Sunday, September 06, 2015

100 Days: So much has changed for Nigerians —Lai Mohammed

By Dapo Akinrefon: Vanguard

ALHAJI Lai Mohammed is the National Publicity
Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In
this interview, the APC spokesman takes stock of the
100 days in office of President Muhammadu Buhari
and boasts that change has come to Nigeria.

What has changed in Nigeria in the first 100 days of
APC's rule at the centre?
Well, I think a lot has changed. There is this new
attitude that there is a leadership in Nigeria today
that can inspire Nigerians to dream again. There is
this change in Nigeria that, for the first time in a long
time, we have a leadership that is capable of bringing
about the necessary change.

I believe also that the last three months has
witnessed a certain relationship between Nigeria and
the external world in the sense that Nigeria, that was
regarded as a pariah state, has now become a Mecca
of sort to foreign dignitaries, like the United Nations
Secretary General and our president is now being
invited to everywhere in the world. All of a sudden,
Nigerians are now proud to be Nigerians and I think
this is very important.

Again, what has changed in Nigeria is that people are
beginning to see that corruption is a vice and that it
is not something to be celebrated. Before now, we
were celebrating corrupt people but, today, Nigerians
are gradually moving back to our old values of
integrity, probity, transparency and merit.
These are things that I believe have changed at the
level of what I call the tangible. At the level of the
intangible, I think the last 100 days has seen a
coordinated, focused and methodical attack on
insecurity and terrorism.

The last 100 days has witnessed a successful rallying
of all our neighbors, region and the entire world to
assist in the fight against Boko Haram.
The president has succeeded in rallying the support
of, first, our neighbors like Cameroon, Benin
Republic, Chad and Niger; the G7 has given us
support and the United States is suspending a law to
enable us combat insurgency. On the domestic
scene also, we now have a rejuvenated army, it is
taking the battle to the insurgents.

We have a new army with a very high moral 'because
of certain steps taken by the president such as
moving the command and control of the army to the
North-East. We also now have our service chiefs
leading the war. They are also interacting with the
soldiers. The president is so confident that he has
given the service chiefs three months deadline to
finish the war against insurgency. In the area of
security I think even the most ardent critic of the
president must give him kudos.

He must have so much impressed the international
community about his fight against insurgency that
the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon invited
him to come and join other world leaders in a global
conference geared at combating extremism.
So, these are things that show that in the area of
security, the president has done a lot. Of course, he
has ordered the recruitment if 10,000 policemen to
assist in the fight against insurgency.

In the area of the economy, I think what he has done,
which is unappreciated by Nigerians, is the bail out
package which he arranged for the states. You see,
by the time we assumed office on May 29, about 20
states of the federation were owing between five and
10 months salary arrears. If not for the bail out
package that the president approved, today, we
would be facing industrial crisis of a magnitude never

But some Nigerians posit that the reason for the
unpaid salaries to civil servants was
mismanagement on the part of state governors.
I see it as an infantile argument and childish. There
is absolutely no evidence that every state that was
unable to pay workers' salary was as a result of
corruption on the part of the governors.

What we know is that between 2010 and 2014, the
three tiers of government were sharing between
N840 billion every month but, by the end of last year,
the average they were sharing was under N380
billion. This means that states, because of the crash
of the price of crude, were getting less than what they
used to get before.

If the argument is that states that were unable to pay
their staff salaries was because of corruption,then
are you now saying that the federal parastatals and
ministries that were owed money, was also because
of corruption?

I think that argument is simplistic. Again, that
argument overlooks the fact that when a state is
unable to oY staff salaries, it affects, not just the
morale of the people but also the lives of the people
because these people have to pay rent, send their
children to school. Are you now saying that because
a particular governor has been reckless, therefore,
civil servants must not be paid? It does not make
sense. The bailout package given to the states, is

States are free to apply, those that believe they are
not owing arrears of staff salaries do not have to. It
has also in a way strengthened the economy.
I think anybody that sees this from the narrow
perspective that the bailout is going to encourage
corruption, is been unfair. I think the government has
started laying the foundation for accountability and
transparency when it ordered that all money
accruing to government should be paid into what we
call the Treasury Single Account.

This is the beginning of accountability and
transparency because when the money is paid in,
the government will know what it has at a glance. I
think the reform that has been brought into the oil
and gas sector is quite spectacular.

Also, the government has made it clear and has laid
the foundation for diversification of the economy.
Here, we are looking at agriculture, mining, the
telecommunication sector and it intends to pay less
emphasis on oil so that we would not be affected by
the volatility in the oil and gas sector as we are
suffering now.

In the area of fighting corruption, the president has
been unrelenting and he has vowed we would
recover all stolen money and, in doing so, he has the
support of not just Nigerians, but also the
international community and they are ready to assist
us to trace looted funds wherever they are kept and
they also going to assist us in repatriating such. The
fight against corruption, to me, is the most

Yes, because it is perceived to be selective. Why?
Well, there is nothing being selective in the fight
against corruption. When you are fighting
corruption, you should also expect corruption to
fight you back. Corruption in Nigeria has large
followership and strong foundation. So, if you are
going to fight corruption, you must also be ready to
absorb the challenges and attacks by corruption.

When people say the fight against corruption is
selective, it is corrupt people fighting back. How can
you say the fight against corruption is selective when
corruption itself is not selective?
Corruption has no political party, no tribe, it has no
religion and if you go by the records before us today,
we have APC politicians being investigated, we have
PDP members being investigated.

