In what appears a valedictory session of sort, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was among former Nigeria leaders that attended Tuesday’s Council of State meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It is the last meeting that will be presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan whose term expires on May 29 having failed to get re-elected in the March 28 Presidential election.
The atmosphere was warm as the leaders put aside their political differences and exchanged pleasantries.
The former president entered the Council Chamber venue of the meeting at 12.10pm, about 40 minutes behind schedule. The meeting started at 11.30am after the arrival of outgoing President Jonathan.
Other former Nigeria leaders that attended the meeting included the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Chief Ernest Shonekan.
State governors at the meeting included – Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Sarieke Dickson (Bayelsa), James Ngilari (Adamawa), Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa) and Gabriel Suswam (Benue).
The others are – Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Jonah Jang (Plateau) Liyel Imoke (Cross River), and Acting governor of Taraba State.
Kano, Kogi, Oyo and Yobe states were represented by their deputy governors.
Senate President, David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and former Chief Justices of Nigeria including Muhammadu Uwais, Alfa Belgore and Idris Kutigi were also the meeting.
Most of the governors at the meeting also attended for the last time as their terms would also expire by May 29. It is the same scenario with Senate President, David Mark while Speaker Tambuwal, Governor-elect of Sokoto State will continue to be a member, albeit in a different category.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki and the Chief of Staff to the President, Jones Arogbofa also attended the meeting. That would also be their last time.
The meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere with the leaders exchanging banters and even took photographs at the end of the meeting.
Opening Christian and Muslim prayers were said by the outgoing governors of Cross Rivers and Kaduna respectively, Liyel Imoke and Ramalan Yero.
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon set the tone for the camaraderie that took place when he moved a motion for the appreciation of the good works of outgoing President Jonathan and his concession of defeat in the elections even when the result was yet to be announced.
At the meeting, the council ratified the transition timetable for the handing over of government by President Jonathan to the incoming administration of General Buhari.
The council also approved the proposal by the transition committee to separate the inauguration ceremony from the handing over of official documents to the incoming administration.
Consequently, President Jonathan will submit his handover notes to General Buhari on the 28 of May ahead of the official inauguaration of the new government on May 29.
Governors Babangida Aliyu and Gabriel Suswam of Niger and Benue states respectively who briefed State House correspondents on the resolutions of the meeting said the separation of the two events beginning from the upcoming handover would establish a template to be followed in future transitions regardless of the party that wins elections.
This suggestion when it was first muted by the Federal Executive Council that Jonathan would present the handover notes to Buhari on May 28 generated controversy with the All Progressives Congress (APC) rejecting it.
According to Aliyu: “Officially, the government will be handed over on the 28th of May, the inauguration on the 29th. It is only a technicality. One is inauguration, the formality of the new president taking over. Technically, the 29th is for the man taking over.
“For handing over documents you don’t wait till that 29th because after the inauguration the transition committee may continue.
“If you recall, when President Jonathan came on board, he inaugurated the Gen. Danjuma’s committee to look at all the documents that were handed over to them and make recommendations. So it’s a continuous thing”, he said.
Suswam also added: “just to add that the council decided that henceforth there has to be a template in which transition will follow.
“We have never had it. This is the first time one is going to be developed, so that there is no speculation as to what needs to be done as everything will be in a template. If there is a transition whether is from the same party to the same party or from one party to another, it is the same template.
“You will recall that we have never had a template in which to follow and how we go about our transition but what is going to happen this time around is going to be permanent”, he stressed.
The handing over programme, according to Aliyu, will commence on May 22nd with Juma’at prayer and will be followed with church service on the 24th, while 28th will be the handing over as well as dinner and 29th inauguration, luncheon and gala night.
“On the 28th, President Jonathan will conduct Gen. Buhari and the Vice President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo round the Villa,” Governor Suswam added.
Besides, he also disclosed that security issues especially on the insurgency and the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in parts of the country were discussed by council.
According to him, the National Security Adviser, Col. Dasuki Sambo who briefed council on security issues expressed optimism that the country was finally getting it right in the fight against insurgents.
Aliyu also disclosed that at the meeting General Gowon, moved a motion in appreciation of President Jonathan’s good works especially his concession of defeat adding that an atmosphere of camaraderie pervaded the council despite seeming political differences among members, pointing out that what the council members exhibited was the ideal thing to do.
His words: “Politics is not war. Yes, there is a prize but the moment there is a decision and someone gets the prize, everyone should come back and wait for another chance. So the camaraderie that you noticed, that is how it should be and we should send it down to our communities, to our people. So that even in one house, you can afford to vote for different parties but the moment results are announced you will remain brothers and not enemies. So you can tell that to the public”.