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.

Buhari Gives Adesina Surprise Phone Call

President Muhammadu Buhari has made Saturday 25 February a day media adviser, Femi Adesina will for long cherish.

President Buhari who is taking an extended vacation in London, 5000 Kms away, called Adesina, on phone, further reducing anxieties about him.

Adesina in both Facebook and Twitter posts today confirmed the president’s call:

“At exactly 2.43 p.m today, Saturday, February 25, 2017, my phone rang. Who was at the other end? Tunde Sabiu, personal assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Hold on for Mr President,” Tunde said.

And in a matter of seconds, the very familiar voice came:

“Femi, how are you?” (He calls me Adesina most times, but today, he opted for Femi)

I screamed :”Mr President, I have missed you. How are you sir?”

He first laughed. That familiar laugh. Then he said: “I am still resting. Thank you for holding out against mischief makers.”

I said it was my duty, the very least I could do, adding how happy I was to speak with him.

“How is your family?”

I said we were fine, and he asked me to extend his greetings to them.

“I hope to call you again, ” Mr President said, and I bade him farewell, adding: “Best wishes, sir.”

It was a defining moment for me. For more than a month, I had always spoken with aides who are with the President in London. Not once did I ask them to take the phone to him, deliberately so, because I didn’t need to speak with him to validate the fact that he was alive. And since he was on vacation, he had a right to his privacy.

Of his own volition, President Buhari spoke with me. It made my day. Even if he hadn’t done so, he would have remained my President, my leader, and my man. Any day.”

President Buhari has been away from Nigeria since 19 January.

NAN

No Plans To Replace Service Chiefs – Presidency

The Presidency on Monday denied report in the media of plans by President Muhammadu Buhari to replace the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, as Service Chiefs.

It said Olonisakin, who is due to retire from the Army next week, is yet to be replaced.

A statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, reads: “It is necessary to respond to a fictive story published in today’s edition of New Telegraph Newspaper, to the effect that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the replacement of Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, as Service Chiefs.

“The newspaper, rather than rush to print an unsubstantiated story, would have done better to confirm the information at its disposal, from many available military and government information channels.

“It then would have avoided the self-inflicted wound of publishing a one-legged story that is not completely true, and damaging its brand in the process.

“Gen. Olonisakin is due to retire from the Army next week, having satisfied the official number of years in service. He is yet to be replaced.

“But the Chief of Naval Staff has a short while more, and President Buhari could, therefore, not have approved his replacement yet.”

The statement noted that the administration has repeatedly pledged commitment to transparency and accountability, which resulted in the availability of information to the media.

“But when some sections of the media would rather speculate, than cross-check and double check information, then it borders on deliberate mischief.

“That, surely, is not the way to go, for national cohesion and development,” it added.

The Unspiritual Side Of Aso Villa By Femi Adesina

Let me begin with two clarifications. Aso Villa is not my home; I am just passing through. Even this world is nobody’s home; we are just birds of passage. So, let nobody turn up his nose in derision, and say; “he’s writing to the landlord of Aso Villa, defending a place where’s he’s just a tenant.”

Yes, nobody is a landlord in the Villa, not even rational presidents. They can only live there for a maximum of eight years, if Nigerians so decide. And for me, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels only need to beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I wouldn’t feel at home in this world anymore.

The second clarification. Let nobody, particularly on social media, begin to insinuate that Femi Adesina is at war with Reuben Abati, his immediate predecessor as presidential spokesman. This piece you are beginning to read is not about Abati as a person; it is about his spiritual ideas and convictions, which I think need some appraisal, as they are rather unspiritual. Abati and myself have been professional colleagues for almost 30 years, we have a lot of mutual friends, and know how to reach each other when necessary. So, this is not a case of Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman being at war with Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman. What for?

In his piece in The Guardian of October 14, 2016, Abati wrote under the headline, ‘The spiritual side of Aso Villa.’ What were his conclusions? For the benefit of those who did not read the highly entertaining piece (in fact, there were moments I had my two legs in the air, laughing, as I read), let me do a brief summary. Call it ‘gospel’ according to Abati, and you would be right: There is some form of witchcraft, which causes occupants of Aso Villa to take weird decisions. Working in the Villa makes you susceptible to some sort of evil influences because there is something supernatural about power and closeness to it. Some of those who lived or worked in the Villa had something dying under their waists (for the men), while some of the women became merchants of dildo because they had suffered a special kind of deaths in their homes. “The ones who did not have such misfortune had one ailment or the other that they had to nurse. From cancer to brain and prostate surgery and whatever, the Villa was a hospital full of agonizing patients,” Abati posited.

