Key Achievements Of Buhari’s Administration In 2017 – By Femi Adesina

At the twilight of 2017, and at the threshold of a brand New Year, it is fitting to recount some key achievements of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in the outgoing year.

Here We Go

Despite global economic challenges and initial outlook of slow, or unlikely, recovery, the Nigerian economy trumped predictions and witnessed some remarkable changes in 2017, which include exiting from the worst recession in decades and a gradual stabilization of the naira.

In our review of the economy based on facts and figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, we are pleased to note that the economy has been on the path of steady growth since the second quarter, after contracting for five consecutive quarters.

President Muhammadu Buhari is hopeful that the exit from recession, stabilization of the naira and robust harvest in the agricultural sector will continue to impact on the livelihood of Nigerians.

Already, multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have projected higher growth for the economy in 2018, and we are hopeful that the gains of 2017 in agriculture will be further improved.

The agricultural sector posted consistent growth levels throughout the recession, leading other sectors into positive growth rates.

Accordingly, Nigeria saw bumper food harvests, especially in rice, whose local production continues to rise significantly with states like Ebonyi, Kebbi and Kano leading the pack, while Ogun joined the loop by the end of 2017.

The price of a 50kg bag of rice – a staple in our country – has fallen by about 30 per cent since the beginning of 2017, as local production continues to rise. The price will keep falling, as production remains consistent and rises.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the number of Nigerians facing food insecurity in the northeast dropped by half this year.

Against all odds, 2017 has turned out the Year of Nigeria’s Agriculture Revolution, embodied by the successes of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) and the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which were launched by President Buhari.

For the records, more than a dozen moribund fertilizer blending plants were revived under the PFI this year.

Furthermore on the improved indicators, the inflation rate fell for ten consecutive months in 2017, February to November, with the Central Bank of Nigeria projecting that it is likely going to drop to single digit by 2018.

The Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme rolled out across the states and currently 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily, while 200,000 unemployed graduates were enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme.

As part of the empowerment programme, 250, 000 loans were distributed to artisans, traders and farmers in 2017.

In the power sector, the Federal Government launched a N701 billion Intervention Fuind (Payment Assurance Programme) aimed at supporting power generating companies to meet their payment obligations to gas and equipment suppliers, banks and other partners. The impact is already being felt as the amount of power distribution is now steady at around
4,000MW.

Dream turned reality in 2017 when the Federal Government began paying pensions to police officers who were granted Presidential Pardon in the year 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War.

These officers, and their next of kin, had waited for their pensions for 17 years since the Presidential Pardon.

Reforms by the Federal Government to inspire start-ups to cut unemployment saw Nigeria rise 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, earning the country a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world.

Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves grew by $12 billion, reaching the highest level since 2014. Nigeria also added, this year, an additional $250m to its Sovereign Wealth Fund. Also, Nigeria’s trade balance crossed over into surplus territory, from a deficit in 2016.

To change the narrative on infrastructure deficit, the government successfully issued two Eurobonds (US$4.5bn), a Sukuk Bond (N100 billion), a Diaspora Bond (US$300m), and the first Sovereign Climate Bond in Africa, raising billions of dollars for infrastructure spending.

By March 2018, the Federal Government’s launch of a Tax Amnesty scheme is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues for investment in the country.

The Federal Government’s fight against corruption took a new turn in 2017 as the successful implementation of a Whistleblowing Programme saw millions of dollars recovered.

The Nigeria Customs Service recorded its highest revenue collection, crossing the One Trillion Naira (N1, 000,000,000, 000) mark; the target for 2017 was 770 billion Naira (N770,573,730,490) and 2016 collection was just under 900 billion (N898,673,857,431.07).

The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government, a staggering distance from the N51 million remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016.

Finally, President Buhari’s investment in infrastructure will see major facelifts across the country in power, rail and roads, which have been scheduled to come on stream in 2018.

Femi Adesina
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)

Adesina Highlights APC’s Successes

President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were yesterday engaged in a war of words over the achievements of the All Progressives Congress administration.

While President Buhari beat his chest in posting successes in food supply, security and the economy, his aides marshaled what were described as 17 key achievements of the administration in the outgoing year. President Buhari The president and the APC administration were, however, put on the spot by the PDP which charged the government not to make any new promises at the beginning of the New Year, 2018 saying that the government had failed to keep to the promises it made in the past.

The PDP particularly cited what it claimed as failed promises of bringing down fuel supply, making the naira to exchange for one dollar and what it described as the failed promises of providing security to the nook and cranny of the country. The PDP which responded through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan said the achievements were the figment of the imagination as they existed nowhere saying the outgoing year is easily the worst year of hardship for most Nigerians.

Speaking when he received a delegation from Kebbi State led by Governor Atiku Bagudu, President Buhari while blaming the elite class for earlier trying to distract his administration said: “We are not doing badly in the agricultural sector and Nigerians, and the world, are beginning to appreciate our efforts. We will not be satisfied; we will work harder until we start exporting food.

“We are happy that rice and beans importation into the country have gone down by 90 per cent, and visibly everyone can see how productive states like Kebbi have turned out to be and states like Lagos, Ogun and Ebonyi are following the example,” he said. He said Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto states had already reported remarkable turnaround in the agricultural sector, with more youths taking interest in entrepreneurship.

Blames elites The President said he disagreed with the astronomical food import bill presented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from the inception of the administration, pointing out that it was later discovered to be “fraudulent practices” by some of the elites to deplete the foreign reserves. “When I was told that the CBN had no savings after the windfall of selling oil for more than $100 per barrel for many years, and the production was 2.1 billion barrel per day, I did not believe them. “I did not believe them because majority of Nigerians cannot afford imported food; they rely on what is locally grown. It turned out that 50 per cent of the export bills were fraudulent. That is what the Nigerian elites did.

Unfortunately, we will not know all that happened because the elites worked in collusion with institutions in developed countries, like insurance firms and other financial outfits, to perpetuate the fraud,” he added. On security, President Buhari said the return of farmers to their farm lands in the North East, with glaring results of high yields, was a testimony to the relative peace that had been achieved. He assured that more would be done to check the mayhem of suicide attacks.

The President said his administration would put in more effort to reposition the educational and health sectors to compete with other global institutions. In his remarks, the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the APC family was pleased with the performance of the administration in securing the country, reviving the economy and fighting corruption. Bagudu and members of the delegation, which include the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and former PDP stalwarts in Kebbi State, also prayed for the quick recovery of the President’s son, Yusuf.

Earlier yesterday, President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina had posted what he claimed as the 17 key achievements of the administration.

He said: *Nigeria exited its worst recession in decades. After five quarters of negative growth, the economy bounced back into positive territory. Agriculture was one of the stars of 2017, posting consistent growth levels even throughout the recession.
Also, Inflation fell for ten consecutive months during 2017 (February to November).
*The Naira stabilised against the dollar, after the Central Bank introduced a new forex window for Investors and Exporters. The stability has attracted billions of dollars in portfolio investments since April 2017.

