President Muhammadu Buhari has painted a gloomy picture of the Nigeria his new government is battling to reshape, saying he met an almost empty treasury and huge debts left behind by his predecessor.
At a meeting with state house reporters Monday, the first since his inauguration three weeks ago, the president said it was embarrassing that the situation has degenerated to a situation where federal and state government cannot pay their workers.
He decried the huge debts, empty treasury and the declining economy left by the previous administration, saying Nigeria should be in a better position than it is now.
Mr. Buhari also said the tradition of expecting an incoming government to turn in its report card within the first 100 days in office puts enormous pressure on the present government given the current state of things.
“I’m going to be brief because it will be consistently brief until I leave this dull place,” Mr. Buhari told the journalists.
“This culture of 100 days is bringing so much pressure with treasury virtually empty, with debts in millions of dollars, with state workers and even federal workers not paid their salaries is such a disgrace for Nigeria. I think Nigeria should be in a position to even pay its workers.”
He told the journalists his government would need their help to succeed, and to defend it against attacks from Nigerians disgruntled by the present challenges.
“This bad management that we find ourselves in, we really need your help to protect us from people before they match on us,” he said.
Mr. Buhari greeted all the journalists individually, as they introduced themselves and their media organizations.
He said he got one of the best hands as his media aide, in reference to Femi Adesina, his special adviser on media and publicity.
“It’s not by accident that I got the best of you to be the special adviser, one of the 15 aides I had to get clearance from the Senate. He is one of the best presidents of the (editors’) guild that I can have as special advisers. I brought one of the best of you so that he can consistently defend me against you,” he said.
Mr. Buhari joked about the prospect of his administration coming under severe attacks from the media – as it happened with the immediate past Jonathan administration – and the likely response of his government.
“Whether his (Adesina’s) job is a difficult one or easy is up to him, but I’m here to thank you in advance for what good and ill you are going to do to me,” he said.
“I have to quickly come and see you and welcome you to this place. I hope what happened of recent between the former president and one of you will not happen between me and you.”