Is the President anti-Igbo by leaving them out in the appointment of Service Chiefs? Will he probe past government officials? Is he corrupt himself? Why is he going to the United States of America, USA, when there is terrorism war raging in his backyard? From his office at the State House in the Presidential Villa, to a hotel room in Wuse 2, Abuja, I was able to finally, after two weeks, get hold of the workaholic Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity and a staunch believer in the President’s cause, to provide answers to these questions during an interview on Thursday night.
It has been more than 30 days since the new administration was inaugurated. How do you assess it?
Well, I think that is a little bit unfair because you know how I will assess the administration since I work with the President. But then to be fair and impartial, I will say, yes, the President is on the right course, maybe because there are also some facts that are previously unknown, but I just know that the President is laying a foundation for a new Nigeria. If he can continue on the wind of change that he rode on to office and continue building on the same foundation, definitely change will come. But he is laying a completely new foundation and, when that foundation is fully laid and the country continues, you will see that change is truly here.
When you were announced to be the Special Adviser, how did you feel? Did you see it coming or you never expected it?
I was announced May 31, but if you remember, on May 20, ThisDay had speculated the story. The moment ThisDay speculated it, anything could happen. So, it was just a question of, will it happen or not? Since ThisDay speculated it, we knew anything could happen, but, before then, no. It could have gone either way anyway.
How does it feel settling down to work with President Muhammadu Buhari in this capacity?
It is a rare opportunity. Out of 170 million people you have been called to work for your country, it is a rare opportunity, and I will say it feels good. I have left positions that are eminent. I have been the Editor-in-Chief of a national newspaper, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors. I was satisfied in those positions, but then, coming to serve your country can’t be compared with anything. So that is why I left those positions to come and serve because I believe in the President. If it was another administration led by someone that I don’t believe in, I wouldn’t come, but I came because I had always believed in President Buhari.
Were you prepared for this assignment irrespective of the fact that you have occupied other positions?
If you had spent 29 years in journalism like I have done, then you are prepared for a lot of things including this assignment. If that is the question, yes, I have a background that prepared me for this assignment. But if your question means did I think it was going to come, I will say no, I didn’t think it was going to come. My mind didn’t go to it and I have always supported President Buhari since he was a military Head of State. I had admired him. In fact, the day he was overthrown was one of the worst days of my life. I felt very sad for Nigeria; very sad for him and his family, very sad about everything. I didn’t think that government should have been toppled. If that government had lasted, Nigeria wouldn’t have been where it is today. So, when he attempted to come through the ballot box since 2003, I had always supported him and, even when it seemed like he stood no chance, I still believed he was the best candidate. In 2011, I had always said we needed a correlation in order to get PDP out. So when that correlation came through the emergence of All Progressives Congress, APC, I felt there was a good chance in 2015 and it has happened. But to think that I was going to work for him, no, it didn’t cross my mind.
What are the attributes that really drew you to the President?
The first one is his simplicity. I just love his simplicity. He is a very simple man. Then I like the fact that he is very straight forward. I like people who know where they stand with anybody. It is either yes or no. When he says yes, it is yes; when he says no, it is no. Then, of course, integrity, to me, counts a lot. The fact that every man can testify that he is a man of integrity gets me because I love integrity and then transparency and accountability. A country like Nigeria where anything goes and then you see a man that has chosen to be transparent and accountable. Look at all the positions he has held in this country, yet he remains a simple man. I love that kind of person. Why can’t I support him? Why can’t I point Nigeria to that kind of person? He is good for our county? So that is why I did it.
But many Nigerians don’t really share these ideas. Some will be quick to dismiss all these, saying that beyond the facade, you may discover many others things when you dig deep.
Well, if they say that, they have a right to their own opinion but then we want to see the evidence to justify that. You don’t need to look far. Just look at the positions the President has held: governor of North-Eastern State, which is now six states: Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba.
Then he went on to become the Minister of Petroleum Resources and held that position for three and a half years. Can you hold such position and not have oil blocks? If anybody thinks President Buhari has an oil block, let him show it to us? After that, he became Head of State and he was there for 20 months; after that, he was Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, and we know all the achievements he made in that position and then today President. Not many Nigerians have this kind of pedigree and who are not going to be stinkingly rich. I am not saying President Buhari is a poor man, but then I don’t think he is stinkingly rich when he held all those positions. He should be stinkingly rich and it is only a very rare Nigerian that will not be stinkingly rich after holding those positions.
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