Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Sunday, July 5, 2015
On Monday 1st of June 2015 The Nigerian Voice Newspaper wrote to Nigeria High Commission requesting to interview President Mohammadu Buhari during his scheduled attendance of the AU Summit from 7th-15th June 2015 in Sandton, Johannesburg.
In the early hours of Sunday 14th of June 2015, I was on my way to the AU Summit to cover the proceedings of the day when I got a call around 9:00 am to be precise from Nigeria Acting High Commissioner Mr. M.N Cobham. He was having breakfast in the company of Mallam Garba Shehu the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity to the President) and Mr. Femi Adesina; Special Adviser (Media and Publicity to the President).
The Acting High Commissioner then informed me that I have been cleared to interview President Buhari “I am with Mr. Femi Adesina and Mallam Shehu Garba and in view of the good work you are doing in South Africa and as a young hard working Nigerian you have been cleared to interview the President later today, make sure you are around as the time will be communicated to you. Hold on Mr. Adesina will like to speak with you”.
“Good Morning Mr. Olaniyi, well done! We have heard about what you are doing to promote Nigeria in South Africa and we appreciate all you’ve been doing, keep it up! I will inform you of the time for your interview with Mr. President” stated Mr. Adesina on phone.
At that point, despite the cold winter, my body temperature became very hot. I had mixed feelings because I had just been told I was going to sit down one on one with the president of the most populous black nation on earth, the most sought after African President at the moment. The President I had used all my energy and resources to campaign for because I truly desire “CHANGE” in my dear country; Nigeria.
At the Summit, I listened to President Buhari whenever he spoke. I asked questions from Journalist who came to the Summit from Nigeria, so I can have an idea what kind of person President Buhari was with regards interview and the media. The answers I got were not so encouraging, almost everyone saw him as a strict and direct person who gave journalist difficult time, a man whose answers to questions were very precise. I then went into the AU Summit media room to do a little bit of research to prepare my questions.
It was around 11:45pm and the President was still at the Summit; I became very worried. Suddenly, around 12 midnight I got a call from Mr. Femi Adesina who informed me that he is on his way to the hotel reception to take me to the Presidential apartment to set-up and wait for President Buhari to finish for the day at the Summit.
At exactly 12:30 am in the early hours of Monday 15th June 2015 President Buhari took his seat for the interview. I stood up with my heart beating so fast to introduce myself; he looked up at me with a frown and requested I repeat my name. After repeating my name, I then introduced the publication, and where the publication is published, he was amazed, and he said “A Nigerian Community newspaper here in South Africa?” and I replied him “Yes sir” he then said “Impressive, please sit down and feel comfortable for the interview”. Those were the exact words I needed to lift my spirit up, immediately I was full of life and ready for the interview.
My first question to President Buhari was the imbalance of the number of South African companies operating in Nigeria as to Nigerian companies operating in South Africa despite the large number of Nigerians who are resident in South Africa.
President Buhari stated that there is little the government can do if Nigerian entrepreneurs do not complain and are not willing to come and invest in South Africa “This is a private sector affair and to the best of my knowledge I haven’t received any report from Nigeria Chamber of commerce and Industry complaining of South African businesses having an unfair advantage over them. So, if the Nigerian entrepreneurs do not complain there is little we can do. They are conducting their own businesses between themselves as Africans, as South Africans and Nigerians”.
I inquired from President Buhari what his request was at the G7 Summit he recently attended in Germany. President Buhari was precise and showed appreciation for the technological advancement of the developed countries and stated that he asked for logistics and intelligence support because terrorism is a global issue that should be confronted by all nations. “Well, I think the most important support is intelligence. You know this technology can work wonders. You remember from Cuba crisis in 1962 when an American satellite saw the Cyrus of Cuban missiles from 30,000 feet, now after this 1962, after 50 years now, imagine how far the developed countries have gone in technology”.
President Buhari continued “Even after they said Saddam Hussein had weapon of mass destructions, I never took it seriously. If in 1962 they can see weapons of mass destruction how can they accuse Saddam Hussein of having weapon of mass destruction and they didn’t see it. That is what we are looking for from the G7 and they are people of conscience let me put it that way”.
“As countries, they are comfortable; they have gone through all this rig-ma-roll maybe two hundred years ago or so. They have had attacks either from Roman Empire or some strong bodies. But they have settled down, they have stabilized their system. They don’t like animals to suffer not to talk of human beings. That is why they extended the invitation to me. I went and I briefed them and I told them the type of help we want is intelligence, we want help in-terms of logistics for our exercise and in any case Boko Haram declared that they are really with ISIS; terrorism has gone international. Terrorist are in Mali, they are in Nigeria, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq and they are in Yemen”, stated His Excellency.
