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Saturday, 1 August 2015

Anti-Corruption: Buhari’s first suspect won’t find it funny, says Adesina


Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina was until his appointment the managing director of Sun Newspapers and concurrently, the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE.

In this interview, by  Bashir Adefaka, the presidential spokesman responds to issues on the pace and pattern of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Excerpts:
How do you think the press and the executive arm of government can collaborate to move the country forward?
I think that cooperation is very, very important. You see, recently the relationship between the First Estate and the Fourth Estate had been downright adversarial and if it was not adversarial, it was suspicious. It is better today than it has ever been in the history of the country. We know that the country had been under long military rule during which the executive and the media were never friends.
We still have vestiges of that even now, but then things are fairly better than they have ever been. And I believe that under this administration, it will be a lot better. Don’t forget that the very day that President Buhari resumed at this Presidential Villa was also the day he visited the State House Press Corp in the gallery where they stay. It was some sort of wonderment for them because I heard a lot of them say openly that they had been covering this Villa for six, eight years and that they never received the President.
Adesina, Buhari's SA Media and Publicity
Adesina, Buhari’s SA Media and Publicity
So, for President Buhari, to on the first day of his resumption in the Villa, to have paid the press people a courtesy visit, so to say, I think it foreshadows what is to come. It is going to be a pleasant relationship in the months and the years ahead.   I read the column of one of them, I think Lekan Adetayo of The Punch, he narrated an account of the day they stayed very late at the Villa because there was a political meeting going on and when that meeting finished in the wee hours, the President (Buhari) passed by and he stopped by to greet them.   He said members of the Press Corp appreciated that a lot because in the past, presidents would just walk by and would not give them a glance.
It shows that we are in for a good relationship. It does not mean that they will see the truth and will not talk. No, they are still going to be independent, they will report truly and factually but they are going to be treated as decent professionals.   And it is going to be good for our country.  Enough of adversarial relationship between the press and the executive!
What would be the signature programmes of this government?
Right from the campaign you knew the things that were dear to the heart of the president.   I sat at an interview he also granted a television station and he reiterated those programmes. Of course you know that one of these is anti-corruption. He has always said unless Nigeria kills corruption that corruption will kill Nigeria.
So, anti-corruption is going to be very dear to his heart. I told some people privately that I pity the first person that President Buhari will catch in his anti-corruption drive (laughs). I pity the first person who is going to fall into this anti-corruption trap and that person is not going to find it funny.
And has he not caught the first person yet?
No.   When he catches the first person, you will know publicly that there has been a catch, and he will look for more. If you have evidence that somebody has taken any major fund anywhere, and it comes to the knowledge of the President, you can be sure that he will also be dealt with.  Gone are the days when people would be accused of stealing billions and trillions of Naira and it ends there and nothing comes out of it. You can be sure, not with this President, because anti-corruption is very, very dear to his heart.
Then, one thing that is also very dear to his heart is generating employment.   He is concerned about the rate of unemployment in the country.   He has said that about 60 percent of youths are unemployed.   Youths that are the life blood of the economy, about 60 percent of them are out of jobs, or they are underpaid or disgruntled.
So, he looks forward to a situation where the country will be so fixed that jobs will be available, particularly to the youths and that also is tied to the economy.   When the economy is properly fixed, it will reflect in the employment situation.   So, he plans that the economy must be fixed and Nigeria will become robust. Now when the economy is robust, there will be opportunities aplenty. That is also very dear to the heart of the President. I have so many
references about things that are dear to his heart to be achieved for the good of Nigerians. One day I was talking with the President, if you hear what he expressed about power, he said, “Ah, if this government can fix power, it will touch every aspect of the lives of Nigerians. It will touch the artisans, touch everybody, touch industries everywhere.”   And   saw the passion with which he was talking about that power and I know that he will make it.
