Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity speaks with Nigerian Journalists in Istanbul, on the sideline of the recent Turkish-Africa Summit.He addresses Nigeria’s strategic approach to the Summit.He also explains why President Buhari has been reassuring Nigerians that he will conduct a credible election and go home in 2023. Excerpts:
Q: We are now in Istanbul, and the (Summit) has taken place and our President has spoken on very important issues.I mean for you, what is the most striking thing in this (Summit)?
A: Well, you know, the Nigerian delegation came here with well articulated strategy.You have 15 leaders from different parts of the continent coming to a conference with the Turkish leadership…That Summit is important: Turkey-Africa Summit is important and we have alot of hope in its outcomes. But you can say that carefully the President chose a delegation of some key Ministries that will engage when he is here bilaterally with their Turkish counterparts. So the thing is while we are here for the big one bringing Africa together, we are also strategically thinking that we will take advantage of our presence here to engage different sectors of Turkish economy and government in order to maximise whatever benefits that we can take home.
And talking about what strikes one the most, of course, it’s the issue of security.You know that when President Erdoghan visited Nigeria few weeks ago, the Nigerian government and Turkish government signed a defence agreement. So the thing then is we want to action that, we want to see result from all of that.And we must give it to them, the Turkish leadership is very enthusiastic. They know our problems.They have said it themselves and they think that they can help us in finding solution to our problems of insecurity.Now, for anyone observing what is happening with Turkey globally, you know that Turkey lately has emerged as an important military power and it has earned respect for itself. It is into large- scale manufacture; its drones technology is much appreciated. People saw how much difference it made when they supported Azerbaijan in their war against Armenia.Turkey has helped to stabilise , somehow Libya, somehow, not fully settled.And their role in Iraq and Syria is very well documented. So we think that there is so much to gain in coming closer to Turkey, so that we will get military procurements, we will work with them to promote defence military manufacturing in our own country, engagement on… DIC, Defence Industries Corporation in Kaduna which of course has also been signed onto and we are working on it.We hope that we will learn from them, their experience in this kind of warfare. As I said Iraq, Syria; We have seen them in Iraq,Syria,we have seen them engaging with a kind of terrorism.Their own Kurdish issues are there.So we are learning from their experience.We are latching on to that hope that it will be beneficial to government and the people of Nigeria as we battle bandits and the terrorists in our country.
Q: An interesting thing I note is that the Nigerian Navy has already made some orders…
A: Yes, we are buying naval ships. As we said Turkey really is advanced militarily in manufacture of some of these things and it’s very clear that the goodwill is coming from the leadership, itself arising from the affinity, the kind of self respect and admiration the two leaders of our nations,President Muhammadu Buhari and President Erdoghan have for one another.Something that I will say is less seen and is less talked about in this is also to say that there are of course some undertones in our relationships between Turkey and Nigeria over time.And it is important that we have seen clear indication that whatever obstacles are there in our relationship with the two nations, we are ready to put those matters behind us and move forward so that …we build better relationship that is beneficial mutually to the two nations..
Q: I want yo talk about the issue of the President ‘s birthday which was marked (the previous day).And of course I saw the interesting pictures..But the President usually uses any occasion like this to remind Nigerians that he wants to go home in 2023.Why is it so important for the president to be making that point of handing over in 2023 and he is going to his farm, why is it so important, re-emphasising that?
A: Well, as a country, we have history.We have our own history and it cannot easily be forgotten.Hardly have we had any past leader who did not come under pressure to extend their tenure: stay beyond; look at what happened in the 70s, 1975 handover sacrosanct; military said no more handover.You know all of the things with Third term; and with the persuaders who had interlopped at various stages, asking leader not to handover because you are a messiah, the godsent one to solve all Nigeria’s problems, don’t go.I think it is a clear message President Muhammadu Buhari is sending to persuaders, that no, this is for real,I will do credible elections and I will go home .
Q:Are people actually trying to persuade him not to go?
Q: Are people actually trying to persuade him not to go?
A: It is a warning to them that don’t even come near me.That he is not prepared for that kind of activity.