Political Adviser to the President, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, in this interview, speaks on the challenges facing the country and how government is talking them. He also bares his mind on next year’s Ekiti State governorship race. Anayo Okolie brings excerpts
There is widespread belief that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is incapable of fixing the economic issues affecting the country. Given the absence of a clear- cut policy, wouldn’t you think this is a valid criticism?
There is a clear-cut policy. And it is very simple. Combat corruption and reduce or completely stop the looting of the country’s resources by public officials; diversify the economy and reduce our dependence on foreign goods; put a lot of emphasis on local production, particularly agricultural production, and revive the mining sector.
A major campaign promise made by the President was to rid the country of corruption. However, many, at home and abroad, believe that the anti-graft war is one- sided. Why have the targets been exclusively from the opposition?
It is not one-sided. People who have been accused of looting should go and defend themselves rather than looking for excuses. It is those who have been put in charge of the nation’s resources and have been found wanting that can be held to account.
The President continues to get accused of sectionalism, especially in terms of appointments and his reticence in relation to the atrocious conduct of the herdsmen. These accusations aren’t exactly baseless…
The statistics available to us does not indicate that.
What specific steps are being taken to bring the country out of the current economic situation?
As I have said earlier, the administration is doing everything possible to block all the avenues for the wastage of public funds. Unlike in the past, there is no longer free money in government. Whatever is available is being mobilized for the provision of amenities, improvement of infrastructure, social investment, power etc. There is also a lot of attention being paid to agriculture. The CBN is making huge funds available for the cultivation of rice and wheat in order to conserve the billions of dollars we are expending on importation of those agricultural products. By 2020, Nigeria would have become self-sufficient in the production of rice, tomato, corn and wheat.
The government is also working hard at resolving the crises in the Niger Delta, which has brought about loss of almost 1.2 million barrels of oil per day due to sabotage. Gas pipeline powering turbines are sabotaged, leading to drastic reduction in power generated and low industrial capacity. The acting President is working tirelessly at resolving this matter.
There have been no incidents of sabotage in the last three weeks since he began his confidence-building visits to oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta. In 2014 and 2015, Nigeria was earning close to $1.2 billion per day from oil. Things got so bad by February 2016 that our foreign exchange earnings dropped to about $400 million a day. This explains the tumbling of the value of the naira and the hardship experienced across the land by the people.
Who among world leaders-past and present – does President Buhari remind you of?
For me President Buhari is President Buhari. His ways are different from any other. No two leaders are same in their manner of governance and approach to do things. All I can tell you is that President Buhari is Nigerian patriot committed to solving the myriad of problems confronting our people and in doing this there is a general agreement by friends and foes alike that he is not ethically challenged.
Your office as a presidential aide gives you a bird’s eye view of events. What do you consider the biggest single problem of Nigeria?
In my own opinion, it is corruption. It is affecting all aspects of our life and eating away and corroding all our institutions. As President Buhari once said, if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us.
Considering the debilitating economic situation, do you think the APC can be victorious in 2019?
2019 is still far away. Let’s not begin to speculate. All I know is that when the programmes in place now begin to yield results Nigerians will rate our party high.
You are being touted as one of the people angling to succeed Governor Ayo Fayose in Ekiti. What will be your main focus if you are elected governor?
I have heard that too.
Should you elect to contest, you’d be coming up against heavyweights for your party’s ticket. Will big names and big egos not bring about combustion after one of them might have won?
Our party in Ekiti is working at unity. We shall achieve that and chase out the man who has looted our state dry and given us a bad name.