In this encounter, a team of Editors from LEADERSHIP probes the Director of Strategic Communications and Official Spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari re-election campaign, Festus Keyamo (SAN) on why he believes Buhari deserves a second term in office
Why do you think President Muhammadu Buhari deserves a second term?
Ithink there are three cardinal reasons and the first is that he has shown a capacity to deliver the utmost with very little resources. We are not saying that he has taken Nigeria to Eldorado. Yes, we are still far away from Eldorado but comparatively, in just three and half years when the total earnings of the federal government has been in a region of $112 billion from the sale of oil which is our mainstay, he has surpassed what previous government did with over $450 billion that they earned within same period.
At this juncture, we must endeavour to compare and contrast to determine whether we have made progress or not, and even to confirm the extent of our progress, while taking a recourse to the past or memory lane.
We cannot hold President Buhari to the highest standard possible in the world in order to vote him out but we ought to hold leaders to the highest standard available by making relevant performance appraisal as well as making comparative analysis.
In other words, for us to vote him out, we must put him on the weighing scale with those that want to supplant him, compare their past achievements with current reality, viz-a-viz resources at his disposal and what they achieved with humongous resources when they held sway in this country.
Coming down to the basics with your question, the first one is performance, which is what he has achieved the most. By and large I would go to the specifics subsequently.
The second most important reason why I think the president should be re-elected is because he is a leader that can we trust; which is one of the most sterling qualities required of African leaders and more importantly of a Nigerian leader following her past wasteful and corruption trajectories. This is the most selling quality rare among African leaders as well.
Despite what anyone would want to say about President Buhari which the opposition even at the barest minimum conscience would accord, Buhari has zero appetite for stealing, just as no one has associated his name with stealing. The best they have gotten close to is that he tolerates people around him abjectly caught stealing, and that also has an explanation. I am not conceding that because based on my own analysis, he has moved against some of those around him.
This has never been the perception of all past leaders, except the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who did not have the opportunity to mount the saddle as president of Nigeria. So, to that extent, in as much as I deeply respect Chief Awolowo, he still did not have the experience of being president. Buhari on the other hand has had the experience of being president twice and still can’t be associated with stealing unlike other leaders who were doing stealing and day light robbery.
As president or while in the presidency, they engaged in private business enterprise. Contrary to the provisions of our extant laws, there was a time in this country when a President was building the Bell University and his vice was building his American University, of course you don’t expect non-public funds to be invested into it. They openly granted themselves business licenses, obtaining blind shares in the national patrimonies sold to their cronies. Those were our past experience. To conclude this point, Buhari is a leader we know cannot deep his fingers into the public tills.
The third most important one is that for the first time in the history of this country, government has gotten its priorities very right. For many years, we have all been all over the places in terms of policies. This is a president who is not given to razzmatazz or that must do things just to curry public favour and avoid negative attention.
He has concentrated on developing critical infrastructure and Agriculture is not left out either. He said he wasn’t going to do 500 things. These are specific things which he invested in. By critical infrastructure, I mean those things that have direct correlation with the economic prosperity of the country. This is in contrast to ensuring that there is a lot of cash or slush funds in peoples’ pockets and once they obtain that they fly out of the country, buy houses abroad and even when they return, they praise the government whereas they forget that the roads they drive on are bad, they have no to power to give them light except with generator. This is just as they have good cars and private jets but no road to drive on. They forget the generality of Nigerians. They are rather living in self-delusion, merely enjoying themselves at the expense of Nigerians.
By critical infrastructure, I mean those things that have direct correlation with the economic prosperity of nation. This is in contrast to ensuring that people have a lot of cash, slush funds in their pockets and once it does, they fly out of the country, buy houses abroad, they see good things of life and even when they return, they praise the government whereas once they take this monies out, they forget that the roads they drive on are bad, they have to power their light with generator, they have good cars to drive on and private jets, they would be living in self-delusion, enjoying themselves, but what about the generality of Nigerians, things that can bring prosperity that majority can have access to the same things Those things are railroads and power. They are critical infrastructure that directly lead to the economic prosperity of the nation.
