaps, you have not read anything like it before. It’s a special interview. Quite unusual and unconventional. No straight line and so, no defined subject-matter. It was a no-holds-barred. Conversational and interactive.
Humour laced, jokes ridden. The laughters erupted involuntarily. The allusions rushed on and indeed, everything went into it. From the bleeding confines of raw politics to the turbulent issues of governance and national significance, the personality rise and its concomitant peak of hubris down to the palatable stories of soft sells, the hard questions ensued. And the answers were a flurry.
For close to 50 minutes, we sat glued on the couch in the visitor’s room of his official residence at the Presidential Villa, Abuja last week Sunday, distilling, dissecting and deconstructing the issues. And the following was the outcome of the rapt and enthralling journalistic engagement with the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, a media Dean and guru who rose through the rung of the media hierarchy to become the Editor, Managing Director of the The Sun Newspapers and the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, before his present office which started in 2015. Please, sit back and savour the interview.
It’s been 6 years in the life of this government. Next year, they say, is election year so to speak and 2023 is almost here when the hand over will be done. How far so far?
Well, you said next year is election year, that will not be quite correct
(Laughs) Ok, political activities will start off…
Maybe, you can say the year is for political activities. The elections will still hold in 2023 in the first quarter. I agree with you, 6 years and about five months, the administration should wind down in another 19 months. Asking how far, I will say so, very far. This administration has come, it has seen and it has done its best and it will do that best till the very last day in office. It has gone through very challenging times and seasons. Nigeria, just like so many other countries in the world, is going through troubled times but the administration has waded through it all, has made impact despite the troubles. Some of the troubles are external. Others are internal and others are global like the corona virus pandemic. There have been many challenges but the administration has waded through and despite those challenges which affected the economy, affected socio-political relations, which affected the country in diverse ways, the administration is standing strong. It is standing with its head high. At the economic front, of course, it came in 2015 when things were on a downward spiral.
Nobody could have stopped that downward spiral because it was already set in motion. The recession that came in 2016 was inevitable. Nobody could have stopped it due to some actions and inactions of the government that left. The coordinating minister of the economy then even said that the government didn’t have the will to save. If a government doesn’t have the will to save, what then happens when the rainy days come? Rain will beat you and beat you seriously.
That was what happened to Nigeria. Oil prices went as high as $140 per barrel, stabilized at an average of $100 for many years but foreign reserves were less than 30billion, excess crude account depleted, federation account emptied and then oil prices crashed to as low as $30 per barrel. It was almost humanly impossible to stop that recession.
That recession lasted for just about a year because the government pulled up its bootstraps, rolled up its sleeves and did the right things to exit the recession and as the economy began to gather steam, ready to take off again, the covid-19 pandemic struck and an economy that was about to fly nosedived again. And we know that for most of 2020, the world was shutdown and so, the second recession too became inevitable. But then, the miracle of it was that we emerged from that recession again faster than anybody thought.
In fact, it is on record that the Nigerian economy is about the one that emerged fastest from the covid induced economy. It shows that the fundamentals of the economy are strong and the fact that President Buhari has put the country’s money where our mouths are, matters, diversifying the economy. Imagine if they hadn’t been that kind of emphasis on agriculture, how would we have coped? Two hundred million people? The world was locked down.
Nobody was exporting. If you wanted to import, there was no money. Oil prices were down. How could we have coped if there hadn’t been emphasis on agriculture? So, it helped us. And you would see that in the second quarter after lockdown, we emerged from the recession again. And the last report according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Nigerian economy grew by 5.01%. It is unprecedented. It is said that was the highest growth since 2014. So, on the economic front, Nigeria is not doing badly. We can do a lot better because it’s been said that vi-sa-vis our population, we need to grow annually by 7% for the economy to touch the lives of the people but we are on the way there. It is not a sudden flight. It is a progression and we are on the way to that. Nineteen more months, yes, this administration will do its best but government is a continuum. The next government will come and will build on wherever this administration has left it. So, Nigeria is in a good direction.
