The Presidency has debunked claims of a bitter rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over the leadership crisis in the National Assembly.
Describing as “unfortunate” the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President in the Senate with majority APC members, the Presidency said the party’s leaders were working closely with the President to deliver his electoral mandate to Nigerians.
According to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, the challenge before the key leaders of the APC transcends the leadership tussle in the National Assembly as they meet regularly to discuss how best to meet the expectations of Nigerians.
Shehu, who spoke to our correspondent in an exclusive interview yesterday in Abuja, said the perception by a section of the populace that the President is slow in effecting change is misplaced as he was taking his time to sort out the huge mess left behind by the Jonathan administration.
He said Buhari had been busy working out an action plan that would include “taming the monster of corruption, assets recovery and making the power sector functional”.
On the ‘perceived’ rift between Buhari and Tinubu, Shehu said: “There is absolutely nothing like that. The President maintains excellent relationship with his friends and who are these people? They include Baba Bisi Akande, one of the most respected individuals that you see around the President; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who, a week or so ago, was in Aso Rock and had a hilarious discussion with the President. Just two days ago, they were inquiring about former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to attend the Ramadan breakfast. The President keeps his friends.
“Sometimes, the things we read in the press amuse us because, as far as the personal relationships are concerned, nothing has dented the political family that the President keeps. All these persons I have mentioned realise they have a political party to build and they have work to do. They have obtained the mandate and they know they need to fulfil certain obligations to Nigerians. The expectations are high. So, they are not mistaken about the assignment.”
Shehu, noting that the government’s strategy in the fight against insurgency is reaping positive results despite an increase in the tempo of attacks on soft targets by the sect, said there would not be any sacred cow in the fight against corruption as shown in the arraignment of high-profile personalities in the courts.
“When people say the President is slow in effecting change, I will say it depends on what the people think is more important for the country. Now, those who feel the most important thing that Buharri ought to do is appointment would naturally feel disappointed. There are those who think he has problems of security to solve. You know that in the last one month, he has broken the Boko Haram rank and it is in disarray now. The central command has scattered. What you have now are splinters on a vengeance mission, creating havoc wherever they can.
“Those people who feel the war against corruption is key know that Buhari has started already. When last did you see this kind of high profile prosecutions? This thug stopped half-way through President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure. So, this war against corruption is being renewed all over again and people can see it. Whether it’s assets recovery or any other matter, it is ongoing.
“Then there is the issue of the economy with power being a major focus. Without power, you cannot get anywhere. So, the President is putting together an action plan that excludes corruption, that cleanses the rot that he met on the ground, particularly the oil sector. You just cannot believe the kind of mess that the previous government left behind. Oil theft would end because the President is going to plug the loopholes. Do you know that, for the first time, somebody said at the governors’ meeting with the President that that was the first time they were being told how much had come into the treasury? Before now, they would probably be told what was on the table and they’d just share it. Now, transparency, which has never been with us, has come. There is so much openness now.”
On the crisis in the National Assembly following the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives, contrary to the wishes of the APC leadership, Shehu said Buhari would not meddle in the matter but reiterated his desire to work with whosoever emerged.
Shehu said: “Where is the regional agenda in all of the things that has played out in the National Assembly. The biggest beneficiary of what has happened in the National Assembly is Senator Ike Ekweremadu who comes from the Southeast and represents the Peoples Democratic Party. The PDP was clearly rejected at the polls and people now talk about a reincarnation of sorts for the party. So this is not regional, ethnic or religious. The President needs good partners in the National Assembly to realise his agenda and a parliament that is in a storm, that is boiling over, is not good for his party. Yes it is in the interest of the President and the country that the parliament sit down and resolve their problems – free of interference of outsiders because President Buhari would not meddle. Once they settle it amicably, this country would benefit. No matter what shape it takes, the President would work with whosoever is there. He has said that much himself.”