We have northerners, Christians, Muslims being
investigated; so what are we talking about?
The truth of the matter is that in this fight against
corruption, members of a political party would be
more prone for investigation than others. In the last
16 years, they (PDP) have been in power, so if you are
going to probe the administration of Dr Goodluck
Jonathan, you must probe his appointees, his
contractors, his employees because they are largely
from the PDP..

So, is a clear case of probing those you think are
responsible for the bad state of the economy. There
is nothing selective about it, what we see is
corruption also fighting back. I think this is one area
the president has succeeded largely.
The biggest victory we have had in fighting corruption
for the first time in Nigeria is that Nigerians are now
appreciating the fact that corruption is bad, it is a
vice and that corruption is the second most deadly
obstacle to our progress. Before now, we were
celebrating corruption.

Before now, it was said that stealing is not corruption
but, today, people know that stealing is corruption.
What you see now is that everybody is sitting up and
for the first time in Nigeria, people are doing what
we call self regulation and self censoring because
they know that there is a new sheriff in town and that
the sheriff is a no-nonsense sheriff.

Angry reactions greeted the denial by President
Buhari of his promises to Nigerians in his first 100
days in office. Why is he reneging on the promise?

When you say somebody is denying, he must have
said it. I am so shocked about the hysteria greeting
the administration's 100 days. Nobody can produce a
document in which the party or the president said he
was going to do anything within 100 days. If anybody
took the time to do a thorough search on the
president's response at Chatham House when the
question was asked: "What do you want to achieve
within the first 100 days?", his answer was clear: "I
don't believe in the fraud called 100 days, we believe
in milestones." So, how can you now say this same
president promised to deliver anything in 100 days?
Do you build schools in 100 days?

The truth of the matter is that there is no document,
no record, no proof that the president ever promised
anybody, anything in 100 days. Whatever they are
coming up with, is just forgery. The most conclusive
evidence is what the president said in Chatham
House and he said this in March, 2015. I was there, it
is not correct, it is not true. Now we have all kinds of
things on the blog and on the internet but the truth if
the matter is that the president said "I do not believe
in 100 days". It is a fraud and I do not want to be part
of that fraud.

Recent appointments made by the president has
generated uproar as they are seen to be lopsided.
What is your position on this?
I think it is about time Nigerians start thinking as
Nigerians, we do not even believe we are a nation.
We do not care whether the country survives or not,
we must change this attitude.

Having said this, it is not possible for the president to
expect that every part of the country would be
respected in the appointments in the first, second or
third month of a government. It is not possible to
expect that making 35 appointments would give you
the balance you need when you are still going to
make over 1,000 appointments. I think people are a
bit impatient. In my view, people are not being fair to
Mr President. You see, when you look at the nature of
the last appointments that were made, at least four
out of six, were personal staff. The Chief of Staff, is a
personal staff and you do not choose as Chief of Staff
somebody you are not comfortable with.

I have been privileged to be a Chief of Staff before, so
I know what it takes. I was Chief of Staff to Asiwaju
Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I was the first person he saw in
the morning and the last person he saw at night, I
was his confidant and the relationship was intimate
that I could enter his bedroom if there was an

You cannot appoint somebody you are not
comfortable with as your Chief of Staff. The same
goes for your Special Adviser on Legislative Matters.
He must be a person familiar with the intrigues in
the National Assembly, he must be a person who
believes fervently in the president and can look after
his interest in the National Assembly.

The same thing applies to the Secretary to the
Government of the Federation; he is the man who
keeps the record of government; he must be a man
who the president can call on any time and he must
also know the president very well.

Having said this, I want to use this opportunity to
assure Nigerians that, in the fullest of time, no part of
Nigeria will be able to complain about
northernisation when all the appointments are made.
It is true that the president has spoken about
integrity and competence as yardstick for
appointments, but this should not pose a problem to
federal character because we know that there is no
part of Nigeria where we do not have competent
people with integrity.

Nigerians expect more from the president but he has
been dubbed 'Baba Go Slow'. What should Nigerians
expect from the APC-led government at the centre?

I must first say that those who say the president has
been slow, are eating their words now because the
kind of activities we have witnessed in the last 100
days cannot, by any yardstick, be said to be slow. If a
man has been elected into office for 48 months and
he spends just four months to plan and get the team
that he wants, he should not be seen as being slow.

In any event, there has been movement, not just
motion, in governance. All the achievements I have
listed were done under 100 days. You can see that
there is more stability in power, the queues have
disappeared at petrol stations. This is what I call the
Buhari-effect and this is just because he is the leader,
it is the leadership effect.

Those who say that he has been slow, apart from the
fact that the ministers are yet to be appointed, the
critical appointments have been made.

Like I have always said, you score a government at
the end of its tenure. You must understand the under
belly of government before appointing ministers.
Take for instance the issue of cutting down on
governance, it was recommended by the Transition
Committee that we have had too many ministers and
ministries and that some ministries should be
merged. This has to be considered because until you
do this, you will not know how many ministers you
are going to have.

It is wrong for anybody to say that this government is
slow. It is thorough and I believe that the outcome of
the thoroughness is in the best interest of Nigerians.

As to what Nigerians should expect in the next
couple of months, I think they should expect
governance. Three areas we are going to see
improvement is good governance, which includes
fight against corruption, cutting down the size of the
bureaucracy, security and the economy. Already, the
foundation has been laid..

AbleMoJah® Nigeria.

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