Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, speaks on the security situation in the North-East, Saturday’s election and other national issues.
What is the state of security as at today?
The president during this ongoing campaign often talks about it that the people in the North-East are the ones who can talk about security before 2015. The minimum of 17 Local Government Areas were under full Boko Haram occupation and when you talk of occupation, it means they were in power in those 17 Local Government Areas; they were already sitting in Emir’s palaces and administering those territories.
They were in Local Government offices and collecting taxes. But when Buhari’s government came, the president directed the military to move its headquarters to the centre of battle and all the 17 Local Government Areas were liberated, brought back into the federation.
Even the spiritual headquarters of Boko Haram in Sambisa forest; fell into the military’s hand. So what we have now is a situation where Boko Haram is scattered like a sheep without shepherd, but because they are bitter, you still see them striking occasionally.
Don’t you think Boko Haram elements were those that transited to armed bandits and then herdsmen in the northern region terrorising people?
Well, it’s possible some of them transited but then the administration has the capacity to tackle security challenges wherever they rare their heads. Security challenges are not something that you bring to a conclusive end in one day, but as you continue to tackle it, eventually you will sort it out.
I can assure Nigerians and even the entire community that this insurgency is something this government will sort out completely eventually.
How soon will that be because President promised in 2015 that in less than four years, the challenges would be tackled?
No, there was no timeline.
Nigerians want to be kept abreast because they seem not to be convinced enough. Can you convince Nigerians?
No, I don’t want to agree with you that Nigerians are not convinced enough. You need to ask those who live in the North-East, generally in the six states: Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba, ask them how they are living now and how they were fairing in 2015 even in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Do you know how many times bomb went off before 2015? So it is those people who can tell you the difference. It’s not as if the challenge was over completely but the difference is clear.
What of dealing with problem of the economy?
Yes, with the economy, it is very easy to destroy than to build. We have spoken about where we were in 2015, and where we are today. It is work in progress.
During 58 years of Nigeria’s Independence, he promised to rebuild the economy. We have heard so much about Nigeria’s diversified economy, we had a farmer who was the president for eight years, it was a mere lip service, food was heavily imported under him, importation of rice jumped to 90 percent.
Presently, the economy is being rebuilt and put on a sound foundation. What we had was a bubble economy dependent only on oil but with the way we are going about it, it would never be so because it is true diversification.
Let’s talk about rule of law. Some Nigerians have this feeling that the issue of corruption is selective. How would you react to that?
It is not true. But you know there is no way 196 million Nigerians will agree on the same thing. It is clear with the president that no friend, no foe when it comes to war against corruption. If anybody has abused public trust, that person must be ready to answer for it whether he knows the president or not, whether he is a family member of the president or not, or whether he’s in APC or not.
There is the fear that the election may be rigged. As an insider in government, what is your immediate reaction to speculation like this?
Those who entertain fear and continue to shout rigging are crying wolf where there is none and they keep making those fears because they are going to lose woefully. So they have started crying now.
President Muhammadu Buhari, if you know him very well, he is a man who keeps to his words and he has said it times without number that the election will be free, fair and credible. He is a man you can believe and those who believe believe.
Why is this administration confident that it would win this re-election?
If the people are with you, they are the ones who can re-elect and we have seen it that the people are with this administration. So we are confident that President Buhari will be re-elected.
What is the reaction of the presidency to the endorsement of your opposition candidate by the Niger Delta, South- South and the North -Central elders?
There was already a statement on that, issued by the campaign director of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Festus Keyamo. Anybody can endorse, but who can endorse with their PVCs are the critical and crucial ones and we would see that in a few days.
When the president was launching his campaign for the NEXT LEVEL, he said the next four years would be quite significant if re-elected. How significant would it be?
Yes, because there would be a deepening and a consolidation on the things he had started, such as infrastructure. You can see all over the country now that roads are being built, railways are being constructed.
Buhari is going into action, you’ll find out that two budgets of two years of over two trillion was spent on infrastructure and NEXT LEVEL means there would be a consolidation of those works, railways, roads, power and so on. Of course, on security, the president keeps saying you can’t administer a country that you have not secured and that is why he focuses on security.
A lot of concerns have been raised and people have expressed them openly that the president is being ‘cut off’ from presidency, some alleged that a cabal exist. Is this true?
Now let me take that question this way, the president himself had earlier been asked that same question ‘is there a cabal?’ and he responded by saying he was the one who went round the country canvassing for votes and he got elected and he is running the country. The vice president himself was also asked, he said he has not seen any, and now you have asked me, neither have I seen, and I cannot be part of what does not exist. Every government will have what you can call an inner caucus who will work with the president or whoever is the head of that group that does not translate to cabal.
What is the government’s specific plan on Ajaokuta Steel Company?
Well, Ajaokuta will be completed and you know Ajaokuta has been like a pool of corruption for decades in this country, but this government is resolved to get it done and whatever needs to be done, will be done.
Is there a timeframe for this to be achieved?
In terms of specific time, the minister of that ministry is the one that will know but there is a resolution on it.