Look around the world the way to go now in terms of super mega cities is rail, underground and surface, Go to New York, Japan, Johannesburg, London, if you want to move up in terms of mega city, it is rail, because roads are blocked despite having good roads. Meanwhile we have bad roads and there’s no rail roads. Now in three and half years for the first time we have seen a national rail network, actual thing on the plan and a time plan to do this and it’s not just promises they started shooting from the hips immediately.
But they said these are PDP projects…
(Cuts in) They said we are completing their rail projects, especiallythe two that have started functioning which is Abuja-Kaduna and Abuja light rail. They said we just completed them, fine, if it is as easy as they say, why didn’t they complete the Ajaokuta-Warri that they met which the military abandoned. This was not a PDP project, they should have completed some abandoned project as well. There is no political manual in the world that says if the government does not initiate new projects, it has failed. Where is the manual that says that is the way to judge a government?
Who says a government’s focus cannot be about completing abandoned projects? When projects are abandoned, it portends that certain government monies of the nation are tied down there, especially if they are projects that can bring economic prosperity. The focus of a government could be to complete before starting new projects. However the mentality of this people is that they initiate so that they can negotiate and share. Their own manual in their head is that the government must initiate because for them governance is about initiating and sharing. In three and half years the government have completed these projects so they can begin new ones in those critical sectors.
If you look at Nigeria as a whole, the critical trade routes is Kano -Lagos and perhaps Port Harcourt -Maiduguri, most vegetables are loaded in Kano before being transported down to Lagos. So any good government would know there is a need for a simpler connection between the two. First of all it would bring down the prices of goods because the major reason for the price hike in tomatoes is transportation. The trailers spend three days on the road and can be attacked by armed robbers, accident, thereby leading to a loss of investment.
The president never said start from Kano since he is from the north, he started from Lagos and it is almost at Ibadan. You probably might have seen the pictures of Lagos-Ibadan rail. The second phase which is the next level starts from Ibadan to Kano. There is actual work going on. Now, the Eastern corridor of the rail which was why the minister of transport was summoned at the National Assembly and he said “we have given you a proposal to start because they have to borrow about $19 billion to start it. The Eastern corridor starts from Port Harcourt-warri and it goes through all the eastern states they had to redesign it at the request of the president. Although the plan has been on the ground before this regime came in. The plan had to be redesigned to go through Enugu, Ebonyi, and Aba, so that all the state capitals would be linked, now they have five thousand extra kilometers on that design and that necessitated the loan re-negotiation.
The minister of transport said the loan should be approved so they can begin the project. And you know the coastal line that links Calabar and Lagos is also on stream because when the Eastern corridor goes ahead that means you have a national rail network that links everywhere so you can travel round the country by rail. Therefore Lagos will be linked to Calabar and Maiduguri linked to Kano and there’s another one in the middle belt that goes from Benue to Kogi, though I am not too sure, that is the plan on ground. For the first time we have a real plan that they want to follow to achieve the critical infrastructure of rail to bring up the country to a developed and modern world.
The second Niger Bridge was a drawing on the table all along for sixteen years. Presently the real work has started, for the first time we have to give credit to where it is due. He moved the project from the normal budgetary to the presidential infrastructural development funds (PIDF) which is always funded and it started with 650 million dollars so that the project will always keep going without a need for yearly budgetary approval again, presently the pillars are coming up.
Now these same people who could not do it for 16 years are the same shameless people saying it’s now five pillars they are seeing. Fashola explained to the world that for one pillar to come up, it’s like a 12-storey building being built and the tonnes of materials that go there have to be solid enough to sustain the trailers since it comes up from the bottom of the sea. And it’s over 20 pillars, the approach to build was also redesigned as it was also expanded from two kilometers to seven kilometers. So he is focused on that.
