Amid renewed claims that President Muhammadu Buhari is sectional, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, appeared on Friday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today.
He spoke with Seun Okinbaloye about the accusations, the controversy in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the state of the probe report on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agencies, and other issues.
One of the major issues on the table for this Presidency is the issue of corruption in the NNPC. We have heard so many sides to this story. What can the Presidency tell us? The Vice President has said he did not sign the contracts, he signed the loans. Did the President sign the contracts?
When the Vice President of the country has spoken, there is hardly anything I will add to it. I will just say let’s work with what the Vice President has told the country.
On the issue of trying to sanitise the NNPC, what are the details of the investigation into the NNPC and the activities surrounding some of the allegations linked to it?
It’s not just the NNPC that is being sanitised or is going to be sanitised. It’s a countrywide exercise. You know that the Buhari administration came with a resolve to clean up so many areas of the country. So, it would be wrong to isolate just the NNPC. The NNPC would be part of the larger cleanup of the country.
How did the President resolve the issues between Dr Maikanti Baru and Dr Ibe Kachikwu?
The issues are still unravelling. Just yesterday we had a new perspective on the issue from the Vice President. The issue is still unravelling but I can assure you that at the end of the day it is going to be permanently and amicably sorted.
Some of the unresolved issues as regarding allegations of corruption remain big issues. Don’t forget, this is a government that says it wants to fight corruption. How is the Presidency hoping to rid itself of all of those allegations?
You have seen a rapprochement between the Minister of State for Petroleum and the GMD of NNPC. It’s just one step, many others will be taken because it is very important that as long as they continue to serve the country, serve the President in these capacities, then they must learn to work together. The issues are going to be resolved; you can rest assured of that.
You didn’t answer my question about how the Presidency resolved the issue between these two men. Was there any moment when the two men were called into the Presidency to sheath their swords?
It’s in the public domain. There have been engagements and it’s all part of a process. That process will be completed and everything will be normal.
Let me take you on one of the statements you released today about what you called deliberate twisting of President Buhari’s commendable interface with the World Bank President. Clarify this issue for us. At the meeting between the World Bank chief and the President, did the President ask the World Bank chief to focus on the northern region of the country in terms of development?
Well, it has been explained; right from the very first week that the President got into office. His first trip was to the G7 in Germany and what did he put on the table? ‘Help us to rebuild the North East. The North East has been devastated, it has been degraded by insurgency which had been there since 2009′. In 2015 when he went to the G7 meeting he said, ‘Help us, the place needs to be rebuilt’. They asked him, ‘Is it funds?’ He said he didn’t want funds so that the funds will not end up being misappropriated. He would rather that those countries send in technical expertise, send materials and help in the rebuilding of infrastructure. And then (during) the first trip to Washington, there was a meeting with World Bank and he said the same thing; ‘Help us to rebuild the North East’. And (during) all the engagements the President has had both in the country and outside it with multilateral agencies, with other governments, he has always said, ‘Help us to rebuild the North East’. Now, if you look at the transcript of the encounter between the World Bank President and the media, which now has been released and is online, the question specifically was ‘What is the World Bank doing to help Nigeria rebuild the North East? And it was the answer of the World Bank President that some sections of the media and particularly online media twisted and they used it to try to brand the President as sectional, which was uncharitable, which was unconscionable, which was downright mischievous and wicked. So, we had to issue that statement clarifying the position.
A lot of people have this perception that the President is sectional in his treatment of some issues. What is the Presidency doing to rectify this issue?
The fact that you called it perception does not mean it is 100 percent reality. It’s a perception. But then we know that perception matters. One thing we must realise is that the President has a pan-Nigerian mandate. The way the country is structured, the way our Constitution is structured, no President can emerge without winning a pan-Nigerian mandate. That was what the President won. So, it’s not easy for you to then accuse the President and sustain it that he is sectional. No, it’s not possible. If he was sectional, he would not be elected in the first place.
Is the President aware of some of the statements made by Nigerians, some of those who voted him into office, that he is sectional in some of his dealings?
If they say those things, it does not necessarily make them right. That could be allegations, that could be conjecture but it does not necessarily make them right.
But is the Presidency making efforts to correct those notions? If you have four children and one or two of them believe that you love one above the other, wouldn’t you, as a father for example, make efforts to show that you love your four children in the same manner?
Making an effort to show (that you love them equally) will not be the right thing. I think it is better to just continue to do what is proper and that is what the President is doing. He will continue to do what is fair and what is just and what is equitable.
Do you think that Mr President has been fair to all the regions in terms of appointments so far?
As much as possible and he defended that in his meeting with the South-East stakeholders today. Let me give you an example he (Buhari) cited. When the stakeholders raised the issue of appointments, they first talked about the security agencies and he told them that was an area to be careful with because, there, competence, (and) seniority are very important. If you undermine those, you could be undermining the whole security architecture itself. Then when they talked about other positions, he pointed out to them that of the five South-Eastern states four of the ministers are full ministers but in the North, core northern states – Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, he mentioned all the seven states, they had ministers of state. Even his own state, Katsina, has a minister of state. Kaduna has a minister of state, Sokoto has a minister of state. These are states that you will think will have full ministers. But from the South East, four of the five ministers are full ministers.
One other area where some Nigerians are of the opinion that the Presidency may have a bias in handling is the fight against corruption. For example, the SGF probe report has been with the President for several weeks – submitted by the Vice President. The question is when will that report be made public and the decision of the President made public?
As soon as possible, as soon as practicable, as soon as the President is done with that report. Like I have said a number of times, the President is a very meticulous person. He would not punish anybody unjustly. The report came in six volumes. Of course, there is an executive summary, but knowing this President, he would read that report page after page and when he is done with studying it, he will come out with his pronouncement.