*On the back of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 percent. *Nigeria saw bumper food harvests, especially in rice, whose local production continues to rise significantly (States like Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano leading the pack, with Ogun joining at the end of 2017).
The price of a 50kg bag of rice – a staple in the country – has fallen by about 30 percent since the beginning of 2017, as local production has gone up.

*The Federal Government launched a 701 billion Naira Intervention Fund (‘Payment Assurance Programme’) aimed at supporting power generation companies to meet their payment obligations to gas and equipment suppliers, banks and other partners. The impact is being felt, the amount of power being distributed is now currently steady at around 4,000MW – higher than previously recorded. *The Federal Government began paying pensions to police officers who were granted Presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War. These officers, and their next of kin, have waited for their pensions for 17 years since the Presidential pardon.

*Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world.

*Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves grew by $12 billion, reaching the highest level since 2014. Nigeria also added, this year, an additional $250m to its Sovereign Wealth Fund. Also, Nigeria’s trade balance crossed over into surplus territory, from a deficit in 2016.

*Nigeria successfully issued two Eurobonds (US$4.5bn), a Sukuk Bond (100 billion Naira), a Diaspora Bond (US$300m), and the first Sovereign Climate Bond in Africa, raising billions of dollars for infrastructure spending. *The Federal Government launched a Tax Amnesty scheme expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues when it closes in March 2018.

*The Federal Government successfully commenced implementation of a Whistleblowing Programme that has so far seen recoveries of tens of millions of dollars.

*The Social Investment Programme – Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever – rolled out across dozens of states. (Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduated enlisted into the Npower Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers).

*The number of Nigerians facing food insecurity in the northeast dropped by half, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

*The Nigeria Customs Service recorded its highest-ever revenue collection, crossing the One Trillion Naira (N1,000,000,000) mark. [The target for 2017 was 770 billion Naira (N770,573,730,490); 2016 Collection was just under 900 billion (N898,673,857,431.07)]

*The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted 7.8 billion Naira to the coffers of the Federal Government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was 51 million Naira.

*2017 was also the Year of Nigeria’s Agriculture Revolution, embodied by the successes of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) and the Anchor Borrowers Programme. More than a dozen moribund fertilizer blending plants were revived under the PFI this year. *Finally, 2017 will be the Year that laid the foundation for a 2018 that will be Nigeria’s Year of Infrastructure. A number of important infrastructure projects, in power, rail and road, are scheduled to come on-stream or inch close to completion next year. PDP reacts Reacting to the 17 achievements, Ologbondiyan said: “These supposed achievements are figments of their imagination as they exist nowhere. 2017 will be remembered as the worst year of hardship in the lives of several Nigerians. “The APC-controlled Federal Government is too far from reality to understand the economic pains of Nigerians.” Earlier, the PDP had advised the APC Federal Government not to issue any new promises charging the government to fulfil those it issued in the past which it claimed were largely unfulfilled. The party said Nigerians had been left dispirited by the litany of woes visited on them in the past two years by the APC government, stressing that it would be the height of irresponsibility on the part of government to spew another round of propaganda and false hope in the name of New Year messages. In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary,Ologbondiyan, the party queried: “What else would they tell Nigerians apart from inventing new lies and propaganda as they had always done, particularly at the turn of each New Year? “Every New Year, since 2016, the APC and its federal government have been reeling out heaps of promises which they had no intentions to fulfil. Now they are warming up to reel out fresh ones in January 2018. “What is the need of a New Year message from APC government when it would be replete with propaganda? What is the need of their yearly assurances when the only thing we see is an arrogant and incompetent government plunging the nation into economic recession and visiting the citizens with the worst forms of untold hardship? “What seriousness should any Nigerian attach to a government that takes governance for granted, puts off its federal executive meeting at the slightest whims and blame imaginary invasion of its offices by rats for the inability to meet required statutory functions? “What else should Nigerians expect from a government that promised massive employments only to render 7.74 million Nigerians jobless between 2016 and September 2017; with combined unemployment and underemployment rate hitting 40.0% as declared by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)?” The party further mocked government monetary policy, adding that it failed to keep faith with pledges made to the Nigerian people. “This is the same APC that promised to deliver naira exchange at N1 to 1USD but ended up wrecking the currency from N160-N170 to a scandalous N350-N400; the same party and its government promised to reduce the price of fuel only for it to rise from where the PDP left it at N86.50 to N300-N400 per litre. “What do we expect from a government that so devastated the economy in 2017 that Nigerians were forced to turn to Ponzi schemes like the Mavrodi Mundial Movement (MMM) for survival only for an estimated three million of them to lose about N18 billion in the process. “The APC misrule literarily turned 2017 into a harvest of woes; hunger, disease, violence, and deaths while the nation is now being pummelled by ethnic and religious agitations and attendant violence in all parts of the country,” it noted. The statement stressed that “Measured against all key performance indicators, the APC controlled federal government has fallen below the expectations of Nigerians. “Painfully, instead of channelling the nation’s resources for the good of the citizens, the “zero corruption” federal government is busy providing cover for APC interests who are diverting public funds through padded budgets, multi-billion dollars secret oil subsidy regimes, illegal lifting of crude using unregistered APC fronts, pillaging of Nigeria’s foreign reserves, diverting of funds meant for fight against insurgency and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the northeast; and attempts to steal $1bn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).”

Nigeria To Stop Fuel Importation/Export By 2019 – Adesina

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has said that the country will stop importation and exportation of petroleum products by 2019.

Mr Adesina said that importation and exportation of fuel has a high effect on the lingering fuel crisis because the country does not produce the product locally and the refineries do not work, which makes room for little hitches in the inflow. .

“When you import fuel and do not produce fuel locally or the refineries do not work once in a while fuel scarcity should be expected, as long as you have those variables not under your total control you can’t rule that out.

Mr Adesina made this known while speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, where he explained that the Minister of State For Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachukwu, has drawn a timetable leading to 2019, noting that part of the plan is that Nigeria will stop importing but exporting.

Concerning the unemployment rate in the country which the National Bureau of Statics recently released a data saying that unemployment has increased in the 3rd quarter of 2017, Mr Adesina said that there is an increase agricultural sector especially rice farming, mining and solid minerals.

Tribute To Buhari: Why God Kept Buhari Alive By Femi Adesina

Let me begin by telling a story. On June 1, 2015, the day I resumed work as adviser on media to President Muhammadu Buhari, he had admonished me: “Adesina, always tell me the truth. That is what I want from you. In this type of position I have found myself, it is very easy not to be told the truth. People will just tell you what they think you want to hear. But from you, I want the truth. As a General, I may argue, but please argue with me. Tell me the truth always.”

Based on that blank cheque I’d been given, I went to the residence one evening last year to see the President. That was the time there was deafening talk of hunger from different parts of the country. I wanted to be sure that the talk was not being filtered from the President. Of course, I know him as somebody who reads newspapers religiously, and wherever we are in the face of the world, he asks for media highlights from Nigeria. So, he would not be unaware of what Nigerians were going through. But I still wanted to raise it with him.

