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FG Deflects Obasanjo’s Criticism, Lists President Buhari’s Achievements

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- Pledges to end herders-farmers’ clashes

- APC rejects alternative coalition, PDP denies procuring court judgment
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Twenty-four hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo issued a 13-page statement admonishing President Muhammadu Buhari not to contest 2019 polls because of his perceived failure, the federal government wednesday in Abuja responded to Obasanjo, saying it has accepted his admonition in good faith.

Briefing journalists at the end of a five-hour Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who described Obasanjo as a patriot, however, said the ex-president was not aware of the achievements of the administration due to his busy schedule.

According to him, whereas the former president acknowledged the administration’s performance in the area of the anti-graft war and fight against the insurgency, he was obviously not acquainted with the strides in the management of the economy because of his busy schedule.

Mohammed who stated that the government had no reason to impugn any ulterior motive to the former president’s statement, pointed out that Obasanjo had proven time after time again that he is only driven by the well-being of the nation and conveyed the government’s appreciation to him for his concern.

“For the record, Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling the insurgency.

“Specifically, the former president said President Buhari must be given credit for his achievements so far in these two areas. We thank him for this.

“Apparently, the former president believes that the administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promise.

“We have no doubt that in the face of the massive challenges in this area, this administration has availed itself creditably. We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedules, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.

“Finally, we have no reason to believe that former President Obasanjo had any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his special press statement.

“We have also taken his admonition in good faith and we thank him most sincerely for taking time off his busy schedules to pen such a long statement,” Mohammed stated.

Mohammed who further said the Buhari administration was not unaware of the enormity of the challenges confronting the nation, added that the government was up to the task and will leave no stone unturned in putting smiles on the faces of Nigerians.

He also said the government was determined to end the protracted crisis between herders and farmers and appealed to Nigerians to have faith in the administration’s ability to tackle the menace.

On Obasanjo’s verdict that Buhari should forget 2019 because of his perceived lack of capacity to handle the enormous task confronting the country, Mohammed said the president had in recent times been inundated with calls to either run or not to run, describing the calls as distractions.

According to him, the president was instead engrossed in his commitment to the mandate given to him by his countrymen in 2015.

“This administration is not unaware of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation, but we are up to the task. We have taken the bull by the horns, and long-suffering Nigerians will begin to experience a new lease of life as our efforts yield fruits. We will not go into a state of funk for whatever reason.

“On the herders-farmers’ clashes, this administration is determined to end the crisis resulting from this once and for all, not minding the fact that the clashes predate us.

“I will urge Nigerians to have faith in the administration’s ability to resolve the crisis and to watch out for concrete measures in this regard.

“On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the president to run again, while others are opposed to his return.

“However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the president at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hour tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his administration by successive past administrations.

“He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that is where we are right now,” Mohammed stated.

The minister, who then proceeded to reel out the achievements of the administration to convince Obasanjo that it has not failed, highlighted government activities in the areas of the economy, transportation, road infrastructure and agriculture.

According to him, all indices today point to a promising economy, insisting that the economy was making progress and results had confirmed this.

“Today, most of the indices by which an economy is measured are looking up. Permit me to say, however, that Nigeria would not have exited the recession through a mere order or if the administration had not made use of ‘good Nigerians’ who could help.

“This administration is making steady progress in its determined effort to revamp the economy and the results are showing:

“Foreign Reserves have peaked at $40 billion, the highest level in about four years, and up from $24 billion just a year ago, even though when we came in, the price of oil had crashed woefully.

“According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), headline inflation has fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37 per cent as of December 2017. This is the lowest inflation rate since January 2017, and it has met and surpassed the target set for inflation in the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

“Our determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped the hemorrhaging of the treasury. Some N108 billion has been saved from the removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA. The nation is being saved N24.7 billion monthly with the full implementation of the TSA.

“The elimination of ghost workers has saved the nation N120 billion. The $1.8 billion of capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 almost doubled the $908 million in the first quarter.

“In the wake of a stable naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 per cent. Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 reformers in the world.

“According to Q3 2017 figures, agriculture export were up year-on-year by 25 per cent, solid minerals exports were up year-on-year by 78 per cent, raw materials exports were up 70 per cent year-on-year, and manufactured goods exports were up 22 per cent year-on-year.

“Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting the highest ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51 million!

“These positive indices may not have immediately impacted positively on Nigerians, but Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now.

“This is because the good news from the agriculture sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuff, especially for such staples as rice, and our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society.

“When we assumed office in 2015, some six million farmers were involved in rice production. Thanks to the anchor borrowers’ programme of this administration, we have grown that number to over 12 million farmers. The result is that our rice imports from Thailand alone have dropped from 644 metric tonnes to 22,000 MT in just two years. This is phenomenal.

“Apart from rice, Nigeria is also doing well in other grains, especially millet, sorghum and maize. We are now the second largest producer of sorghum after the U.S., the third in millet after India, and our breweries are now enjoying local sourcing of those commodities.