President Buhari then asked “Who is safe?” and he concluded that “terrorism is an international problem now. So, everybody is trying to make sure that terrorism; either Boko Haram or ISIS or Al Qaedaor or Al-shabab is defeated to secure the world not Nigeria alone, not Mali, not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not Pakistan. This is a problem for the world today, Security”.
We touched base on the issue of Ministers, and asked the President why he is yet to appoint Ministers to run the affairs of the Ministries? President Buhari was precise as he stated that he needs to know the state at which the country is in, because he does not want to appoint a minister and later finds out that the person is found wanting on the issues of accountability.
“Well, I don’t know why people are so anxious for the Ministers. But eventually we will have them, the main reason is that I have an interim committee which I agreed with the former President that Ministers of the outgoing government should hand over their notes or their documents to the interim committee so that a position can be prepared for the new government to start from with clear records of Ministers, because the Ministers knew that they were going, but the technocrats; Permanent Secretaries and directors and so on, they know that they will remain and if anything goes wrong they will be invited to explain”, explained President Buhari.
President Buhari expressed sadness at the way and manner the government of President Goodluck Jonathan handled the handing over notes issue “But unfortunately the out-going government did not corporate, so the committee divided itself to about 5 sub-committees and got resource people. There were people willing to bring documents, and so they prepared it and I got the report 3 days ago”.
He continued “I was waiting for that report because I would like to know what position is the government in especially in-terms of finance and petroleum industry,” stated President Buhari.
He however asked for patience from Nigerians “I am not in a hurry to get ministers at least after I have seen this report, so that I don’t have to appoint a minister today and sack him next week. This report will give me what actually happened in terms of security and economy of the country. And since I have the opportunity to appoint Ministers from both politicians and technocrats, I wouldn’t make the mistake of getting somebody who has been involved in culture of unaccountability” affirms President Buhari.
As I spoke with the President, I brought to his notice the depth of potential that lies with Nigerian Diasporas. I informed the President that Nigerians in the Diaspora remitted a total sum of 21 billion Dollars home in 2013, and what plans does his government have to integrate them into the Nigerian system and take advantage of their skills?
President Buhari was affirmative on division of labour and that those are some of the issues Ministers in charge of that sector will handle, and he will only be involved when his assistance or input is required and that his focus are on his promises to Nigerians. “But you know what we campaigned on are three fundamental issues; firstly is security because we believe that the country has to be secured before we can manage it efficiently”.
He continued, “so we said security and the economy; especially unemployment of the youths. It is the most frightening as far as I am concerned and then of cause the problem of corruption. These are the three things I campaigned on throughout the country”, President Buhari stated.
He reaffirms his promises that he will not interfere with the private sector only when he is needed. “The truth is that I don’t think I will try and interfere with the private sector. There is a system that will be put in place if they need any help either through Labour or through External Affairs or Ministry of Commerce and Trade or Economic Development then the government will look at it. But as long as they manage their relationship with their host country and so on, I will leave the sleeping dog lie”, President Buhari informed.
Because of time we concluded with the current issue going on in the Senate where Senator Bukola Saraki went against party agreement to contest and won as the Senate President of the 8th Legislature.
President Buhari did not hide his displeasure, but insisted that it is a party affair, and that he had made it known that he will not interfere in the legislative affair “There is a system in the National Assembly which is the House of Representatives and the Senate. They have got their own criteria for choosing their own leaders. So, we had a meeting and I told the party caucus that I am not going to interfere because constitutionally I have no right to tell the party who to nominate or put in as a candidate for the upper or lower house”.
President Buhari went on to state the party’s position. “But the party didn’t want to present two candidates because if they present two candidates what we feared eventually happened. One of the candidates went and got the support of the former ruling party and he divided our party that was why the party was not pleased about it”.
He then gave an explanation of the party’s effort to make sure that the party presented a consensus candidate. “The party ran a primary election and the one who will compete with Saraki won as the APC candidate in the National Assembly, but then Saraki did not agree with that, he virtually divided the party and he got the support of PDP, and he allowed PDP to be his deputy Senate President” stated the President.
“This is purely selfish, but actually and purely a party affair; for example during the primaries for Presidential elections, four of us stood and there was no problem because it is part of the system. Myself, former Vice-President Atiku, the Governor of Imo State; Governor Rochas Okoracha and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah a publisher of one of our dailies. Five of us went for the primary and I happen to win, and they agreed there and then that we should all work for the party. But unfortunately for the national Assembly there was a division. So it’s up to them to sort it out” President Buhari concluded.
President Buhari’s message to Nigerians in South Africa is that they should continue to be law-abiding citizens and to play their part in the new Nigeria.
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