“Mr President, there is hunger in the land, and people are complaining. I know government is doing its best, but I just want you to be aware,” I said.

Mr President responded: “I know, I know. I am aware of what people are going through. I have people in my own constituency back home, and I know the messages they send to me. But it is a passing phase. Our country was vandalized, and we found ourselves in this problem. But now that we are here, we will do our best. We will bring change to this country, and we are already seeing it in agriculture. This period of hunger will pass.”

It was prophetic. The season of hunger will pass, and is indeed passing. Anyone that is honest will admit that things are looking up in Nigeria. The ravening clouds shall no longer be victorious. They shall not long possess the sky.

I went away with one conviction from that night’s meeting: the poor matter very much to this President. He is not the type that people would tell they had no bread to eat, and he would tell them to eat cake instead. This is a friend of the talakawas, a man who loves ordinary people, and who wants their station in life to be improved. And those people know it. That is why they gravitate towards him, and repose so much confidence in him. He is their hero. Our hero.

President Buhari turns 75 years on Sunday 17 December. But some six months back, how many could confidently say this day would come for the ramrod straight man from Daura? How many believed the President would come out of the severe medical challenge that had confronted him? It all began as a routine vacation cum medical check up in January, and few days after, the rumour mill was on overdrive. The challenge lasted till August, before the President returned home finally, and since then, he has been looking better by the day. Each time you now see him, there is a fresher glow, and you cannot but give glory to God on his behalf.

But why was President Buhari kept alive, so much so that he is turning 75 today? Why did he pass through the sea of infirmity, and he was not swept away? Why did he pass through inferno, and the fire did not kindle against him? Big question. I don’t have the answer, but I can hazard some guesses, based on divine principles.

Rigobert Song. Remember him? Song was the Cameroonian defender who played many years for the Indomitable Lions. He appeared at eight African Nations Cup tournaments, five as captain, and stood between Nigeria and victory many times. He became an idol, venerated by his countrymen and women. He retired to become a coach.

Then late last year, Song was not on song again on the soccer pitch. He had a near death experience on October 20. He went down with brain aneurysm, and was in coma for two days. Doctors battled to save his life, and he was eventually evacuated to France.

While the travails lasted, the social media was abuzz with news of Song’s passage. As someone who had followed his career over the years, I felt very sad. But this is the season of fake news. Song was not dead, he miraculously rallied back. He narrated his experience, which I found instructive, considering what our President also passed through:

“I did not know what was happening to me…I did not even know I was fighting between life and death…All these people, they put God in trouble. Because everyone in this situation, they were praying-this is what I keep in my mind-God would have been in trouble. Everyone was praying, asking, ‘God, please don’t do that, don’t take Rigobert.’ I say thank you everybody for making me come back.”

What song was Song singing? One of thanksgiving. Cameroonians who loved him bombarded God with prayers, ‘Please, don’t take Rigobert now.’ And God heard. He showed mercy.

That is the same reason President Buhari is alive today. Nigerians bombarded Heaven with prayers. With supplications, intercessions, pleas for mercy. Muslims prayed in mosques. Christians prayed in churches. President Alpha Conde of Guinea declared 24 hours prayer for his Nigerian counterpart. Prayers were going on everywhere, both at home, and in the Diaspora. I can imagine God telling Himself: ‘I must answer these prayers. These petitions are too many. I must answer.’

And God had mercy, a fact attested to by President Buhari himself. He said his return was a miracle, which only God could have done.

Why did God keep our President alive? The Holy Books answer:

“Blessed is he that considers the poor;

God will deliver him in the day of evil.

God will preserve him, and keep him alive,

And he will be blessed upon the earth;

And deliver him not unto the will of his enemies,

And raise him up from sickness.” (Psalm 41:1-3).

And this one in Surah At-Tawbah 9:128:

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer, for he is concerned over you and to the believers he is kind and merciful.”

President Buhari is concerned about Nigerians, particularly the helpless, the ordinary people, and he has dedicated his life to serving them. And when he was near unto death, those ordinary people besieged Heaven with prayers. That Christian hymn says “dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.” And God truly answered.

There is power in goodwill, we have seen it work. It worked for Rigobert Song, and it has worked for our President. Have a heart for men, particularly for the poor, the lowly, and the downtrodden. And see God rise on your behalf.

Consider Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek), who lived at Joppa. She was full of good works, always doing good, and helping the poor. One day, she took ill, and died. Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, was invited. He came, prayed, and said: “Tabitha, arise!” And the woman came back to life. That is what is possible, when you have a heart for the poor.

In his New Year message last year, President Buhari told the country: “Living in the State House has not alienated me from your daily sufferings. These challenges are only temporary, we are working to make things better.”

When news came a couple of months ago that Nigeria had exited from recession, what did the President say? “Until coming out of recession translates into meaningful improvement in peoples’ lives, our work cannot be said to be done.”

In another broadcast, the President had stated: “All my adult life, I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary is simply not enough.”

That is the man we follow, and serve. Millions would today follow him into battle blindfolded. Millions upon millions would vote him again and again, if he throws his hat into the ring. Happy birthday, Mr President. You have shown us how to care for the lowly and the poor, how to bear them in our hearts at all times, and how such pleases God, and brings mercy our way. Thank you for coming this way, thank you for offering yourself for service.

*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

A Frolic On The Red Sea, By Femi Adesina

 a gust of chilly wind that said Akwaaba (welcome, in Ghanaian language) to me in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, that night of December 1, 2017. We had flown for about five hours from Abuja, as President Muhammadu Buhari was to attend a summit on combating terrorism in West Africa, convened by King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The presidential plane touched down at King Hussein International Airport at 8.15 p.m local time (7.15 p.m Nigerian time) and a cold embrace was what Aqaba offered. It was winter, and the city gripped you in a forceful bear hug that was icy cold. Nobody taught me before I made a dash for the vehicle that was to take me into the city.

I had checked the weather condition online before we left Nigeria. I was told 11 degrees cold. I was ready, but nearly not ready enough. That cold hug was more like six degrees. Incidentally, that turned out to be the only very cold evening, till we left Jordan three days later.

Three state governors-those of Osun, Kogi, Niger- had accompanied the President on the trip. I was in the same car with Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State. Did the protocol people know that this was my own very governor, or it was mere coincidence? Well, we had a good conversation as we rode into the city. The governor talked about the historical significance of Aqaba, how some ceasefire had been negotiated in the city in the past, how it is the economic nerve centre of Jordan, how the country has no petroleum or many other mineral resources but was quite prosperous, and above all, how Jordan was an oasis of peace in a region characterised by almost perpetual turmoil. I was intrigued, and decided to write a travelogue after the trip.

So, this piece you are reading, was inspired by my discussion with Gov Aregbesola of the State of Osun, during the 15 minutes ride from the airport to the Intercontinental Resort, Aqaba.

