Should President Muhammadu contest in 2019, he will defeat the former leaders who are asking him not to seek reelection, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said yesterday.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) have advised the President not to seek reelection.
Obasanjo has launched the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), which he described as a third force to the two dominant parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although the President has not declared his intention to contest, but the popular thinking is that he will.
Shenu, fielding questions from reporters yesterday, said the President “richly deserves a second term in office.”
He added that rather than asking Buhari not to contest in 2019, the former leaders should contest against him next year.
“My response to them is that if they like they can come and contest against President Buhari. He will defeat them, all of them,” Shehu said
On the belief by some Nigerians that President Buhari should not be talking of re-contesting when there is hunger in the land, he said: “With all the noise the PDP is making, even during their tenure, did they give breakfast, lunch and dinner to every citizen? Is there any country in which someone does not go hungry?
“I am not saying it is perfectly in order but they are just politicising these issues. This is a government that has removed this country from the shame of food importation.
“Every state of the country now is into rice production, and we are feeding not only Nigeria but West Africa.
“And the government is working on having respectable prices for food items,food inflation is coming down grossly. Everyone complaining of hunger should go and work. And you know that this is the only government that has introduced social investment schemes. We pay out now for the poorest of the poor; the least they wll get is N5,000.and a lot of these jobs that are being created are from loans with little or no interest from the Central Bank, Bank of industry, Banks of Agriculture, Development Bank and the rest.
“So, there is a lot going for people who really want to go out there to work, especially in agriculture.”
Shehu also faulted those saying it was a weakness for the President not to be able reshuffle his cabinet since 2015.
He said: “The President is the one who wears the shoes; he knows where it pinches. If the President hasn’t sacked his ministers, it means that he wants to continue to work with them.
“Maybe those agitating for the sack of the ministers are also looking for a chance to come in to replace those who are there, in that case, then they are driven by selfish motive.
“As President and commander-in-chief, he reserves the right to hire and fire. The fact that he hasn’t done that does not mean that he does not have the power to do that. I am sure if he wants do it, he will do it at his own pace and time but people who want to become ministers, how many minister can we even appoint in this country?
“I think people should just be busy; let them go and start farming instead of sitting down to speculate whether they can be made minister or not.”
Shehu rated the administration high on infrastructural development.
According to him, no past administration invested so much in capital projects like this.
“From day one when he took power, the President gave a target of not less than 30 per cent of annual appropriation devoted to infrastructure development. Without infrastructure we cannot lay the foundation for growth.
“When this administration came to power, between 95 and 96 per cent of public expenditure was going into overhead cost, leaving only about five or six per cent for infrastructure. The allocation of 30 per cent under this administration has led to tremendous improvement in the provision of infrastructure so far in the country. Now there is a lot of work going on, building new rail lines and the rehabilitation of the old rail system networks. Roads are being done all across the country, you only need to drive around to see for yourself.
“The amount of work this administration has done on roads, like the expressway from Enugu to Port Harcout, has not been done in the eight years of previous administrations. We are hoping that within this year before the next election Lagos -Ibadan will be completed. It’s a lot of money; we are doing it. Government is laying the sod now for the construction of a six lane road from Abuja to Kano.
“So there is so much that is going on in terms of that. We are doing power; you know that this administration has doubled availability of power in the country. When we came in, it stood at about 3,000 megawatts. We have hit 7,000 megawatts and we are doing more. So it depends on what you are looking at.
“This is a government that has spent N1.3 trillion in capital expenses under 2016 budget and has also spent as much as that under the 2017 budget and it’s almost closing on records for last year which was N1.3 trillion,” he said.
Asked if the farmers/ herders crises had not rubbished the administration’s goal of securing lives and properties, Shehu said “The problem between farmers and herdsmen predate the independence of Nigeria; if you read history you will see that farmers and herdsmen had fought for space in this country; even when British colonial rulers were here. So, this is not something new.
“I am not saying it is welcome but I think it is over amplified now. There is a media spotlight on it because the opposition cannot engage Buhari administration on any other issue other than this lacuna that they have found.
“They cannot discuss the war against corruption because that’s a very uncomfortable area for them. They don’t want to discuss issues of infrastructure with Buhari; they don’t want to discuss economic diversification in which this administration has achieved a lot of success. Today we have 12 million rice farmers in this country; six million new jobs are being created in other sectors by agriculture alone, food import has gone down by 95 per cent, we are feeding ourselves.
“This year the government is planning a ban on rice importation. So we are doing so well moving from over reliance on oil to Agriculture and manufacturing.
“Therefore, I am not saying that it is okay that the farmers and herdsmen are fighting but we are doing a lot. You can see that the recent activity, especially the military operation now in the North Central section of the country, has led to the recoveries of large quantities of weapon illegally held by militias and even herdsmen.
“So something is being done about it. I know by the time this is done with, I don’t know what else the opposition will be talking about.” he said.
Speaking on the assertion in the social media that President Buhari is shielding herdsmen from prosecution and begging them to accept amnesty, he said: “Well, I hope you also realise that the social media has brought a lot of good things to the world and it has also brought a lot of problems not only in Nigeria but everywhere in the world.
“Nations of the world are talking about regulations and control. This is happening in Germany, in the UK even the US you see that a lot these technology companies are being fined for infringements that they cause.
“It’s always been heard that the default position of the social media itself is to be negative, so people have turned out to ignore grand reality and project images that are very negative. Otherwise, I wonder , this is an administration that has done extremely well and to a President who has sworn to an oath to defend the constitution and protect every life and property, it is very unfair and uncharitable to say that he will shield anybody, and, in any case, the President controls only one layer of authority; what are the governors doing, is the social media also saying that the governors are protecting the herdsmen from the law, are they saying the local governments are also protecting them?
“You see, it has to take everyone at various levels of authority to shield somebody from the law in those circumstances, and the President himself, his passion is for the country, this is a President whose passion is not even for the office, even when everyone is asking him to go for a second term he is keeping quiet because his focus remains the nation and the problem of the country.
“Whoever is peddling these rumours that Boko Haram is being granted amnesty and so on I would ask them, who doesn’t want to make peace with the enemy? In any case as it is proverbially said, all wars end up in the boardroom. You can defeat people technically in the field but at the end you must come to the conference room to resolve all issues.
“So, if Boko Haram would lay down their arms and stop fighting and stop preaching that negative ideology, the country should be able to embrace them, welcome all of them so that they continue to live normal lives and be useful to the nation.
“What that means is that we will be saving cost, saving lives that are being lost through bombing, killing of service personnel and we will be saving money that we are using to procure weapons so that such money can go into services and infrastructure and welfare of the citizens of this country. It is a win -win situation,” he said.