Since the lifting of lines from President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech into President Muhammadu Buhari’s “change begin with me” speech, Nigerians have been more critical of their president’s speeches.
His Independence Day speech, his next major speech within the country, has been heavily scrutinised by friends and foes alike.
Issa Aremu, former vice president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said in his analysis that Buhari sounded “romantic about independence”.
But Reno Omokri, special adviser to former president Goodluck Jonathan on new media, believes Buhari’s speech is padded with lies.
TheCable has taken it upon itself to fact-check Buhari’s speech and Omokri’s claim, sieving out the wheat from the chaff.
CLAIM 1: BUHARI WRONG ON HOUSING IN 2014 AND 2015
“President Buhari lied when he said only ₦400 million was voted for housing in 2014. A total of ₦12,888,821,003 was allocated,” Omokri said.
What President Buhari really said: “We have initiated the National Housing Programme. In 2014 four hundred million naira was voted for Housing. In 2015, nothing. Our first budget this year is devoting thirty five point six billion naira.”
THE TRUTH: President Buhari said nothing was voted for housing in 2015, but according to the budget office, N7.3 billion was voted for the federal ministry of land, housing and urban development in 2015, with N1.6 billion dedicated to capital projects.
For 2014, Buhari said N400 million was voted for housing, Omokri said N12.89 billion was voted, but the budget office says N21.38 billion was voted for housing the federal ministry of land, housing and urban development, with N15.76 billion for capital projects.
CLAIM 2: BUHARI WRONG AGAIN, NIGERIA WAS NOT A “PARIAH” STATE UNDER JONATHAN
“President Buhari lied when he said Nigeria was ‘a pariah’ under GEJ. Then British Prime Minister, David Cameron and incumbent German Chancellor, Angela Merkel do not visit pariah countries. They and many others visited Nigeria under Jonathan,” Omokri wrote.
What President Buhari really said: “Abroad, Nigeria’s standing has changed beyond belief in the last 18 months. We are no longer a pariah state. Wherever I go, I have been received with un-accustomed hospitality.”
First, a pariah state is an outcast state; a state isolated by the international community.
According to Wall Street Journal, examples of paraiah state are North Korea, Syria, Sudan, and Iran (until 2015). Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, had earlier said: “You do not run a country by being isolated and the personal presence of the president in many of these forums is very important because before now, we were almost a pariah state.”
In the same breath he said: “What I mean that Nigeria was a pariah state is that before now, the level of corruption was very high that nobody was ready to risk his investment in Nigeria.”
TRUTH: Pariah states are isolated by the international communities. So, with no international trade ban, and the visits of David Cameron, former British prime minister; Angela Merkel, German Chancellor; Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, Nigeria was not a pariah state.
CLAIM 3: BUHARI AVOIDED THE TRUTH ON FOREIGN INVESTORS
“President Buhari lied by saying ‘Investors from all over are falling over themselves to come do business in Nigeria’. The reverse is true,” Omokri claimed.
What President Buhari really said: “Investors from all over the world are falling over themselves to come and do business in Nigeria.”
THE TRUTH: TheCable can confirm that Buhari avoided the truth. In Buhari’s first year in office, foreign investment sank to a nine-year low. According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, portfolio investment (FPI) has crashed by 85.5 percent in the past year.
Osinbajo, who was quoting the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said foreign direct investment also took a plunge of 56 percent of from $395 million in Q1 2015 to $175million by Q1 of 2016.
We can also confirm the exit of major airlines, such as Siberia and United Airlines from the Nigerian airspace, some South African companies have also closed shop in Nigeria.
The only bright side we know of is the inflow of foreign exchange since the CBN’s latest forex policy. Forex inflow surged by 89 percent in August 2016, showing confidence in the policy.
CLAIM 4: BOTH BUHARI AND OMOKRI AVOIDED THE WHOLE TRUTH
“President Buhari did not say the whole truth when he claims to have generated 5000MWs. He conveniently forgot to mention that those power stations were built by Jonathan and other PDP leaders. President Buhari has not built even one station,” Omokri said.
THE TRUTH: Buhari is right; power peaked at over 5,000 megawatts for the first time in Nigeria’s history in February 2016. Yes, power stations were built by past administrations.
President Buhari’s administration is actually building new solar power stations, and have commissioned a fresh 1.2MW station donated by the Japanese government. Buhari’s admin has also added to the grid.
CLAIM 5: BUHARI DOWNPLAYS THE TRUTH ON RAINY-DAY SAVINGS
“President Buhari lied when he claimed ‘nothing was saved during years of prosperity’. He inherited over $30 Billion in reserves and savings from Jonathan,” Omokri claims.
What President Buhari really said: “Nothing was saved for the rainy day during the periods of prosperity.”
Oil prices show that the Jonathan administration could have saved more, but to say nothing was saved is totally false. Jonathan left excess crude account at $2.07 billion in May 2015. Foreign reserves also stood at over $29 billion in May 2015.
CLAIM 6: OMOKRI LIED, BUHARI DID NOT BORROW 2.2 TRILLION
“As President Buhari was busy condemning Jonathan he didn’t tell you he borrowed ₦2.2 Trillion in a year,” Omokri said.
THE TRUTH: According to the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s debt has increased by about N4 trillion in Buhari’s first year, but unlike Omokri’s claims, Buhari, according to 2016 budget, “plans to borrow N2.2 trillion”. He has not yet borrowed such.
The rise in debt is not due to new borrowings, but due to exchange rate differentials. Nigeria’s debt, in dollar terms, has declined from $65.43 billion in 2015 to $61.45 billion in 2016. Putting this in naira, 2015 debt would be N12.89 trillion (at N197/$1), while that of 2016 will be about N18.74 trillion (at N305/$1).
Like the quote goes, “there are three sides to a story, your side, their side, and the truth”. We know we have told the truth, but we welcome superior arguments and facts.