‘Why Buhari can’t order probe of allegations against ministers’

Femi Adesina

Femi Adesina

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, spoke with Charles Otu in an exclusive interview, on why his boss, cannot ask ministers named by accused judges to step aside. Mr. Adesina who also spoke on other national issues insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari was not interested in naming and shaming corrupt politicians but means business in recovering all the nation’s looted funds.

What has been the experience managing the image of a President in the mould of Muhammadu Buhari?
To further expatiate on this means if you had anticipated some of the issues now before the world and Nigerian media from Mr President?
Managing the media of the President has been quite challenging and fulfilling. Challenging in the sense that the President is a man of few words, preferring more that his actions speak, rather than words. Such a person, therefore, does not want someone chirruping like a cockatoo. You must know what he wants to speak on, when he wants to say it, and what he would rather keep quiet about.

The fulfilling part of the assignment is that since the President is as straight as an arrow, you don’t need to spin anything on his behalf. No fib, no yarn. Just say it as it is. Whatever we say to Nigerians then, they can take it to the bank, knowing that we won’t lie to them. Unfortunately, some Nigerians have got so used to being lied to, and they expect this government to also lie to them. No, we won’t do that.

It is the contention of people in many quarters that the President and his team in the executive are more interested in naming and shaming corrupt persons than following the due process of the law to get corrupt persons nailed. What’s your take on this?
That question has come from a mind-set. Some people believe that the anti-corruption war is about naming and shaming. No, it is not. Cast your mind back to the broadcast of the President on May 29, this year, he said clearly that the intention was not to shame or ridicule anybody, but to retrieve ill-gotten monies. And this is a believable President. When he tells you that it is not about naming and shaming, you would do well to believe him.

Some Nigerians argue that with the on-going trial of Saraki as the head of the legislative arm of government at CCT and now the decision of the FG to try some allegedly corrupt judges, the executive may hit a dead end if it continues to pitch itself against the other arms of government. Is the Presidency concerned about such views?
The Executive is not pitching itself against any other arm of government. What the leadership is pitching itself against is corruption, and corruption should be fought to a standstill, no matter whose ox is gored.

Why does the Presidency ‎appear ‘mute’ on the allegations leveled against some serving ministers by the embattled judges facing trial over allegations of corruption?
You said they were allegations. Allegations are not indictment. However serious allegations are, they remain allegations. Anybody can wake up and allege anything. As long as they are not backed with evidence, they are not actionable. But back up your allegations with unimpeachable proofs, and see whether President Buhari will not act on it, no matter who is involved.

There have been promising assurances by the FG that the remaining Chibok schoolgirls would be released. How soon would that be? Also, if we say that Boko Haram has been degraded, what’s FG doing to tackle other aspects of insecurity particularly the increasing spate of kidnapping?
To ask when the other Chibok girls will come, is to ask me to play God. But just as the first set of 21 are back, we believe others will come. It may happen as we speak now, tomorrow, or next week. Government is committed to get them back, and negotiations are in progress.

On the other forms of insecurity like kidnapping, armed robbery, pipeline vandalism etc, one thing you will agree with is that this government does not lack capacity to secure the country. And that capacity is being deployed, and evildoers will always have the law at their heels.

We know that the President globe-trots to establish ties with neighbouring and other world leaders. ‎How have such trips impacted Nigerians, particularly our battered economy?
The results of foreign shuttles by our President are evident. For instance, he visited all our immediate neighbors, and they joined the coalition against Boko Haram, with the result that the insurgency has been degraded.

Also, you have investments in billions of dollars attracted to the country. The Chinese are here, and soon you will see results, particularly in rail transport. Equally, the profile of Nigeria has gone up in international circles. We are no longer a pariah nation, and the integrity of our President has rubbed off on the average Nigerian. We are no longer seen solely as a country of scammers and fraudsters.

Lastly, what would you call President Buhari’s greatest achievement so far in office?
Tough question. There are many achievements, but to me as a person, the greatest is the victory against insurgency in the Northeast. By the time President Buhari came in May 2015, Boko Haram was running riot round the country. They had planted themselves in Northeast, Northwest, North-central, including Abuja, the federal capital they were in Kogi State, and about entering the South-west and South-south. If that had happened, nobody could have predicted what would happen to the country.

But President Buhari rallied the military, and today Boko Haram is circumscribed in Sambisa forest. It is a great achievement and life has returned to hitherto beleaguered areas. Millions of Nigerians are applauding. I am, too.

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