The Presidency has said that the resolve by President Muhammadu Buhari not to allocate the nation’s oil wells as gifts to some powerful and influential Nigerians since he assumed office in 2015, has been largely responsible for the seeming hatred and bitter criticisms of his administration by the political elite in the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who stated this yesterday in a chat with journalists, alleged that in the past, Presidents had made themselves popular by giving away oil wells to friends and political associates for patronage.
According to him, Buhari had always been opposed to the negative practice of allocating the nation’s common wealth to a few individuals to the detriment of the masses.
Shehu berated those opposed to the Buhari administration for harbouring hatred for the President, because of his principles stand on prudent management of the nation’s resources.
“The President does not give oil well, therefore, the criticisms against his government. Some of them (elite) have no need being around government, but because this is a country of people, some of them are so much in a hurry. In fact, for some of our elites, Buhari is a bad man because you cannot go to him and say give me oil well and he will sign paper and give you.
“So, we understand the game that is playing out and there is always a price, in any case, to pay for that kind of exposure. Even the president himself, the kind of things that are being said of him, if he did not offer himself to serve, some of those things, people would not even have the chance to say them against him. So, we will live with it, we will accept it because it goes with the territory,” Shehu said.
The current administration, he said, had been unfairly criticised even to the extent of attributing every government’s decision and action to the so-called cabal believed to be teleguiding the President.
He said that in every administration, there is usually a kitchen cabinet which comprises a few trusted personalities that act as advisers to the leader.
“Every president must have people who advise him. It is not a sin; it is not an offence to have people that you take into confidence.
“What is the meaning of cabal? I just googled Thesaurus and among many other definitions, what they are saying is that cabal means “conspire, intrigues, mystique, occult, secret”. There is no government in this country that we have had that some people were not accused of being a cabal in that government and it is because every administration, every president must have a secretariat.
“Elsewhere, they call it ‘Kitchen Cabinet’, but in our own country we are being derogatory and we term them the cabal so that it will tarnish their own good standing,” he said.
The presidential spokesperson who also reacted to the controversies trailing the move at the National Assembly to enact laws to checkmate hate speech and regulate the social media, said that contrary to the popular belief that the Presidency was behind these bills, these beliefs were untrue.
According to him, the Presidency had no plans to muzzle freedom of expression or undermine the media industry in the country.
However, he said, current attempts championed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to sanitize the media should be supported by media practitioners because of the inherent dangers of allowing the social media thrive without regulation.
“Social media has become a problem for many families because rights of women and children are being abused. There is need to protect vulnerable members of the society. There is need to protect minority, whether tribal or religious in our own country.
“So, it makes sense that you as media stakeholders come around the Minister of Information and Culture and formulate the kind of regulation you want so that it is not that there is top bottom approach, so that government will not be accused of imposing a regulatory mechanism on the media.
“The minister is saying come, sit down with me and let us talk about it. I was told that the day he called on NUJ, they walked out on him. If that the report is true, I think it is very unfortunate. I think we need to come around him and offer media-driven solutions so that at the end of it, this country will have a vibrant and effective social media communication system.
“At the same time, it has to be the one that does not drive children to addiction and also protects consumers of media content from harmful invasion of our privacy.
“I think I will like to appeal that you give serious consideration to some of these elements and see how the media in the country can work together with government to find communication solution to purely communication problem.
“It is not political, the government has no reason to undermine or weaken the mass media. You will find out that in a country where the mass media is being suppressed, where there is no freedom of expression and information, you find out that the media space tends to decline; it becomes smaller, media houses close down.
“But the irony of what is happening in the country is that why are some civil society groups crying here that the freedom of expression is being threatened? In any case, we know why they were shouting because they are looking for donors abroad who will send in U.S. dollars for the protection of hate speech. That basically is a selfish thing,” he said.