The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in this interview with OLALEKAN ADETAYO, reacts to some of the criticisms trailing President Goodluck Jonathan and gives reasons why he deserves a second term
Despite the achievements President Goodluck Jonathan claims to have made, what will you say is responsible for the general perception that this government has performed below expectation?
I like it that you used the word perception. There is a negative sinister perception created by the opposition. I will tell you how. The opposition has a tremendous influence on Nigerian media and therefore, most of these achievements are suppressed from coming to public glare. The second one is that achievements and good news do not make news but when Boko Haram keeps bombing and killing, that is the news. I have looked at newspapers’ headlines for one year, 75 per cent of headlines are on Boko Haram. It doesn’t matter even if you say that the President had just gone to commission an industry somewhere but when you say 285 killed in Monduga, Borno State, that is what people will remember.
Insurgency has been overplayed to the extent that it has overshadowed the laudable achievements of this administration and it is deliberate. I know for a fact that the issue of Boko Haram was designed and executed from the beginning to malign this administration. There was Boko Haram before this administration, but the evil people in the society who felt there was no way they could remove the administration saw an opportunity and they encouraged it one way or the other to the extent that we never had rest in the last two to three years.
Do you exercise any fear of possible post-election violence in the country?
That question should go to APC people. They are the ones that are identified with violence and also canvass for violence and perpetrate violence. There is no doubt about it, they have said it before and they have made it happen. We have nothing to do with violence. We win all the time, we are going to win again. We just pray that when we win, people will accept it readily and not create violence as they did in 2011. Many people who suffered the 2011 violence have not recovered from it.
One of the achievements being pointed to by this administration is the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, why is it that Nigerians still do not have electricity?
The unbundling of the PHCN is a major event. It took 15 years and finally it took the courage, tenacity and commitment of President Jonathan to see it through. Without the unbundling of the PHCN, we will be a non-starter in terms of power generation. Government cannot provide what is required to provide Nigerians’ electricity needs. Nigerians today need 50,000MW. We are looking at about $40bn to $50b, that is multiple trillions in naira. All we have in our capital vote in a year is about N1tr, where will we get that kind of money from? So we have to break down the power infrastructure so as to encourage foreign direct investors to come and invest and take it over just like the telecommunications.
Don’t you think the issue of the missing Chibok girls has affected the political fortune of the President?
It is not just Chibok girls; everything that has to do with this insurgency has affected the political fortune of the President. The good news however is that in spite of it all, this administration has verifiable and concrete achievements that nobody can argue about.
How do you react to the claim by the opposition that the President lacks the capacity to fight Boko Haram?
It is only the mentally derailed that will say that. Because there is insurgency here, then the government is not doing well. It is nonsense talk. It is absolute nonsense talk. Insurgency is not a Nigerian affair. How much is our national budget? About N4tr. How much is that in dollars? Is that not $2b? That is not up to what America gives to Egypt on a yearly basis. It is only foolish people and some not too experienced politicians as well as ignorant and mischief makers that will say that because Jonathan’s administration has not been able to end insurgency, then he does not have what it takes to tackle Boko Haram.
When Buhari says he will end insurgency, that is total rubbish. He does not know what he is talking about, it is not going to happen unless he is the one who controls the boys on the field. That is the only reason why he can end insurgency immediately. Because in that case, what he needs to do as their commander is to ask them to stop and they will stop. If that is not the case, nobody can say he will end insurgency like that. That is just political gimmick and nobody should take him seriously. The issue of insurgency is not a campaign performance of President Jonathan.
Apart from security, another major fallout of ongoing campaigns is corruption. How will you rate this administration’s anti-corruption drive?
I don’t need to rate this administration’s anti-corruption drive. If I say it, nobody will believe me. Why should you believe me? Why should APC believe me? Why should Nigerians believe me? I am a beneficiary of this government. But there are world institutions that have in the past castigated us and condemned us, but are saying another thing now. Two years ago, we were 147th out of over 170 nations when they did the corruption perception index of Transparency International. We did not abuse them, we accepted it and said we were going to improve and we have done that. Today, the same organisation says we are 136th, we have moved eight points in two years. These are independent and objective observers. It does not mean that we are no longer corrupt, it is evident that something is being done about it.
The President appointed Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who has a case pending in court, as the spokesman of his campaign organisation. He also granted pardon to Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who was convicted of corruption. How will you marry these with the President’s anti-corruption war?
Granting pardon to somebody, is that corruption? How can you say that? I expect people who are educated and knowledgeable to stay away from things that do not make sense. When these events happened, we showed you that prerogative of mercy is the preserve of the President. Look at Presidents all over the world: murderers have been granted mercy; drug peddlers have been granted mercy. It is a prerogative of mercy. In the case of Alamieyeseigha, why do our people exhibit so much hatred? Alamieyeseigha was accused of corruption, he was tried for corruption, he was found guilty and jailed for corruption. He finished his term, his properties were seized. Why don’t you just give a gun to the President to shoot him? What is wrong if he granted him pardon? How can that be corruption? That is not corruption. He exercised the power that is given to him. At every celebration of national events, President, governors and even state chief judges grant pardons to murderers and other criminals to leave prisons. This one had served his term.
Chief Fani-Kayode has a case in court. The law says you are not guilty until you are declared so by a court. He had many charges levelled against him, virtually all of them were quashed by the court because they were either exaggerations or things that cannot be backed by facts. There is absolutely nothing wrong in making Fani-Kayode the spokesman. He is very competent, he is good at it, he has the intellect and he is in a position to do the job. If he goes to court and he is found guilty, then the law can take its course. You cannot say because he has a case in court, therefore, he cannot work. And it is not a case of corruption really. That is not an issue.
How will you react to the belief that those of you who surround the President always respond with anger to criticism and attack personalities instead of addressing issues?
What issues are there to attend to? Those who call the President clueless, those who say the President is a drunkard, those who say the President is a non-performer, are those issues? It is just because this President is liberal. We do not have a choice than to be angry. I am angry because I know that people are painting the President in colours that he does not deserve and they are doing it deliberately, not based on facts. They are using the media to manipulate the minds of people. They abuse the President but when we respond, they will say it is unpresidential. If you do not want to be insulted, do not insult others.
You once predicted that APC will not last one year. The party is almost two years now. How do you feel?
My prediction helped them because I found out that every day they meet, instead for them to fight, they will say ‘you know Okupe predicted that we are not going to last, so let us beg one another.’ So what I have done is to help them because we wanted a very serious opposition and we are praying that they will not break. If I did not say so, they would have broken and there would have been no contest. So they should thank me for saying so.