CHIEF Lai Muhammed, the spokesperson of All Progressives Congress (APC), has said the party is happy with President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievements in 100 days (the Buhari regime was 100 days old on Saturday, September 5, 2015).
He also said, people should be patient with the president on the issue of appointments since he is still going to make about 1,000 appointments.
Chief Lai Muhammed spoke on The Discourse, an interview programme anchored by Jimi Disu on Classic FM 97.3 on Sunday, September 6, 2015.
How well do you think Olisa Metuh is doing as the spokesperson of the opposition?
I think he is coping.
He is coping. No democracy can survive without a virile opposition. With this, we want to encourage the opposition to be virile. We want to encourage them to be alive to their responsibilities. We want them to put us on our toes.
However, we want them to also appreciate that one of the golden rules in opposition is knowing when not to talk at all.
You think he has spoken when he shouldn’t have spoken at all?
Tell me one of them?
If you look at the recent declaration of assets by the president. I think most people were shocked and embarrassed that a man who has held the position of a governor, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Head of State and chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), that all he had to his name is about N30 million. Some heads of cattle, some mud houses, one or two houses in Kano and Kaduna.
If I were in opposition and I am confronted with this kind of information, I will wait till I can really prove that the man is worth more than what he is telling us.
But it has not been verified?
Precisely. That is why I will wait for the verification. If I were in opposition, what I will do is to engage the service of a private investigator to find out. As a matter of fact, I would have done that a long time ago. To start disparaging a man like that, you are running against the current.
What is the current?
Honestly today, we have a president that every Nigerian is proud of. Today, we have a president who has been able to rekindle respect and glory for our country. Today, we have a president who has become a toast of the international community. Today, we have a president who, within 100 days has been able to pull us out of the brink of being a pariah state. Today, heads of state are falling over one another to come and pay us a visit or to invite us to their countries.
Right now, we have a president that we only dreamt of but we never thought could become a reality.
On this issue of 100 days, document posted on your page (APC), don’t you see there is a kind of disconnection between the party and its presidential candidate?
The truth of the matter is that there is no document in existence that talks about the 100 days. You can go to the internet and see all kinds of forged documents. I can tell you that as a spokesperson of the party. Two, as a member of the transition committee, there is no such document.
Nothing like that?
Look at it. For instance, Chattam House was in late February 2015.
How could the president in Chattam House less than four weeks to the election say that he does not believe in 100 days? I am saying that you cannot get into APC website and find anything like that. I was not just the spokesperson of the party, I know that at no time, there no document authored either by the party or by the president or by the campaign organization of what the president is to do in 100 days.
On the issue of declaration of assets, the president’s spokesperson said it was the party that said the president will make his assets public and not the president himself. Is it not the same in this case?
That is in the party manifesto.
Which the president should follow?
Which the president has adopted.
Sorry, should he follow it or adopt it?
He can’t even pick and choose from the party manifesto.
He must follow.
He has to. Like Femi (Adesina) and Shehu Garba said. In the heat of the campaign, we had so many support groups. In fairness to them, many of them were simply patriotic and were committed to our cause. But they did not always represent either the party or the candidate. During the campaign, I opened newspapers and I saw campaign adverts that I did not even know the groups that were behind then. I did not know the source of funding. But don’t forget I came here long before the campaign and I said that the APC is not just a local party but a movement. That is like the entire thing has been hijacked. That it’s being driven not even by the party people but by a lot of volunteers. That kind of thing happens and we have no regret about it. But what we are saying and we insist is that there could be a lot of hysteria over this 100 days thing but the truth of the matter is that there is no document unless, it is forged that says that the president will do certain things in 100 days.
Are you happy with what he has done so far?
I am very proud of what the president has done. There is paradigm shift in Nigeria. If there is anything, Nigerians feel today that Nigeria is no longer on auto pilot. Which means somebody is in charge. A very competent person is in charge. Nigerians today are going to see that corruption is a vice. Before now, we are celebrating corrupt people. They were the toast of the society. Today, nobody wants to associate with them. I am not surprised that corruption is fighting back, it is to be expected. Don’t forget that corruption has a large followership in Nigeria and a very strong foundation. It’s been around for a very long time. Many people made their fortunes through corruption. Many people made their name through corrupt practices. Such people will not sit down idle and watch you fight corruption. They will fight back. That is what is happening.
