Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, was guest on Politics on Sunday, Channels TV, anchored by SEUN OKINBALOYE, November 13, 2016.
Q: Mr Adesina, do you think that it makes sense for the President to represent a loan proposal that was thrown back at his chest?
A: Yes, it makes sense to represent. You will notice that what the Senate said was that, it needed more details about the bid for loan and it was not that it rejected the idea completely. Now, on the basis of that, if government did not represent, it won’t show you as a serious government in the first place. This is not a flippant government and before it asked for that kind of loan, it did its homework properly, and if the Senate says it needs more details, then more details would be provided and the request would be represented.
Q: Is the Presidency embarrassed by that singular decision by the national assembly to throw that request back at the chest of the President, saying, look, give us more details?
A: It is not about pride. It is not about individuals, it is about our country. The Presidency is out to serve the people, those at the Presidency are not serving themselves. If they were serving themselves, we could be talking of embarrassment. But because the intention is to serve the people, embarrassment does not come in at all.
Q: This is not the first time we are hearing in the life of this government that the National Assembly would say they are not impressed by the work done by the aides of the President as regarding the economy. We heard that on the 2015 budget, we are hearing it again on the loan request and perhaps we are hearing it again on the MTEF proposal. Is this not an indictment of some of the people that the President brought around himself?
A: At best, that is just an opinion. That is the opinion of the person in the Senate who spoke, and he has a right to his opinion. It does not make it gospel; it does not mean he is completely right. You do not know at that particular time what is motivating that person to speak.
Q: You would remember vividly that the crisis over the 2015 budget was not just an opinion, it was a very big issue, and it has to do with the fact that the false document was retrieved because it was not properly done or some other projects were not properly added to it. Is that an opinion, is that the way the presidency would look at it? And when we say provide us the details in the first place, why would the presidency not provide the necessary details before going ahead to the National Assembly?
A: At any given time, there are undercurrents and unless you know what those undercurrents are, you may not have a complete picture of what is happening. It is the undercurrent that you need to understand. We may not be able to talk about those undercurrents now.
Q: Do you understand that undercurrent could mean a clash between the executive and the legislature, that the President is not handling the politics side of business properly?
A: I did not talk about any clash, but when you say politics, yes I meant politics. But what should be at play now is national interest, the interest of the Nigerian economy rather than politics. I just think politics is coming too much into play rather than the interest of the country, the economy and the interest of the ordinary people.
Q: Professor Momoh says in the practical sense that we do not have an economic team.
A: I heard him, but he has a right to his opinion. Before he walked out of the studio, he whispered to me, “I know what you would say because I have heard you say it several times that we have an economic team”. Yes, and I say it again, we have an economic team. So, if he thinks that there is no economic team, it can only be his opinion because we know the economic team that we have, headed by a Vice president, then we have a Finance minister, Minister for Budget and National Planning, a Central Bank governor is in place, an Economic Adviser to the president, Trade and Investment Minister, we have different kinds of people at different levels, and you say there is no team.
Q: But the reality is we know some of those who compose that economic team, but what Nigerians are pointing out is the competence of some of these. Some people would say in other climes, when Nigeria entered into recession, the team should have been disbanded in the first place
Q: It is a subjective thing, you can’t talk of competence when you have turbulence, it is like you are in an airplane and there is serious turbulence and then you begin to say it is the pilot that is not efficient. You are not considering maybe the weather, the atmosphere is what is playing up, and the pilot needed to keep his head so that he would steer the aircraft through that turbulence, so it is a similarity that we have with the economy. Nigeria is going through troubled times and we need clear headed people who would steer us through that time.
Q: Some people would say that they are advising the President to re-jig his cabinet. Is there a possibility of that happening in the coming months?
A: Let me refer you to the Good Book. It says, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? It is before his master that he either rises or falls.” The President assembled that cabinet; he has timelines and deliverables for them. So he is the one who can judge and assess them. If he is going to re-jig that cabinet, it is going to be his decision, his prerogative.
Q: When would the 2017 budget be presented to the National Assembly, and people are wondering the same thing that happened to the 2016 budget may happen to this 2017 budget.
A: You would also agree that we are recording better timing. It was to have come October 31, but it would come as soon as possible.
Q: A lot of people talked about transparency, the issue of the money that has been recovered. Nigerians need to know how much we have. If we are talking about borrowing, what of the monies you said you have recovered? Your government has said that we have recovered so many billions from those who have stolen Nigeria’s money, and we are talking about borrowing again?
A: What figure were we given? N87 billion and $300 million, that is the figure that came through the Minister of Information in June. What does that amount to? It was said that the Minister would continuously update that figure. But the figure we have to work with now is N87 billion and $300 million, and we know that that is just a drop in the ocean.
Submitted for publication by Femi Adesina