Ok. That’s on the economic front…
Yes, that is on the economy, I’ll talk of others because there were three things President Buhari promised: we will revive the economy and create jobs. On that economy, the promise is being kept. The other one? Security? A big elephant in the room. Security is a big issue in Nigeria, just as it is in many other countries of the world, but they will take care of their own issues and we must take care of our own. You know that in 2015, the main issue in the country was insurgency. That insurgency was in north east, it was in north west, it was in north central because Abuja was being serially bombed, it was already in Kogi. From Kogi, where did you think it was going? It was southwest. And if you went to the southwest, the only place left would be the south south. The whole country would have been consumed and there would have been no country again, if not that President Buhari came in in 1015. He came in, took the right decisions, did the right things, re-equipped the military, motivated them and see where we are today in the area of insurgency. In fact, there was a news report just today that Borno is closing all IDP camps by December 31.
Do close IDP camps if the issues have not been sorted out? To a large extent, I think the last figure of insurgents that surrendered was over 14,000. That shows that they themselves know they have been beaten, beaten and thoroughly beaten. See the leader of ISWAP, two of them have been taken out in two months. Al-Banawin taken out, his successor, Bako, taken out. It shows that the military is having the upper hand in terms of insurgency.
It was inherited. It started actually in October 2009 under Yaradua and then, it was inherited by the Goodluck government, inherited by Buhari. But by and large, Buhari has almost seen to the end of it. I read of a lecture that Gen. Buratai, the former army chief delivered two days ago at Biu, the military university, thanking President Buhari for dealing a decisive blow on insurgency, boko haram. So, that inherited front of insecurity will be concluded before Buhari exits and that is one front. Now, the insecurity became hydra-headed along the line. Banditry came, kidnapping, cultism and all sorts of agitation for separatism also added to the insecurity. So, the insecurity became hydra headed. The confidence we have is that if we could beat the insurgency part of it, we will beat all. We will beat banditry. In fact, banditry is been dealt heavy blows now. In no time, I have the confidence that we will see to the end of banditry.
I know you’re speaking on the three areas because we are coming to anti-corruption fight. But let me take you further on insecurity. A situation where the bandits shut down a military jet and all that, would you say actually that, yes, the government of the day has dealt a dirty blow to this insecurity? Because some Nigerians will be quick to say, No, we disagree with you, because we still have this thing going about and Nigerians have seen more insecurity now than before. So, how would you react to that?
It depends on what you choose to believe. You know, some people choose to believe the worst. And so, when they see things improve, when they see things getting better, they don’t admit it because they have chosen to believe the very worst. The truth and the truth of it is that banditry is being dealt a heavy blow. Look at the statistics. In Kaduna, in Niger, in Zamfara, in all the places where these bandits operate, see how they are being taking out. Once in a while, yes, they still strike like in Sokoto recently, but when they strike once like that, know the casualty they have suffered before now and they will continue to suffer until either they change their minds or they are completely eliminated. We will see the end of banditry in this country because evil has never prevailed over good. The bandits, what do they want, just to spread sorrow, tears and blood. They will never prevail.
Still talking about banditry, not too long ago, the Senate passed a resolution asking the president to declare them terrorists and 24 hours later, the House of Representatives joined in that call and outcry? It does appear that the presidency hasn’t done anything about that. But then, Nigerians are still clamouring. Do you see that happening or not?
For me personally, mark my words, personally, it is a matter of semantics. Semantics is a theory of meaning in language. So, whether they are called terrorists or they’re called bandits, it is just semantics. A criminal is criminal. They either repent, change their ways or you eliminate them. That’s what matters.
Who are terrorist? Terrorists more often than not levy war against a nation and they seek to seize territories and occupy them. That is a terrorist and that is why Boko Haram are terrorists, because at the time before this administration came, they were occupying a minimum of 17 local governments in this country and they wanted more. They wanted to take over the entire country and create a caliphate. They are terrorists. These ones, bandits, they have no ideology. No ideology. They are just interested in criminality for the sake of criminality. Robbing, raping, maiming, stealing, no ideology. Have you heard that they seized territory? They are not interested. So, but like I said, criminality is criminality. Eliminate all of them and that is what our security forces are doing.
