Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in this interview with journalists in Abuja chronicles the achievements of the President in the last 100 days.
We bring the excerpts:
100 days has passed under President Muhammadu Buhari, how far has he performed? Can we say it has been a good outing for his government?
When the President visited the United States, he did say that he does not believe in celebrating 100 day because such activities are fraudulent and that he will not engage in deceit. That is why he went to his Daura home town on a private visit and refuse to be part of the discussion on the 100 days thing. If Nigerians have anything to say about it they should say it and I can assure you that the President will hear. But the president has said clearly that there will be no special activities about that.
Does that mean there is nothing much to show?
Well, Nigerians will decide whether there is anything to show or not. You represent public opinion. Without meaning to blow our own trumpet, I just left a town hall meeting in Suleja organised by the BBC and I took my notes. The ordinary Nigerians are praising President Buhari for security in the country and some of them scored him 90 percent and above. Tailors there who use to open shops for two hour in three days and now, they can open their shop for up to 20 hours a day and some of them are saying that sometimes they have 24 hours uninterrupted power supply. I think this is an opportunity to clear the useless claim by the PDP that it is the work of Jonathan that President Buhari has come to claim credit for. The record are there with the Ministry of Power. All the records are there. They are saying power has improved because it is raining season, but let me say that none of the hydro plants has added any megawatt. What is going on is that, like the Americans will say, there is a new Sheriff in town. People are taking their cue from the fact that there is a no nonsense President who has taken over the administration of this country and his body language sends the message. Nobody is blocking gas pipelines, the gas is flowing and there is better management and everybody is standing up to do the right thing. Better management also means better engagement. Whether it is the host Community or youth groups who are undermining things, they are looking at an administration that is selfless and serving the country for the sake of the country. This is the thing that is responsible for the improved power supply. No hydro station has increase output. The gas is flowing because people are sitting up. At the town hall meeting, somebody said they drove from Suleja to Yola and back without any policeman or soldier stopping them to ask for bribe and the same thing happened on the way back. There is an environment that has been generated by the presence of Buhari in Aso Rock. Whether anybody like it or not, it has changed things and we are feeling safer and when people go to sleep they are comforted by the fact that there is somebody who will bolt the door. All these things about security is happening because the soldiers themselves believe that they are being led by a caring leader. Citizens are feeling that the pressure of insecurity is going away not because Boko Haram has been eliminated completely but because of the work that has been done. The management that has been brought to bear on the nation’s security is reassuring. PDP wants to take away our attention. They issued a statement saying that there is corruption going on even with Buhari in government. Maybe they are alerting President Buhari that the men they left behind are still continuing with their old game because Buhari left everybody behind. In that case, maybe we should watch out and do something about that. So, the country is being managed properly and competently and that is where we are.
Nigerians are agitated about finding the Chibok girls and despite the improved security, they have not been found despite a lot was said about them during the campaigns?
To be fair to President Buhari, did he ever say he will bring back the girls on the second day of his administration? What he has always said is that we don’t even know where the girls are and that we need to go in there and get the intelligence and situation of things and then act. Without meaning to endanger what is left of those girls, you know that the Sambisa forest is being degraded right now. The bombing is done in a careful manner to avoid certain locations of interest as far as Chibok girls are concerned. Please take note of what I am saying. I am not saying that the girls are here or there. But there is better intelligence now. In fact, Sambissa forest is under observation 24 hours in case somebody decide to move those girls from point A to point B. If there is any movement that is suspicious, we have drones, unmanned aircrafts that fly around the place at night and during the day, the men takes over and fly the aircraft. In the last few days, you even saw the Chief of Army Staff leading the troops and I am aware that in the last few weeks, very interesting pictures have been shown to the President on the basis of which we will say to Nigerians, don’t lose hope on the Chibok girls. I am not saying they have been found or that they have been seen. But it is not yet time for Nigerians to say we have lost them.
From what you have said it does appear that the government was jolted by what it found on ground regarding the state of security because it appears you have to battle with this again like in the past?
This Boko Haram was there for five or six years under Jonathan and he did not end it. Now you have a president who came and said go and end it in three months and this is about to happen. From my conversation with these commanders, what they are saying to themselves is that they are not going to wait for three months, but do their best to beat the target given by the President. So, there is so much going on and I can assure you that the spirit is very high. The Army Chief was there with the soldiers for about nine days. That is leadership because you see him leading the soldiers from the front. If the Chief himself is there, who are you to drop your gun? A lot is happening and Boko Haram has been degraded, they have lost central command and are now in splinters. What you have now is bits and pieces carrying out distractive action because they don’t want to go down alone. So, they are looking for very soft targets such as churches, mosques, markets. The Airforce is clearing this place for the ground troops to move in. They are looking for bomb making structures and moving convoy of these insurgents. But they are being careful about certain locations with the hope not to harm these Chibok girls in those locations.
