Former Presidential Adviser to Yar Adua, Senator Abba Aji spoke to Daily Trust on the one year of Buhari government. Excerpts.
President Muhammadu Buhari will be one year in office on Sunday. What is your assessment of his performance?
I will score him an ‘A’ on security because I am from the North-east. I am from Borno State which is actually the ground zero of the entire conflict. Before President Buhari came to office, Boko Haram had 14 local governments under them, where they have hoisted their flags, held people under bondage, and security officers or private individual could not go to those areas. They were entirely under them. The federal government appeared at that time to have resigned itself to fate and Boko Haram insurgents were looking forward to controlling some more areas. That was the situation when Buhari became the president and, in less than one year, there isn’t a single local government that is under them. The Boko Haram members are no longer rolling out armoured personnel carriers, tanks and or move in Toyota Hilux pickups.
Nigeria’s economy seems to be in bad shape and some people, including the likes of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, are saying President Buhari does not have a firm grip of the economy. With this scenario, do you think the anticipated change will be realised?
It isn’t an issue of capacity, there is no money! Let us face it. Obasanjo was very lucky when he was ruling, the value of the dollar to the naira was high and revenue from oil was fantastic. After that, thanks to what the late Yar’adua has done by addressing the demands of the militants, the Amnesty Programme, the level of oil production jumped up and throughout the presidency of Jonathan oil price was favourable. But Buhari came in at a time when we were just getting into a new economic world order, with wars in the Middle-East escalated, reaching Yemen. The embargo on Iran was lifted, allowing it to resume oil production. That development was partly responsible for oil glut and crashing of price. Iran is playing a catch-up, ignoring appeals to cut its production. And Saudi Arabia is saying that if Iran isn’t playing according to the OPEC rule, it won’t either. So, now, all OPEC members are producing above their quota. That’s the time we are supposed to be producing our quota just to remain even in the game but what happened? The militants are blowing up pipelines and, instead of 2.2 million barrels per day. We are producing less than 1.65mb/day. The price is very low at a time when we are executing the war on terror and the economy needs a lot. So, I think that Buhari needs understanding from Nigerians and he has been appealing to us.
Don’t you think complaints of Nigerians are legitimate?
President Buhari didn’t just say he needs our patience, he says it will get worse before it gets better, but look at his budget-N500bn to be used to provide palliatives. That’s very good, that will go to the downtrodden and the economically vulnerable and cushion the effect of the austerity measures
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