Presidential trips are normally busy, very, very busy, as you have to keep Nigerians back home and those in the Diaspora updated on the activities of their President. But this trip was peculiar, in that it was about security, and not everything needed be reported. There was, therefore, some time for leisure. I used it. Wouldn’t you?

My room at the hotel overlooked the Red Sea. You only needed to draw your curtains (which I did on Saturday morning) and you were confronted by the majesty of the sea, with the waters shimmering in the early morning sun. The poet, John Keats, had written about feasting one’s eyes on the glory of the sea.

“O ye that have your eyeballs vext and tir’d,
Feast them upon the wideness of the sea.
O ye whose Ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody-
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s mouth and brood,
Until ye start as if the Sea Nymphs quired.

And that was what I did. I feasted my eyes on the wideness of the sea. It was blue, expansive, as far as the eyes could see.

Blue? But this one was supposed to be red. Well, in 2011, I had visited Israel, and while heading for the Taba border to cross into Egypt, for an expedition to Mount Sinai, I had passed by the Red Sea. It was blue, and I had taken our tour guide to task. This was how I conveyed the explanation in a piece published in Daily Sun on December 2, 2011:

“But is that sea really red? Not actually. Why is it then called the Red Sea? The water is actually bluish, as in any other sea, but the surrounding mountains are brown in colour, something like the hue that is called ox blood. So, in the afternoon hours, when the sun is at its peak, the mountains cast a reflection on the waters. The incandescence turns the waters almost red….So, what better name for the sea? The Red Sea.”

Since there was some time on our hands, before the bilateral meeting between President Buhari and King Abdullah II, on Saturday, I called some of the media people on the trip: Abiodun Oladunjoye, a deputy director in the Media Department of State House, Ismaila Chafe of News Agency of Nigeria, Rashidat Yusuf of Mitv, and her camera man, Kelvin Okeke. “Let’s go tour the city!” They were game.

We trooped into a bus, accompanied by a guide named Mustapha Abughalion. For the next hour, we were footloose in Aqaba, seeing many points of interest.

First port of call was the bank of the Red Sea. Aqaba is a desert city. In fact, it is said that it experiences rainfall only about twice or thrice a year, but God has compensated with the Red Sea, which brings some moistness to the atmosphere. And the sea is the source of commerce for the country. Different holiday resorts dot the long coastline, and these are patronized by people from all over the world. In 2010 alone, it is on record that Jordan received over 8 million visitors. Aqaba was also named the Arab Tourism City for 2011.

There is also the Port of Aqaba, which is the only one in Jordan. It was rated as Best Container Terminal in Middle East by Lloyd’s List in 2006, and we saw brisk business going on there.

Jordan is located on the tip of the Red Sea, between Asia, Europe and Africa. Aqaba is in southernmost Jordan, with a population of about 200,000 people. Another major city and capital of the country, Amman, has about 4 million people. In a country of about 9 million, Jordanians are five million, while the rest is made of people from Palestine, Syria and Iraq, most of whom came as refugees. Jordan is quite hospitable.

Aqaba is neat, squeaky clean. Street sweepers are seen on duty, picking even the tiniest specks. The traffic is very sane, with disciplined drivers. No stress.

A city called Petra is a World Heritage Site. Other tourist attractions, about 100,000 nationwide, include the Dead Sea, near Amman, the River Jordan itself, where Jesus was baptized, in fact, Jordan has been custodian over some holy sites in Jerusalem since 1924.

The two main world religions, Christianity and Islam, have venerated sites in Jordan. Al-Maghtais is believed to be the site where Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, while Mount Nebo, Madaba and Machaerus, are also in the country. Moab, Ammon, and Edom, in biblical times, were located in today’s Jordan.

Archaeologists have found what is believed to be the site of the world’s oldest church in the country. It dates back to 3rd Century AD, slightly older than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Both date back to 4th Century AD.

Though Jordan is about 98% Muslims, there is an indigenous Christian minority, about 5,000 of whom live in Aqaba. The city has several churches, and one Christian school, Rosary Sisters School.

Among holy Islamic sites in Jordan are shrines of Prophet Muhammed’s companions (Peace be upon him) like Abd Allah ibn Rawahah, Zayd ibn Harithah, and Muadh ibn Jabal.

Aqaba is about 20 minutes away from Saudi Arabia, and we drove till we were five kilometres away, before turning. One could see the longing in Rashidat Yusuf’s eyes. She would have given anything to be able to get into Saudi, and perhaps, do a quick Umrah. Some other time, Hajiya.

Surrounded by tumultuous countries, bordered directly by Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq and Syria, how come Jordan is so safe? Apart from the November 9, 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman by Al-Qaeda, killing 60 people and injuring 115, there have been no incidents. Internal security is quite high, and Jordan has good relationship with the West. It also has a peace treaty with Israel. King Abdullah II is known as a man of peace.

Health care in Jordan is world class. In fact, medical tourism yielded over 1 billion dollars in 2010. Jordan is rated top in the region, and 5th world overall.

I had some options in my spare time on the third day. I could go scuba-diving, or take a cruise on the Red Sea. Scuba-diving? I shouldn’t be like the cricket that got so well fed, and burst its own tummy. Any form of diving was ruled out. You go diving so faraway from home, and mischief happens to you, the wailing wailers would have a field day, laughing till they fainted.

With Oladunjoye and Chafe, we paid for a cruise in a glass boat on the Red Sea. Why is it called glass boat? The bottom is made of glass, so you could look at the seabed. One could see all sorts of creatures in the sea, the flora and fauna. We saw different species of fishes, water snakes, sea turtle, sea weed, wreckage of boats, and so many other things. Under the sea is a treasure trove.

The boat was captained by a teenage boy named Yahaya. I could feel my heart moving into my mouth as we got into the middle of nowhere. Coward! Yes, I agree. I have sailed on the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and many other seas. But I am still a coward where water is concerned. Chinua Achebe wrote that we often stand in the house of a coward, to point at the ruins of the house of a brave man. I agree. Yahaya obviously saw the fear in my eyes, and he gestured that I should not panic.

I chuckled as I remembered my wife. If she could see me, she would have exclaimed: “This man, is this what I sent you to Jordan to do?” But she didn’t know until I was back from the voyage. Men and their escapades!
Human beings can fear, instead of exercising faith. It is natural. In the middle of the deep, I began to scare myself. What if a mighty wave came, and submerged the boat? What if the engine suddenly stalled? What if fire broke out? What if the boat ran out of petrol? What if… Get thee behind me, Satan!

The only fright we had was when we met a military gunboat on patrol. It was at top speed. The waves it created made our boat bob up and down, and it was an uneasy experience. It subsided after some time.

To appreciate the glory of God, take time to go out on the sea. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork, says the Good Book. In another place, it says “they that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonder in the deep.” Every man needs that experience.
There were big seafaring vessels we met. Only God knows what part of the world they were coming from, with all sorts of names. Chakra. Costa Mediterranea. Shark’s Bay. And many others.