But they are multiplying, they are growing in their numbers everyday, spreading from Sokoto to Niger…
(Cuts in) No, they are not spreading. They are running. It is not as if they are spreading. You know they were concentrated on certain places before: Binin Gwarin side of Kaduna, there is a forest in Zamfara where they were, they were in the forest. But now that the battle was taken to them in those forests, they are now running. From Zamfara, they ran to Niger. A couple of weeks back when the heat was on them in Zamfara, they were trying to cross into Niger state and the military ambushed them and 42 of them were killed in that ambush. So, it’s not as if it’s spreading all over place but rather, they are running and as they run, they spread sorrow, tears and blood on the way but the whole country is not big enough for them, in fact, the whole world is not wide enough for them to run. Justice will catch up with them.
Could they be responsible for the bombing of the Abuja-Kaduna rail track recently?
Anybody that does that kind of thing is a criminal. No matter what name they go by, they are criminals. And if the law catches up with them, they will be dealt with.
How did we get here, to this point as a country and as a people because before now, we used to hear these things happen outside and not in Nigeria?
When we heard of suicide bombers in other parts of the world, we said Nigerians loved life too much; that they would never be suicide bombers, suddenly it crept in here. So, it shows you that the world is truly a global village. And don’t think you are immune from what you see in other parts of the world. And one thing that exacerbated the situation of Nigeria is evil speaking
How do you mean “evil speaking”?
Particularly by those who claim to be leaders, leaders of thought, leaders of ethnic groups, leaders of opposition, they claim to be leaders but engage in evil speaking, they say those evil things which will eventually coalesce into violence, into eruptions, into bloodshed and murder. They are not innocent, all those who engage in evil speeches.
Is it really about evil speaking or about criticizing…?
(Cuts in) Criticism is different. Criticism that is well directed, well founded is even welcome. But one that is virulent, the one that sees no good in anything leads to this kind of thing that is happening. Because whether anything is good or not, they just criticise it. It builds up and leads to pent up anger, pent up anger leads to violence, violence leads to murder and bloodshed. All those who do these things are not free from the blood of human beings. The blood of the people of the people is on their hands.
But when you see some wrong acts or actions of the government, and you say no, that is not how it should be, government should do this, and government should do that. Would you also liken that to speaking evil?
I told you criticism is good if it is well directed.
But that to me is what I feel most Nigerians have always done.
No, no, no, no. What we see in Nigeria is evil speaking not even criticism. Criticism, in its essence, is meant to improve things. But the ones we see in is Nigeria is meant to pull down the country.
Are you ready to give me some instances?
(General laughters ) No, no. You are a Journalist. You know it.
Let me take you on anti corruption. President Muhammadu Buhari was a military man and held sway between 1983 and 1984. With operation War Against Indiscipline, WAI, they wrestled corruption to the ground. And based on that, I would say Nigerians actually came out on enmass in 2015 and voted for him. But 6 years down the line, the monster is still there. In fact, many Nigerians feel that the officials of this government are even more corrupt than the past. How would you react to that?
Let me take the latter part of the question that officials of the current government are seen to be more corrupt. That’s a general statement. It is a sweeping statement. You don’t just accuse people of corruption in a blanket like that. You have to come out and say this person did this, did this, did this. And if government does not do anything about it, then you say it is tolerating corruption. The easiest thing to do in the world is to allege. It is just sit back and allege and that is what many people do. They allege that there is corruption without justifying it.
They allege that there is corruption without justifying it. Now, you talked about people electing Buhari because they wanted him to fight corruption. Yes, he’s fighting it but style must necessarily be different from the one he adopted as a military ruler. As a military leader, you rule by decrees, you just would just declare whatever you want to do, and you back it up with a law. And you go ahead to do it. That’s not the same style under a democracy. So the President is now a democrat, and he has to do everything like…
(Cuts in) But you still have institutions of government like the judiciary to prosecute if you still want them to expedite action on an issue…
So how will you do it? The judiciary is independent of the executive? How will you do it? You can’t force anything on the judiciary.
Assuming you have credible evidence…?
