Perhaps, you have not read anything like it before. It’s a special interview.Quite unusual and unconventional. No straight line and so, no defined subject-matter. It was a no-holds-barred. Conversational and interactive.
For close to 50 minutes, we sat glued on the couch in the visitor’s room of his official residence at the Presidential Villa, Abuja last week Sunday, distilling, dissecting and deconstructing the issues. And the following was the outcome of the rapt and enthralling journalistic engagement with the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, a media Dean and guru who rose through the rung of the media hierarchy to become the Editor,Managing Dir.of the The Sun Newspapers and the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, before his present office which started in 2015. Please, sit back and savour the interview.
It’s been 6 years in the life of this government. Next year, they say, is election year so to speak and 2023 is almost here when the hand over will be done. How far so far?
…….Nigeria, just like so many other countries in the world, is going through troubled times but the administration has waded through it all, has made impact despite the troubles. Some of the troubles are external. Others are internal and others are global like the corona virus pandemic.
Nobody could have stopped that downward spiral because it was already set in motion.The recession that came in 2016 was inevitable.Nobody could have stopped it due to some actions and inactions of the government that left.The coordinating minister of the economy then even said that the government didn’t have the will to save. If a government doesn’t have the will to save, what then happens when the rainy days come? Rain will beat you and beat you seriously.
That recession lasted for just about a year because the government pulled up its bootstraps, rolled up its sleeves and did the right things to exit the recession and as the economy began to gather steam, ready to take off again, the covid-19 pandemic struck and an economy that was about to fly nosedived again. And we know that for most of 2020, the world was shut down & the second recession too became inevitable. But then, the miracle of it was that we emerged from that recession again faster than anybody thought.
In fact, it is on record that the Nigerian economy is about the one that emerged fastest from the covid induced economy. It shows that the fundamentals of the economy are strong and the fact that President Buhari has put the country’s money where our mouths are, matters, diversifying the economy….
Ok. That’s on the economic front…
Yes, that is on the economy, I’ll talk of others because there were three things President Buhari promised: we will revive the economy and create jobs. On that economy, the promise is being kept. The other one? Security? A big elephant in the room. Security is a big issue in Nigeria, just as it is in many other countries of the world, but they will take care of their own issues and we must take care of our own.
You know that in 2015, the main issue in the country was insurgency. That insurgency was in north east, it was in north west, it was in north central because Abuja was being serially bombed, it was already in Kogi. From Kogi, where did you think it was going? It was southwest. And if you went to the southwest, the only place left would be the south south.
The whole country would have been consumed and there would have been no country again, if not that President Buhari came in in 1015. He came in, took the right decisions, did the right things, re-equipped the military, motivated them and see where we are today in the area of insurgency. In fact, there was a news report just today that Borno is closing all IDP camps by December 31.
Do close IDP camps if the issues have not been sorted out? To a large extent, I think the last figure of insurgents that surrendered was over 14,000. That shows that they themselves know they have been beaten, beaten and thoroughly beaten. See the leader of ISWAP, two of them have been taken out in two months. Al-Banawin taken out, his successor, Bako, taken out. It shows that the military is having the upper hand in terms of insurgency.
It was inherited. It started actually in Oct.2009 under Yaradua & inherited by the Goodluck govt, inherited by Buhari. But by and large, Buhari has almost seen to the end of it. I read of a lecture that Gen.Buratai, the former army chief delivered two days ago at Biu, the military university, thanking President Buhari for dealing a decisive blow on insurgency, boko haram.
So, that inherited front of insecurity will be concluded before Buhari exits and that is one front. Now, the insecurity became hydra-headed along the line. Banditry came, kidnapping, cultism & all sorts of agitation for separatism also added to the insecurity. The insecurity became hydra headed.The confidence we have is that if we could beat the insurgency part of it, we will beat all. We will beat banditry. In fact, banditry is been dealt heavy blows now. In no time, I have the confidence that we will see to the end of banditry.
I know you’re speaking on the three areas because we are coming to anti-corruption fight. But let me take you further on insecurity. A situation where the bandits shut down a military jet and all that, would you say actually that, yes, the government of the day has dealt a dirty blow to this insecurity? Because some Nigerians will be quick to say, No, we disagree with you, because we still have this thing going about and Nigerians have seen more insecurity now than before. So, how would you react to that?
It depends on what you choose to believe.
Still talking about banditry, not too long ago, the Senate passed a resolution asking the president to declare them terrorists and 24 hours later, the House of Representatives joined in that call and outcry? It does appear that the presidency hasn’t done anything about that. But then, Nigerians are still clamouring. Do you see that happening or not?
For me personally, mark my words, personally, it is a matter of semantics. Semantics is a theory of meaning in language. So, whether they are called terrorists or they’re called bandits, it is just semantics. A criminal is criminal.They either repent, change their ways or you eliminate them. That’s what matters.
Who are terrorist? Terrorists more often than not levy war against a nation and they seek to seize territories and occupy them. That is a terrorist and that is why Boko Haram are terrorists, because at the time before this administration came, they were occupying a minimum of 17 local governments in this country and they wanted more. They wanted to take over the entire country and create a caliphate.They’re terrorists
These ones, bandits, they have no ideology.They are just interested in criminality for the sake of criminality. Robbing, raping, maiming, stealing, no ideology. Have you heard that they seized territory? They are not interested. So, but like I said, criminality is criminality. Eliminate all of them and that is what our security forces are doing.
But they are multiplying, they are growing in their numbers everyday, spreading from Sokoto to Niger…
(Cuts in) No, they are not spreading. They are running. It is not as if they are spreading. You know they were concentrated on certain places before: Binin Gwarin side of Kaduna, there is a forest in Zamfara where they were, they were in the forest. But now that the battle was taken to them in those forests, they are now running. From Zamfara, they ran to Niger.
A couple of weeks back when the heat was on them in Zamfara, they were trying to cross into Niger state and the military ambushed them and 42 of them were killed in that ambush. So, it’s not as if it’s spreading all over place but rather, they are running and as they run, they spread sorrow, tears and blood on the way but the whole country is not big enough for them, in fact, the whole world is not wide enough for them to run. Justice will catch up with them.