Never before have attacks on any Nigerian Head of State been so continuous or chillingly violent than in the weekly syndicated column wired from America by Sonala Olumhense.
As a student, I read his weekly column in the Guardian newspaper with relish, this was until he migrated (Japa) to America with its gleaming malls and opulent high-rises and since then, things were never quite normal with his essays.
This gentleman writes week after week- not discussing climate change, hunger, war or any contemporary challenges- attacking Presidents, even after they have left office, and he turns around to say Buhari is seeking attention. No, Mr Solana, you are the attention seeker and the sin on the part of President Buhari is that he simply ignored you in all your rants and tantrums throughout his years in office.
The day he took a ride on the Buhari-made Lagos-Ibadan train with the former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, he wrote a piece laced with cheer and some optimism but before you could shout “hallelujah!” Sonala made sure he had the bile inherent in his pen injected into what would have been a happy piece after so long a while. It is as if anger is the engine of his column.
In the latest column he wrote on Sunday to, as usual seek to delegitimize Muhammadu Buhari, Sonala cited a report in an unrecognisable junk newspaper that once wrote an unsubstantiated article alleging the ownership of an Abuja estate. He said since the report was unchallenged by the Presidency, it must be true. No one who has an inkling of knowledge of the essential Buhari would have taken this report seriously.
But more is expected of someone as Sonala, very high on Journalistic ranks: provide the evidence. Facts are the stuff of good journalism.
Second thing he did to delegitimize was to dwell on the stolen funds from the Gloval Vaccine Alliance, GAVI, an incident that happened 2014-2015, uncovered and dealt with by the Buhari administration when it came into office in 2015.
Contrary to what he wrote, a lot was done to win back the confidence of the donors and for which he should have given credit to President Buhari.
GAVI had stopped funding programmes in Nigeria through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) following unsatisfactory findings from a program audit in 2015.
The Buhari administration investigated the fraud, following which the agency head of the NPHCDA was removed. All Directors in the agency were investigated and retired in public interest and as the new man who took over the helm at the NPHCDA, Dr Faysal Shuai’b reported, “every naira of the misused funds was paid back, we improved the image of the Agency through establishment of fit-for-purpose structures aimed at checkmating the then prevalent forces of impunity and total lack of accountability.”
In addition to this, the administration partnered with GAVI and KPMG to put in place global best practices which led to the restoration in 2017 of direct funding through the government agency by GAVI.
Confidence generated herefrom reassured GAVI to invite Global Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into the nation’s healthcare delivery system.
To the very end, the Government continued to preserve the confidence of donors through accountability policies put in place to enable greater transparency and closer grant monitoring and management.
One of these measures was the creation of the office of an Advisor to the Executive Director on Accountability and Transparency in fund utilization, with the Officer reporting directly to the Executive Director/CEO.
The restoration of direct funding was a testimony to the renewed confidence in the country’s financial management system especially on the part of the NPHCDA management under the Buhari administration, in complete and total alignment with the government’s zero tolerance for financial mismanagement practices and anti-corruption stance.
Finally, to say that Mr. Sonala is free to ask questions about some of these issues before using his otherwise respected column to make unfounded claims or criticisms.
*Shehu is a media aide to former President Muhammadu Buhari