The Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, speaks on the June 12 inaugural speech of the president and other topical issues:
In his June 12 speech, President Muhammadu Buhari said with good leadership, it’s possible to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. He has a mandate of four years. How is he going to do it?
When the President spoke of 10 years, it does not mean that he intends to be in government till then. It is practically impossible, as he has just four years to spend, and he can’t, won’t ask, for more.
He has personally said that a number of times. When government plans, the idea is that governance is a continuum.
With good, progressive governance, the target of lifting 100 million people out of poverty in ten years is practicable, feasible.
The Buhari administration will come with the blueprint, begin to implement it, and hand over the baton to succeeding administration.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment said last month that it has a plan to create 20 million jobs in the next four years.
Providing jobs is a way to lift people out of grinding poverty. Many other ministries can do the same thing.
In the Next Level manual, you have priority areas of the next four years as jobs, infrastructure, power, Peoples Moni Bank, Entrepreneurs Bank, and many others.
If you ask me, these would lift millions of people out of poverty.
The Social Investment Programme (SIP) is being rated as the boldest and most efficient social intervention scheme in Africa. And it is work in progress, so it would naturally have room for improvement
In that speech too, he reflected on his life of public service for the past several decades and the fact that he believes that most Nigerians want to live together in peace. Why do you think there has been an upsurge in social and ethnic tensions in recent times?
Nigeria has never been without social and ethnic tensions. That is due to the nature of our union, which was a forceful one in 1914.
It was an unwilling union, forcefully consummated by Lord Frederick Lugard. Since then, it had been uneasy, with grave suspicion rifling through the polity.
It was not helped by the colonial masters themselves, who played one ethnic nationality against the other, to serve their own interests.
These tensions spiked in recent times, particularly with the advent of democracy, in which people could make utterances, however indecorous or divisive they may be.
And you found deep fissures being driven into the various peoples and regions of the country. Awareness of where one came from became heightened, other than national cohesion.
Politicians cashed in on our faultlines – ethnicity, religion, language, state of origin – and many others, to divide the people, and advance their own interests. That is what has led us to where we are today.
Nigeria is greater than the challenges, no matter the hidden hostile hands that are encouraging them. The country shall be victorious
There’s been some controversy over whether or not the social investment programme has fallen short. The president referenced the programme extensively in his speech. What specific plans does the government have to make the programme more efficient?
The Social Investment Programme (SIP) is being rated as the boldest and most efficient social intervention scheme in Africa.
And it is work in progress, so it would naturally have room for improvement. As the saying goes, the widest room in the world is the room for improvement.
The SIP started small, and has been growing in leaps and bounds. The homegrown school-feeding program started modestly, now about 9.5 pupils are being fed daily in 30 states.
The target is to hit 15 million pupils, and spread to all 36 states in the country. The N-Power program has provided jobs for 500 graduates, with the intention to double the figure soon.
The conditional cash transfer provides N5,000 monthly to hundreds of thousands of poorest of the poor. Same for the micro credit scheme for traders.
The Bank of Industry is already involved with some of these programs, showing that they are being institutionalised.
The Peoples Moni Bank will also be set up, which will take care of the needs of people at the bottom rung of the ladder, while Entrepreneurs Bank will take care of small and middle scale enterprises.
The SIP can only grow bigger. It is something government is passionately committed to.
The president talked about investment in infrastructure and improvements in the regulation and ports traffic. Apapa ports appear to be mission impossible. Is anything radically different coming up?
A task force is dealing with the issue of Apapa. They have timelines and deliverables.
They gave a new date in which the work would be accomplished, just this week. I think the spokesman of the task force can give further insights.
As the President himself has said, the process won’t take as long as it did in 2015, because the circumstances are not the same
Security remains a key area of focus – and a major challenge. Is there something Nigerians need to know about why the problem appears to be mutating, almost intractably?
The security challenges are enormous. Insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, communal strifes, criminality generally.
These are truly dire times, and as the President has said, they are results of the corruption, decay and neglects of the past.
But is the government overwhelmed? By no means. The challenges are being tackled, and we will eventually overcome.
Nigeria is greater than the challenges, no matter the hidden hostile hands that are encouraging them. The country shall be victorious.
How much longer will Nigerians wait before the President announces his cabinet?
Nigerians will not have to wait a day longer than necessary, before they have a cabinet.
And as the President himself has said, the process won’t take as long as it did in 2015, because the circumstances are not the same.