Reading the piece through, you would think Aso Villa was nothing but what Godfrey Chaucer called “a thoroughfare of woes.” In fact, Abati submitted that the Villa “should be converted into a spiritual museum, , and abandoned.” Holy Moses! Jumping Jehoshaphat!

If Aso Villa was such a haunted house, why then do most occupants like to stay put, right from the first tenant, Ibrahim Babangida, who was virtually forced to step aside in August 1993? And why did Goodluck Jonathan, Abati’s principal, spend money in trillions (in different currencies of the world), just to perpetuate himself in a house that consumes its occupants? Being a literary scholar, Abati would remember the doctor in Macbeth, that work of William Shakespeare, who was detailed to cure Lady Macbeth of the neurosis that afflicted her, after she had been party to the deaths of King Duncan and Banq so that her husband would be the king of Scotland. A spiritually troubled Lady Macbeth sleepwalked every night, trying to wash her hands of the innocent blood that had been shed. The doctor was so fed up with the terrifying atmosphere that he said to himself: “Were I from Dunsinane away and clear, profit should hardly again draw me here.” Did Abati ever say the same of the Villa, a place where men became women “after something died below their waists?” We do not have it on record that Abati showed a clean pair of heels, or that he would not have stayed if Dr. Jonathan had won reelection, and had asked him to continue in his position as the adviser on media. Or was it the case of eternal fascination for the thing that repelled and terrified you? Mysterium tremendum et fascinas, as it is called in Latin.

For me, what Abati did in the October 14 piece was simply a glorification and deification of superstition, something that attempted to elevate works of darkness above the powers of God. The writer merely fed the cravings and propensity of people for the supernatural, in a way that stoked and kindled the kiln of fear, rather than that of faith.
Let’s take the issues one after the other, and look at them against true spiritual principles. Christianity is the one I am most familiar with, and that would be my benchmark.

In Aso Villa, houses were haunted, people were oppressed into taking curious decisions, they fell ill, died, or suffered the losses of loved ones, so Abati claimed. Are such peculiar only to the presidential villa? Should all those who live or work there automatically enjoy immunity from the vicissitudes of life, simply because they walked the corridors of power?

Wasn’t President Umaru Yar’Adua right inside the presidential villa, when he told us on national television: “I am a human being. I can fall sick. I can recover. And I can die.” That was a practical man for you. Abati unwittingly wants his readers to believe that once you operated in or around Aso Villa, you became a Superman. No. You are as mortal as can be. The Holy Bible does not even give us such leeway. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…”(1 Cor 10:13). There are certain things common to man, and they can happen to you wherever you are. At the White House. At 10, Downing Street.

Buckingham Palace, Aso Villa. Wherever. “But such as is common to man…” Let no man feed us with the bogey that such things happen because of where you live or operate from. There are some things that are just common to man, and which may happen to you as long as you are on this side of eternity.

I lost my sister in a road crash last year. She was a professor of Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife. Abati knew her well, as they both did post-graduate studies at the University of Ibadan in the 1980s. Abati was among those who called to condole with me. My sister never visited the Villa in her lifetime. Even if she did, that could never have had anything to do with her death on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. To believe and teach otherwise is to carry superstition to a ridiculous level, and venerate the Devil, granting him omnipotence, an attribute that belongs to God only. For the Devil, doing evil is a full-time business, and whether you had anything to do with Aso Villa or not, he continued with his pernicious acts. Does that then suggest that mankind is helpless before evil? No. God still has ultimate powers. He can spare you “as a father spares the son that serves him.”

(Malachi 3:17). If you are under the pavilion of God, sleep, wake and operate daily in Aso Villa, you are covered, no matter the evil that lurks around, if any. There is a better covenant established on greater promises, and that is the canopy under which you should function. God can spare you from all evils, and if He permits any other thing, it is “such as is common to man,” and not because of Aso Villa.

If houses catch fire in the Villa, how many conflagrations occur in other parts of the city? If some men in the Villa suffered erectile dysfunction in Abati’s time, doesn’t the Journal of Sexual Medicine tell us that about 20 million American men have something that has died under their waists? It is one thing that became prevalent in the last two to three decades, due to modern lifestyle. Causes range from age, to stress, depression, anxiety, alcohol, medication, and several others. Even, a study showed that watching too much television kills something under the waist. So why does Abati make it seem as if it is a copyright of Aso Villa?

Now, another clarification. Don’t I believe in demonic infestation and manifestation? I sure do. I won’t be a student of the Holy Bible if I don’t. Jesus talked about the man who got delivered from demonic possession, and because that man did not yield himself to a better influence, the evil spirit that inhabited him came back with seven more powerful spirits, and the end of the man was worse than his beginning. Abati wrote of persons in the Villa, “walking upside down, head to the ground.” Let me share this story I heard over 20 years ago. There was this young Christian who gave scant regards to demons and what they could do. In fact, he almost didn’t believe demons existed. One day, as he walked along the ever busy Broad Street in Lagos, God opened his spiritual eyes.

