Reno Omokri, former Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on New Media, tells Bayo Akinloye that there are a lot of things going wrong with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration despite its promises to bring redemption to Nigerians. He feels that the value of human life as Nigerians under the government is deteriorating more than ever before. The former presidential aide also urges Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to be man enough to speak up about the corruption going on in the All Progressives Congress-led federal government
You are an ardent critic of this government. Why are you so persistent in your criticism of the Muhammadu Buhari government?
Because I am a patriot. I do not have any other passport but the Nigerian passport. My value as a person is tied to the value of Nigeria and under Buhari that value has deteriorated faster than at any time in my life. This government came in through propaganda and they are failing because of a lack of proper agenda. Let us examine their campaign promises which made Nigerians vote for them. They promised to fight corruption. Now, according to Transparency Internationalâ€™s Corruption Perception Index, Nigeria is more corrupt today under Buhari than at any other time since Transparency International started keeping records. We have moved 12 places backward from 136 to 148. Yet this administration has the guts to accuse a government under whom Nigeria made its best-ever progress on the Corruption Perception Index of corruption. We moved from 144 to 136 in 2014 under President Jonathan. They promised to secure Nigeria but according to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is now more terrorised and insecure under the Buhari administration.
In the latest ranking, we are now the third most terrorised nation in the world. This is worse than what we witnessed under the previous government. We now have the number one and number four most deadly terror groups in the world in Boko Haram and herdsmen. Look at how many people died in Zamfara in the same North-West that President Buhari is from. Look at how he went to sing and dance at a wedding in Kano a few days after the Dapchi abduction. Look at Benue which is now a theatre of war. Look at the comments by TY Danjuma that under Buhari the military is no longer neutral. Look at the nepotistic appointments in the military and security services whereby people with religious and or ethnic affinity to President Buhari occupy all, not some, but all the sensitive positions. Under Jonathan, our police received laurels around the world. We trained police officers from other nations. But look at how rapidly our police have deteriorated under Buhari because of nepotism. In the latest ranking by the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI), the Nigerian Police Force was ranked the worst in the world! Then, you come to the economy.
Hasnâ€™t the Buhari administration done well in job creation?
They promised three million jobs per year during the campaign. But according to their own government-owned and controlled National Bureau of Statistics, 10 million Nigerians have lost their jobs under Buhari. They did not create jobs and the jobs other governments created, they lost. They asked Nigerian youths to vote for them yet there is not one single youth in the cabinet. They asked women to vote for them, but after voting they have been excused to â€˜the other roomâ€™. I now believe former President Jonathan was speaking prophetically when he said on December 11, 2014 that â€˜The choice before Nigerians in the coming election is between a record of visible achievements and beneficial reforms â€“ and desperate power-seekers with empty promisesâ€™. This government promised to expand the economy yet, within a year of their being in power, Nigeria went into a recession. Instead of taking responsibility, they started blaming others.
Why should Buhari have taken the blame?
There are a number of reasons Nigeria went into a recession and all of them have to do with Muhammadu Buhari. I will try to list some of them in summary. The first is the rushed implementation of the Treasury Single Account instead of the gradual implementation planned by the Jonathan administration which conceived the concept of the TSA. The second is failing to appoint ministers on time and when he finally appointed ministers the President appointed a woman whose highest degree is a Bachelors in Economics from a second class British polytechnic (The University of East London was a polytechnic when Kemi Adeosun attended it in the 1990s) to succeed a PhD holder from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former Managing Director of the World Bank as minister of finance. Go back and read the comments by Bill Gates on this governmentâ€™s economic blueprint. He called it incoherent and said it does not address Nigeriansâ€™ needs. There is a particular picture of Mr. Gates and the minister of finance where he was looking at her with disdain.
When Bill Gates said the Buhari government prioritises physical capital over human capital, people like Nasir El Rufai came out to attack him. But just a week after Mr. Gates spoke truth to power, Buhari went to Lagos and the APC declared a public holiday for him. Does this not vindicate Bill Gates? By declaring a public holiday and preventing businesses from opening for work, the APC government is setting back human capital because of the physical capital of opening a bus stop. This is a pure example of why Bill Gates said Buhari prioritises physical capital over human capital. Lagos has an annual GDP of $100 billion. By shutting the state down, Lagos loses $250 million. Do you see why our economy collapsed under Buhari?
What are the other reasons?
Not done with putting round pegs into square holes, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a man who studied French to replace a man who has a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University and who had worked at the highest levels of the Rockefeller Foundation as minister for agriculture. The third reason is the Presidentâ€™s interference with the independence of the Central Bank of Nigeria and his public comments of what he would do with the Naira. This led to foreign exchange restrictions that saw 270 companies fold up (according to the Nigeria Labour Congress), seven foreign airlines leaving Nigeria, 10 foreign shipping firms divesting from our economy and over $3 billion capital flight from Nigeria.Â In five years, then President Jonathan spent N16 trillion. The economy grew to the point where CNNMoney projected Nigeria to be the third fastest growing economy in the world after China and Qatar in 2014. Naira was stable and was listed as one of the best performing currencies.Â In two years, President Buhari has spent N16 trillion. We had recession. The Naira collapsed and was ranked the fourth worst performing currency in the world by Bloomberg in 2016.
