Clearly one of President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s main man, having come a long way since their days together in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, currently Minister of Communications, in this interview with Bolaji Adebiyi and Iyobosa Uwugiaren, argues that the president has done well enough in the last three years to merit a return to office in 2019
Recently you flagged off the campaign for the re-election of President Buhari in Ibadan and said the President had done well in almost three years. Has he really performed well?
Let me start by correcting that impression. I did not start the re-election campaign. What I merely did was to commission the office of the Muhammadu Buhari Dynamic Support Group. A few months back, I was made the Chairman, Board of Trustees. I then felt that as the boardâ€™s chairman, coming from the South-west, charity must begin from home. I thought we must have a physical presence of that group in the South-west and you know very well that Ibadan has always been the headquarters of the politics of the region. That was what we did. Secondly, I have been in politics, with all humility, for 40years. I became a lawyer in 1979, even before then, I had been a member of the then Committee of friends of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I was the only student member of that committee and consequently I had the privilege of being part of those who formulated the four cardinal programmes of what eventually became the Unity Party of Nigeria. I contested the House of Assembly election at that time from the law school and I won. Since then I have never been on sabbatical from politics except during the military intervention in politics. So, I have been known over this years as a serious minded person who never tells lies; who will not deceive people; who would not be intimidated; who has always been principled and would tell you as it is.
As a minister of the Federal Republic, therefore, I didnâ€™t become minister because I paid money through anybody, I became a minister because of my antecedent in politics. So when I speak I say only the truth. I stand to be corrected or challenged by anybody, what this government has done, in a number of areas in three years, is more than what PDP has done in 16 years and I give you simple examples. The last road budget of the PDP government before it left office was in the neighbourhood of N2b. Last year alone this government spent N265b on roads alone. On electricity the best that we ever had under a government was less than 5,000 MW, today you have 7,000 MW. We are also on course to deliver 3,500 MW more in Mambilla within the next few years. We knew how much money was invested in electricity during the PDP years, what came out of it.
This government has commenced railway building, new railways, not the standard gauge, which has existed from Lagos to Kano to Maiduguri and so on; now we are building new standard gauge railways from Calabar to Lagos, from Lagos to Kano, from Kano to Maiduguri, from Maiduguri to Calabar. These are ongoing projects, which are verifiable.
In the Agriculture sector alone, Nigeria used to be a dumping ground for all kinds of rice from everywhere, which consequently killed local rice production; today we have stopped or eliminated the import up to 90% of the rice.
Today, consequent upon the revolution that we are doing in agriculture, more than 8 million new jobs have been created. You can go to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to confirm this.
Are you not attributing too much to the APC government, because virtually all of these examples that you have given are buildings on the foundation laid by the PDP?
Which capacity has been there? If you wonâ€™t believe me then you must provide better recorded evidence of what had existed. In fact the new thing we are also doing is the mixture of the sources of electricity.
All of these policies were on ground.
Well, it is up to you to believe what you want to believe. I am talking as a member of government who knows how many memos have been brought to government for contracts on all of these things. Go to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; go to even Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and find these things out.
You talked about the number of jobs that has been created but the NBS record does not confirm what you have just said. It said 8 millions of jobs had been lost in the last two and a half years.
In which area? I spoke on jobs being created in the Agriculture sector.
We are taking about the entire economy.
I said in the Agriculture sector alone we have created more than 8 million jobs and the CBN and NBS will tell you.
Again for the first time in the history of this country, in one fell swoop the federal government created 200,000 graduate jobs through N-power. In one day another 300,000 are being processed making 500, 000. It has never happened in the history of this country that government will specifically create an avenue for graduates to get jobs and the target is 500,000.
Statistics show that thousands of Nigerians were killed in the last few months by criminal gangs. What is going on?
You have to bring your statistics. Do you know for many years Boko Haram persisted? Do you know how many people were killed by Boko Haram alone? Did you care to find out? You should because Boko Haram persisted for more than 10 years and you need to know how many people were being killed on a monthly basis in mosques, churches, markets, garages, and motor parks.
Has that changed in the last two and a half years?
Let me tell you, on security we did promise that this government will fight insurgency to a halt. Before this government came on board, Boko Haram was in firm control of 14 local governments areas spread across three states.
We are told they are still holding positions. The local government chairmen recently said that…
That what? At that time we were talking about, there were no policemen in these local government areas, all of them had ran away. There were no local government officials, all of them had all ran away. Even communities have been deserted to IDP camps. Do you still have IDP camps today? Do you still have Boko Haram hoisting its flag anywhere on the Nigerian soil again?
These are generally the claims of your administration.
Jonathanâ€™s Chief of Army staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minima, which you inherited, said those councils had been cleared before the elections. That that was why elections held there and huge returns made for President Buhari. Whatever happened during the PDP government, this government was expected to change it. But the level of insecurity is still high.
What is the level of insecurity in Abuja for instance? What is the level of insecurity in Benin? What is the level of insecurity in Lagos and Ibadan where I come from and so on?
