By Dapo Akinrefon
Senator Babafemi Ojudu represented Ekiti Central senatorial district in the Senate between 2011 and 2015. He is currently the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters. In this chat, he bares his mind on burning national issues especially as regards the president’s health and steps being taken by the Buhari administration to bring the country out of recession. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to controversies over the president’s continued absence from the country?
The controversy is most unnecessary. He has done what is required by the law. The constitution envisaged this situation and stipulated how it should be handled.
The President, as a honourable person, has complied with the provisions of the law by transmitting a letter to the National Assembly informing the members that he will be going on vacation and also handed over the reins of power to his deputy to serve in acting capacity till he returns.
Again, when it was necessary for him to extend the trip following doctor’s advice, he also wrote to the National Assembly and communicated same to Nigerians. So, I sincerely believe that he has complied with the provisions of the law.
Nigerians want to hear him talk to them?
I do not know exactly what those who are asking for that want to know. As Nigerians, they have their right to express their opinion and make demands of their President. What point they are seeking to make with a broadcast from a President who has admitted he has a medical condition which he has to take care of I do not know.
Should the Doctrine of Necessity be applied in this case?
What will they say necessitates that? We all have to familiarise ourselves with what the law says on this issue. I do not think the situation demands that.
What is the difference between the present situation and what happened during the Yar‘Adua years?
No similarity as I can see. During the time of Yar’Adua, there was a vacuum. The then President failed to transmit power to the Vice President, and Nigerians were not told where he was.
In this case, President Buhari has complied with the dictate of the Constitution, and we all know that he is in Nigeria House in London where associates, family, and friends do go to visit him.
Nigerians are saying the APC has failed, do you think so?
It is true that things are hard. It is not difficult to know why it is so as we are all aware that the last government and previous governments in the country didn’t put in place a structure that would have provided a cushion for the drastic fall we experienced in the price of oil when this government came into being.
As soon as the government came into being, oil price went down from $110 to $29, and daily export dropped from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1 million barrels. As at December 2015, the country could boast of foreign exchange earnings of $1.2 billion per day.
By February 2016 it had drastically dropped to $400 million per day. Even in a family economy, if earnings dropped from N1000 to N300 a month there is no way the family can be comfortable.
It is this situation the Buhari government came into but with a resolve to right the wrongs of the past by aggressively fighting corruption and recovering as much as it could from those who have looted the resources of the country; dialogue with the Niger Delta people to ensure seamless production and export of crude while looking at their welfare and coming up with development projects for the region.
The government has also vigorously pursued diversification of the economy so that the nation will depend less on income from crude oil. Agricultural production has been revved up, and the government has mounted campaigns to discourage Nigerians from depending on imported goods.
All of these take time to mature. Nigerians have started seeing the effects of these policies, and very soon it shall be hallelujah.
There are concerns that many APC leaders, who worked for the party in 2015 are yet to be taken care of while some PDP chieftains are still occupying key positions in this administration. How true is that?
Yes, there are concerns. This is being sorted out. Our party members will smile soon.
What step is the presidency taking to address the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and ensure the safety of Nigerians over there?
The foreign ministry and the minister are working hard at it. The details of the actions taken so far you can obtain from the office of the minister. All I know is that the government is concerned, and Hon Abike Dabiri Eruwa who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters is also on top of the situation.
How soon will Nigerians benefit from the change promised by your party?
Nigerians are already benefitting in many ways. Corruption is being frontally attacked. Though not yet fully wiped out it has been drastically reduced. Peace is gradually being achieved in the North East and the Niger Delta.
The Social Investment program of the government is on course, and many unemployed Nigeria are being absorbed under the npower component of it.
The one meal a day school feeding programme has taken off in nine states and the conditional cash transfer for the poor of the poor has also taken off in some states of the federation. Work is going on for the commencement of rail roads linking Lagos to Kano and Lagos to Calabar.
The Acting President recently launched a programme on the ease of doing business in Nigeria. This will reduce the bureaucratic bottlenecks that both Nigerians and foreigners experiences in setting up and doing businesses in Nigeria.
The second Niger Bridge is under construction, and many other critical road arteries across Nigeria have been awarded for construction. We only need to be patient for all these programmes to mature and give a new lease of life to Nigerians.