It’s still left for the judiciary to do its work. President will not call the judiciary and say jail this one within 6 months. No.
So to you, how far do you think we have fared in fighting corruption?
We have gone very far. The statistics even speak for themselves? Go and check the number of trials and convictions by the security agencies, you know, there is a lot. EFCC came out recently to speak, I think it was a week or two ago, right from 1999 to date, on the number of prosecutions, number of convictions. Go and look at it and see what has happened under this administration.
Some people will say that the wrongdoing of former SGF and the EFCC Chairman, Magu are cases of indictment on the government because they are officials of the government. If they had preached against it, how is that they are found wanting?
Those are cases that are running and pending. So, the less said about, the better. For the former SGF, the case is in court. For Magu, the President is also yet to make a definitive pronouncement. So, the less said about it, the better. But the fact that somebody in an administration is indicted for something is not enough a brush to tar the entire administration. There is no administration that is perfect. There is none that is complete in any part of the world.
Since you came on board as a government, would you say there are some actions you may not have taken because it appears you score the government 100% in all aspects even though you have two more years?
Not up to two, 19 months to go. I didn’t give that mark. I will score the government a pass mark but I wouldn’t give it 100%. So don’t ascribe that to me when I have not said it.
Nigerians before 2015 were buying a bag of rice N7,000 to N8,000 but today the price has so skyrocketed and you are having about N25,000 to N35,000 and there is so much hunger in the land. People are crying. The prices of good in the market are so high that the President in his October 1st speech blamed the middlemen. But Nigerians are saying no, that is not what he should be doing.
Middlemen are part of it and I think we also are part of our problems.
How do you mean, sir?
A minister was telling us one day that he loves to eat garden egg. So, on his way to work one morning, he stopped over at the farmer’s market to buy garden eggs and suddenly, the price was double of what he used to buy and he asked the woman what is wrong and she said “it is dollar.” (General laughter) How does that affect the price of garden eggs? Nigerians are a part of the problem. Things that don’t have anything to do with the rate of dollar, we just hide under it.
But there used to be a price control mechanism before now or am I wrong? I don’t know what is happening because I know in a situation like that the government comes in and says no, we cannot…
There’s something wrong about the Nigerian psyche. Everybody wants to profiteer at the slightest situation.
Tell me your love for this President (another general laughter) because I can see that you speak very good of this president. You are so much in love with this president. How did that come about?
Yes, yes, (smiles) I make no bones about it. And I will say this anywhere I love President Buhari, I love him.
Is it because you are working for him?
Before I ever met him I had loved him. I’ll tell you the story. In 1984, I was actually a third year student in the University. So you couldn’t call me an impressionable young person who will be hero-worshipping him, no. I had grown, I could make up my mind. In 1984 when he emerged as military head of state with Idiagbon and they were leading the country; I just liked the direction in which they were taking the country because I grew up under a very tough father. My father was an educationist to the core, a school principal, a disciplinarian who ran the house with an iron hand (general laughter), just as he ran the school.
So, when I saw Buhari coming out and running Nigeria with that iron fist, then I felt the country needed it and so, I admired him. It was not a perfect government. You will not see a perfect government anywhere. He made his mistakes but he was doing well. 18, 20 months after, he was overthrown and I was very sad. That day, perhaps goes down as one of my saddest days in life. The day he was overthrown I was very sad. Then he went into political hibernation so to speak. He was away, came back as PTF boss. You know how he did PTF, transparently making marks and touching Nigerians. So you know how he made impact through PTF.
And then, in 2002, he now said he was joining partisan politics. It was my happiest day (long laughter). I rejoiced. This man is coming back because I felt the country lost. If it was the Buhari/Idiagbon regime that lasted for eight years, that the Babaginda regime lasted, Nigeria would never have been the same. But it lasted just 20 months. Nigeria would never have been where we are today if the regime had lasted but fortunately, it didn’t last.
And when he now indicated he was coming back through partisan politics, I rejoiced, I was glad. Since he ran for the first time in 2003, I have been supporting him, 2007, 2011, I have been supporting him. And when after 2011 he said he was not running again, I said no, General you can run again. (Laughs).
