The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, has said that under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians will not be denied freedom of expression.
Adesina gave this assurance in Abuja while speaking at the 2015 Annual Lecture/Awards and Gala Night organised by the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper and Nigerian Newsworld magazine to mark their fifth and 15th anniversary respectively.
“One thing the president is also passionate about is freedom of expression in this country. The president is not going to mortgage freedom of expression. A lot of people still nurse the fear that this was the person that used Decree 4 as a military head of state but the difference is now clear. Freedom of expression is going to be jealously protected under this administration. Nobody needs to exercise any fear that freedom of expression will be muzzled”, Adesina stated.
The presidential aide further stated that the present administration is very passionate about security, reiterating that the president has always maintained that “You cannot administer a country you have not secured”.
Emphasising that the issue of security is one of the administration’s priorities, he said a lot has been done on security since May when the president was sworn in.
He said, “We are not where we were in May no matter what anybody would say. We know that the capacity of Boko Haram to hold territories is almost gone completely. As at May when this administration came, they (Boko Haram) were holding 18 local governments of this country; today, maybe they have one or two and not wholly, and we are sure by the end of the year, a lot of difference would have been made”.
“The ability of Boko Haram for combat has been severely degraded and soon, we will get to where we are going in which bombs will no longer explode in this country and lives will not be lost wantonly again.
Security is very important to the administration”.
On the issue of corruption, he said even though Buhari is committed to fighting corruption, “If anybody is accused of corruption, he will not be arrested until a corruption case has been proven against him and, of course, even if there is a prima facie case, and they are arrested and taken to court, they are not guilty until a court has pronounced guilt.”
Stressing that the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration is not about personal interest of the president but for the future of the country and benefit of Nigeria’s common wealth for the service of the people, he urged all Nigerians to join forces with the government to fight corruption together.
He added that the president would not be selective in the fight against corruption as he has promised to be fair and just to all Nigerians.
In his speech, the chairman of the occasion and former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, called on Nigerians to eschew tribalism, religious intolerance and other forms of divisive tendencies to develop the country into a superpower, noting that Nigeria is designed for unmatched greatness.
He said Nigeria could achieve this by focusing on the direction of economic development in order to emancipate itself and liberate the whole black race from the shame of slavery.
Presenting a paper entitled ‘Democracy In Africa: Emerging Security Threats – Issues And Challenges’, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), called on the federal government to negotiate with Biafra agitators as a way of addressing their fundamental grievances.
Cautioning that the current Biafra agitation should not be disregarded with a wave of the hand, he said that the unity of the country cannot be achieved by subjugation or marginalisation of any part of the country.
He advised that there is need for a symbiotic co-existence which could guarantee what he called a happy marriage.
“Let me warn here that there is such a ‘Boko Haramish’ potential also around us and that is in the South-eastern part of Nigeria. Whether you call it IPOB, whether you call it MASSOB or by whatever name, the detention of one Kanu has resurrected that matter and brought it to the national stage”, Ozekhome said.
On the need to look into the cause of the grievances of the secession-seekers, he said, “You cannot subjugate me, hold me down as your slave, then you are the master; I’ll clean your shoes, clean your car, cook your food and one day I say, ‘I want to go’ and you say, ‘No, you must stay here’. That can’t be a happy marriage. It has to be something that is symbiotic, that is volunteering, not something that is forced, not oppression, not subjugation, not marginalisation.
“I am, therefore, telling the present government to quickly go and nip that issue in the bud before it is allowed to spread. It is the same way Boko Haram started as a little thing some years ago”.
The constitutional lawyer also called for adequate equipping of military and security agencies in Africa “in terms of hardware, trained and retrained manpower to fight terrorists and emerging or nascent terrorist groups”.
Among those who received different categories of award at the occasion were former president, Goodluck Jonathan who was represented by Abdullahi Jano; Governors Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State and Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State; Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), who was represented by Adegboyega Awemolo; Liberian president, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, who was represented by Mrs Beatrice N. Shermman, a counsellor of the Embassy of Liberia; and late Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, the Nigerian medical doctor who died on August 19, 2014 of Ebola while fighting the spread of the disease, while Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria was the only corporate institution that received an award at the event.