There are still killings, it is like Nigeria has become a killing field.
Have you ever seen any country where there are no killings? In the US, how many killings on a daily basis? I have said one thing which you are free to believe me or not believe me. My identity has been defined by the fact that I say it as it is. I will not tell lies and whatever I should tell Mr President as fact I will tell him. Nobody is perfect, we donâ€™t have perfect situation but if you are talking of killings there is no country where there is no killing. But that is not justifying any killing because as a lawyer I am trained to detest extra judicial killings. So if killings happen I will never be happy. But unfortunately, on the recent killings by herdsmen, people get excited at the current victims more than the previous victims. The herdsmen came from Sokoto to Zamfara in search of fresh grass and they were similarly killing people in Zamfara, in Sokoto and taking away herds of cows. In fact statistics showed that they killed more people in Zamfara than in Benue. So how do you tribalise such a thing?
Nobody is tribalising it. We are talking about killings generally.
If we look at contemporary history you will know that many of these were activist of the Libyan revolution.
But the responsibility of the government is to be aware and take appropriate steps to ensure that it deals with the situation.
Government was aware and government took steps everywhere they acted. And you should know that criminals will not give notice.
Share with us what the government has done to solve this problem?
It is a police matter and it is between Mr. President and the police. And he told us in the FEC meeting and we trust and believe him and it is not for me to tell you the details. Maybe you should go to the Nigerian police to know what has been done. I cannot give you details and I would not want to give any detail that would not be exact. Unfortunately along the line sectionalism came in, people who want to take political advantage of it also started inflaming passions. For instance, one of the advice that ought to have been taken was the fact that it didnâ€™t help matters to start burying 73 people and make it a ceremony as if you are doing a festival. I mean that was not the best of political decision because that would not bring back those who have been so killed. It would rather create greater disunity in the country and then everybody suffers. You see, you make the best out of a bad situation. It is unfortunate but it is not a matter I think we should just capitalize on.
Donâ€™t you think that they did the mass burial because there was a feeling of abandonment?
I donâ€™t know who abandoned them, I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ if there was that feeling that would be a wrong feeling. The fact would not be known to you and me.
The governor actually said he gave a warning, he complained to the federal government.
Who in the federal government did he talk to?
He said he sent letters to The Presidency and even to the office of the Vice President.
Did the vice president confirm that he was actually informed because he denied it? I want to tell you that the vice president and the Governor of Benue State are friends. So he could not have gotten such information and not act on it.
Using the indicators of what good governance is all about, do you think the president has done well, that the government that he belongs to has done well in the last two and a half year?
When we were coming in we based our campaign on three major planks. One, we were going to fight insurgency. Two, we were going to fight corruption and three, we were going to repair the economy. On each of these I am convinced as a patriotic Nigerian and a very good Muslim, that government has got more than 60% on each of these three and I will give you some statistics.
On the issue of security, today Boko Haram has been terribly degraded; instead of them having a field day in 14 local governments today they donâ€™t control any local government.
Only yesterday we heard that not only has the Armed Forces taken over Sambisa, they are actually building new roads there, which were never there to open up the place. They have also made a portion of the place a training ground for the armed forces. And today you also know that a lot of the people in the IDP camps have been resettled in their homes. Again you know that police men are not running away from Boko Haram, it is the Boko Haram elements that are running away from the police. You would recall that in the period of the last government Jonathan soldiers were actually running away from Boko Haram.
But that was because there were no equipment.
Who didnâ€™t buy the equipment?
Previous administrations; but the Jonathan government placed ordersâ€¦
This man who called himself a president went to the National Assembly with a prayer for $1b approval; it was granted but one ammunition he didnâ€™t buy, shamelessly and criminally.
So where did the Armed Forces get the equipment they are using now from?
We had to buy it because when Buhari came, as a military man, he said; â€˜No, this is not an insurmountable problem.â€™ He used his goodwill all over the world to get a lot of equipment. You know that the Armed Forces were reinvigorated and they destroyed the headquarters of Boko Haram; they rescued a lot of people who had been taken captive. So, today, normalcy, law and order have been restored in all the local governments in the North-east.
How could this government have procured such a magnitude of equipment within two years? We know that military equipment are not bought off the shelves.
Are you saying that you are not aware that the 1billion was never used to buy just one gun? They shared the money. That is the money that is being retrieved now from military officers, former GOCs, former chief of army, chief of navy, chief of air staff; it is the money they shared among military men and politicians. You know how much went to the former NSA and how that money was shared.
In 2015 your leaders called on former President Olusegun Obasanjo to be the navigator and the captain of the APC, to wrestle power from the PDP. In less than three years the same person came out to say that the president has performed woefully and that he has no business in…
Let me tell you, we have a constitution and our party is not a tea party; APC is not a tea party, it is a party guided by rules and regulations. The so called title you ascribed to Gen. Obasanjo is not in any part of that constitution.
