President Muhammadu Buhari hosted his first media chat since coming into office on December 30 at the Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja. This followed series of criticisms that the president prefers to disclose his ideas and agenda for the country to foreign media instead of the national media. So you will understand the excitement that greeted this proposition when it hit the airwaves.
With the eagerness expressed by Nigerians as they awaited the media chat in which the President would address issues bothering on governance, such as pressure on the naira, Biafra agitations, Boko Haram in the north east, corruption and the economy in general, one would be deceived into thinking that it is the first of its kind in the country. But that is not the fact!
Since democracy returned to the country in 1999, presidential media chats became a regular fixture that all Nigerians looked forward to. For Buhari’s first media chat, Nigerians relished the idea of speaking to and hearing from the president first hand, about the socio-political and economic problems bedeviling the nation. It was a rare opportunity to know what the president has in mind and not having to resort to biased and diluted information from his ministers or the media. The build-up and aftermath of this presidential media chat would reverberate in the country for a long time and it did live up to that expectation.
Although the chat lasted for a mere two hours, it created fireworks that will trail Buhari until the end of his tenure. Some Nigerians have praised PMB for not letting them down while others have been criticizing what they describe as the president’s dictatorial tendencies identified in the manner in which he answered questions regarding the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki and the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
Leading the pack of criticism after the chat is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The opposition party swung right into the heat of things by issuing a statement the next day through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, saying that the president’s response to certain questions in the chat has exposed his undemocratic character of having no regard for the rule of law and the self-worth of Nigerian citizens.
This extremely shocking dictatorial tendency being brazenly exhibited by the President in total disdain for our laws and judicial institutions portends great danger for our democracy and constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the people, and should be resisted by the citizens before it festers,” the party stated.
Here are the responses of Mr. President to questions bothering on various aspects of the economy at the presidential media chat, held at the Aso Presidential Villa, Abuja. The panel of interviewers were Ibanga Isine, Ngozi Anyaegbulam (Media World International), Kayode Akintemi (Channels TV) and Munir Dan Ali (Daily Trust).
On Assets declaration…
“I have declared my assets four times in the past. You have the constitutional right to go to the relevant government agency to go and seek for it.”
On the fall of the naira…
“I need to be convinced. If you devalue the naira, against what? Dollar, Sterling, Yen, French Franc?”
“If you see the kind of atrocities people like Dasuki committed you won’t give them bail.”
On Nnamdi Kanu and Biafra
“There’s a treasonable charge against Kanu and I hope the court will listen to the case against him.”
“We will not allow anyone create a state within the Nigerian state.”
On reducing the minimum wage…
“I assure you that Federal Government will not touch the minimum wage but we cannot determine what the states will do.”
“We may have to send the young unemployed youth seeking N5,000 fee to farm to earn the money.”
On Insugency and Boko Haram…
“If Boko Haram continues with suicide bombings, we might consider banning wearing Hijab.”
“We are looking for a credible Boko Haram leadership that will convince us that Chibok girls are alive. Our priority is on orphaned IDPs to get them back to schools, resettle them and giving them hope.”
“I am honest with you, I don’t know whether Chibok girls are alive.”
On the latest Shiite agitation…
“We have a system of investigation as a government and as the head of the federal government, I have to wait for official report before I comment.”
“I cannot comment on the Shite crisis as I am a sitting duck, I have to let investigations be.”
On Igbo marginalization…
“Why does it have to worry me, when I have militants, Boko Haram and other. They said they are being marginalsed but they haven’t defined the extent of their marginalisation. Who marginalised them? How? Where? Do you know?,” he queried.”Who is the minister of state for petroleum, is he not Igbo? Who is the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria? Is he not Igbo? Who is minister of labour, science and technology? What do the Igbos want?”
On the anti-graft war…
“I swore by the Holy Quran to protect and obey the constitution, no one will be above the law.”
“Nigeria doing quite well in anti-corruption war, treasury looters will eventually end up in courts.”
“If you find any of my 36 Ministers with a corruption case in court, name them so I can look into it.”
“Thirty years ago as Head of State, we collected those we perceived to be corrupt and put them in protective custody, until they prove they were not guilty. At present, those suspected of being corrupt are innocent until they are proven guilty.”
“If you see the atrocities those committed against this country, we can’t allow them to jump bail.”
“Money has been recovered, whatever has been recovered we have to end up in courts.”
“I have said that I will defend every property of Nigeria. We are appealing to countries to please cooperate with us.”
On Senate expenditure…
“I turned down a huge bill for purchasing vehicles for the presidency, even though I know we need some vehicles for foreign visitors. If I refuse to do so for my own presidency I will not agree for the National Assembly. I cannot see the National Assembly spending N45billion to buy cars on top of the transport allowances they collect. I hope the cars have not been bought.”