Nseobong Okon-Ekong Senior interviews the Special Assistant on Special Intervention Programmes, Mr. Ismail Ahmed, a lawyer, on his perception of how President Muhammadu Buhari administers the country
Are you concerned that President Muhammadu Buhari’s legacy may be marred by misunderstanding? What would you say are the obstacles to accurate and factual information on the performance of this administration?
Yes. Sometimes I fear that his legacy might be deliberately misconstrued or mistaken because of the cacophony of lies and fake news and false narratives created by cynics and naysayers. Every govt in the world does the hard job of selling its story. We on our part have not been as vehement about telling and selling our story as we should. Most of the people that speak for us as a govt or defend us lack the requisite information and those who posses the information hardly talk.
We need to up our game in terms of communication, firmly and vehemently so.
What are some if the iconic projects of the Buhari era that the Nigerian public should know?
They are pretty obvious. The 2nd Niger Bridge is one. The Railways are undoubtedly a humongous achievement. The almost reconstruction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway. The AKK Gas Pipeline Project. The refurbishments and upgrade of some of the major airports in the country. The Social Investments Programme that have helped reduce out of school children. The Commission of People with Special Needs. The refocus on the Mambila Power Project. The Siemens Power Deal with the Germans. The Agricultural Revolution. And so much more.
Do you agree that the President takes his precious time in acting on matters that could be classified as a matter of national emergency? What does this say about his leadership style?
It just says he is meticulous and careful. His age and persona also gives him the latitude to be deliberate and take his time. I understand how that can be a bit uncomfortable for many people but it is not for lack of a thoughtful process. The president is aware of the urgency of the moment and always ensures that decisions are timely.
Do you think the President worries more about the process than what he actually does, because this sometimes causes serious delay or obstacles?
Process is important because it sets precedence. But I think he is more worried about making the right decisions rather than the fast ones.
What do you think Buhari should do to change a lot of minds? There is a clamour for change an open dialogue on restructuring of the country?
I think this issue has been overflogged. The APC has had a restructuring committee that came up with fantastic recommendations and we are at the verge of submitting them as bills to National Assembly. The dynamic nature of life is the kind that allows us the opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances. The president is not reluctant to restructure. He just believes the Natiomal Assembly should do it.
What is happening in terms of insecurity is unbelievable under Buhari watch, where are the loose ends? What is he not doing right?
It is unfair to say that there is something he is not doing right. There has been tremendous improvements in some aspects of security especially the fight against insurgents, the upgrade and tooling of our Armed Forces. The issue in the last couple of years has been rural banditry and kidnapping especially in the North West and some parts of North Central down to the South West. It is a heartbreaking situation but the armed forces, intelligence agencies and law enforcement are all pooled together to bring a wholistic end to this madness.
What do you think has informed the optimism in the projections in the 2021 budget, when ot is clear that Coronavirus, for instance, and the unpredictable global oil market indicate otherwise?
I am not an economist and I am not in the Financial Sector of the Govt. However, I do know that we have a very good minister of finance and she must have done her calculations and projections in concert with the the Economic team of the president made up of renowned economists and developmental experts. I would yield superior wisdom to them in this matter.
The overriding opinion in the public space is that the leading officials of this administration are arrogant and stubbornly refuse to admit they are fallible and reject help and superior arguments on national issues
Really? Like who? Tell us anyone and we will invite him at the party level and make it clear to him or her that this is a Govt of, for and by the people. People come first. If you hold any position on our behalf, then you must be accountable to the people on your stewardship. You are only as important as the respect the people accord you. We have no room for arrogance.
Information coming out in many instances allege cases of corruption involving high ranking officials of this administration and the President simply turns a blind eye, except in cases where it may be suggested that the accused is being witch hunted
These are all rumors and innuendos. The president has once challenged you journalist to provide clear and irrefutable evidence of corruption and leave the rest to him.
What do you think the Buhari administration should prioritise in order to impact on the welfare of the most vulnerable groups?
Security and Economic growth.
The APC has had a restructuring committee that came up with fantastic recommendations and we are at the verge of submitting them as bills to National Assembly. The dynamic nature of life is the kind that allows us the opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances. The president is not reluctant to restructure. He just believes the Natiomal Assembly should do it
The Special Assistant on Special Intervention Programmes has no name?
I can’t find his name in the intro