Some people were walking on their heads! And not only that, as they passed by other people, they slapped them with the soles of their feet. If you got so slapped, you developed an affliction, which you would nurse for the rest of your life. Yet, you never knew where it came from.

As the young man saw that vision and got its spiritual explanation, he began to s-c-r-e-a-m. Was that in Aso Villa? “Such as is common to man…” Evil exists everywhere. Trying to source and locate it in Aso Villa is disingenuous. You need God everywhere. In Europe, Asia, America, Oceania, Aso Villa. There is evil everywhere, and we need not make fetish of any place as being more evil infested than other places. Since Satan got thrown out of Heaven due to his inordinate ambition, evil had resided in the world. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12). The Devil lives in the world, but God is never helpless before evil. He will never be. Let the Devil commit suicide if he is not happy about that fact. God rules!

If every principal officer including the President and his wife suffered series of tragedies as Abati claimed, and he himself had breathing problems and walked with the aid of crutches for months, it was ” such as is common to man” and not necessarily because they were in Aso Villa. But of course, if such people put their hands in evil, possibly to gain some things in power or perpetuate themselves beyond the time heaven granted, then “he who rolls a stone, a stone shall be rolled back to him. He that digs a pit, shall fall into it.” That is what the Good Book says. You can then hardly blame Aso Villa for such payback time, can you?

To avoid getting sucked into what Abati calls “the cloud of evil” that hangs around power, what to do is to hold ephemeral things loosely. Know that they are temporal, and will truly end. Power is one of such things. Will anybody be a permanent landlord at Aso Villa? It would be foolhardy to have such mindset. A couple of times I’d had some private discussions with President Buhari, and he had lamented the state of the nation, he invariably ended with the statement, “while we are here, we will do our best.” It shows a man who knows that he’s not a permanent landlord at Aso Villa, and can never be. He would use the opportunity he has to do his best for Nigeria, and then move on.

That is a good mindset and a safety valve from getting sucked into “the cloud of evil.” Daily, I tell myself that I am just passing through Aso Villa. And while there, just like my principal, I will do my best. It could be long, it could be short, depending on God and the man who appointed me, but one day, it would be over, and some other people would come in to do their bit. It is inexorable. The real treasures are laid somewhere beyond the blue.
Abati says we should pray before people pack their things into Aso Villa. I say not just Aso Villa, but everywhere. Pray before you pack into any place, because there are some things “such as is common to man.” It is only God that keeps from such. And He is sovereign in terms of what He prevents, and in what He allows. Ours is to pray, and believe. Prayer works.

“Aso Villa is in urgent need of redemption. I never slept in the apartment they gave me in that Villa for an hour,” wrote Abati. Well, different strokes for different folks. Hear what the Good Book says: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Here am I. For over one year, I have lived in the house allocated to me at the Villa. I sleep so soundly, I even snore. In fact, I snore so loud that at times, I wake myself up with the sound.

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

Buhari Explains Nigeria’s Economic Woes

President Muhammadu Buhari has explained to Nigerian professionals in America how and why the Nigeria economy got into trouble.
The professionals, including top flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, I.T experts, a Judge, a top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an Import Specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors, two straight A students, and many others, had converged from different parts of the United States of America.
President Buhari had the assurance that with all hands on deck, including the best brains in the Diaspora, the country would bounce back in the shortest possible time.
In a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said: “I am very pleased with this meeting. Wherever you go in the world, you find highly competent and outstanding Nigerians.
“They not only make great impact on their host countries and communities, their financial remittances back home also help our economy, particularly at a time like this, when things are down.
“We got into trouble as a country, because we did not save for the rainy day. For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure.
“Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel. I asked; where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked; what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars?
“I did not believe, and still do not believe. In most parts of Nigeria, we eat what we grow. People in the South eat tubers, those in the North eat grains, which they plant, and those constitute over 60 per cent of what we eat. So, where did the billions of dollars go?
“We did a lot of damage to ourselves by not developing infrastructure when we had the money.
“Talking of our military, they earned respect serving in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and then, suddenly, that same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in the country. Insurgents had seized them, calling them some sort of caliphate, and planting their flags there; till we came, and scattered them.
“We raised the morale of our military, changed the leadership, re-equipped and retrained them; USA, Britain, and some other countries helped us, and today, the pride of our military is restored.
“Boko Haram ran riot, killing innocent people in churches, mosques, markets, schools, motor parks, and so on. And they would then shout Allahu Akbar. But if they truly knew Allah, they would not do such evil. Neither Islam, nor any other religion I know of, advocates hurting the innocent. But they shed innocent blood, killed people in their thousands.
“Now, we have dealt with that insurgency, and subverted their recruitment base.” He said
Buhari continued: “Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta, and began to sabotage oil infrastructure. We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can’t pay salaries.
“But I prayed so hard for God to make me President. I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can’t complain, since I prayed for the job. In the military, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major-General. I was military governor in 1975 over a state that is now six states. I was head of state, got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which had N53 billion of that time in Nigerian banks.
“God has been very good to me, so I can’t complain. If I feel hurt by anybody, I ask God to help me forgive. He has done so much for me.
“After 16 years of a different party in government, no party will come and have things easy. It’s human. We need quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them. I will like to welcome you home when it’s time. But I’ll like you to be ready.” He added
All the Nigerian professionals pledged to contribute their quota towards re-launching their fatherland to a new dawn.