“For maize, we are producing 10 million tons while we need about 13 million tons for both human and animal consumption. Nigeria leads the world in the yam and cassava production. We account for 70 per cent of the world’s yam production. In two years, we hope to be the world’s largest exporter of yam!

“Overall, our ambition is that agriculture should rise from 25 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP, so that we can banish poverty and overcome our economic anxiety.

“Our Social Investment Programme is Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever. Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power job scheme; and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers.

“Finally, our investment in infrastructure is simply unprecedented. This is because infrastructure is key to faster economic growth and development. Here is a synopsis of what we have done in this area:

• Power Generation at an all-time high of 7,000MW and all can be transmitted.

• Rail: Lagos-Kano standard gauge is on. Lagos-Ibadan sector ready 2019, Kano-Kaduna ready 2019; the entire stretch ready 2021; negotiations on for coastal rail covering 15 cities from Lagos to Calabar.

• Roads: 25 major highways being funded with the N100 billion Sukuk bond, and all geo-political zones are benefitting equally,” Mohammed submitted.

The federal government, however, did not respond to Obasanjo’s accusation of nepotism and clannishness that he levelled against the president.

APC Rejects Alternative Coalition

The federal government, nonetheless, was not left in its reaction to the former president’s statement, as the All Progressives Congress (APC) also objected to the call made by Obasanjo for the formation of a new coalition that will sack the present crop of leadership in the country from power and enthrone a more purposeful one.

The ruling party said that just as it disagreed with the former president on his assessment of the Buhari administration, it also found the wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country as uncalled for.

In a statement wednesday, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said Obasanjo should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians.

“It is for this reason that we disagree with the former president in what appears like a wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country.

“We acknowledge our challenges as a new political party, even as we believe that the APC remains the best option at this time for all Nigerians who are genuinely committed to the progress and development of the country,” he said.

While opposing the call for a new coalition that would oust both APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the stage, the APC spokesman said there are about 72 political parties in the country and that the people reserved the right to support any of them.

“Our democracy itself is young and hence all the parties face sundry challenges, but we have made progress since 1999, with President Obasanjo himself being a major contributor to our progress as a multi-party democracy.

“It is for this reason that we believe the respected former president should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians and the only solution to the current challenges that we face is a completely new arrangement.

“The task of building a political party is not done overnight. Even the oldest of our political parties is still very young in comparison with advanced democracies.

“Our democracy therefore stands a better chance of becoming really strong if we allow the parties to find their identities, even if in the process they make mistakes and appear to be ‘wobbling’. No political party arrives fully formed,” he said.

On the criticism of the APC-led administration, the party said it did not agree with everything the former president said, especially on his assessment of the government and the ruling party.

APC, however, said that it accepts that some of the sundry issues raised by the former president were made in good faith and would take responsibility for it with a view to addressing them in due course.

“We are the ruling party. We must take responsibility. We will take valuable lessons on board and continue to improve. Regardless of the current challenges, we are confident that a brighter future is assured for our party and our country.

“As a father of the nation, we understand that the former president would feel obliged to intervene if certain things are not being done or are not being done in a particular way.

“However, we believe that such interventions should be for the sole purpose of improving the system and encouraging the relevant institutions to work harder in improving certain situations.

“APC calls on all our supporters across the country to remain strong and steadfast. These are challenging times. But we cannot afford to react to public criticism with any form of emotionalism,” he said.

PDP Denies Procuring Judgment

The main opposition party, the PDP, which also drew some flak from Obasanjo, also in statement wednesday denied that it procured a judgment from the Supreme Court that settled the leadership tussle in the party last year, contrary to the claims made by the former president in his 13-page statement on Tuesday.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in the statement that the main opposition platform represents the true coalition of Nigerians from across the country.

The party said Obasanjo’s claim on the procurement of the judgment amounted to an ill-intended attempt to impugn the integrity of the Supreme Court, particularly when such a claim was false and not predicated on any empirical proof.

It said the ruling of the Supreme Court, which ended the protracted internal feud within its fold, rather than detract, reinforced the confidence of Nigerians in the PDP as the platform that truly embodies the resilience of a genuine democratic process in the face of daunting challenges.

According to the party, even the worst critics of PDP have conceded that the judgment of the Supreme Court was unprejudiced, uninfluenced and determined completely on merit, for which it was applauded in Nigeria and across the world.

It also stated that the conduct of its December elective national convention “in a transparent, free and fair manner and where nobody was ‘kingmaker’, denotes the democratic credentials of the repositioned PDP to deliver credible primaries that would yield a presidential candidate Nigerians desire”.

PDP noted that its experience in governance and successful rebound from its challenges had given it an edge over every other existing or intended political platform in Nigeria.

While stressing that there was an extensive dissimilarity between it and the APC, the PDP argued that while it remains nationally populist and development-driven, “the APC by orientation and composure is arrogant, inept and anti-people, hence the nationwide detestation against it”.

It further stated that unlike the APC, where very few individuals from within a circle control the instrument of power and governance, the PDP “remains that egalitarian platform where all Nigerians are free to express themselves, politically engage and freely aspire for any office without regard to divisive considerations”.

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