Should Nigerians hold Mr. President responsible if the insurgency is not ended in three Months?
The President is responsible for the affairs of this country. If insurgency is not ended in three months, what to do is not to start blame game. As head of your home, if you tell your wife that your dinner should be ready by 5pm and you come home, the dinner is not ready, are you saying you will tell her to pack her things and leave your House or you look for explanation. The President has appointed people and given them the matching order to do this within three months. Supposing your wife says the grinding machine you bought is fake, will that be her fault that she didn’t prepare dinner by 5pm?
A lot of people have argued that the fight against corruption is selective and just in the media because nobody has been convicted. What is your take on that?
In all the years under Jonathan, how many high profile conviction did you get? This question would have been okay in 1984 when Buhari came to government in Army uniform. What they did then was to look around and sent to jail all those accused of corruption. We all chose democracy and democracy has due process. Even if it is your wish that those accused of corruption should be jailed tomorrow, President Buhari will not do that because he has to follow the due process of law because the constitution protect the right of every Nigerians. If you have a case against anyone, go to the police or EFCC or ICPC. Even at that, they need time to investigate. Maybe that is why the anti graft agencies don’t have a good record of conviction in the past because they don’t do a good job. Immediately they take such cases to court, the Judge will enter a no case submission because of the shoddy nature the case was investigated. Because there is a political purpose for that investigation, the case will collapse immediately the hearing begin. This is going to be different. This crude oil theft which so much has been said and for which many countries have promised to help, when the President went to America, he did not ask Obama to give him the list of Nigerians involved or those who stole money. We are doing our own investigation after which the government will now say, thank you for blocking this account for a while until we are able to prove that the crude oil that left Nigeria on this day for one of your harbour did not have permission and papers to leave the shore of Nigeria and so was stolen crude. Such a government will have to be convinced that this money is proceed from stolen crude from Nigeria and we got promises from all over the world that they will return the money. When they return it, that again takes a process. President Buhari will go to a judge and say this and that country has returned this money because XYZ stole our crude and these are the proceeds. That is evidence. So Nigerians will have to be patient with the President and the process. The President could be impatient himself, but he has his hands tied because the constitution is very clear about the protections of rights. You will not be happy if the President begins to trample on the rights of fellow citizens. So, let there be due process for everyone.
The recent appointment by the President was received with mixed feelings and he has promised to release the list of his Ministers this month, September. Are you sure Nigerians can continue to keep trusting the president that he will keep his promise considering the fact that we are already in September?
We are in early September. Can the President be given the grace of end of September? Midnight of 30th September. The president is working hard and he is focused. The kind of thing this country requires is the kind of focus that he is bringing to bear on the key challenges the country faces. This multi national joint task force that has been put in place now in Ndjamena with all the countries taking part, including Cameroon, Nigerians missed the fact that Cameroon is part of it. Do you know that without deft diplomacy, this would have been impossible some few months ago. Infact, when we were going to Cameroon, the French news agency, said President Muhammadu Buhari was embarking on a trip to discuss with the enemy country. They called Cameroon enemy country. Now, you can see that we have warmed up to each other. The President had a heart to heart discussion with Paul Biya and today, a Cameroonian is the Deputy Commander of the multi national joint task force. They are supplying armed troops, paying their salaries. Let us face it. Boko Haram was essentially a Nigerian problem, from the beginning and we allowed it to spread to other countries in the Lake Chad region. The focus requires that attention be brought to bear on certain key areas. What sense does it make if you are living in Borno and had to stay indoor everyday because of curfew and insecurity. If they given you the choice, what would you prefer. Is it to have Ministers in a jeep with dark glasses and police escorts or your ability to sleep well without the fear of the bomber. This country will not experience peace and development without peace and security. The President has made that possible and he is addressing the corruption that has eaten deep into the society. But certainly Ministers will come. Sometimes, you begin to wonder where the pressure is coming from. But you understand that it is a reward for delivering my constituency and so it is understandable. But the country should be placed above anything else and i think that is what the President is doing.
Is the government comfortable with what seems like a sectional imbalance in appointments being made by the President?
I have said that these appointments do not constitute 5 percent of the appointment the President is going to make and they will come in waves. The President has also made two more appointment from the South West. Do you want northerners to start abusing him for giving two appointments to people from the south west? They are emotional reactions to things that will come and go. This country has gone past that stage. I am not talking about competence because in this country, we have so many competent people all over the place. But give it to the President, he has the right to choose those he will work with or cook his food. Somebody has cooked for him for 25 years and because of federal character, you want him to remove him bring in another person? These appointments is like a fan which must blow all sides. These things will come and Nigerians will feel adequately represented because it is the requirement of the constitution of Nigeria and that is the position of the President because he is a fair leader, he is just leader and will do right to all manners of people. Hold him to that.