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‘Our President is not the oldest in the world’, says Buhari’s media chief, Shehu

Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, has flared up at Nigerians who are looking at the age of the President as a disadvantage to his re-election bid, saying “Our President is not the oldest in the world. Neither is he incapacitated mentally or physically”.

Explaining in an interview, he argued that “if the constitution says he is entitled to two terms, why must he throw away the chance to consolidate and expand the plans he has for the greater good of the greater majority of Nigerians?”

“As for those advising the President not to seek re-election, they are entitled to such opinions, but no man can take away the inalienable rights of an individual from him or her without consent.

Continuing, he stressed that “the teeming population of Nigerians, who love the change agenda of PMB and are daily urging the President to continue for stability and unity, must also be listened to. So, President Buhari will not be fair to dash their hope and aspiration”.

“Mr. President, as a genuine statesman and patriot, would not want to abandon ship shortly after exiting the country from a parlous and painful recession. The President has declared his intention to continue to offer good leadership to the nation, and so it shall be.

The Peoples Democratic Party has repeatedly accused the present administration of deliberate clampdown on the opposition. How will you react to this?

On the claims that the present administration’s anti-corruption war is selective, Shehu averred that “It is unbelievable that some people would prefer hearsay to facts which are meant to be sacred. Misconceptions and fake news have sadly taken the front seat of our national discussion. No anti-fraud agency can handle all cases at the same time. Some become top priority due to the magnitude of offences committed and availability of evidence to prosecute the suspects”.

“Moreover, how can an administrator set out to employ divide-and-rule (tactics) as a strategy for national governance? That would have been a recipe for calamity. Nigeria’s diversity and heterogeneity cannot allow for such. Democracy and its tenets of freedom of speech and association would not condone outright abuse of power.

“Those who accuse the APC-led government of selective justice or favouritism towards their party members do really miss the point. How many of such people have explored the whistle-blower opportunity to present substantial evidence to back their allegations, in order to spur prosecutors into action. Most times, the allegations stop at the level of noise-making and blowing of hot air. During this period, members of the party have been in court over one charge or the other. You will be shocked to see the number of senior APC members with cases in courts who sit with the President in party caucus meetings and this President, as you know him, won’t interfere with matters before a judge, neither would he instruct any investigative agency to stop doing its work. There is no room for sacred cows in President Buhari’s lexicon. But it will be foolhardy to punish those that are innocent in the eyes of the law. That apart, false accusation is also punishable in law. Thus, the onus of proof is on those who allege to submit concrete evidence against suspects. The APC is not a safe haven for criminals and outlaws. Such accusations are in the fertile imagination of political adversaries.

On the regular accusations of opposition parties including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on selective clampdown of perceived looters, Shehu argued that “The accusation is laughable in many ways. The word ‘clamp down’ can only apply in a tyrannical and autocratic regime; not in a democratic dispensation where the rule of law exists and judicial autonomy is upheld”.

He said it is not in the character of President Muhammadu Buhari to persecute anyone, However, “Mr. President has no soft spot for corrupt people and crass opportunists who would resort to name-calling whenever they fall into the steel claws of the law for crimes they had committed against fellow countrymen”.

“The President has no apologies for allowing the anti-crime and anti-corruption agencies do their jobs without sparing any sacred cow. Whatever they call that doesn’t count. Those who commit crimes must be ready to face the law.

“In a country blessed with plural political parties, I don’t understand why one out of many claims to be the object of persecution. Those who have not been in power or abused power cannot be probed. It is common sense that government should be accountable and responsible.

“The recovery of huge sums and numerous properties at home and abroad from key players in the previous PDP government attests to the integrity of President Buhari and his administration’s distaste for sleaze and corruption.