But there was the complaint by the Buhari administration about falling prices of oil.
Buhari kept complaining about the price of crude oil but that is an excuse because oil accounts for only 15 per cent of our GDP. Moreover, the price of crude oil has averaged about $50 under Buhari, yet he has borrowed more than all the previous PDP governments of the last 16 years combined. Crude oil sold for an average of $23 in the first five years of President Obasanjo yet that government was able to pay up all of Nigeriaâ€™s foreign debt of over $30 billion. What this proves is that no matter how much resources you give to the Buhari administration, it will never be enough because they do not know how to make prudent use of resources. There are other reasons the economy tanked under Buhari. But these are some of the most pressing reasons I see it as my duty to do everything in my power to democratically unseat this clueless administration.
Your support for the immediate past government under which you served has equally been very consistent. Why, because that government has been branded by the Buhari government as the most corrupt and Tinubu even awarded Jonathan gold medal for corruption?
With all due respect, when students sit for examinations, it is not a fellow student that marks their script. The assessment is done by external examiners. Both President Buhari and President Jonathan sat an examination. The only body in this world officially recognised as arbiters of who is corrupt and who is not is Transparency International and they have weighed both Jonathan and Buhari on the scale and found Buhari wanting. President Jonathanâ€™s administration has the enviable record of advancing Nigeriaâ€™s anti-corruption war and delivered results to the point where we made our best-ever improvement in Transparency Internationalâ€™s CPI in 2014 when we moved eight places forward from 144 to 136. Can this government say the same? The fact is that President Buhari has a messianic complex that is divorced from reality. The proof of this is that he keeps talking down at previous administrations that have done a much better job of fighting corruption than him.
Are you saying Jonathanâ€™s administration is saintly compared with Buhariâ€™s?
Did you hear of budget padding under Jonathan? Did you hear that a criminal like Maina was brought back to Nigeria, reinstated, given double promotion and moving about with armed guards and that when the Senate wanted to probe how he was reinstated; the Attorney General of the Federation went to court to block the probe? Did you hear that $25 billion worth of contracts were awarded without due process at NNPC and no investigation was carried out? Did you hear that a Secretary to the Government of the Federation was caught red-handed engaging in contract scams? Did Jonathan ever budget N1.1 billion to clean the office of the National Security Adviser? This administrationâ€™s EFCC returned 48 houses to Timipre Sylva, a known supporter and financier of the APC. How could Sylva have got 48 houses legally? What was his job or business before becoming a governor and what is his source of income after becoming a governor? Did he declare those 48 houses on his asset declaration form? Yet, they let him go scotfree and are now harassing Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy because they refused to be cowed. Yet Buhari went to Ghana to offer to help them fight corruption.
Ghana is number 81 on this yearâ€™s Transparency Internationalâ€™s Corruption Perception Index, while Nigeria is at number 148. My question to President Buhari is: how can you help a nation that is less corrupt than yours to fight corruption? It is like a demon offering to deliver a pastor. President Buhari should instead take anti-corruption lessons from ex-President Jonathan and Ghanaian President, Nana Akufor-Addo.
Most recently, the Vice President accused the Jonathan government of being corrupt and you took exception to that and described the Vice President as a liar. Are you saying there was no corruption in that government?
There is no human institution that is not corrupt. Even in heaven, an angel became corrupt and was thrown out of heaven by God; how much more with humans. The thing is that corruption is human and perfection is divine. So what you can gauge in humans is level or degree of corruption and Transparency International has already done that for us. I do not have to add to what Transparency International has done except to say that when Jonathanâ€™s ministers were accused of corruption and conflicts of interest, he sacked one on the spot and sacked the other after a two-week investigation. Can this administration say the same? Did they sack the communications minister whose personal assistant wrote a letter exposing his bossâ€™s multifarious corruption? Did they sack the former SGF? Was it not until we made much fuss that he was eventually sacked 10 months after? Has he been charged? What has been done to the GMD of NNPC?
The immediate past acting Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Muhammad Daudu, during his appearances at the House of Representatives committee investigating the $44 million found in the Ikoyi apartment gave sworn evidence that elements in the Buhari presidency had been putting pressure on him to share the $44 million with them. Was anything done to them? Instead, Ambassador Dauda was sacked and has now gone into hiding.
You have written well about Osinbajo when Buhari was in the hospital. What has changed now that you are on a war path with him? Is it because he criticised Jonathan?
That is to show you that I am balanced. If Osinbajo does well, I praise him; same with Buhari. I have commended the President on five different occasions. But I am not a sycophant. If they do wrong, I will speak up.
Recently, it was reported that a source in the presidency alleged that N100 billion was moved to Jonathanâ€™s residence just before the election from the CBN vault and you reacted that it was a lie.
First and foremost, that â€˜sourceâ€™ was no other person than the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. I was informed of this by an editor of a major newspaper (not THISDAY). The claim is a lie and an infantile one at that. I have addressed it in detail. Vice President Osinbajo should stop hiding behind â€˜sourcesâ€™. As a pastor and as a real man, he ought to be bold enough to make his false allegations openly and not via â€˜sourcesâ€™.