With his consistently negative portrayal of the Buhari administration, Shaka Momodu has become the attack dog of the Peoples Democratic Party. His recent article, “Buhari’s Legacy and Tinubu’s Albatross” published in THISDAY last Friday is another in the series of his truculent opposition propaganda to canvass against the All Progress Congress and intimidate voters.
His words: “how can anyone with a conscience associate with a party that deserves a root and branch removal from our psyche. This party needs to be denounced and not associated with. Its presidential candidate needs to be denounced and not supported for making a man with a roaring incompetence president of Nigeria”.
This editorial harassment of millions of APC members and our supporters nationwide, in the hope that they would desert the party and make us lose the 2023 federal elections is just another Shakara from Shaka’s pen. The truth is that our party members believe the current administration has demonstrated modest capacity in confronting the challenges it inherited and discharged its duty in spite of the obvious sabotage of unpatriotic elements in the status quo and the threat posed by terrorism that is affecting Nigeria and her neighbours- Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Contrary to Shaka’s fraudulent romanticism, the Buhari administration did not meet a “land flowing with milk and honey”, it met insecurity, corruption and a nation crying for change. It was inspired by the massive votes of the Nigerian people to embark on the change it promised despite the gargantuan challenges of 16 years of sleaze and financial recklessness; despite the occupation of swathes of Borno and Yobe states by terrorism and despite finding the country in a debt trap set by the international financial oligarchy.
The Buhari administration was elected to execute the APC Agenda of Change and Anti-Corruption. The introduction of the Single Treasury Account on August 7, 2015 tackled financial leakages in the civil service. Today, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies have transferred their balances to the Central Bank. The exercise consolidated 17,000 bank accounts formerly in banks and saved the administration N4 Billion monthly in banking charges.
This was followed by project Lighthouse, a fintech engine which tracked N5 Trillion naira debts owed government and has retrieved N1.5 trillion as at today.
Improving the financial integrity of the payroll system with the compulsory application of the Bank Verification Number led to the detection of more than 50,000 fraudulent payroll entries and saved more funds in the implementation of other government payments in other schemes.
These initiatives emphasised the need to develop identity management database to fight corruption. As at January this year, there were 80.7 unique records in Nigeria’s digital identity database (NIN) making it easier to apply amended anti-corruption laws such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act to prosecute offenders and obtain non-conviction based forfeiture of stolen public assets.
The administration encouraged the anti-corruption agencies to work autonomously and this led to investigations of no fewer than 31 governors and the prosecution of 11. Two governors – Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame – were convicted and jailed. Not even the fact that Governor Dariye was in the senate saved him from the full wrath of the law. Former governors even in the Federal Executive Council have been investigated. In carrying out its promise to rid Nigeria of corruption, there has been no sacred cow.
Contrary to the vengeful narrative of do nothing that Shaka spews, there is concrete evidence of the administration’s achievements in all aspects of the life of Nigerian citizens.
Begin with agriculture, the largest employer of labour. Change in Nigerian agriculture as promised by the APC meant that the nation should grow what it eats. Nigeria had become the dumping ground for many foreign food items, particularly rice, poultry and oils. The Buhari administration closed the border to checkmate these indiscriminate imports and funded more than 4 million indigenous farmers with over N800 billion to produce 23 different agricultural items including rice and other food items to thrive. Today, Nigerian rice, wheat, maize, soyabeans, groundnut and poultry products, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, are back.
To promote bountiful harvests, the Buhari administration funded fertilizer production and achieved 30 million 50kg of NPK while increasing the country’s blending plants from 4 to 62.
THISDAY newspaper corroborated these assertions in a report by its staff, Obinna Chima seven months ago, under the headline, “Farmers Count Gains of Anchor Borrowers Scheme, to Unveil Mega Rice Pyramid”. This THISDAY report informed readers that ABP increased the yield of rice paddy and maize per hectare from 1.8metric tonnes in 2015 to 5 metric tonnes in 2022 and capacity utilisation of rice mills from 30 to 90 percent.
The newspaper which Shaka claims to edit also reported that “there has been significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill from a monstrous $1.05 billion prior to November 2015 to the current figure of $18.15 million annually. The programme has also created an estimated 12.3 million direct and indirect jobs across the different value chains and food belts of the country.”
How come an editor discountenanced what he has put out for his newspapers’ readers to buy and believe? Why is there no connection between the truths published by Thisday and the reasoning of its editor?
Nigerians are very mobile. That is why this administration placed emphasis on the development of roads, rail, sea and air transportation.
Within four years, the 156 kilometres Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail, with the capacity to carry 558 passengers per trip, was completed. Other rail routes completed are Abuja Light Rail, Abuja-Kaduna (186kilometres); Itakpe-Warri, (327 kilometres); Lagos to Apapa port, 8.72 kilometres. In 2021, the rail service in Nigeria conveyed over 2.7million passengers and 168,301tonnes of goods. It is also on record that 3,000 tonnes of cement are conveyed from the Apapa port, Lagos to Kano every month. These works created no fewer than 11,000 jobs.
