The presidency Thursday in London, denied the insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari mocked Nigerian youths while speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum, a session of the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Wednesday.
The president, after giving a keynote address on “Making Business Easier Between Commonwealth Countries,” had responded to a question, during which he said: “We have a very young population; our population is estimated conservatively to be 180 million. More than 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 30. A lot of them have not been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country, therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare and education free.”
The president’s remark was however accompanied by a wild outrage among Nigerians who accused him of “attacking” the youths of his country on global stage.
But in a swift reaction to the outrage Thursday, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, said the remark was twisted as it is “typical of the stock in trade” of those he described as “manipulators and twisters of statements of Mr. President, who lie in wait to make mischief”.
According to him, such persons who have cultivated the habit of misinterpreting the president’s comment, twisted it “to mean that President Buhari had taken all Nigerian youths to the cleaners”.
According to him, elementary English recognises a wide gulf between “a lot of” and the word “all,” adding: “How can ‘a lot of them,’ suddenly transmogrify to mean ‘all of them?’ Mischievous and unconscionable!”
He said it was impossible for Buhari, whom he described as the father of the Nigerian nation in every sense of the word, and who equally has biological children of his own in the youths’ age bracket to pass a vote of no confidence on all youths, adding: “It can only exist in the imagination of those who play what the president has described as ‘irresponsible politics’ with everything.”
Adesina added: “President Buhari has always applauded and celebrated Nigerian youths who excel in different areas of endeavour, from sports, to academia, and other realms. And he will continue to do so, because he values the youths, and knows that they are the fulcrum on which the future of the country rests.
“Indeed, every country has its share of idle population, and it is the bounden duty of government at all levels, to create an enabling environment for them to actualize their potentials. That is what President Buhari is committed to doing.
“The focal areas of the administration; securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption, are actually intended to give youths a future and a hope.
“This much was emphasised in an April 5, 2018 comment by President Buhari, while receiving Letter of Credence from the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, when he said: ‘Our insistence on probity is to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of our youths.’
“The President also said more than 60 per cent of Nigerians fall into the age category of youths and deserve to inherit a stable and prosperous country that they can be proud of, adding that the government will work assiduously to prevent waste and the depletion of resources by corrupt Nigerians.
“It is futile for mischief makers to lie in wait, and take a minor part of the words of the president, and turn it into negative commentary, peradventure they could diminish the profile of the President.
“Nigerians across all walks of life know who is serving them faithfully and truly, and they will always reciprocate such fidelity as occasions demand.”