As for the Sukuk bond, for the first time the President said we are not taking loans to see the money and share it, first of all we are not borrowing to pay which the previous government were burrowing to pay at 18% which is very high. That is recurrent expenditure, in other words, the money comes, you don’t even see it. The borrowing that we are engaging in presently, that is the SUKUK bond is for investing in projects. The President and ministers do not see the money, it goes straight to the project, for example the contractors, Julius Berger and all that. that’s the highest level of accountability, yes corruption might still exist but there is a desperate effort to fight it. Am not painting a perfect system but you see a deliberate effort to ensure that you have the maximum. Before when it comes through government you can be sure that 50% would go before being deployed. We have maximum output in this government for every money that is released.
Therefore in the midst of all this noise the opposition is making and all that, he is the President that has shown prudence, focus and should earn the trust of Nigerians.
According to the opposition party, based on Atiku plans, most of his argument are based on the fact that Nigerians are suffering are suffering, under Buhari, the level of hardship is high and high level of unemployment which is why he is coming to liberate the people. How can you relate what you are saying earlier to the fact that Nigerians are suffering.
The issue of poverty did not start with Buhari, it’s a direct consequence of what the past government including the candidate himself have done. There’s this publication where Babangida wrote a famous letter to Obasanjo and Atiku in 2002 and the headlines was that Nigerians are suffering because for the young people who are within the age bracket of 18 and 35 who they are targeting now who don’t know the history of Nigeria because we have very short memory in this country. They are trying to dazzle them that it was Paradise when they were there and he is trying to bring back that paradise, we have to remind Nigerians of the kind of situation when they were there and if they did what they should have done, we would not be where we are today.
Don’t forget that it was at their time that the millennium development goals were instituted all over the world and the template was given to all third world countries to begin to institute and implement the goals in education, health and poverty alleviation programmes.
If we have faithfully implemented all of that, by now we would be out of poverty right now just like India is pulling out. It is their failure to do this that brought us to this sorry condition. Now what the government is doing is that we are refocusing because if the opposition can point to one infrastructure that they did in 16 years, Nigerians would forgive them, and I am not talking about constructing roads that washed away after 2 years, or buildings because they were boasting about almajiri schools which is quite a beautiful idea but all that do not form the critical infrastructure of a country. They are not the rail, roads and powers that I am talking about.
Regarding power, the Mambila was a problem before PDP, it has been a project on the ground for long and it has been so critical to our development that we knew it was going to bring 3,050 megawatts to the national grid. They did nothing for 16 years, in three and half years Fashola cleared all the legal loopholes in Mambila and renegotiated and it is taking off in January, it’s signed and sealed already. And they say the project would employ thousands of Nigerians to rebuild Mambila.
Now the highest inflation rate in Nigerian history was in 2005 where it got to 23% amidst prosperity. Meanwhile in the midst of recession we got to 18% under Buhari and they forced it down, dropping every month consecutively and now we got to 11%, we are almost achieving single digits all over again.
On issue of spiraling unemployment in the country
The burden of employment is shared between local, state and federal government so PDP cannot use this against us. And the National Bureau of Statistics says the highest rate of unemployment are in 3 state, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa ibom or Cross Rivers. The lowest is in 3, Osun, Adamawa, Katsina and you know the government that controls the lowest and the highest. They are deceiving Nigerians and are actively involved in fraud. They said we became extremely poor with 81 million poor Nigerians and that’s the world poverty dock formed by Melinda Gates and Bill. Now I admit that those numbers are atrocious. These isn’t Buhari’s fault. These things should have been tackled long ago because there has been a progression over the years on the rate of unemployment and poverty.
However, in 2012 the same World Bank says we are a hundred million extremely poor, in 2013 it was 112 million. These are figures and if they are playing on figures then we also have to rely on figures.
Under them, that was when we had high oil prices, we had peak production 2.3 million barrels per day. OPEC allocation I heard were doing a 112 million extremely poor people, World Bank report, everyone is free to google to confirm. And they have the guts to put advert on TV saying 87 million that is an advert for us not them.