Lagosans are enjoying the Apapa- Oshodi-Oworonshoki – Ojota. Those travelling on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway enjoy stress-free ride in shorter time. The Second Niger Bridge will be commissioned soon while the construction of Abuja-Kaduna- Kano Expressway is on course.
To provide more roads, the Buhari administration introduced the highly innovative Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme that is attracting more and more companies to road projects. Similarly, cheaper Sukuk funds were used to construct and complete 40 projects across the country. The Sukuk signboards are everywhere.
Air and sea ports are receiving unprecedented attention. Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt now have new terminals. With the on-going construction of the first Flight Safety Laboratory at the Accident Investigation Bureau in Abuja, black boxes will soon be analysed in Nigeria. And there is good news for port users: the Lekki Deep Sea Port will soon be commissioned.
Like all Nigerians, security continues to be a matter of grave concern to the Buhari administration. In terms of equipping the military to combat terrorism and kidnapping, the Nigerian Air Force has acquired 38 new aircraft including 10 Super MushShak, 5 Mi-M35 Helicopters, 12 129 Super Tucano,3 J7-17 Thunders. The Force will soon take delivery of 36 new fighter aircraft including 12 AH-1Z Attack helicopters and 24 M-326 Fighter Attack Helicopters.
The Nigerian Navy has acquired more than 400 new platforms since 2015 including 172 Riverine patrol boats, 172 rigid hull inflatable boats, 2 Seaward Defence Boats, 12 Manta patrol Craft, 22 Fast Attack Boats, 14 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles among so many others.
Shaka does a lot of damage to the morale and elan of our gallant forces confronting terrorism on behalf of the Nigerian people each time he accentuates the incursions of the terrorists but denigrates Nigerian soldiers who fight night and day to roll back those who are waging war against our fatherland. When he writes that the security forces are not combatting kidnapping, he demoralises our young men and women soldiers in the forests engaging terrorists and kidnappers conscious of the oath they swore to die for our country.
Yet, the progress in the war against terrorism that Shaka refuses to acknowledge was easily recognised by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he visited Borno State in May, this year. In its May 4, 2022 edition, Thisday, edited by Shaka, published Guterres’ assessment as reported by its staff, Michael Olugbode under the headline, “UN Scribe Guterres: The Borno I found today is One of Hope” as follows:
“Now, the Borno State I have heard about in many circumstances around my life as High Commissioner for Refugees and then as Secretary General was Borno State of terrorism, of violence, of displacement and despair.
This is not the Borno that I found today. The Borno I found today is a Borno of hope. It is a Borno with future and I was very impressed to see the policy that is being applied here, recognising that we don’t fight terrorism just by military means.”
Again, one is forced to wonder if Shaka reads the newspaper he edits and why facts published by his newspaper play no role in the column he writes and the jaundiced opinions he holds.
If an editor and columnist would not even acknowledge the heroic leadership provided by this administration in saving lives by deploying N49 billion to manage the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in 52 federal health institutions, if he would not admit that many states would have caved in without the N614 billion Budget Support Facility, if the payment of over N700 billion reimbursement to states for the federal projects undertaken in their areas to shore up their finances does not matter to him and if he knows but refuses to tell his readers that the Buhari administration assisted states to renegotiate their debts to longer term conditions to ease repayment, how do the members of the public who rely on him for information fare?
The fact that this administration intervened massively with the National Social Investment Programme to support N46 million poor Nigerians including 2 million beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer, 774,000 beneficiaries of the Special Public Works Programme and 12 million beneficiaries of the Survival Fund are key facts that should be in the fact book of any professionally-minded editor.
It is disturbing that Shaka is not ready to believe these achievements but swallows, hook, line and sinker, the pedestrian yarn of Kawu Baraje, a former secretary and later factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, the party responsible for the genesis and accumulation of socio-economic crises of Nigeria’s political economy.
Baraje’s account that he was responsible for bringing in Fulani from four West African countries to vote in the 2015 elections and their votes gave the APC victory is a tale that an editor worth his salt should have investigated for veracity. The questions: How many were involved? Where did they vote? Who gave them voter’s card? It is interesting that this confession to the crime of trafficking in persons, illegal procurement of voter cards, impersonation and rigging by a prominent politician does not bother the editor of a foremost newspaper. And considering the fact that Baraje was a national secretary of the PDP and factional chairman before he and the nPDP crossed to the APC, shouldn’t the editor’s conclusion be that Baraje must have used this method to win votes for the PDP in all the federal elections from 1999 to 2011? Shouldn’t Shaka be calling for the arrest of Baraje? Instead, he devoted lengthy space in his article to eulogise Baraje for “revealing” the cause of insecurity in Nigeria.
More conspiratorial is the implied suggestion that insecurity started after the 2015 elections, a deliberate attempt to obliterate from our memory the spate of kidnapping all over the country between 2011 and 2015 and give the PDP, Shaka’s preferred party, a clean bill on security.