But remember he cried and said he was not running again?
Yes, yes, I wrote it. I wrote it. Yes. And I wrote the piece. I said, No, you are not bound by that promise. You’re not bound by it. You can come back because Nigerians want you.
But some Nigerians faulted that move because if “a man of integrity” has said something…?
(Cuts in) No, no, no. It has nothing to do with integrity. We all can change our minds when superior arguments come. In fact, a man that does not change his opinion and his mind in the face of superior argument for positive reasons is a very rigid man and a danger to himself and to the society. (Another laughter) So, I was happy when he offered to come back and the rest is history. I was fortunate to have been asked to work with him. I didn’t give it the foggiest thought that I would come to work with Buhari as much as I admired him. I didn’t think it will happen. When the offer came like this. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I could only have said yes to the offer because it was Buhari. Anybody else? The answer would have been no.
So, it means that he also noted your love for him in the course of time?
Oh! y-e-s, y-e-s! When Professor Tam David West (my God rest his soul) was launching a book in Lagos at the NIA, “the 16 sins of Buhari”, I was the master of ceremonies at that event and Buhari came and that was where we met for the first time. He had always been reading me.
When was that?
It was pre 2011 election, maybe 2010.
That means since 1984 till 2010…
(Cuts in) I didn’t meet him. In 2009, 2010 was when David West launched book, but he had always spoken with me on phone. You know, I used to write every Friday in The Sun and whenever I wrote about him, either that Friday, or the next day, my phone would ring. The first time it rang and he said my name Muhammadu Buhari, I screamed (elongated general laughter). I couldn’t believe it and he said, I read what you wrote, thank you very much. After that, he always called me up. Whenever I wrote anything that interested him either about him directly or about our country, he would call me and we would discuss.
And then, in August 2013, my mother passed away. And when we were going to do a commendation service for her. I sent out some invitation cards. I just said, let me send to General Buhari. I didn’t think he was going to come. I didn’t expect him. I just sent it. My Reporter in Kaduna I sent it to him to drop at General Buhari’s house. On the day of the commendation service, which held in Alausa in Ikeja, I was at the gate welcoming people as they came in, welcoming people who had come to attend the service; one SUV drove him. So, I left the gate went after the vehicle to welcome whoever was inside, when he opened the door, I s-c-r-e-a-m-e-d. (General laughter). He was laughing and I was laughing. I said General, you came?
Do you know that commendation service was a Christian service. General Buhari came from the beginning and sat through it to the end. When they said rise up, he would stand up. When they said sit down, he would sit down. It was amazing. After that service and he had gone back to Kaduna, I think either that night or the next night, I phoned him to say, General, thank you for coming. I was surprised that you could make it. He said no, Adesina, there are people who could have paid you millions for your support. You didn’t follow them.
Me, I’ve not been able to give you a bottle of Coke since when you have been supporting me. He said, the least I could do was to come and pay tribute to your late mother. So, we had been like that. Therefore, when I was invited to join his government, I came though I didn’t want to serve in government. I was the MD of The Sun newspaper, the President of Nigerian Guild of Editors. I was just satisfied with what I was doing. I was happy with what I was doing. I didn’t want to come and serve in government but because it was Buhari I had to come. I, more than six years later, have been working with him. If I loved him at the beginning, I love him even more now. (General laughter).
In your closet, perhaps, with the President, have you ever thought of the immediate past government not relinquishing power to him in 2015 because most Nigerians would think it was unthinkable to defeat an incumbent President who was seeking re-election?
No, you should recall that the eyes of the world were on Nigeria. I think John Kerry was the secretary of state then. He came here. Many, many foreign dignitaries came here to talk about the forthcoming elections. And there was a peace pact signed by all the candidates? No, it would have been dishonourable not to have honoured, not to have respected the result of the election. And I believe that President Goodluck Jonathan would have been the worst for it. It was good that he respected the wishes of the people and he left. His profile is better today.
If you had attempted to stay put, he would have landed himself in trouble and Nigeria in greater trouble. So it was good. I know that he must have heard different kinds of voices but he made up his mind to phone President Buhari to congratulate him.