What is the party’s position of President Buhari’s appointments so far? It appears the party is not carried along? Is the party happy with what is happening so far?
Without mincing words, the party is very happy with all the appointments so far. It is not quite true that no member of the party has been brought on board. The Secretary to the Government incidentally was the National Vice Chairman North East of the party. People think appointments are one offer, that appointment is a sprint. It is a marathon.
This president will continue to make appointments for the next couple of months. He is probably going to make more than a thousand appointments during this tenure. Therefore, trying to say he has made 34 appointments and he is not balanced, I think…
But it’s a bit disturbing…
It depends on the view point you see it. But what bothers me about the appointments frankly speaking is that we are not yet one nation. We keep thinking in terms of religion, ethnicity and state. Nobody is thinking in terms of citizenship. I appreciate what the constitution says. I know that in a complex country like Nigeria, we must make sure we reflect all tendencies. However, look at the nature of the appointments that were made. Many of them are appointment that are personal in nature. I will take the issue of Chief of Staff. Chief of Staff is actually Chief of Personal Staff. That is the real title. The Chief of Staff is actually the link between the president’s private and public life. He is the link between the president’s past and present. I have been fortunate enough to be a Chief of Staff myself. I was the first person the governor sees in the morning and the last person he sees at night every day.
I was a sounding board, I was his confidant. I was the person who decided who would see the governor or not because I know who he wanted to see or not. I had access to the governor 24 hours anywhere in the world at anytime including his bedroom.
You were in Jagaban’s (Tinubu) bedroom?
Several occasions. I had to go there if the matter is very urgent. I am saying this because I didn’t cultivate this on duty. I have had this rapport with him for more than a decade, before I became his Chief of Staff.
Therefore, when you are going to appoint the Chief of Staff, it must be somebody you are very familiar with.
Some of the people he appointed are not his personal staff. Like the Custom boss, Immigration boss and so on.
If a man is going to make a thousand appointments, it is too early to start saying the appointments are skewed one way or the other. One thing I can assure you is that this president is the president for the whole country. This president will ensure no part of Nigeria is left unrepresented in his appointments. All we need to do is to wait.
Is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu happy with the appointments made so far?
He can’t be happier.
Is Tunde Fowler his nominee?
He didn’t tell me so.
But you said you are close to him. What I heard is that Fowler is Amosun’s nominee. Is that true?
For me, I will not tell you what I don’t know or hear.
There is a document going round in social media that Rotimi Amaechi is complaining that he was betrayed. Could that document be true?
That document is false. I picked my phone and I called Amaechi himself, I couldn’t reach him. I called Dakuku, I said ‘Your Excellency, is it true that you had a meeting today and Gov. Amaechi addressed you.’ He said my brother, it is not true. I said but he made you a witness there. He said these people are just bent on destroying us. I called Dakuku about 8 p.m yesterday (Saturday, September 5, 2015).
Is it true you are going to be made the Minister of Information?
Nobody that I know of knows who is going to be appointed a minister or not. Who is not going to be proud to serve in an administration of this president? But I don’t think the issue is about me.
Do you think that the fact that we don’t have minister is making governance a bit slow?
My position is this. The president was elected for four years. Everybody has his own style. The president believes if you do not plan, you are planning to fail. I think if he spends four months planning how he is going to run the affairs of the country for the next 48 months, I don’t think that is too much.
Shouldn’t he have done that before now?
He couldn’t have done that for two reasons. One, as soon as elections were over, he set up a transition committee. His own idea of transition committee was that we are going to interface with the outgoing government. In so doing, we have opportunities to ask questions and seek clarifications.
But as you all know, we never met with any minister. We never had any interactions with them. It was only about four or five days to the handover day that we got any document whatsoever from the outgoing government. That was a problem for him.
Two, when the transition committee also made recommendations that the cost of governance should be cut down drastically, they recommend that they should fuse ministries into 18 or 19. Until he approves the recommendation, we will not even know how many ministers he is going to appoint.
Third, up till last week the president was still taking reports from various MDAs. Without you getting to the underbelly of governance, what mandates are you going to give your ministers?
– TOLANI ABATTI