After about an hour, when we sighted our hotel right by the seashore, it was pure relief. The sail had been good, I’ll recommend it to anyone who has the heart for it. It sure has therapeutic value. But was I glad to step on solid ground again? All other ground is sinking sand. This was terra firma. Water was terra incognita. I’ll rather have my feet planted on solid ground at any time.


  • *Femi Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

Wise Men Still Come From The East, By Femi Adesina

…the region must start playing astute politics. It must leave the shadows for light. It must sustain the hand of fellowship it has extended to the rest of the country, as shown in the warm reception for the president in Ebonyi and Anambra states. Wise men abound in that region, I say again.

At his incarnation, wise men gifted in astronomy came from the East, all the way to Bethlehem, in the south of Jerusalem, to worship Jesus Christ. They are today known as the Magi, who gave the newborn gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There is a lot to say on the significance of each gift item, but that is not the purpose of the writing today. Maybe, another day, as the need arises. What we need from that nativity story is that the wise men came all the way from the East, following a star that led them to Bethlehem. In our country Nigeria, we have the geo-political zone called the South-east, and wise men still come from there. In plenty numbers. This week, it was brought out in bold relief.

President Muhammadu Buhari was in two states of the South-East on Tuesday and Wednesday, and what a delightsome, myth-shattering visit it has become. It is one visit that has torpedoed the negative narrative deliberately conjured by some mischief makers over the years, that President Buhari does not like people from the East, and neither do the people like him.

Now, that assertion is fiction, pure apocryphal, conjured and concocted by some people to serve narrow political ends. In his first shot at the presidency in 2003, who was Buhari’s running mate? Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Where did he come from? Ogbunike, town of the famous cave, in the South-East. And in 2007, candidate Buhari looked towards the East again. He picked Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, a former speaker of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, as running mate. And in 2011, I remember very clearly. Buhari was on the march again, and needed a running mate. Socio-political leadership of the South-East forbade any of its sons from being running mate to anyone. Their candidate, they said, was Goodluck Jonathan, who then was completing the term of Umaru Yar’Adua. So, Buhari looked westward, and picked the cleric, Tunde Bakare. But did he demonstrate any animus towards the East? Not at all.

In 2015, the man, easily the most colourful politician, greatest crowd puller of this season in Nigeria, threw his hat into the ring again. The East was still in bed with Jonathan, completely besotted, vowing to swim or sink with their brother, Ebele Azikiwe.

Buhari looked westward again, picked Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as running mate. A large part of the East was dug in, not minding to play what may be called ‘poor politics’ in the process. When the dust of the elections settled, Jonathan was holding the shorter end of the stick. Buhari coasted to the presidency, but the entire East had given him just about 180,000 votes, less than what some local councils gave in other parts of the country. To make matters worse, the East had refused to re-elect its own son, Dr. Chris Ngige, as senator. If Ngige had been given a mandate, he would have effortlessly emerged Senate President, and see what the region would have benefitted. But the large number opted for self-immolation, voted Ngige out, and later began to scream marginalisation. But if you ask me, it was a self-inflicted wound. The result of poor politics.

That was the background that some people twisted, and used to paint the scenario that President Buhari does not like the South-East.

But happily, there were voices of reason from the region, pre-2015 presidential election. The Ralph Obiohas, Chris Ngiges, Festus Odimegwus, Fr. Ejike Mbakas, Orji Uzor Kalus, Osita Okechukwus, J.C Ojukwus, and many others, had warned their people not to put their eggs in one basket. And they have turned out to be wise men, being joined today by thousands of other wise people.

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You know what the mistakes of 2015 did to Ndigbo? It consigned them to perpetual opposition politics, playing in the periphery. For such an illustrious and enterprising people, that was unfortunate, if not tragic. If they continued that way, there was no silver lining in the sky for the future. Nigeria is configured in a way that the person who builds the largest coalition is the one who can emerge president. The Igbo should naturally produce the president one day, that is what fairness demands. But how would that ever happen, if they continue to play poor politics? If you continue to swim in small pools, you stand the risk of being submerged in bigger waters. But now, things are changing. The wise men are making a difference.

Back to Ebonyi, the famed Salt of the Nation, where we arrived last Tuesday. Governor Dave Umahi is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and he is also Igbo. If he were to play narrow politics, he should have nothing to do with President Buhari. But the Ebonyi State helmsman has proven himself a wise man from the East. He has cultivated a good relationship with the president, and achieved the feat of being the first state in the South-East to host the president on a State Visit. President Buhari consented to the visit, thus showing him to be a pan-Nigerian leader, a true father of the nation. If overriding sentiments had prevailed, then the president would not have chosen a state controlled by the opposition PDP for his visit, and definitely, not a state in a ‘hostile region.’ But not President Buhari, who has always maintained that no part of the country would be treated unfairly under his watch.

Landing at Enugu airport, before proceeding to Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State, by chopper, was the first breath of fresh air. The airport was gaily decorated, with banners, billboards and posters of the president and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, who was also on hand to receive the president. He is also of the PDP, but a wise man from the East. You don’t play the politics that shuts you out of the national grid, lest you get sentenced to perpetual half current, or no current at all. The reception at Enugu airport, and, indeed, in all the places we visited, in Abakaliki and Awka, would make you relish and savour the aroma of brotherhood and national cohesion.

Emeka Ojukwu junior, son of Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who used the occasion to publicly join the APC, summed it all up, by pointing out that when his father came back from exile in the early 1980s, he did not join a regional party, but opted for a national one. He concluded: “It is time to stop operating in the periphery. It is time to leave the shadows for light.”

Before the visit, there had been attempts by those behind negative narratives, to frighten the president away. They forgot he was a General, and such people don’t scare easily. However, the reception and applause all round gave a true picture of what subsists in the country. This is a president widely and massively loved-in the North, the South, East and West.

Not only is Govenor Dave Umahi a wise man from the East, the royal fathers in his state are of the same mind. They gave President Buhari the traditional title of Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi, meaning Trustworthy Friend of Ebonyis. Commendable.

Also joining the train of wisdom, are the traditional rulers of South-East, as a body. They gave the president the title Ochioha Ndigbo, meaning Leader of Igbo People. I tell you, this is the way to build a cohesive nation, promote brotherliness, and guarantee fairness and equity, rather than the poor politics of the past. More than at any other time, the wise men from the East have given a handshake across the Niger, and only the future will show the positive impact of that initiative.

Former Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu, immediate past governor, Martin Elechi, former Senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, former culture minister, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, former senator, Julius Ucha, and many others, were part of the healing process in the East. Ogbuewu said President Buhari, by the visit, had proven that he was not truly for some people, but for all Nigerians. Egwu, on his part, disclosed that Gov. Umahi had charged those of them currently in the National Assembly from Ebonyi, to always give support to policies of the federal government, despite belonging to different political parties. That’s the way to go.

The traditional rulers of the South-East, through their leader, Eze Eberechi Dick, commended the president for fighting insecurity, for fighting corruption, promoting agriculture, and generally bringing hope of a better future.

