Federal Government yesterday hit back at Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for dismissing the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as corrupt, incompetent and unfocused.
It described the former president as a man on a failed mission with former vice president and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told newsmen in Abuja that Obasanjo’s views on the administration was influenced by his support for his former deputy and PDP candidate.
He, however, said the All Progressives Congress (APC) government was not perturbed by the ex-president’s endorsement of Atiku, arguing that endorsement does not win elections.
Former president Obasanjo, in a statement on Sunday, said he cannot sit on the fence over 2019 election because “only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious.”
The former president reassured Nigerians that he will not sit on the fence when he needed to be out and active for people to know where he stands in the best interest of Nigeria.
According to him, it was in the best interest of the country and Nigerians, to ensure Buhari’s second term bid is frustrated and defeated.
But replying the former president, Mohammed submitted, “with due respect to former president Obasanjo, it is his constitutional right to support any candidate of his choice. We urge him to go out and campaign vigorously for any candidate that he wants to support.
“I don’t think the former president has hidden his preference for the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. We wish him the best of luck. But I want to assure you that his candidate will be defeated roundly and comprehensively.
“It is not about endorsement; endorsement doesn’t win elections. We wish him the best of luck.”
Specifically focusing on Obasanjo’s accusation of corruption and incompetence against the government, the minister said the situation on ground is sharply opposed to the claims.
He contended that the Buhari government has fought corruption more than any administration in the history of the country.
“I am always a bit apprehensive when you are responding to criticisms from a former president and the calibre of Obasanjo who I have a lot of respect for. But the facts are all there; on corruption, this government has done more than any government in the history of this country to fight corruption.
“Corruption is endemic, it is global. But when you look at the kind of institutional reforms this government has put in place you cannot doubt its sincerity or commitment to fighting corruption.
“Corruption is not just about prosecuting and jailing people; it is more about what has been put in place to prevent people from looting the treasury. This is where this government has done more than any government did in the history of this country.
“I will start with the TSA; it was not initiated by this government but it is only this government that mustered the political courage and will to implement it. Before we came in, there were over 22,000 various accounts of government in various banks in Nigeria. Since we came in, we reduced them to one single treasury account. From 2015 to date, N8.9 trillion has passed through that TSA.
“At a glance, you know where every revenue and receipt of government is. It makes for transparency, accountability.
“Secondly, this government put in a strategy which is a roadmap for all the anti-corruption agencies on how to tackle corruption.
“There is what is called the NAM commission based strategy, which helps government to recover looted funds without convicting the people. As at today,
for this year alone, EFCC has been able to recover N794bn, $261m, €8m, £1.115 m, 295 vehicles and 407 mansions. They are in Federal Government kitty in form of permanent forfeiture.
In tackling corruption, this government has introduced what is called an efficiency unit in the Ministry of Finance. This unit examines every proposal to travel, estacode. It is on record that this government has saved N17 billion from travel expenses, gifts, etc.
“Under this government, more revenues now come into government than before. I can give example of JAMB. Between 2010 and 2015, it paid into the federation account the sum of N51 million. In 2017 alone, under this administration, JAMB paid N7.8 billion into the federation account.
“Another thing this government has done to ensure that there is transparency and that corruption is fought effectively is that today, as opposed to what used to happen in the past, there is a whistle-blowing policy. N8.1 trillion was missing in the federation account between 2010 and 2015. They were supposed to have been paid in by 15 revenue generating agencies. The whistle-blowing policy has been hugely successful. The government has been able to rake in N13.8 billion from whistle-blowing policy alone, N7.8 billion from corrupt officials.
“So when you look at what we have put on ground, institutional remedies, you agree with us that this government is more sincere and more committed to fighting corruption than any government in the history of the country.
“If the former president says the government is not performing I think he is not being properly briefed. We promised Nigerians that we are going to diversify the economy and one area where we have had resounding success is the area of food security.
He also shrugged off the outcry by the PDP and other opposition elements over the refusal of President Buhari to assent to the Electoral Bill. He said the opposition party is preparing excuses, which it will adduce for losing election in 2019.
“On the controversy over the decline of assent to Electoral Bill by President Buhari, Mohammed said it was within the powers of the president to do so if it would not be in the interest of the country. He said the opposition is crying wolf where there is none.
“I think Mr. President has already communicated the National Assembly why he is not signing that bill. If I remember, one of the reasons he did not sign the bill is that signing it at this point in time will create confusion and will not make for clarity.
“We are waiting for the response of the National Assembly on this matter. He pointed out certain errors which he felt the National Assembly should look into.
“You can see that PDP and the opposition are already preparing excuses for their eventual defeat. It will range from the Electoral Act to trader money. From there they will start saying that we are bribing children by one meal a day. We are investing in our children
“He accused the opposition of sprinkling up dose of fake news as a strategy to remain politically relevant, predicting that a lot of such news will dominate the space in the build-up to next year’s election.
“In the last one week alone, three fake news have been credited to me. One said that I said that the president could no longer speak and understand Fulfulde, his mother tongue because of the surgery
he underwent in London which affected his ability to speak the language and it has affected his ability to remember anything.”