Good afternoon gentlemen,
I have arranged this interaction to rub minds with you, as always, on the situation of things in our country, top of which are the efforts being made by President Muhammadu Buhari to chart a new path for our dear country, Nigeria.
It’s been about one month now since President Buhari assumed office and I can tell you that there has been motion, and there has been movement, contrary to what is being peddled in some quarters.
Let me say straight away that my party, the APC, understands and appreciates the concerns of Nigerians as far as the perceived pace of the administration is concerned. We understand that they repose so much confidence in the party and the government to act quickly to stamp out insecurity, tackle corruption, revive the moribund economy, provide jobs and generally restore hope.
Justifiably, the expectations are high and urgent, and the Buhari administration has started addressing them, despite the enormous challenges that it faces, including an empty treasury and an economy that has virtually collapsed.
While Nigerians are right to demand quick and sustained action in addressing these challenges – and honestly we make no excuses – it is important for us to put things in perspective for a better understanding.
The Buhari administration got the handover notes from the former government just four days before the inauguration, hampering its efforts to have a clear understanding of the situation on the ground before taking the necessary measures to address it. If any disease is not appropriately diagnosed, it cannot be effectively treated. Any government that is truly desirous of bringing about real change will not act hastily and without the necessary understanding of what is on ground. Coupled with the delay in getting the much-needed information, that takes time.
Recall that when we raised the alarm over the delay in getting the handover notes, the former government even accused us of seeking to form a parallel government!
Secondly, Nigeria has never before witnessed this kind of transition. What the country has been accustomed to is transition from one government to another under the same ruling party, not from the ruling party to the opposition as we have now. The implication is that this is a new learning curve, with its attendant hiccups.
Thirdly, never before has the ship of Nigerian state been steered aground as we have it now. Never before have Nigerians been this expectant from any leader or any government. These are all the more reasons to get things right, once and for all, so we won’t need to continue with the vicious cycle of hopes raised and dashed!
Even with these challenges, gentlemen, the Buhari Administration has availed itself creditably within one month of assuming office.
Tackling insecurity and fight against terrorism
This is one area in which the Buhari Administration has hit the ground running. The President had hardly been sworn into office than he embarked on a shuttle diplomacy to rally Nigeria’s neighbours to act as a common front against the terror group Boko Haram. The President travelled to Chad and Niger, and then hosted a summit of the Lake Chad Basin Commission that comprised Cameroon, Chad and Niger, with Benin also invited.
The result is the decision to deploy the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), with headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad, on July 30th to pep up the fight against Boko Haram! This is the same force that the past administration could not get off the ground in six years! That’s what we meant when we said what the Jonathan Administration could not do in six years, the Buhari Administration has done in three weeks, not minding that some mischievous elements decided to quote us out of context.
President Buhari has also rallied the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to work with Nigeria in battling the Boko Haram insurgency. A joint summit of leaders of both economic blocs is to be held shortly to concretise these efforts that will complement the one by Nigeria and its neighbours.
Outside our sub-region, the President travelled to Germany to meet with G7 leaders to present to them a wish list that included getting their support for the battle against Boko Haram. The leaders of the countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency have compiled their requirements which are being forwarded to the G7 for appropriate action.
While waiting for that, the US has announced a $5-million assistance for the fight against the terrorists who have been ravaging our country and our sub-region. Added to the relocation by the Nigerian military of the command centre to Maiduguri, these are no mean achievements.
Only a few weeks back, Nigeria could not enlist the support of any Western nation in the fight against Boko Haram, could not get the military hardware needed to pep up the fight and had to resort to using mercenaries to confront the bandits, even though the country boasts of a military that has been globally acknowledged for helping to restore peace to many countries around the world.
The fight against corruption
The fight against corruption ranks very high on the list of the Buhari Administration’s priorities, and justifiably so. The refrain, ‘If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria,’ is now commonplace, and it is a truism. Nothing, not even the fight against terror, can succeed without putting an end to the kind of prodigious and sickening corruption being witnessed in these climes.
That is why the President also included it on the wish list he took to Germany during the last G7 summit. Thankfully, some Western nations have now assured the Buhari Administration of all possible assistance in its efforts to recover the billions of Naira that was spirited away from the public till by public officers who abused their offices during the immediate past administration.
Only Monday, it was revealed that the President has ordered revenue-generating agencies, including the NNPC, FIRS, Customs and NPA, to close all Illegal Revenue Accounts and to also remit all funds generated to the Federation Account. This is a momentous step considering that those illegal accounts are being used to siphon public funds.
Thanks to the painstaking efforts of President Buhari, Nigerians now know that out of N8.1 trillion generated by the NNPC in three years, N3.8 trillion was not remitted to the Federation Account. Nigerians now know that the cash in the Excess Crude Account has been depleted by $2 billion without explanation. A panel of four governors has been set up to investigate what happened to the money that was not remitted to the Federation Account. The rot met by the Buhari Administration is sickening, and the President is working hard to plug all loopholes for siphoning public funds, in addition to recovering looted public funds.
This is just the beginning of the fight against corruption. Nigerians should grab a front row seat so they can watch clearly as events unfold in the ring of anti-corruption fight in the days ahead. It will no longer be business as usual as the Buhari Administration seeks to make sure that every kobo of national funds is spent for the benefit of Nigerians, not to fill the deep pockets of a few fat cats.
Bringing Nigeria back to the comity of respected nations
Since President Buhari’s election on March 28th, 2015, Nigeria has been moving fast to regain its deserved place in the comity of respected nations. Leaders who once shunned Nigeria have been inviting, in droves, President Buhari to visit their countries. The latest is US President Barack Obama, who will play host to our President at the White House on July 20th.
There is no better indication of how much Nigeria is regaining its lost glory than the recent election of former Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina as the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Recall that Nigeria has never before led the continental bank, despite its front-line role there. In backing and campaigning for Dr. Adesina, President Buhari put his acclaimed sterling qualities to a global test, and he passed with flying colours. Adesina’s election is a testimony to the perception of Nigeria under President Buhari’s leadership.
The Buhari effect
Gentlemen, the mere fact that President Buhari, a man of impeccable pedigree, an incorruptible personality, has taken over the mantle of leadership has spurred Nigerians to dream again, put public servants on their toes, forced many looters to start disgorging some of their loots even without prompting, and fired the zeal of many public enterprises to deliver better services.
Despite the laudable achievements of the Buhari Administration within the past few weeks of its coming into being, Nigerians are right to demand even a faster pace. Nigerians are right to ask that a government be quickly put in place. Nigerians are right to demand that looters be exposed and brought to justice. Nigeria is long suffering, and our compatriots can’t wait for a paradigm shift in the way we do things.
Nigerians are right and justified in their expectations. All we ask for is a little more patience, a little more understanding and continuous support for the Buhari Administration.
We in the APC hereby assure our compatriots, who have expressed their concerns in recent times, that there is no cause for alarm. The Buhari Administration is willing, determined and able to effect the change that Nigerians voted for, despite the initial challenges. No one, not even the reactionary forces that are rampaging now, can sabotage our party’s change mantra. Welcome to a new Nigeria!
-Text of a media parley hosted by the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Lagos on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015