“You are a great leader. We love you so much. We are solidly behind you,” the monarch said.

Trust the president to throw in a wisecrack. After being decorated with the paraphernalia of chieftaincy, he said:”I will tell my personal photographer to frame the picture, and I will put it in my sitting room in Daura, where I will eventually end up.” That’s a man who knows the transience of power and official positions. East or West, home is the best. Daura would always be home.

When the president entered the township stadium in Abakaliki, the applause was inspiring. One was tempted to ask, is this not in the South-East, where they say they don’t like Buhari? The same thing was to repeat itself in Awka, when the president entered the Alex Ekwueme Square, where the campaign for Anambra governorship, holding this Saturday, was being concluded. It was applause all the way, signposting the fact that the East was ready to jettison poor politics, and return to the mainstream. It was a roll call of who is who in Nigerian politics from the South-East, who have now teamed up with the All Progressives Congress (APC). Emeka Ojukwu junior, son of Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who used the occasion to publicly join the APC, summed it all up, by pointing out that when his father came back from exile in the early 1980s, he did not join a regional party, but opted for a national one. He concluded: “It is time to stop operating in the periphery. It is time to leave the shadows for light.” Home truth for all Nigerians, and for Ndigbo particularly, if you ask me.

There is no way you can tell the Igbos not to aspire for presidency of Nigeria at a time in future. It will be contrary to fairness and justice. But then, the region must start playing astute politics. It must leave the shadows for light. It must sustain the hand of fellowship it has extended to the rest of the country, as shown in the warm reception for the president in Ebonyi and Anambra states. Wise men abound in that region, I say again.

During the reception in Ebonyi, Govenor Umahi announced a gift of 2,000 bags of rice, 2,000 tubers of yam, and a white horse to the president. I saw the Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi open his mouth in amazement. While thanking his host for the gift, he promised to send the cargo to Daura, his hometown, for the people to share. Trust me, I told Mohammed Sarki Abba, the president’s senior aide, seated beside me: “I’ll ask Mr. President for 50 of those bags of rice, before you send them to Daura. I’ll then distribute them to my own friends in the name of Ochioha Ndigbo.”

And that’s exactly what I’ll do. The Enyioma 1 would surely oblige. Lol.

Femi Adesina is special adviser on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari.

How Buhari Is Preventing Corruption – Media Team

The Presidential Media Team, in a forthcoming book, offers deep insight into how the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is blocking corruption loopholes in the nation’s public institutions.

The book titled, “Making Steady, Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity: A Mid-Term Scorecard on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration”, is set for launch in Abuja on Nov. 16.

In an excerpt of the 348-page publication, the team notes that beyond arrest and prosecution of suspects, the Buhari government is strengthening public institutions for accountability and transparency.

The book explores measures being instituted by anti-graft agencies, especially the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), in this regard since the last two years.

These include conduct of System Study and Review in ministries, departments and agencies, and Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) in various sectors of the nation’s economy.

It says the education, health, water and aviation sectors as well as e-governance platforms, including the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), have benefited from the ICPC’s CRA exercise.

The exercise, it adds, has led to the identification of weaknesses in the systems that create opportunities for corruption.

Consequently, the commission has designed Integrity Plans directed at plugging the loopholes and enhancing the integrity profile of the systems for efficiency and effectiveness, it states.
The book promises to clear the cynicism of many Nigerians, who think the Buhari government is more reactive than proactive in its fight against corruption.

Nevertheless, the publication contains milestones recorded by the ICPC in the area of convictions, and recovery of looted funds and assets since the inception of the Buhari government on May 29, 2015.

The book was edited by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity; Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, and Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, (Office of the Vice President).

The Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG) contributed to the publication, whose foreword was written by the president.
The book will be presented by APC National Leader Bola Tinubu and reviewed by Prince Tony Momoh.

Wanted: A Restructuring of Nigerian Minds by Femi Adesina

Hearing some Nigerians speak (whether based at home or in the Diaspora) you discern that they are “in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” They spew out things that give them away as “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones.”

What happened to grace? Where did decency disappear to? Are words not to be seasoned with salt again? What has happened to us as a people? The more rotten, the better, it seems. The fouler and odoriferous the cesspit, the more attractive, followed by applause. That seems to be the philosophy of some people today, and it doesn’t matter who they are. High or low. But we cannot continue that way, if we want to be acceptable to God, and to our fellow human beings. National development does not come by a sudden flight. You work at it.

The sing-song in the country today is restructuring of the polity. We want more states. We want a return to regional structure. We want a revision of the revenue allocation formula. We want six vice presidents, one from each geo-political zone. We want those zones to be the federating units, rather than the states. And so on, and so forth.

In fact, so loud is the cacophony of voices over restructuring that if you ask 100 people what they mean, they give you 100 different explanations. But as a country, I believe we will get there someday. And soon.

However, is political restructuring the most urgent thing Nigeria needs now? I don’t think so. For me, what is more urgent is the restructuring of the Nigerian mind. A mind that sees the country as one, that believes that we have a future and a hope, that believes that we are one people under God. But what we see now is ruinous for any country. It is hemlock, bound to poison the entire polity, and send it to a premature perdition.

The National Bureau of Statistics announced our descent into recession. They embraced the news, almost with sickening glee. Now, the same agency has announced exit, and they begin to question its impartiality. What kind of people are they? They want to hear only bad news? May their minds be restructured, lest bad news dog their footsteps

On Tuesday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that we had exited from economic recession. It was cheery news for majority of Nigerians, save for those in the gall of bitterness. They spat in the sky, and collected the spittle with their faces. Who gave Nigeria the permission to exit recession? Who gave her the audacity of hope? How can the economy attempt to rebound, when it should sink deeper and deeper into the miry clay? They were in the doldrums, unhappy because good news came for the country. In their befuddled minds, Nigeria must never see a silver lining in the sky.

The ravening clouds must ever remain victorious, must forever possess the sky, simply because of primordial reasons. The party in power is not my own, so why should Nigeria make progress under it? The President in office was not the one I voted for, so why should he succeed? He does not speak my language, he is not of my religion or ethnic stock, so why must Nigeria prosper under him? They, therefore, throw all sorts of tantrums, like a child whose lollipop is taken away, and attempt to rubbish the news on exit from recession. And those same people would canvass for a restructuring of the polity.

Big mistake. Wrong priority. They need to have their minds restructured first, so that they have goodwill towards their own country, and towards all men. Left to them, they wish that when NBS releases results for the next quarter, Nigeria should have gone back into recession. Filthy dreamers! Awful imaginations! They need a restructuring of their minds, and quickly, too.

Some people spend their lifetime expecting thunderstorms and hurricanes, so they never enjoy showers of blessing. Their addled minds expect negative news, so they never enjoy good tidings. They are the type that swallow poison, and then begin to hope that it will kill the person next door. Restructuring, restructuring, that is what such minds need.