The president tells us about that day that when he first got that call, and the person said this is President Jonathan and that he first kept quiet for some seconds. He first kept quiet because he was shocked. He didn’t think the conceding will come so early. President Jonathan conceded defeat, congratulated the incoming President and Nigeria is the better for it.
Amongst the former Presidents and Heads of States, he’s been a frequent visitor to the Villa so to speak amidst rumours that he’s likely to join APC. How about that?
That’s rumour I don’t know about? And I’m glad you used the word rumour.
Ok, speculations (General Laughter)
Even the word speculation is still unfounded because there are no facts.
But in terms of frequent visits to the villa, yes, because he carries out several assignments for ECOWAS. He’s either Special Envoy to Mali or to some other country. And he comes to give reports to the sitting president. At a time, our President was the chairman of ECOWAS. He needed to see him. Then, when he left as Chairman of ECOWAS and somebody else took over, Nigeria is still a major force in ECOWAS. So, that’s why former President Jonathan comes to the Villa so frequently. There is mutual respect between the two. If you know the Diplomatic Room in the Villa, it is only a sitting president that walks through it. There are two doors. There is a door for visitors, there is a door for the sitting president. Once the sitting President exits through that door, it’s locked. Every other person passes through the door for the visitors.
One day, former President Jonathan came and when we rose, he wanted to head for the door of the visitors, President Buhari pulled him and took him through the door that only a sitting President can go through. So, it shows you the respect President Buhari has for former President Jonathan.
So, their relationship is strong at the moment?
I believe so, mutual respect. If you don’t respect a man, then, he’s not worth much in your estimation. So, I believe that there is mutual respect between the two of them.
Going forward, before this government leaves office, do you think Nigeria will get any better?
A lot better. On all fronts. All the challenges will not be solved, all the problems will not vanish overnight. But government exists to solve challenges. This government will solve as many as it can solve. And I tell you to solve many. But government is a continuum. The next government will continue wherever this government leaves. There is no single government that solves all challenges in a country. It has never happened before. It will not happen now. It will always be like that. Governments will always come and go and they will need to settle challenges.
Nigerians out there hear and talk about a cabal in the Presidential Villa. How real is the cabal?
Well, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had been asked that question. I align with it. I don’t know of any cabal.
But there are some influential Nigerians that influence things within the the government?
It happens with every administration. It happens in America. It happens in Canada. It happens all over the world. There will always be people. They call them kitchen cabinet in some other places. It will always happen in any part of the world. And President himself answered this question. It was at the UN General Assembly a couple of years back. He was talking to the media. And somebody asked that question. And he said, he doesn’t know of any cabal, that he was the one who went around the country to campaign. Nobody did that for him. And so, he’s the one that has a mandate and is exercising that mandate.
Is the President in charge of his government?
Fully, fully, fully. You don’t know the extent of it.
Most Nigerians believe the president is being lied to, that some persons lie to him like in this security situation, they don’t really tell him…
(Cuts in) All over the world, the president can be given false information all over the world. But a president also has the apparatus of state at his disposal. He can always find out things. So, even if anybody comes and gives them a fib, he can find out. The apparatus of state is at his disposal.
This interview will not end without me touching on the expectations in 2023. I know you a professional, I wouldn’t say you are much of a politician and let alone playing party politics. The youths are clamouring for power. They say we don’t need “old men” again. Do you think APC will give power to a young Nigerian with 21st century thinking lot assuming it’s going to succeed itself?
Power is never given out, it is taken. Power will not be dashed out, it will be taken. Young people should rise and take that power through the ballot box. Go through the party primaries, win , stand election, win the presidency, that is the way to do it under a democracy. If they sit back and think it will be handed over to them, no, they will have a long way. They asked for the not-too-young-to-run law and it was passed. So, nothing stops them.
You hold a chieftaincy title from the south east…
Two, actually (laughters)
Oh! that shows your relationship with them. You must have heard them say the south easterners need to occupy the seat in the Villa to be given a sense of belonging. Do you see APC and the government of the day saying south easterners, let’s do this justice to you?
