The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has come to the defence of his principal over the “unfair criticism of the Buhari administration” on account of the numerous challenges facing the Nation under his watch.
According to Shehu, “the last couple of weeks have witnessed the heaviest public criticism of the Muhammadu Buhari administration since he came to power.”
He added that “Unfair criticism of the Buhari administration especially on account of escalating prices of foodstuff and the liberalization of the currency exchange needs to be challenged before it overshadows the commendable job the President has done in fighting terrorism as part of overall effort to secure the country, reducing corruption and yes, arresting the economic slide before it sinks the nation.”
Shehu said that the international perception of Nigeria has tremendously improved under the present administration and can lead to foreign investments when properly capitalized upon.
He accused the country’s media for not projecting the many positive attributes of Buhari’s leadership but has succeeded in winning “sympathy for anyone with a view that runs counter to the President’s.”
“The lavish praise the President gets abroad and the wide public support he enjoys among the lower segment of the local population is, by contrast, given a short shrift in the local press, mainstream and online.
“Boko Haram terrorist leader, Shekau or the pipeline vandal from the Delta region is more likely to get newspaper front pages today than the Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige or the Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun talking about jobs creation in the economy,” Shehu said.
Buhari Feels The Pains Of The People
He said the president feels the pulse of the citizens and appreciates that things were not very smooth presently, but assured that things will soon change.
The Presidential Spokesman said: “President Buhari has himself on numerous occasions admitted that the change mantra has brought with it pain and suffering which he likened to the pains of labor. It is a passing phase.”
“He has said times without number that his government is dedicated to the poor. As can be seen from the 2016 budget, this is a government that is determined to hugely empower the disadvantaged groups- the poor, the jobless, the widows and the orphaned children including those of the North-East.
“Following the budget, the administration has begun rolling out several social welfare programs. The direct cash transfer to the poorest of the poor, the school feeding and the recruitment/skills training of about one million jobless citizens are such an example.”
Luck Has Not Been On Our Side
Shehu said that all leaders need luck on their side, in addition to hard work, in order to create what is sometimes seen as economic miracles.
He said: “As a leader, President Buhari never had the luxury of high oil prices as did his predecessors in office.
“When he first emerged as the military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari saw oil price, the mainstay of the nation’s economy sank to as low as $8 a barrel.
“He rolled up his sleeves, worked on diversification strategy of the economy only to be eased out of power just as they began to take hold. Thereafter, his successors abandoned these efforts.
“On his second coming, this time as a democratically elected leader, the collapse of oil prices has challenged President Buhari to quicken efforts towards the diversification of the economy with emphasis given to agriculture and solid minerals mining.”
Diversification Is Key
The President’s media aide said that the country must not lose the opportunity presented by the current oil crisis to diversify the economy and our foreign earnings.
“As the country hopes for a bumper harvest this year, government is taking steps to ensure that no farmer will sell at a loss or fail to find markets for their harvests.
“Grain silos are being readied nationwide to receive excess produce for warehousing to ensure food security, avert market glut and price collapse. By this, government will ensure a minimum guaranteed price,” he said.
Shehu added that the administration is devoting attention to ridding the country of its notoriety as a difficult place of doing business and the National Economic Council under the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo was making significant progress with that regard.
He also mentioned many projects that the administration was treat as priority. They include: “the Second Niger bridge, the East-West expressway, the green field Lagos-Abuja expressway and important national railway projects, Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Kano,… the 4,000 MW Mambila power plant” as well as the Cleanup exercise “Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.”
This Is The Change We Voted For
The presidential aide said that “The change (Nigerians voted for) is working for the nation and sooner than later, the testimony shall be given.”
He noted that “the removal of subsidies on the petrol products has saved the government more than two trillion Naira annual expenditure.”
Shehu added: “President Buhari’s foreign trips have brought many things to the country. He has energized our foreign policy. It is generally accepted that good foreign relations bring foreign direct investment.
“His knack for prudent spending and effective management of resources is in the belief that this country can only prosper when there is transparency, reduced corruption and a drastic cut in bureaucratic red tape.
“His decision to have a small cabinet, reducing government ministries from 46 to 24 has the effect of relieving the treasury of the burden of salaries, allowances and miscellaneous expenses now being counted in billions of Naira.
“It bears repeating that the President is a different kind of leader, who just happens to be a victim of the tyranny of high expectations. He has brought positive intention, commitment, honesty and personal integrity into governance. This is why the country’s poor hold him so dear; this is why the world is in love with him.
“President Buhari should be credited for the unblemished record of his ministers. This is a government that has stayed above scandal for a year.
“The President needs our support with understanding and patience. No matter how hasty a president wants to bring changes, there is no magic wand in that office to make everything change from bad to good or make all of us prosperous with a wave of the hand.
“This change is on course. It requires patience,” Shehu concluded.