The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina in this interview with The Hague-based Diplomat Magazine's correspondent Sunday Oyinloye speaks on what government is doing to bring the economy back on track, Nigerian-Dutch relations and other topics.
Q: The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of Agricultural products in the world, what is the government of Nigeria doing to tap from the Netherlands experience in view of the fact that the country is the largest European investor in Nigeria?
A: Nigeria and Netherlands do things together particularly in the area of Agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh recently visited the Netherlands. We know that Netherlands is very strong in dairy products. That is an area Nigeria wants to develop because the amount we spend on milk importation annually is huge and if we are able to conserve that it, will help our economy.
There is a lot Nigeria can benefit from the Netherlands, and with the emphasis of this government on agriculture, solid minerals, manufacturing and other ways in which the economy will be diversified, you can be sure that we will have a lot to do with the Netherlands.
The government of Nigeria is trying to diversify the economy with more emphasis on Agriculture. What parts of the world is the government partnering with to achieve this goal?
I know that wherever the President has traveled to in the past one year and three months in which he has been in office, Agriculture has always been one of the key things he discussed. Any country that has something to bring to the table in terms of agricultural development, Nigeria is ready for such partnership.
There is the allegation that some of the state governors are mismanaging the bailout funds given to them to pay salaries of workers. What is the Federal Government doing to ensure accountability in the use of these funds?
We are a federation and in a true federation, the Federal Government cannot dictate to the states, however since the Federal Government is the one giving the package to the states, it has also come up with some conditions. Those conditions are meant to help use the package they collect for the good of the people. For instance, the last one that was done, you have to subscribe to TSA in your state which is one way to ensure that the money is not mismanaged. There are other conditions like that before they could access the money.
However, what is important is for citizens themselves to begin to monitor what their leaders do. Citizens have to be interested in what is happening in their states. If your governor has collected stimulus package, you have to be interested in how it is used.
Some critics of President Muhammadu Buhari have described his anti-corruption fight as being selective. How would you react to this?
There will always be critics. There will always be people who differ. They are critics, so they don’t have to agree with everything the government does. But the question is, are these critics right? The answer is No, they are not. When they say anti-corruption is selective, I say give me examples, but they have not been able to provide one. There are retired Generals currently facing trails.
Are they members of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? .They are not. Don’t forget that PDP was in power for 16 years, and it is those who have access to the treasury that can abuse it. They abused the treasury so they are answering for it
But some of the major players in the last administration are now in the ruling party. Is that not a way of escaping probe?
Being in the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) does not amount to a cover automatically. If there is an indictment against anybody, not just in APC even if the person is in government, you can be sure we will not spare such a person.
Some people have been arrested for their roles in the alleged massive looting of the treasury during the last administration especially over the arms funds which were looted. Interestingly the Head of that government who was the Commander –in-Chief of the Armed Forces is still walking as a free man. Is that fair enough?
You don’t just put people in detention; something has to be traced to that person, so let’s leave it at that.
Are you saying that nothing has been traced to former President Goodluck Jonathan?
Let us leave it at that.
The Senate President is currently on trial over alleged false declaration of assets. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is also alleged to be involved in budget padding; these are leaders of the ruling party. Is the Federal Government comfortable with that?
Each person will answer for what he or she has done. That is what I can say about that. If they have done what they were alleged to have done, then, they didn’t do those things because they members of All Progressives Congress (APC) they did it as individuals, so let each individual answer for what he or she has done
Some Nigerians are critical about the pace of economic efforts of the President. They said the President is slow. How would you react?
In his October last year broadcast, he said one significant thing. He said order is better than speed. That answers the question. Easy does it, they stumble that run fast. The state which Nigeria is, you need to be methodical, you need to be systematic. It doesn’t calls for speed that will cause further confusion. Eventually, we will get to where we are going.
What makes President Buhari different from other Heads of Governments that Nigeria has had?
His integrity. He was a Military Governor; oil Minister, after that he became Head of State and later PTDF Chairman for five years and he remains simple, he remains a man of modest means. Have you ever seen an oil Minister without an oil block? Very rare, have you ever seen a former governor who will not have a foreign account? Very rare. So integrity and transparency make him stand out.
What should Nigerians expect from the Federal Government in the next three years?
Nigerian can look forward to a diversified economy, an economy that is not solely dependent on oil. They can look forward to a regenerated and rejuvenated infrastructural development. They can look forward to a better quality of life; they can look forward to a more secured country. The President is working towards a more secured country. They can look forward to a country where probity and transparency are held in highest esteem.
Article republished with permission from Diplomat Magazine. Original story via http://www.diplomatmagazine.nl/