Chase after him. If you catch up with him, kill him. If he outruns you, poison his footsteps. That is the chant in most parts of the country today. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Hate has become their natural language. When they speak hateful words, they speak their native language, their mother tongue. Don’t mid the elevated offices they occupy now, or which they have occupied in the past.

They are in the throes, in the paroxysms of bitterness. Only a restructuring of the mind can save them. My dear senior friend, Ikemba Obosima, from Imo State, has good counsel for them, in a text message he sent to one of them recently, which he copied me:”Pain will follow him who speaks or acts with evil thoughts, as does the wheel of the foot of him who draws the cart. He is greater man who conquers self than he who kills a thousand men in war…Love will purify the heart of him who is beloved as truly as it purifies the heart of he who loves.” But will they listen? If they have not danced too far, and have not become like the dog fated to get lost, which refuses to hear the whistle of the hunter. Let them return home, to sanity.

The National Bureau of Statistics announced our descent into recession. They embraced the news, almost with sickening glee. Now, the same agency has announced exit, and they begin to question its impartiality. What kind of people are they? They want to hear only bad news? May their minds be restructured, lest bad news dog their footsteps. Malediction? Am I cursing anybody? Not at all. Just a warning, and a call to new attitude, new thoughts, new conduct. The things we expect have a way of coming upon us. Ask the biblical Job. “What I feared has come upon me. What I dreaded has happened to me.”(Job 3:25).

One of the characteristics of a hateful mind is that it conjures a lot of mischief, and purveys same as truth. And the gullible laps it up. During the health challenge of our dear President, a thing common to any mortal, big or small, of high or low estate, they filled the land with evil tidings. Oh, he is on life support machine. No, he is dead and long buried. He will never return to that office, I swear. And then, God did what He knows how to do best. He showed the Deus ex machina, His Invisible Hands. Now, the reputation of those people is hanging on life support. If only men would restructure their minds!

President Buhari says exit from recession is cheery news, but until the life of the average Nigerian is positively touched by the economy, he doesn’t consider the job done. Very good. Even the NBS, which brought the good news, says the economy is still fragile, and the good work must continue, so that we don’t slide back. That is exactly what this government would do. That is the motive behind the ERGP (Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan). So, let nobody be filled with diabolic thoughts. Government does not feel it is there yet. Action stations! All hands on deck.

A final word for haters, wailers, purveyors of fake news, or whatever you choose to call them. Evil minds wax worse and worse. A hater would envy others unnecessarily. He would conjure evil thoughts that would poison his system. He would manifest all sorts of negative tendencies that turn him into a proper child of the Devil. And at the end of it all, his master welcomes him home with open arms. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (Dante’s Inferno). And there will be plenty weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari Cancels Weekly FEC Meeting To Receive Report On SGF, NIA DG Probe

A statement from the Presidency this morning revealed that the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will not hold.

The statement put out by the president’s spokesperson, Mr Femi Adesina, said Mr. Buhari will rather receive the report of the investigation committee into the allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke.

The committee is headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and it will submit its report to the president in his office at noon,  Mr. Adesina said.

The president had constituted the panel to investigate the corruption allegation levelled against the suspended SGF by the Nigerian senate and that against Mr. Oke by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

He was to receive the report on May 8 but his health condition deteriorated, forcing him to return to London on May 7.

Mr. Buhari returned to Nigeria on Saturday after spending 103 days in London for medical treatment.

I’ve Been to London to See the King, By Femi Adesina

Not a few tongues had wagged over the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was outside the country on medical vacation for weeks on end, and no member of his media team was with him. Many times, we had been confronted by journalists on why we were sitting pretty in Nigeria, while our principal was confronted by severe health challenges in London.

How did I feel about the situation? I had always told the media, and others who cared to listen, that whoever is on a presidential entourage at any time is the prerogative of the President. In the first 20 months of this administration, the President had made scores of trips, both locally and internationally. There was none, and I repeat, none, in which the media team was excluded. We were always there to keep the world abreast with what the President was doing.

When President Buhari first needed to travel for holiday and medical attention in January this year, it was deemed a private trip, in which the media was not needed. On such journey, you naturally would need security details, your personal physician, protocol and domestic aides, and those were the ones that went. Media? It depended on the principal. What was essential was that the channels of communication be kept open.

When the fuss came that the media handlers of the President were transmitting at best, third hand information to the public, it did not bother me as much as it did some people, particularly, journalists. The discretion to have anyone with him at a given time was that of the President, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. I was in direct contact with those who were around him, and that was the best in the circumstances.

When the rumour mill went into overdrive sometime in January that the President had passed on, the first person I called was his personal physician. He laughed, saying nothing of such happened. I was thus confident enough to debunk the malicious information.

Before he returned on March 10, in what turned out to be the first leg of his medical treatment, President Buhari had spoken with me personally on phone, the details of which I made available to the public. It was sufficient for me.

The President left again on May 7. I was with him at home till he left for the airport. Information dissemination followed the same pattern as on the first trip. The aides on hand told me whatever was necessary, and I communicated same, never for once making it appear that the information was firsthand. It was the best and the honest thing to do. You work for a straightforward man, it would be a disservice to him for you to begin to spin and bend information. Never!

Not once did I agitate to visit London to see the President. I trusted enough to receive whatever information was passed to me, knowing the kind of man we serve. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.

A lot of people were using paracetamol for what they considered my headache. They continued to fret that I was not in London, but it didn’t bother me a bit. Ask my wife and children, they would tell you that I am never in unnecessary hurry. I don’t push things, but the lines always fall for me in pleasant places. I have learnt to take all things in my strides, and let the divine powers work out the rest. Some people will erroneously call it a laid back approach, but those who are discerning would see that I had always excelled in whatever I did, physical, professional, spiritual, domestic etc. No need to sing my own praises. Not unto us, but unto Him, be all the glory and praises.

And then, on Wednesday last week, ‘come came to become’ (apologies K.O Mbadiwe). I received a communication to proceed to London to see the President, along with other members of the presidential media team. To lead the delegation was Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, while others included myself, Mallam Garba Shehu, Lauretta Onochie, Bayo Omoboriowo, and the Nigerian Television Authority team of Adamu Sambo and Emmanuel Arinhi. Senior Special Assistant on International and Diaspora Matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was in London on another official matter, eventually joined us to see the President on Saturday.

Leaving the country through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Friday morning, one was as conspicuous as a tiger in a teashop. All that knew me, and saw that I was headed for London, naturally said: “Please give our greetings to Baba o.” They just took it for granted that I was going to London to see the King, and not the Queen this time, as made popular by the pussycat in the nursery rhyme.

The trip aboard the British Airways Boeing 777-200/300 was pleasant and pleasurable. It was like a whole city in the sky. The Nigerians who saw me and my colleague, Mallam Garba Shehu, onboard, also jumped to the same right conclusion as those at the airport: “Please greet Baba for us o.”

On Saturday afternoon, we were ferried from our hotels at the appointed time. At Zero Hour, we were at the Abuja House, Nigerian High Commission, London.

