By Femi Adesina
There’s a wise saying in Yoruba land, which goes thus: “If you like, feed the entire city with pounded yam, egusi soup and stockfish on a daily basis, there’ll still be people who won’t like you.”
Let’s be honest and frank with ourselves. There are some people with primordial antipathy towards President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the man’s strong commitment towards transforming every part of the country. Some people have simply closed their minds, eyes and ears, and the President can just do no good.
President Buhari, however, equally has very committed loyalists in every part of the country, not minding some people who have chosen to believe the worst things, and addled their minds in the process.
Last weekend, wealthy businessman and philanthropist, Chief Arthur Eze, struck the nail on the head. He looked deeply at his own South East region of the country, and came out with a conclusion: “The President is man of the moment for the Igbo and the entire South East.
“President Buhari has demonstrated uncommon goodwill towards the people of the South East geopolitical zone, and should now rest assured of our unalloyed support and loyalty.”
But what did Chief Eze see, that brought him to such conclusion, though he had been a supporter of the President for some time? Roads. Bridges, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Owerri Interchange, Zik’s Mausoleum, great infrastructural projects that the region has not seen in a long while, if at any time.
In late 2018, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, unfolded a minimum of 69 different projects being undertaken by the Federal Government in South East alone, all amounting to about N680 billion. Of course, top on the list is the Second River Niger Bridge, which was built with mouth in the 16 years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in power. The project is about 48% gone, and billed for completion in first quarter of 2022.
You have the Enugu-Port Harcourt road. Enugu-Onitsha road, and at least 67 other projects. The list is in the public domain.
Just recently, President Buhari approved a Zonal Police Headquarters (Zone 13) located at Ukpo Dunukofia, in Anambra State. It was inaugurated during the week, and will go a long way in addressing the security concerns of people of the region.
Now, do you do all these for people you don’t like? Not at all.
It is disingenuous for anyone to claim that President Buhari does not like any part of the country, most especially the South East.
When the former Major General joined the political fray in 2002, and contested for President in 2003, who was his running mate? Former Senate President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, a true Igbo son.
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In 2007, who ran with Buhari? Another true Igbo son, and former Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.
And when former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme fell deathly ill, President Buhari arranged his evacuation abroad by air ambulance. When he eventually passed on, he was given a most befitting national burial. Do you do that for a people you don’t like? Hardly.
After Ekwueme’s burial, Dr Chris Ngige, another illustrious Igbo son, came to the Federal Executive Council meeting, and gave the appreciation of the region to the President. What did Buhari say?
“I’ve only done what the Constitution prescribes should be done for a former Vice President. In flying him abroad when it became necessary, in giving him national burial, I just did what should be done for a former Number 2 man in the country.”
That is President Buhari for you. He gives every man his due, every region what they deserve. Fairness to all.
Evergreen is the testimony of retired Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka about the then General Buhari, shortly before the 2015 presidential election.
“Without ever knowing or meeting me, Buhari gave me a chance,” the Ambassador, then 83 years old, wrote.
“As I now write, I have never met him one-on-one. We have never spoken to each other. It is an extraordinary experience of an unusual man.
“I was sitting on my desk in the Ministry of External Affairs, 40 Marina, Lagos, in 1984, when I received a letter appointing me Ambassador to the United States of America. My place of origin did not matter… My religion did not matter. I had no worthwhile contacts with Dodan Barracks…”
That’s the same Buhari that revisionists would want us to believe is nepotistic, myopic, insular, and who would never appoint a non-Fulani into any position of substance. Tufiakwa!
I remember something they twisted against the President in 2015, and which they have stuck stubbornly and irrationally to, despite our many clarifications.
We were in Washington, USA, on an official visit. And the President met with Nigerians based in that country. A question came on how he would fill political positions, since he got less than 5% votes in some parts of the country.
The President said in politics, it made sense to reward those who voted for you, more than those who didn’t. If you got 95% votes in some areas, and 5% votes in others, it stood to reason that those who voted more should get more positions. Then he added: “But the Nigerian Constitution forbids any leader from doing such, and I will do as the Constitution prescribes.”
What did mischief makers do? They took the video recording of the earlier part of the President’s speech, cutting off the part where he balanced it. And they began to share it far and wide, just to portray nepotism. They repeat it till tomorrow, despite many explanations, simply because it suits their heinous purpose.
Despite the sparse number of votes in the South East in 2015 and 2019 elections, would we be right to say the entire region is arrayed against the President? Not so. After the 2015 election was won, I remember a piece I wrote in Daily Sun Newspaper, under the headline, ‘Igbo Heroes of Change.’ I mentioned people who contributed significantly to the Buhari victory like Chief Ralph Obiora, Dr Chris Ngige, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Hon Juventus Ojukwu, Osita Okechukwu, and many others.
Also today, we have great admirers of the President from the South East, and some of them will stand by him through thick and thin. I am talking of people like Joe Igbokwe, Dr Uche Diala , Peter Claver Oparah, Emeka Oparah, Dr Kelechi Nwagwu, Zara Gift Oyinye, Jewel Ifunaya Chika, Dr Emmanuel Nwusulor, Anozie Emeka, Abuchi Anueyiagu, Egondu Okorie,and uncountable others, which space won’t permit me to mention.
For President Buhari, when he does anything in any part of the country, he does it because it’s the right and fair thing to do. Most of the 69 projects going on in the South East had been awarded before 2015. But they were never funded. The President reversed the trend, and most of them are proceeding apace, and will be legacies by the time the man exits from office.
President Buhari has his eyes on history, and he will have his place in the pantheon of honor. At the onset of COVID-19 and its devastation on the economy, I was glad to hear him instruct the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed: “No matter what happens, salaries of workers must not fail, pensions must not fail, and funding of infrastructure must not stop.”
Don’t you like the commitment of this President? I sure do.
I commend Chief Arthur Eze for being forthright and true about the President and the South East. Coming a week after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State expressed similar sentiments about the fairness of the President, it’s time for those in entrenched positions to open their eyes and see, open their ears and hear, lest they become perpetually blind and deaf. Willfully so.
President Buhari does justice to every part of the country. Those who had imbibed a lie should now wake up, and smell the coffee.
*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari