President Buhari in a space of 48 hours granted interviews to two media houses. The interviews have generated reactions and counter reactions. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH writes
One of the major grouses against President Muhammadu Buhari in recent years was that he doesn’t grant interviews to the Nigerian media, only foreign ones while on trips abroad.
Most Nigerians were pleasantly surprised when news filtered in that the president would be granting an interview with Arise TV. 24 hours later the president granted another interview to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
It was an unprecedented move as Nigerians begin to wonder if the president is retooling his style of governance. Still, the media round couldn’t have come at a better time than when the nation marked Democracy Day.
Interestingly, the president in the no-holds-barred interviews bared his mind on trending and contentious national issues.
He discussed issues concerning insecurity, secessionist agitations, infrastructural development, unemployment, 2023 election, and many other issues.
On the contentious ban on open grazing by governors, the president said” I have asked to dig up gazettes of the First Republic. There are cattle routes and grazing areas. The routes and the areas are known. You have to stay there and if you allow your cattle to stray into another person’s farm you will be arrested.’’
“So the herders are limited, there route is known, the grazing area is known. So I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on the cattle route and grazing areas will be dispossessed.”
On the clamour for the presidency to be zoned to the south in 2023, President Buhari said his party, All Progressive Congress (APC), will determine which zone will produce the party’s presidential candidate in 2023 and not him.
According to him, it will be unfair for individuals to determine the party’s zoning formula.
“The hope of this administration is to see APC last beyond it. Therefore we should allow the party to decide. You cannot sit in Lagos, for instance, and decide on the fate of APC on zoning.”
The president dismissed insinuations that he appoints people mainly from his region, stressing that he will not pick somebody to fill a particular position “just to balance up”, while neglecting those who had passed through the training and ranks.
Buhari, who explained that he was nearly overwhelmed by the insecurity in the North West, added
“We’ve given the police and the military power to be ruthless and you watch it in a few weeks time there will be a difference. Because we told them people cannot be kept away from their farm.”
The president also described the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) as “a dot in a circle,” saying the group is isolated in its call for secession.
He said IPOB will not have “access to anywhere” even if they eventually secede from the country.
Similarly, in his interview with the NTA, the president said it is unfair for Nigerians to say he’s not being tough on bandits.
He lamented that Nigerians are forgetful considering that persons accused of corrupt practices still win elections. He also stressed the need for specialised courts to hasten the trial of corrupt politicians.
“People who misappropriated funds, a lot of them were elected members whether at the state or federal level. And their base still values them.
“You can accuse them or even try to prove that when they were elected or in ministries, that they had only one house, but now they have several in Abuja or Lagos. Really, if you try to work out their legitimate salaries, vis-à-vis their expenditure, you will be embarrassed.”
He also stated that his administration has not done very badly, since it came in 2015.
“I will like Nigerians to reflect on these in terms of resources in time, and I believe that we have not done very badly.”
On his tweet which was tagged genocidal on Twitter, he said “What I mean is how can you go to a police station, kill the police people who are there, loot the armoury and burn the place? What do you want to achieve?”
He said “All they need is confusion and no government can allow confusion,” adding that no government will allow them to achieve that.
Buhari said any individual apprehended for financing acts of terror will be dealt with and made to face the law.
While noting that most financiers of terrorism are wealthy individuals who are no longer in government, he said “Their motive is that they are made irrelevant and they want to use their resources they accumulated over the years to prove that they are still around and the administration will deal with them. Anybody caught will be dealt with,” he added.
Expectedly, the media space went on an overdrive of sorts after the president’s media chat. He got knocks and kudos for his comments, depending on the side of the political divide.
Firing the first salvo, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) slammed Buhari for allegedly taking credit for the projects it initiated.
The party said it was disappointing that while millions of Nigerians eagerly expected the presiden to use the interview to address salient issues confronting the nation, he “bungled the opportunity by being evasive and dodgy while attempting to lay claims to projects done by PDP administrations.”
The national spokesman of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that instead of “addressing issues and providing direction for our nation, President Buhari exposed his cluelessness, paucity of ideas for development while making very provocative comments that could embolden terrorists as well as serve as recipe for further division and violence in the country.”
Ologbondiyan added that “It is ludicrous to us in the PDP that Mr. President can disingenuously seek to subtract the deliverables achieved by past PDP administrations from his so-called achievement on infrastructure.
“The PDP places it on record and we know that Nigerians are also aware that President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was elected on the platform of the PDP, introduced a 25 years national development plan upon assumption of office in 1999.
“This included the massive construction and expansion of road network, power plants, railways projects, inland and coastal waterways, airports, housing, agricultural and health projects as well as establishment of new universities and other legacy projects in various parts of our country.
“We want to inform President Buhari, since he is not always aware, that successive governments elected on the platform of the PDP built on these development plans leading to the expansion of major trunk roads across our country, railways and other legacy projects which, probably, his handlers are making him to believe are his,” the main opposition party said.
On their part, the Yoruba Pan Socio-Political Group Afenifere accused the president of taking delight in ridiculing Igbos by his unpresidential utterances.
The group’s secretary general, Chief Sola Ebiseni, in a statement in Akure in reaction to the President’s interview on Arise as regards IPOB, Afenifere said that ” the President takes delight in ridiculing the Ndigbo which he used IPOB to represent.
“Thus, to him, the Igbo and their territory is just a dot in a circle of the map of Nigeria, which even if the secession could exit to nowhere since the elders and youths of the South-South had assured him of not being part of the secessionist agenda.
“He couldn’t have been reacting to the IPOB but the Igbo who he said had businesses everywhere.”
If anything, rare as such interviews have been, they have nonetheless, afforded Nigerians a glimpse into the thinking of the president as far as critical national issues are involved.