We are not involved in razzmatazz, we are talking facts and figures. They are always involved in high sound bites “Nigerians are suffering” however when you come down to facts they run away because they want to generate heat, raise emotions and run away, they are hoping Nigerians sleep walks and vote for them. Our duty is to pull Nigerians close to the facts and say look at the facts before voting.
Concerning insurgency which is one of the cardinal points of Buhari’s campaign, with the recent killing of soldiers, could it be a challenge to Buhari’s campaign? Won’t your work also be a bit difficult with the defection of about three governors to opposition and another two quietly defecting presently?
The two you are referring to are not going to parties with presidential candidate. That is politics, they are candidates of APC Okorocha is a candidate of APC, but for governorship which comes Second after the presidential elections they restructured to another party, don’t forget that Amosun is a candidate of APC you, they all would work for the president. They just want to test their power for the governor whether it is their rival that has the state more than them or not. it is a test of power, they were careful to move to parties without presidential candidate. Amosun, Okorocha, Yari are all tied to the president, the point we are making therefore is that those structures you are talking about are all united for the president.
As for the other ones we lost such as Tambuwal, Ahmed, look what happened in Kwara two weeks ago, it does not affect us because our main supporters remain.
As for insurgency, It cannot threaten the conduct of the election, even when they had a stronghold in some local government in 2015, we still managed to conduct election, However, insurgency is an issue that is extremely regrettable, we cannot start by boasting but rather express regret, I am concerned and have sympathy to those who have lost their lives because even if today, Boko Haram is overly defeated, and we still hear tomorrow the death of one person, we must still tender apology not to talk of 42 soldiers.
For us to know the progress we have made and appreciate the fact that we are getting there, we must see where we were in 2015 and where we are now. The army spokesman some days ago, when the president visited Maidugiri to commiserate with them over the death of those soldiers, He put up a map and graphically explained the progress we have made. He showed the heat map which showed the reach of Boko Haram before 2015 indicating that it had crossed the northeast and entered the northwest that was why we had bombings in Kano central mosque that killed scores of worshippers, it had also descended to the North Central even in Abuja, they attacked the UN building, police headquarters, Madalla and even the army barack and Nyanya bombings as well. They were closing in on the seat of power already. I want you to remember one of Shekau, the leader of BokoHaram’s famous boast that ” Jonathan, we are coming to pick you out of the villa and capture you” that means the sovereignty of Nigeria was under threat. We however can’t say the same today. Although it has not been completely wiped out, but BokoHaram has been pushed back. The opposition might laugh and scorn when we use the word ‘decimated’ but with this statistics, it is true that they have been decimated. We are not totally safe but we have made tremendous progress. BokoHaram now resorts to suicide bombings instead of actual occupation of territory.
We should understand that the 1st with BokoHaram is not a conventional face me- I face you war where once I overrun you and drag you out of my territory, I have won, this is a war of terrorism where when they blow up themselves up in public places, they claim victory, but in actual fact they have also lost a man while taking people with them. That is kind of war you cannot totally win especially when someone is ready to die, it is difficult to curtail them. America is facing that problem now especially with mass shootings even three weeks ago, there was a shooting in America, I have never heard democrats blaming republicans and vice versa for the shootings, it is just a United country, United in solutions , grief and problems but here, once it happens the opposite begins to dance on the graves of the deceased.
The opposition should actually be ashamed whenever the issue of BokoHaram is brought and even apologize to Nigerians because it was under them that BokoHaram was established, germinated and grew into a terrorist group. We are battling to find solution to the problems they created, if they had nipped in the bud, secured our borders, equipped our soldiers before it started we won’t be in this situation, Nigerians must understand that clearly.
The theme of this campaign which is that those who could not find solutions to our problems in 16 years are not the ones to find solutions presently, this is the opening statement of our policy document, it is unfair to give 16years to somebody to answer a set of questions and give another person to do same in 3 and half years.
