Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina was until his appointment the managing director of Sun Newspapers and concurrently, the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE.
In this interview, by Bashir Adefaka, the presidential spokesman responds to issues on the pace and pattern of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
How do you think the press and the executive arm of government can collaborate to move the country forward?
I think that cooperation is very, very important. You see, recently the relationship between the First Estate and the Fourth Estate had been downright adversarial and if it was not adversarial, it was suspicious. It is better today than it has ever been in the history of the country. We know that the country had been under long military rule during which the executive and the media were never friends.
We still have vestiges of that even now, but then things are fairly better than they have ever been. And I believe that under this administration, it will be a lot better. Don?t forget that the very day that President Buhari resumed at this Presidential Villa was also the day he visited the State House Press Corp in the gallery where they stay. It was some sort of wonderment for them because I heard a lot of them say openly that they had been covering this Villa for six, eight years and that they never received the President.
So, for President Buhari, to on the first day of his resumption in the Villa, to have paid the press people a courtesy visit, so to say, I think it foreshadows what is to come. It is going to be a pleasant relationship in the months and the years ahead. I read the column of one of them, I think Lekan Adetayo of The Punch, he narrated an account of the day they stayed very late at the Villa because there was a political meeting going on and when that meeting finished in the wee hours, the President (Buhari) passed by and he stopped by to greet them. He said members of the Press Corp appreciated that a lot because in the past, presidents would just walk by and would not give them a glance.
It shows that we are in for a good relationship. It does not mean that they will see the truth and will not talk. No, they are still going to be independent, they will report truly and factually but they are going to be treated as decent professionals. And it is going to be good for our country. Enough of adversarial relationship between the press and the executive!
What would be the signature programmes of this government?
Right from the campaign you knew the things that were dear to the heart of the president. I sat at an interview he also granted a television station and he reiterated those programmes. Of course you know that one of these is anti-corruption. He has always said unless Nigeria kills corruption that corruption will kill Nigeria.
So, anti-corruption is going to be very dear to his heart. I told some people privately that I pity the first person that President Buhari will catch in his anti-corruption drive (laughs). I pity the first person who is going to fall into this anti-corruption trap and that person is not going to find it funny.
And has he not caught the first person yet?
No. When he catches the first person, you will know publicly that there has been a catch, and he will look for more. If you have evidence that somebody has taken any major fund anywhere, and it comes to the knowledge of the President, you can be sure that he will also be dealt with. Gone are the days when people would be accused of stealing billions and trillions of Naira and it ends there and nothing comes out of it. You can be sure, not with this President, because anti-corruption is very, very dear to his heart.
Then, one thing that is also very dear to his heart is generating employment. He is concerned about the rate of unemployment in the country. He has said that about 60 percent of youths are unemployed. Youths that are the life blood of the economy, about 60 percent of them are out of jobs, or they are underpaid or disgruntled.
So, he looks forward to a situation where the country will be so fixed that jobs will be available, particularly to the youths and that also is tied to the economy. When the economy is properly fixed, it will reflect in the employment situation. So, he plans that the economy must be fixed and Nigeria will become robust. Now when the economy is robust, there will be opportunities aplenty. That is also very dear to the heart of the President. I have so many