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Lai Mohammed says Buhari has diagnosed Nigeria’s problems and all will be well soon

Politician, businessman, public relations expert and lawyer, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, before he became minister of information was the long enduring spokesman of the opposition. He had served as spokesman of the AC, the ACN, and lately the APC. In this interview with Vanguard speaks on contemporary issues relating to the pace and pattern of the administration. Excerpts..

Imagine you were the spokesman of the opposition party, what would be your assessment of this government? 
Off course you don’t expect me to answer that question! I can tell you that if I were the spokesperson of the PDP today, I will do what I did as the spokesperson for ACN, for APC and AC; which is, I would address issues, I would do my homework thoroughly, I would not make any allegation that I cannot back by evidence. That is what makes the difference. It is not just about to criticise a policy but to get it right.

Would you say you have delivered on your agenda two and a half years into office? 
I thank God for the privilege of serving as a minister of information and culture. I can see that in under two and a half years, that this government has delivered largely on all its promises. 

I will start with insecurity. When we came in 2015, there were 24 local governments in this country that were under the sovereign control of Boko Haram. Today, as I speak, not one local government is under the control of Boko Haram. Boko Haram has been decapitated.

Boko Haram has been thoroughly degraded; they can no longer function as a parallel army as they were doing. Before now, Boko Haram was active in Plateau State, they attacked Bauchi, Kano had a regular taste of their terror, Kaduna State was not spared, Niger State and even the Federal Capital was not spared, and not to talk of the epicentre which was Borno.

But as I speak today, the military has been able to recruit them to cowardly attacks to soft targets. There is no army in the world that can overcome that as we witnessed recently in Barcelona, Paris, and London. So, for us, it is a triumph that we have been able to subdue Boko Haram, their territorial ambition has been cut short, life has returned to normal in most parts of the Northeast today.

This thing did not come by accident. I think it came because we had a focused programme. The first thing the president did was that he ordered the relocation of the command and control of the army to the epicentre of the war itself.

He held meetings with the Lake Chad Basin Commission comprising of Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic, Chad, and Nigeria. It was the collaborative efforts of the four countries with Nigeria and our Sahel partners that reinvigorated the Multi-National Joint Task Force, and then the morale in the army was improved, new service chiefs were appointed.

We also reached out to the G8, reached out to Western Countries, who also saw an honest and committed leader and assisted us; and today, the Northeast is a far different place than what it used to be two and a half years ago.

And if anybody wants further proof that normalcy has returned to the Northeast is the fact that the finals of the last football league was played in Maiduguri about a month ago between the Mountain of Fire Football Club and El-Kanemi Warriors. That shows that normalcy has returned.

O yes, we have challenges facing us, not just in terms of cowardly attacks and abductions, but also because of the success of the military, thousands of people who had been in captivity have now been released and we are now grappling with issues of how do we resettle them, how do we feed them, how do we ensure that medical supplies are enough?

And most of all, how do we ensure that civil authority is returned, rehabilitation is done, and the people moved from the IDP camps to their various towns and villages. The Federal Government has set up both the presidential commission on Northeast Initiative and also the Bama Initiative to ensure that destroyed facilities, houses, hospitals are put in place.

What is happening in the Northeast today is a regional crisis, it is not just about the Northeast of Nigeria, it is about the entire Lake Chad basin which contains about 20 Million lives. Despite your assertion in December 2015, the Boko Haram group still holds on to portions of territory in the Sambisa Forest and hold the captured Chibok Girls.

Does that not counter your claims? I don’t think that there is any contradiction. It is not correct that Boko Haram is holding ground in Sambisa Forest.

A final remark sir? 
Nigeria is back, we are out of recession, the government has never lost focus, and we believe that we will definitely leave this country better than we met it. We seek the cooperation of all and sundry. If there is no stability there can be no development.

We should all remember that it is because we have a Nigeria that is why we have a South-South, that is why we have a Northeast, that is why we have a North-Central. We should all work with the government in fighting corruption, and we should all do our bit to ensure that the economy recovers fully.

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