One of the Sectors this administration is saying that it has done well is agriculture and the PDP is insisting that it started during Jonathan who was empowering people at the local level, what has this administration done differently in that sector?
Unfortunately, the statistics do not bear them out, It shows there has been a massive decline in the importation of one of our staple food, rice, Since 2015 so much that we are importing less than 20 percent or 15 percent of what we used to. Recently, they tried to condemn the report claiming a certain institution called the US day said we are still importing more rice presently but you know the mentality of Nigerians, once they hear reports coming from the US, they believe, this is a major inferiority problem. When the US day were interrogate further, they said they felt that due to flood that happened in Nigeria, crops must have been affected. However, Business day did a comprehensive check last week investigating the matter and reported that thus claim by the US day was in fact an error in judgement, they visited major importers of rice, India and Thailand and they four out that the importation of rice has dropped to 80 percent.
According to them, the drastic drop is colossal. CBN previously came up with their report saying that the foreign exchange they have saved from rice importation is also colossal. It goes to trillions of naira because every week, there was a lot of bidding for dollars to import rice, that has put pressure on the dollars from oil, we have to sell because people have to sponsor their import. That’s why they banned 41 items to reduce pressure on the dollars. The more you reduce imports, the more you save the dollars you earn since you don’t have to sell.
Lastly, the reason for that is because of the anchors borrowers programme by the CBN which is a deliberate programme targeted at agriculture and rice production, where they have made 82 billion naira available to 350,000 rice and small scale farmers. They buy them off and export so they have an available market too so there’s exportation of cocoa, yam etc. It is concentrated in expanding the economy and it has been part of the GDP growth in the last two years. There’s a deliberate expansion of the economy, thus a government that does not satisfy the greed and lifestyle of a few elites.
Recently there’s a report that has banned satellite of campaign funding using the ant graft agencies to follow candidates and political parties to ensure they don’t spent above 1 billion naira and the opposition say it is witch hunt targeted at them.
I am excited you brought about INEC and its role in this election. Just to relate this to the opposition’s statement that they have lost faith in INEC, it is a direct question related to their call that it is targeted at them and called for the resignation of the INEC chairman and the inspector general of police as well
Let me say that as a ruling party, PDP also lost faith in the electoral umpire under Professor Jega, and actively called for his resignation which they couldn’t achieve due to pressure locally and internationally. They wanted him to go on leave since he was close to his retirement. Therefore it appears to me that until the PDP chairman becomes the INEC chairman they would never be satisfied.
Those at the hierarchy of PDP do not know how to take part in free and fair elections, since 1999, they have perfected the art of rigging elections but history and technology has caught up with them. The last umpire that they were happy with was Maurice Iwu who has been known locally and internationally for being the worst electoral umpire this country has ever produced.. He was even sharing part of the spoils to the extent when he helped to rigged place, he was assigned for which to produce its governors of his choice. The situation was that bad.
If you look at the trajectory of PDP, they began to decline the moment card readers came into play. it’s not coincidence that when card reader was introduced in 2015, they lost 90 percent of their elections. They cannot deal with free and fair election. It is going to take another 25 years or so before they can come to terms with the reality on ground
Despite all the noise going on, they are still losing most of their elections and then they begin to complain about rigging, the reality is that the police they are complaining about is because they are preventing them from rigging, they would rather have a complacent one. The PDP have stopped complaint about falsification of results, stuffing of ballot boxes and have started complaining about the intimidation of voters. Would the police who are deployed from various area really be able to identify which party a voter belongs to. To be honest, when I see the chairman of the opposition ranting on TV, I feel sorry for him.
Recently the president overruled his own party by saying it is not possible for all candidates to withdraw their case from court. Now the opposition are saying APC is a divided house which cannot go to election, what can you sat about that.
Even as a divided house, we defeated them in Kwara now imagine when we unite in the next few weeks. APC is not perfect, It has its own problems, I cannot vouch for everybody within the party, I can only vouch for the president and vice president.
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