One year in office: Between the APC-led Govt and Nigerians
‘Biggest Challenge Facing Buhari Government Is Managing Expectations’
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, speaks on his boss’s one year in office, challenges and prospects.
What have been the major challenges of Buhari’s government in the last one year?
Obviously, the challenges are enormous. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration met an economy that was almost brought to its knees, an economy gasping for breath on account of corruption. What it met on ground was mind-boggling. In fact, your heart will bleed at the level of corruption perpetrated by the 16 years of PDP’s misrule.
Didn’t the government know that these challenges were in existence before coming into office?
Of course, it knew that, and it was the very reason why the former opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) wanted to save Nigeria from the jaws of corruption, which was responsible for the collapse of national infrastructure and the country’s inability to effectively fight the Boko Haram insurgency. The PDP administration was desperate to cling to power because they knew that opposition victory would expose the extent or the scale they ruined the country through corruption.
In fact, you cannot talk about good governance where corruption thrives at an extremely high level. Are you not astounded by the current revelations about the level of corruption perpetrated by members of the last administration? The rot was big enough to cause a revolution.
How do you react to allegations that the government’s anti-corruption fight is mainly targeted at perceived political enemies?
This allegation is always amazing. Are people being investigated or detained because they are PDP members or because they have cases against them? Did those invited, or those being prosecuted collect any illegal funds? Nobody is being investigated or prosecuted because of being in the opposition. If you are innocent, nobody would go for you merely because you are an opposition member. These allegations are ridiculous and diversionary.
We live in a country in which some citizens derive pleasure in running down their leaders and belittling their achievements.
They alleged that APC members are not being touched, but President Buhari didn’t interfere in the trial of the Senate President, and former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State and his son, all of them APC members. President Buhari didn’t and will not tell EFCC to spare any APC member when they have proven cases of wrong doing against them. If the anti-corruption crusade is targeted at opposition members only, then the entire leadership of the PDP would have been in detention. These allegations are designed to distract the Buhari administration and discredit its zero-tolerance policy towards corruption.
Thank God, none of those being detained or prosecuted has denied receiving illegal funds traced to them. The best defence is to prove your innocence, instead of diverting attention with the allegation that you are being targeted because you are an opposition member.
What are the major achievements and failures of the Buhari administration?
I think stopping the impunity for corruption and blocking the leakages that made stealing so easy is one of the major achievements. The Buhari administration has saved trillions of naira, thanks to the efforts to recover looted funds and blocking leakages for corruption. It is also to President Buhari’s credit that corruption is no longer fashionable. It is no longer possible to just sit down and share public funds into private pockets.
On security, the Buhari administration has significantly crippled the capabilities of the Boko Haram terrorists through improved motivation and re-equipping of the military. The Boko Haram insurgents are no longer in a position to take and occupy any part of Nigerian territory without being instantly expelled. Our troops have now taken the war to the terrorists’ camp at the Sambisa forest, which was once regarded as impenetrable. Our soldiers now have the upper hand, and this counts as a major achievement for the Buhari administration.
Another achievement is that, at the international level, our government is now respected and Nigeria’s poor international image for corruption is improving because they have seen a real commitment from the administration to fight corruption.
It is equally important that we now have a government that is examining and amending tax regulations, reducing tax evasion and making the best efforts to shore up revenues in view of the drastic fall in the country’s oil earnings.
On the issue of challenges, I think the biggest challenge for the government is managing expectations. When people vote for change, they expect immediate results, and that is legitimate. People want to see immediate improvements in the quality of their lives. The government is not unaware of these challenges, but it is committed to overcoming them.
What will the government do better in the days ahead?
The successful implementation of the 2016 budget would go a long way to deal with issues affecting the welfare of Nigerians. The President would monitor and keep ministers on their toes to ensure the budget is faithfully implemented to advance the welfare of Nigerians. I assure you that, under President Buhari, every kobo meant for the welfare of Nigerians would be used for the purposes. It is no longer business as usual.
A government as we have, bent on the reform of structures and processes and the cleanup of the entire system deserves the support and understanding of all citizens.
These reforms by administration to diversify the economy and rid the country of corruption come with pains as is being witnessed but they are no longer a matter of choice, but a necessity.
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