A former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, on Sunday spoke on the controversy trailing the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari, supposedly directing the World Bank to focus its assistance towards the northern part of the country.
The former governor confirmed that he was present at the interactive meeting between Mr. Buhari and the World Bank President, Kim Jim, in 2015.
Mr. Oshiomhole also said the president’s statement was twisted and given sectional meaning, contrary to the true intentions and context of the discussion.
The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said on Friday that he was at a 2015 meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the President of the World Bank President, along with three southern governors including Mr. Oshiomhole, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State; as well as Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa.
Mr. Shettima said President Buhari had requested the World Bank to focus its efforts on rebuilding the North-east which had been devastated by Boko Haram attacks.
Mr. Shettima was reacting to the criticisms of the president on the statement insinuating that he was sectional.
Mr. Oshiomhole, in a statement, after it sought his views on the matter, said the sectional meaning read to Mr. Buhari’s statement was unfortunate.
“It is true that I was present with Mr. President during the interaction with the World Bank president,” he said.
“The context under which Mr. President made the statement that is now being twisted was against the backdrop of the devastation of the North-east zone, and the need to solicit for assistance from the World Bank and any other foreign agency to help address the issue.
“It was a patriotic request borne out of a burning desire to find immediate and permanent solution to the crises in the North-east zone.”
According to Mr. Oshiomhole, Edo State at that time had the challenge of dealing with internally displaced persons that came to settle in the outskirt of Benin City without the knowledge of the state government.
He said it took his personal intervention and the cooperation of Mr. Buhari before a solution was found in making the location more habitable as well as provide other logistics arrangement that had to be put in place to ensure that the IDPs were adequately catered for.
“This idea of trying to read sectional meaning to this genuine request for international assistance to help cushion the challenges faced as a consequence of the Boko Haram menace, is utterly unfortunate,” he said.
“We should know when to play politics and when not to play politics especially with serious developmental challenges such as the unpalatable outcome of Boko Haram activities.
“We were quite happy that Mr. President was able to articulate his request for assistance from the World Bank amidst a host of other challenges confronting us as a nation.
“We needed to prioritize the challenges and the unwholesome plight of the Internally Displaced Persons was critical at that material time.
“Any reasonable president could not have asked for anything beyond that humanitarian crisis that was giving us international embarrassment.”
The former Edo governor admonished that as a country and citizens desirous to be their brother’s keeper, it was not right to always politicize genuine effort aimed at helping to confront developmental challenges such as the North-east Boko Haram issue.
“President Buhari remains a statesman who is altruistic, genuine and patriotic in the discharge of his statutory responsibilities,” he added.
“We should see the country as one and work towards achieving her lofty objectives of being a true giant in the continent of Africa.”
A statement by the World Bank chief that Mr. Buhari asked the agency to focus on “northern regions of Nigeria” had been the cause of flaks against the president, especially from the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
“In my very first meeting with President Buhari he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern regions of Nigeria and we’ve done that,” Mr. Kim had said.
Mr. Fayose called Mr. Buhari as an “ethnic champion, a religious bigot and the number one promoter of disunity in Nigeria.”
The presidency also reacted to the criticisms, explaining that Mr. Buhari’s statement desired the World Bank assistance in rebuilding the North-east devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.