Nigerians are saying that power has improved even when it is believed that the Buhari administration has not started working on power. What does it portend?
You can say that he has not done anything yet about power and the refineries, but then, the truth is that things are falling in place. So if things are falling in place naturally, you can then imagine, when he unfolds policies in those areas, you can imagine how better things will get. There is something called the right atmosphere. I believe that the right atmosphere is responsible for the improvements that you are talking about all over the place.
There is apprehension that the failure to appoint ministers may be contributing to economic difficulties especially the slide of the naira?
Before, the talk was that there were no service chiefs but as we sit down and talk today we have service chiefs. Few days ago, we would have said there was no National Security Adviser but as we sit down and talk today there is an NSA.
That shows you that appointment is work in progress just as people expected new service chiefs, and it happened; they expected a new NSA and it happened, the same way ministers will come. It is constitutional to have ministers and this President will never violate the Constitution. He knows that it is constitutional to have a cabinet but this Constitution does not prescribe the maximum or minimum number of ministers for him to constitute his cabinet.
The Constitution, I assume, believes that a President is a responsible person and he will do what is needful. And, for now, things are moving because what the President has done is to empower the Permanent Secretaries to run the bureaucracy. So, all
the ministries are moving.   I was with him when he instructed a permanent secretary that, “What your minister should have done, you must do now that the minister has not come.”   So, he has empowered the permanent secretaries to take decisions but that is not to say that ministers will not come at the soonest of time……
Some are rejoicing that the civil service is getting strong…..?
(Cuts in)   The civil service should be strengthened. The bureaucracy lubricates the system. If the bureaucracy is hampered in anyway, the system will be affected.   So, it is good that the bureaucracy is strengthened.   So, when ministers come, the bureaucracy can work with them, advise them properly and then things will move better. Not that the bureaucracy should be relegated to the background.
So it is good that the President has strengthened the bureaucracy and what ministers will then do is to collaborate with the bureaucracy and then move on. The second part of that question bordering on devaluation or no devaluation of Naira, you know that kind of decision is not a one-man decision.   There must be an economic team which will also come and when the economic team sits down they would articulate a thrust. That policy thrust will determine the direction to take.
What is your reaction to insinuations that the president has tilted the appointments he has made towards the north?
Well, what I would say is that the North is part of this country just like the South is. No part should be marginalized. In the South, South-South, South-West, South-East should not be marginalized. In the North, North-East, North West, North-Central should not be marginalized.   There should be fairness and equity in the country. If there is any President that believes in fairness, it is this one.   He believes in being fair to everybody. The mandate he received is a national mandate.
Muhammadu Buhari and Femi Adesina
Muhammadu Buhari and Femi Adesina
Thankfully there is that portion of our Constitution, which makes it impossible for somebody, who has not scored popular votes, who has not scored enough votes in a broad section of the country to become President.   Before President Buhari emerged, he satisfied that part of the Constitution. So he knows that he has a national mandate and he is going to exercise that mandate nationally.
Before the new service chiefs were appointed, the talk was that there had been nine appointments and only one was from The South.   Ahead we are close to 500 appointments because, Federal boards alone are populated by 601 people. So, all those boards will be constituted, there will be cabinet of which the Constitution says at least one from each state, then ambassadorial postings, there are going to be personal aides, there are going to be so many appointments.   So, when the President has just got nine, it is too early to cry woe!
One would have thought that the recent removal of the service chiefs would also affect the police boss.  Why was he retained?
IGP (Solomon Arase) is one of the best, in fact, the very best in the force now and by virtue of being IGP he is going to be one of the best.   And you know that the IGP is not just holding that office, he is an outstanding officer.
A lot of people pay tribute to him. So, for the President to have retained him, it shows that he knows his onion.   I also pay tribute to him as a man of honour. He is a fantastic officer, and for the President to have retained him, I think it was a good decision.  The President has the prerogative to change anybody  he wants to change.   For him to retain the IG, it means that the IG simply merits being retained.

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