Buhari Dismisses Rumours Of Kachikwu Probe, Urges Restraint Against Unproven Allegations

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to discerning Nigerians to ignore orchestrated attempts to sully the integrity of ministers and other senior government officials, who are being tarred with the brush of corruption without any concrete evidence.

A statement by Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina said Buhari, in his reaction to reports, particularly by online media, that the immediate past Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), who is also Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, is being investigated over crude oil swap deals and gas liftings during his tenure as GMD of the petroleum corporation, appealed for decent and civilized comments, particularly when it has to do with the integrity of those who are serving the country.

“Terrible and unfounded comments about other people’s integrity are not good. We are not going to spare anybody who soils his hands, but people should please wait till such individuals are indicted,” the President said.

President Buhari reiterated the administration’s commitment to probity, accountability and integrity, promising that transparency remains a watchword, which would never be trifled with.

Presidency Denies Sponsoring Forgery Case Against Saraki, Ekweremadu

The Presidency on Saturday said it did not originate the legal battles currently before the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH.

Saraki who emerged the President of the Senate against the position of the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress that supported Senator Ahmed Lawan’s candidature is also undergoing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over alleged false declaration of assets while he was governor of Kwara State.

Only last week, Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were taken to the court for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 that was used to inaugurate the Eighth Senate.

Adesina said the Presidency was not responsible for Saraki’s travails.

One of our correspondents had sought to know from the presidential spokesman if Saraki would be spared his legal troubles if he stepped down as President of the Senate.

But Adesina said the issue did not arise since the Presidency did not initiate his legal battle.

“Senator Saraki’s legal battle was not originated by the Presidency in the first place, so this issue does not arise,” he said.

Notwithstanding the Presidency’s position, two presidential aides are part of the 14 witnesses listed by the Federal Government against Saraki and Ekweremadu by the time the trial gets underway on Monday.

Others for trial on Monday are the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Benedict Efeture.

The two presidential aides listed as witnesses by the Federal Government are the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang; and the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu.

Enang and Ojudu were both members of the Seventh Senate before their current appointments.

Buhari Goes To London On Vacation, To See Doctors For Infection

President Muhammadu Buhari will on Monday begin a 10-day vacation to attend to an ear infection that has forced him to shelve some local and foreign trips lately.

According to a statement on Sunday evening by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President is currently battling with what he called “a persistent ear infection.”

The presidential spokesman said although Buhari had been examined and treated by his personal physician and a specialist in Abuja, both doctors advised him to go for further evaluation in London as a precaution.

He said the President would therefore use the 10-day break to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in London.

The statement read, “President Buhari will take 10 days off and travel to London from Monday June 6th, to rest.

“During the holiday, the President will see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a persistent ear infection.

“The President was examined by his personal physician and an E.N.T specialist in Abuja and was treated.

“Both Nigerian doctors recommended further evaluation purely as a precaution.”

There have been speculations over the President’s state of health since he shelved his scheduled two-day official visit to Lagos State at the last minute and directed Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to represent him.

The Presidency had attributed the development to what it called “scheduling difficulties.”

The issue resonated on Thursday when Buhari again shelved his trip to Rivers State during which he would have inaugurated the clean-up of Ogoniland and other oil-impacted communities.

He again sent Osinbajo to represent him at the event with the Presidency saying there was no big deal in the Vice-President representing Buhari at functions since “the Presidency is one.”

Over the weekend, Buhari again put off his scheduled trip to Dakar, Senegal for the 49th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States, asking Osinbajo to once again represent him.

In all, the Presidency had claimed that the President was “fit as a fiddle” until Sunday when it finally admitted the ill-health.

This is the second time Buhari will be proceeding on vacation this year.

The President had earlier embarked on a six-day vacation between February 5 and 10.

He remained in London throughout the first vacation.

He had earlier granted an interview where he said the doctors he had been consulting since the 1970s were based in London.