Every part of the country deserves to produce the president and right from my days in the newspapers, I had always been writing, advising the south east on how to get it. But till now, I wouldn’t say they have played the proper kind of politics.
What proper kind of politics?
To become president in Nigeria, you need to align with the rest of the country and if you don’t align, you can never produce a President. President Buhari had to align with the south west before he became President. If the south east continues to vote the same way they have been voting in one direction and that direction is not working, yet they continue, then, they need to re-address their politics.
Before 2015 and then, 2019, some Igbo leaders of thoughts, Orji Kalus, Ngiges, Ralp Obioha, all of them, even at a point, Prof ABC Nwosu said it. That was in 2011. He said the shortest route to Igbo presidency is to vote the Buhari/Bakere ticket in 2011 and then, Buhari/Osinbajo ticket in 2015 and 2019. But how did the south east vote, they still went in the same direction.
But you have a good number of south easterners in APC at the moment.
So, won’t that serve any purpose?
Look at the statistics of 2019 election, see some states 5%, some states 10%. The highest place where Buhari got maybe about 20% was Abia due to Kalu’s influence, in Ebonyi because David Umahi even when he was in PDP had always loved the President. He didn’t score more than 20% anywhere even when what he required was 25%. So the south easterners will need to readdress their politics, play more national politics.
Could it be why the president made 97%, 5% comment?
But it is natural in politics.
Even when you are the President and the entire country is your constituency?
Wait. No. Listen to what he said. He said when you score 95% in a place and you score 5% in another place, you first take care of the needs of those who gave you 95% before those who gave you 5%, it is natural. And then, listen to that to the end. He said the constitution forbids you from side-lining any part of the country and I will follow the constitution. Mischievous people took only the earlier part of the statement and cut out the rest just because they wanted to generate controversy.
But then looking at the actions and inactions of the government too, it does appear that he is implementing what he said because Igbos are crying that in the security systems, they are nowhere. In the parastatals and agencies, they are not anywhere and all of that.
You are talking from a mindset and we already addressed this mindset. Sometime, could it be in 2017 or 2018, we came out with a compendium of all appointments in the country. I think Ogun state had the highest. Imo state was either second or third and that is from a region people say the President does not like. How can the president not like any part of the country? He is the father of the country.
How busy are your office and schedules? Do you find time to rest at all?
(Laughs) It has been the busiest part of my life. I was busy in the media as chief executive of a newspaper, as editor for many years, very busy but when I came into government, I said ha, can something be as busy as this? It is round the clock because you must answer questions from every part of the world and because of the different time zones, I could be sleeping and my phone will ring and they will say I am from Finland, I am from Iceland, can you respond to this and I will say do you know what time it is in Nigeria?
But you must, in good faith, respond to all. I remember one very rare day, very rare because I don’t put my phone on silence. That day I was stressed out. I just put it on silence and slept off. When I woke up in the morning, five missed calls from the Vice President.
So, this is a job you cannot afford not to be available and that is why the phone number you had known me with is still the same one I use. I could have gone into government and changed it. But then, I would not be doing justice to my principal if he wants me to interface with the public, with the media particularly, and they can’t reach me.
How is your relationship with your colleagues and contemporaries in the media?
We are friends and colleagues.
So, you mean after now, when you leave office, you will still hold your shoulders high and interact with them?
O yes, I will be back to the media because I am on leave of absence. So, by the grace of God when I am done, I will return to the media.
But some people feel that you are, should I say confrontational or frontal. I recall you wrote a piece and said it wasn’t anybody that gave you the job you are doing and even after now, God will still take care of you. But that’s hardly the way a public relations officer speaks.
That is me. I don’t speak tongue in cheeks. I will never be rude but I will say the truth.
Do you think when you leave office that your goodwill will still remain or has it dwindled?
I have no doubt because Femi Adesina of the past is still the Femi Adesina of today.
So, the popularity the President had then before coming to power hasn’t also dwindled or diminished?
Look at the practical evidence. In 2015 he scored about 12 million or 13million votes and in 2019, it increased by about 3 million. So, that already answers the question.
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