The truth is that what the PDP couldn’t do with kidnappers has been done under this administration. Hamisu Bala, aka Wadume, the notorious kidnapper in Taraba State was arrested, investigated, prosecuted and convicted. He is serving his sentence. Chukwumadieme Onwamadike, aka Evans, was arrested, investigated, prosecuted and convicted. He is serving a life sentence as we write. The other kidnappers making Nigerians go through ordeals may be lucky for some time but they won’t be lucky forever. They have survived so far because of the government’s strategy of reducing the death of kidnapped victims during possible crossfire. The life of every Nigerian is dearest to the heart of the APC and we believe as more life-saving tactics of rescuing kidnapped victims develop, raids of kidnappers’ den will increase.
The APC has also tightened the legal muscle on kidnapping by enacting the law which says anyone convicted of kidnapping will die in prison. The penalty of life sentence is just a step from death by hanging and was deliberately chosen in reverence of God, who is the only One that gives and saves lives.
Contrary to Shaka’s flawed logic, the above legacies of President Buhari do not constitute an albatross. They will be transformed and scaled up to serve the people under the Tinubu presidency.
The above preamble is to prepare for the real issue at stake, the presidential candidature of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress and the campaign of calumny, hatred, misinformation and disinformation orchestrated by Shaka Momodu ostensibly in the exercise of his freedom of speech but crudely in the service of the Peoples Democratic Party disgraced from power after 16 years of infamy.
Interestingly, Momodu was a correspondent of THISDAY on the Lagos State Governor’s Press Corps with the privilege of a front row seat between 2003 and 2007 when Asiwaju governed Lagos State.
Courage, vision, technological innovation and application stand Asiwaju Bola Tinubu far above any other contestant in this race. These are the core values of Tinubu’s politics and the drivers of his political trajectory from the senatorial elections of 1992, governorship elections of 1999 to the presidential convention of 2022. Because they have been comprehensively consistent over these years, it is logical to predict that a Tinubu Presidency will transform Nigeria to a globally competitive political economy that will address the basic needs of Nigerians, secure the country and spread posterity to all and sundry.
What Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate offers Nigeria is the national version of the transformation that has been taking place in Lagos since he was elected in 1999; a transformation strategy that produced the Lagos Development Plan and enabled the megacity to generate its internal revenue to cope with incessant migration in the midst of inadequate federal allocations.
What Shaka offers the readers is a return to the conservative forces of retrogression that would return Nigeria to the hands of those who sold its assets to themselves and resume the business of trading the country’s long term interests for short term payout.
Those who gave him the task of using his column to run Asiwaju down, have, unfortunately dressed him in a coat whose sleeves are much longer than his hands. Long before Shaka sat on the editorial chair, accomplished men of worth and stature have trodden that path and given Tinubu the medal of excellence. I have scores and scores of these global achievers who have watched and worked with Tinubu over the years and salute his talent, courage, vision and innovation.
For example: Jim Ovia, Chairman and Founder, Zenith Bank, Visafone: “Your various landmark policies when you were the Executive Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 encouraged so many entrepreneurs in Lagos State to take bold initiatives that eventually metamorphosed into huge business success stories. You supported many entrepreneurs in their various initiatives which eventually created thousands of jobs in Lagos State.” (March 2, 2012)
Professor Ben Nwabueze, former Minister of Education: “His continuing popularity owes in large measure to his remarkable record of achievements as Governor of Lagos State for eight years during which he initiated and sustained the infrastructural, environmental and other social service development schemes that have transformed the face of Lagos almost beyond imagination.” ( 10th March 2012).
Howard F, Jeter, former American Ambassador to Nigeria: “Governor Tinubu, you are a man of deep convictions and commitment; a man of action who lives and practices his principles and his faith each and every day. You have a heart of gold but nerves of steel and you are a leader whom Nigerians can count to protect their interests, champion their freedoms and hold their leaders accountable. You are a leader of leaders and at the same time, a man of the people. You are compassionate about Nigeria and care deeply about its people.” March, 2012.
Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, former Governor of Kano State: “At a time when visionary and purposeful leadership is rare, Asiwaju represents a shining light to those who are turned off by today’s political climate. For example, during his sojourn as Governor of Lagos State for eight years, Asiwaju has laid the foundation for genuine and sustainable transformation of the state such that it is now a model in the Federation.” (March 6, 2012)
Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman, Economic & Financial Crimes Commission: “In every corner and every street side, the political discourse about and around the multi-faceted personality of Asiwaju Tinubu is one of presence, relevance and a fidelity to political and social responsibility.”
Lt. Gen. Ipoola Akinrinade (rtd.) former Chief of Defence Staff, NADECO chieftain: “You have a knack for finding appropriate talents to execute your dreams and courageous co-travellers that can stand the strains of leadership. You have scored numerous victories: transformation of Lagos, a successful succession plan, unblinking confrontation against undemocratic behaviour bordering on felony in good climes, in very high places, building and sustaining an opposition party where the vogue is to mainstream and prosper in looting.” (March 1, 2012)
Shaka, with all your shakara, can you fit into this assembly of distinguished personalities? Will you dispute the wise and seasoned judgment of these captains of private and public sectors who have served this country and contributed to the development of our people on the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Kehinde Bamigbetan, Deputy Director, Strategic Communications, Asiwaju Campaign Council, lives in Lagos