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Ahead of Wednesday’s swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in this interview with Daily Trust unveiled key things the president will do in his second term.
The president will be sworn in for a second term on Wednesday. What should Nigerians except?
Nigerians should expect renewed vigour and greater commitment of the president to the implementation of his campaign promises. His second term will be a consolidation on the gains and successes recorded during his first term in office.
Among other things, the Buhari administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure. You should expect this to get boost in the second term. The Ibadan-Lagos standard gauge rail is being test-run, and barring further delays, it should be delivered in the next quarter. Ibadan-Kano has been awarded. This too should be delivered within a reasonable time. The administration targets increased availability of power and targets have been set. The administration has doubled power generation capacity as we speak. It has increased generation to 8,100 MW and expanded transmission to more than 7,000 MW capacity, and is successfully deploying thousands of solar power systems to rural and urban households. The age-long fight between farmers and herders, which escalated in recent years, has largely been put down and the combined effort of the government now targets kidnapping, cattle rustling and the senseless killings in the North-West. These too, will be smashed. It’s a matter of time.
Despite all these claims, insecurity has ballooned in recent times, portraying the government in bad light. Why is the government failing in this direction?
It depends on how you look at it. If your focus is only on the victims rather than lives saved and the successes recorded, you may think the government has failed. For example, Boko Haram terrorists have been significantly degraded militarily since the election of President Buhari in 2015. The Boko Haram terrorists can no longer invade and occupy any part of Nigerian territory without being expelled promptly by our military. The military capabilities of the Boko Haram militants have been so badly weakened that they now resort to video propaganda. Their primary objective is to establish their so-called caliphate on Nigerian territory, but the Buhari administration has frustrated such ambition. Previously, the Boko Haram terrorists were controlling 21 local governments, but today they no longer have the capacity to do so. Don’t forget that in 2014, markets, bus stations and public roads were closed because of the Boko Haram activities. Today, however, all these markets and roads have re-opened because of the remarkable improvement in security. The Buhari administration has re-equipped and re-motivated our military by boosting their will and capacity to face these security challenges. Supply of equipment is receiving significant priority under this administration. The welfare of our security personnel is also boosted remarkably.
To some, the rising insecurity is because of the extension of the tenure of service chiefs. Why is the president retaining them?
Wise men say that you should not swap horses in the middle of the river. Is changing the service chiefs in the heat of the battle the answer? The president is well aware of the pressure to change the service chiefs. But as a general himself, he evaluates his options in terms of risk-benefit analysis. Security issues are more complex than they seem. The president is capable of assessing the service chiefs, and he does so fairly. If you take action because of pressure or emotion, you may end up killing morale and scaring others from offering their services to the country. For the president to be hesitant to do something he must have been convinced that the disadvantages of doing so are greater than the perceived benefits.
The district head of Daura, who is the president’s in-law, is still in captivity, 25 days after he was abducted. Is there any news regarding his whereabouts?
The police are working round the clock to track down his abductors. In fact, the president has dispatched the Chief of Defence Staff and IGP to Katsina to assess the security situation. The bandits are fleeing from Zamfara to other states because they are under pressure from our security forces, who are determined to smoke them out and crush them. I assure you that these will be history. It is a matter of time.
The Next Level is being defined differently by different Nigerians. Some call it next level to poverty. What is the president’s definition of it?
I have just given you a hint of what the Next Level is to the administration. Governance is a continuous process. You cannot complete your change agenda in one day or within your first term. There is wisdom behind the provision of second term for elected public officials. Given the complexity of governance and the intricate processes involved to get your programmes off the ground, the second term could help the president focus on the full implementation of his change agenda. Regardless of what definitions other Nigerians choose for the Next Level campaign slogan, the president has a clear idea of what he was talking about. Implementation goes by stages. His second term is, therefore, critical in the full implementation of his campaign promises in the second term. The president is not bothered about the cynical interpretations people are giving the Next Level campaign slogan, what is important is for him to focus on sustaining the previous achievements.
What new strategies should Nigerians expect in the fight against corruption?
Apart from consolidating the gains of the anti-corruption war, the president will collaborate with the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the anti-corruption courts bill into law. The bill for setting up special anti-corruption courts has been with the National Assembly since 2016. Speedy conviction is essential to the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration. The delay in the passage of the anti-corruption courts bill is frustrating. Our strategy will be focused on speedy trials and convictions. That is why the anti-corruption courts are important to the president. He will work for closer cooperation with the National Assembly to ensure the speedy passage of the several anti-corruption legislations that are pending. The Buhari administration has established for itself an anti-corruption reputation and has been in office nearing four years without a major scandal. The African Union has on account of this, selected the president as the continent’s anti-corruption champion. The Buhari administration can pat itself on the back for this achievement when it is viewed against the established culture in which corruption is the norm. To win the war against corruption and institute transparency in the affairs of government, the Buhari administration introduced a number of fiscal reforms and plugged several leakages, and Nigerians should expect more efforts in this direction.
What kind of people should Nigerians expect in Buhari’s new cabinet?
President Buhari’s new cabinet will be packed with credible, incorruptible and patriotic Nigerians who are motivated by selfless service. The era of perceiving government job as an opportunity to make billions at the expense of the voters is long gone. The president will select men and women who have the zeal to serve the country selflessly. His cabinet will represent all interests, including youths and women. Above all, patriotism and integrity are still important in determining his appointments.
The president promised to expand his cabinet to accommodate more party faithful. Should Nigerians expect 42 ministers this time?
The president will definitely accommodate more party faithful in line with his pledge. As he admitted publicly, people who made sacrifice should be recognised and rewarded. Politics is about patronage. Rewarding people who worked for your re-election is a legitimate expectation because it may go a long way to reduce acrimony and internal grumbles. However, I cannot give you a figure at this point about the number of people who will make up the president’s new cabinet. He will surely consult widely before he announces the final list.