Tinubu made the statement that he should be the captain and the navigator.
Anybody can say anything, if you find somebody who wants to come, would you not encourage him to come in?
Your leaders went to Ota.
I am aware they went and what does that mean? So if some party leaders come to me, it means the whole party is bound by it? Could Obasanjo have been forced to come into the party if he didnâ€™t show signs that he wanted to come. He has the right to come and he has the right to exit, that does not necessarily change the situation of the party. A party is like a market place where people go in and come out. As some people are going out from the party, others are coming in.
If you care to know, a lot of Igboâ€™s are coming in now.
In 2015 APC was very formidable in wrestling power from the then ruling party but in less than three years it appears the APC is fragmented along the legacy parties. The CPC which you belonged appears to be holding sway in government.
Are you saying the AC elements are not having a field day in it? Do you know how many AC elements are in the cabinet of the Buhari government?
Others are saying they have been marginalized by your CPC faction.
Let me give you simple statistics. In the South-west, we have six states and we have six ministers too. Of these six, five belong to the former ACN, I am the only CPC there. So, how has ACN been marginalized? In the South-east, of all the ministers, in fact the east has five states, everybody who is a minister there; there is none of them who was in CPC. In the South-south, I think only two were in CPC. So how has anybody been marginalized? If anybody has been marginalized it is the people who gave Buhari the most votes during that election that has been marginalized because in the whole of the South, in the last presidential election, all the votes from 17 states amounted to 3million votes; from the 19 states of the North, it amounted to 12million. Yet if you look at the number of the ministers of state, there are more ministers of state from the North than from the South. So in what way has anybody been marginalized? Nobody has been marginalized by this government.
Are you saying you are satisfied with the situation of your party as at today?
Of course if I am not satisfied. I donâ€™t want to blow any trumpet and I donâ€™t want to boast about anything; letâ€™s wait for the next election, it is just around the corner.
People may make noise; they have the right to make noise. Of course people who criticize objectively are welcomed because nobody is perfect. But to think that because some people feel that they are not getting things to run their way so that means the party has gone into shambles or crumbles, well we leave them to their ignorance.
You were about to give us an assessment of the performance of your government in relation to corruption.
Today by the grace of God, by the grace of Buhari, before he came in TSA was a mere idea; when he came in, he put flesh, bones, blood and water into it. So today we have TSA which seeks not only to block all leakages in government accounting system but also to ensure that ghost workers no more exist.
Secondly with the whistle blower policy of this government, today everybody knows that if you hide money, which does not belong to you, instead of putting it in a bank you put it somewhere and it is recovered, it will be taken away from you; we didnâ€™t have this in the past. Thirdly all those who stole money or known to have stolen money, are now at various stages of investigation and or prosecutions. All these were not happening at the scale they are happening now. And today no contracts get given out by any minster or any ministry without it being advertise. The strict procurement procedures must be followed.
If you talk of the issue of insurgency it is the easiest to prove. Yesterday we had 14 local governments in 3 states in the hands of Boko Haram but today they are no more. Yesterday you had hundreds of IDP camps all over the place, today there are no more IDPâ€™s. What Boko Haram elements have resorted to is targeting soft targets, this happens everywhere. There is no society in the world, where people donâ€™t get killed. The rate of killings in the US far exceeds that of any other country on a daily basis.
But our duty as a government is to ensure that our security forces do their best.
There are some who argue that while corruption was democratised under Jonathan, it has been privatised under Buhari.
Tell me one person in this government who has engaged in corruption.
There are people who engage in these corrupt practices and the stories are there.
Which stories? Let us know.
The people surrounding the President.
We donâ€™t want to mention names.
Why donâ€™t you want to mention names if you are sure.
You should know because you are part of this government.
How can I know? I cannot be involved in criminality and I am not an official of EFCC.
Quite a number of EFCC investigations on some former PDP politicians, like Nwobodo and Kalu, many of who have crossed to APC, have stalled.
I donâ€™t know. Kalu is still being prosecuted; only last week he was in court in Lagos. So how has he been absorbed before the trial concludes? He is my friend.
Do you feel comfortable associating with such people in your party?
As a lawyer there is presumption of innocence on everybody even suspects.
But you also said a while ago that military officers stole money meant for equipment; there are no convictions in any court on this matter?
Have they all been absorbed, are they still not in court?
But you already said they stole.
They were alleged to have stolen and monies were retrieved from them, are you not aware, Amosu and so many others?
QUOTE: Today by the grace of God, by the grace of Buhari, before he came in TSA was a mere idea; when he came in, he put flesh, bones, blood and water into it. So today we have TSA which seeks not only to block all leakages in government accounting system but also to ensure that ghost workers no more exist. Secondly with the whistle blower policy of this government, today everybody knows that if you hide money, which does not belong to you, instead of putting it in a bank you put it somewhere and it is recovered, it will be taken away from you; we didnâ€™t have this in the past