As we strode into the living room, I saw with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission. Standing tall and ramrod straight was President Muhammadu Buhari, with that ubiquitous smile in place. He was looking a lot better than he had ever looked in the past eight months. My heart leapt for joy, and sang praises to God. Was this not the man they said was on life support machine? Didn’t they say he could neither walk nor talk? But he was welcoming Alhaji Lai Muhammed, and calling him by name. I was next. I shook the hands of the man I had admired since his days as a military head of state, a man I am not ashamed to call my leader and President today, and any day.

Seated, the President had words for each member of the team, which showed that he had been following events back home very keenly. He commended the Minister of Information and Culture, saying, “Lai, you are all over the place. I see you virtually every day. You have been working very hard.” Pointing to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, he said, “She is here in her constituency. But me, I am here reluctantly.” We all laughed, and Dabiri-Erewa jocularly issued what you could call a quit notice, saying she didn’t want the President in her constituency again.

How are you, Mr President?

“I am okay now. I feel I could go home, but doctors are in charge here, and I’ve learnt to obey my doctors. I’ve learnt to obey orders, rather than be the one giving the orders.”

If you have met the President personally, he is usually full of wisecracks, and this day was not different. He told us he had enough time to watch television, and commended the NTA particularly, and Nigerian media generally, for bringing him up to speed with what was happening back home.

He said he had been watching the protests by people who wanted him to return home post-haste, or resign. He mentioned one of the leaders of the protest by name, and laughed. I did not discern any malice in the laughter.

President Buhari told us he seldom got sick, something he had told Nigerians on March 10, at his first return. When we told him millions of people were praying for him at home, in Africa, and even beyond, I saw the glow in his eyes, and he said :”May God reward them,” after noting that what Nigeria did in The Gambia in January, which forced a sit-tight Yahya Jammeh to quit office, “fetched us a lot of goodwill and latitude.”

We talked about many issues, some of which are not due for public consumption yet. The President was obviously enjoying our company. Then the State Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, popped up (as he always does) and indicated that the allotted time was over.

“Oh dear,” the President exclaimed, reluctant to see us go.

It was time for photographs, and we walked into the garden. The President was spry, as he joined us. Bayo Omoboriowo clicked away, and those were the pictures you have seen. The President even almost sprinted, while going back inside. Omoboriowo captured that rare moment.

And to the dining room we proceeded. We sat at that famous table, laden with different kinds of fruits; banana, apple, pear, water melon, and many others. It was a setting which a man blinded by bile, and suffused with hatred, had described as a previous fast breaking session at Aso Villa during a Ramadan season. Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he says.

We ate, heartily. Our appetites had been stimulated by the state in which we met our principal. Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, was at hand to attend to us, urging us to eat as much as we wanted. Halima, daughter of the President, as well as Yusuf, his son, were also there.

It was a pleasure meeting all the presidential aides once again, and we greeted one another warmly: Yau and Lawal (trusted security details), Sunday (the personal cook of many decades), the ADC, SCOP, CSO, CPSO, the personal physician, Tunde Sabiu, Sarki Abbah, and many others. It was a grand re-union.

Lunch over, the President bade each person goodbye, with a handshake. We said to him, “See you soon, sir.” But when Dabiri-Erewa uttered the same, the President laughed, and declared: “No, we will leave you here, as this is your constituency.”

The health status of our President, as earlier attested to by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, during his visit, was a testimony to the healing powers of God. This was a man gravely ill, but restored miraculously. It can only be God. In spite of what haters, wailers, and filthy dreamers imagine, and which they spew out, God remains merciful and immutable. He has the final say. If I were a hater, I would repent now, in sackcloth and ashes.

Yes, I’ve been to London to see the King – The Lion King. But unlike the pussycat in the nursery rhyme, I didn’t frighten any mouse under the chair.

Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity

Femi Adesina: Firing Blanks, Dangerously By Kennedy Emetulu

I like and respect Femi Adesina and I consider him a friend. I have tried not to criticize him publicly; indeed, whatever I’ve had to say to him, I’ve said it to him privately. But I’m going to make an exception here. I’m doing so because I consider this piece an insult to Nigerians who endured 50 days of unmitigated insults from him and all those who spoke publicly for the president while he was in London. It is my view that rather than write a piece like this publicly upon the return of the president, Femi should have quietly thanked God and learned the lessons of the episode, the most important one being not to insult Nigerians over this matter, no matter their stance. Femi needs to get a good talking-to over this and I’m not hesitating to be one of those to tell him the truth loud and clear.

What we have in this piece is what happens when you cross the line from the public to the private, from the professional to the personal. Oh, of course, I’m not saying when you occupy the position of a media spokesperson for the president you shouldn’t have a personal relationship with him, no; however, the most important relationships are the professional and public ones because those are the primary reasons you are there.

You are not appointed as an ab’obaku or someone who must follow the president or whoever you are appointed to represent in the media to the grave. You are appointed to sell him and his program to the Nigerian people. You are appointed to do so professionally and respectfully and to do so with the voice and mind of the Nigerian people themselves because they are the people you are actually working for, not the president.

The president is elected to do a good job and you are appointed to constantly inform the people about this good job that the president is expected to be doing. You are the bridge between them and the president and his administration. Your job is to make your boss acceptable to Nigerians; your job is not to vilify the opposition, tag them uncharitably and insultingly or divide Nigerians along partisan lines. Your job is to win over all the haters of the president. You might not succeed in doing so fully, but you must be seen constantly to be attempting to do so at all times.

The way you talk in public and the way you respond to criticisms of the administration and the way you explain or defend your principal must show that you respect every Nigerian, no matter their view. For instance, as it concerns this matter, whether these Nigerians are mischief makers, people who wish the president dead or people opposed to his person and his administration, it shouldn’t matter. They are not the controllers of fates and the president’s well-being does not depend on them. Joining issues with them this way is childish, unintelligent and demeaning. Nigerians have seen that their president is back, they know he is recovering from an illness and is likely to return for more treatment and they have heard from him themselves; so of what value is Femi jumping in the gutter to engage anyone over this? While the president must receive flak as par for the course because of the nature of his job, you must be like Caesar’s wife, above reproach, because you are there to make things easier for him with the people, not harder. Rather than creating a siege mentality around the president, you should be showing with your open door and your open heart that the president is not ensconced in Aso Rock, removed from national reality.

This piece shows what happens when you cannot rein in your emotions or check your bias when occupying a public position. Does Femi think he’s helping the president’s cause with this piece? Does he think this shows how loyal he is to the president? Does he think this would win anybody over to his side? Does he think this absolves him and his office from the blame that must surely be theirs for the ineptitude and shoddiness that attended their handling of the whole affair? The obvious irony here is that this piece is the biggest case of gloating we have seen since the president fell ill and was rushed to London. Can’t he see that he’s actually contradicting the maturity he attributes to the president’s conduct upon his return? To cut a long story short, this piece is unhelpful. Femi should not have written it.