GEJ Media Chat: Labaran Maku’s Post Mortem

GEJ: I don’t know whether Shekau is alive or dead

Maku: This is the problem with you journalist; what did you expect Mr. President to say? Is Mr. President the head of the Army? Why is it his responsibility to tell you whether Shekau is dead or alive? If he answered “yes”, people would ask for proof.  If he answered “no”, people would say that despite the billions that have been voted by Federal Executive Council for defense, he still can’t find Shekau.  So you see, either way, Mr. President will be on the losing end so the best thing he did was to display the wisdom of Solomon by saying that he doesn’t know whether Shekau is dead or alive.  You know at times when you are asked a question, it is better to say “I don’t know” than to provide an answer that will implicate you further, especially in a country like Nigeria where everyone is looking to find fault in Mr. President.   You are a journalist, if you want to find out about Shekau, go to Maiduguri and you will see for yourself the good work the soldiers are doing.

GEJ: Why is it important whether or not I contest in 2015

Maku: I think Mr. President answered that question perfectly well.  So I don’t want to dilute Mr. President’s answer by giving additional explanations.

GEJ: Corruption is not the major problem facing Nigeria

Maku: Tomorrow Nigeria will be 53 years old and we are still talking about corruption? If corruption was holding Nigeria back will we be celebrating tomorrow? Mr. President did not say that corruption is not a problem, but that it is not as serious as people think it is.  He even went as far as quoting Adolphos Hitler just to illustrate his point as perception being the problem with corruption.  Even the example of corruption in wedding ceremonies, does it mean that because those providing the food overcharged, the wedding did not turn out successful?  I remember when I was getting married, the palm wine they were supposed to serve was stale, and this was because it was 2 weeks old.  Whereas we paid for fresh one, but despite the fact that the palm wine seller was corrupt, did it stop me from getting married?  So what Mr. President was trying to say is that whether we like it or not, corruption must exist but it doesn’t mean that Mr. President’s transformation agenda will not continue.

GEJ: FEC discusses major policy issue and is not a contract awarding arm

Maku: Again this is the problem with you Journalist.  Everything Mr. President says is taken out of context just so that we can embarrass Mr. President.  Look for example, we have held FEC meetings for a 16 hours stretch but at the end of the day, all the media reported was “contract was awarded for so so and so amount.”  Does it mean that all we did for 16 hours was to award contracts?  I think this is the fault of the media here.  Instead of reporting the positive side of the meetings, you tend to focus on the contracts that were awarded.  I am not saying that contract award is not positive, but there are more positive things to focus on from the meeting.My advice to you is to focus on the other aspects of Mr. President’s transformation agenda most of which is captured in the Good Governance Tour.

GEJ: Cabinet reshuffle is no different from substitutions in a football match

Maku: Are you surprised as to why the Super Eagles are performing well? As you can see, some of the strategies adopted by Keshi were borrowed from Mr. President.  It is this intricate knowledge of strategy that has propelled Mr. President to where his is today.  Knowing when to attack and when to defend, and even knowing when not to show up for the match is very important.  Sometimes, you must also know when to dispute the result especially in situations when you are defeated because you have fewer men on the pitch. Even me as one of the players in Mr. President’s team, my position has shifted from attack to defense depending on need.  I started as an attacker, but after sometime, Mr. President noticed that I also had exceptional defensive skills, then he decided that depending on the match, I will be alternating roles.  For example, last week I was playing defense, but after the media chat I am not playing offense.  So you must give Mr. President the credit for being able to read the match and make changes where necessary.  And this is what transformation is all about.

GEJ: Crude oil theft did not start today

Maku: The luck we have as a nation is that Mr. President is from the oil producing region of the country.  Therefore, he understands the problem better than anyone.  Mr. President’s answer was very perfect, and as Minister of Defense, all I can say is that Mr. President did not have to answer that question because he understands the Niger Delta better than anyone.  But the good news is that he answered, so now nobody can say Mr. President dodged the question, because I know that is what people were looking for.

GEJ: Obama was impressed with the Nigerian Capital Market

Maku: What is wrong with that statement?  Again, I have never seen a country where they can turn good into terrible.  Was it Mr. President who told Obama to say what he said? Is Mr. President Obama’s SA on Nigeria Affairs? Is Mr. President Obama’s speech writer? Obama gave an independent assessment on the Nigerian Capital Market based on the facts in Washington and instead of celebrating, we are busy blaming Mr. President.  It was a coincidence that Mr. President was invited to speak at the UN General Assembly when the event was taken place. So should Mr. President not attend?  Please let us stop blaming Mr. President for projecting our image in the international community.  In fact, how many President’s in Africa have been invited to attend events in Ney York, talk less of the Stock Exchange?

GEJ: Apo victims confessed to terrorism

Maku:  Have you ever seen tapes of Al-Qaeda terrorists confessing to terrorism? It is only in Nigeria where we expect things to be done differently? Don’t you know that at times some of the tapes of terrorist confessing carry hidden messages to their supporters? Take for example when Osama Bin Laden was killed the US refused to show his body, because even in death he could have communicated some messages to his followers.  So Mr. President does not owe anyone any explanation or video.  We are new in the business of terrorism that is why the general public just ask question as if they are in a classroom.

GEJ: If I signed agreement with anybody they would have shown you

Maku: You must understand that when Mr. President came in as Vice President, himself and Yaradua advocated for rule of law in Government, extending to the political class. That is why Mr. President said that if he had an arrangement with the so called G7 politicians (who also happen to be our brothers), it would have been subjected to the rule of law, meaning that there would be agreements in place.  You know the problem with Nigerians is that they listen to too much gossips without focusing on facts.  A lot of stories you read in the media are from molue passengers. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that in this day and age, all agreements must be documented as it is only then there is a basis for resolving dispute.  I will re-emphasize Mr. President’s point again: If anyone has any agreement with Mr. President’s signature, please show it.

GEJ: Min Of Defense is not important

Maku: I think you are misinterpreting what Mr. President said.  How can Mr. President say Minister of Defense is not important if he appointed me there? Is he saying that I am not important? I think you are only trying to create problem between me and Mr. President.  What Mr. President simply meant was that the Ministry of Defense doesn’t always need a substantive Minister because there are Service Chiefs who oversee various wings of the Armed Forces.  But most importantly is what Mr. President didn’t say which is: Depending on the defense strategy, you can decide to appoint or do away with the Defense Minister.  For example now that we have counter terrorism issues on ground, is it a civilian Defense Minister that will tell the Generals how to prosecute the war? So as you see, we don’t need a sitting Minister of Defense but Mr. President didn’t do away with the office, instead he decided to appoint a supervising Minister so that Nigerians will not criticize him. And it is not a coincidence that he appointed me the Minister of Information because at this time, it is important that the accurate information from the battle field is communicated across to the general public in an efficient manner.  Therefore, there is no better approach for the same person to be handling both Ministry of Information and Defense.  So instead of asking Mr. President about Shekau, you should have asked me.

Press: Is Shekau dead or alive?
Maku: Please I have to run, Mr. President just informed me that I am late for my good Governance tour to Yobe!

Sent in by a concerned Nigerian

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