…Asks ministers to remain till May 28. Says he’II abide by judicial decisions at all times
…Buhari’s sense of humour unknown to Nigerians, say Osinbajo
Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed why he refused to dissolve the members of his cabinet to inject fresh hands for a straight four year term, despite pressures from cross section of Nigerians.
The President disclosed this on Wednesday, just as he hosted his team to a valedictory session at the State House Council Chamber, Abuja.
Buhari, who said that he had heated debates sometimes during the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings, added that the debates enabled them to make rational decision on the long run to better the economy.
Against the expectations of Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to dissolve his cabinet members even after the valedictory session.
The Daily Times recalls that the ministers were sworn-in in November 2015 and the President had directed them to submit their handover notes weeks ago; despite that, he told them to remain in office till the eve of his swearing on May 28, 2019 when they should handover to the permanent secretaries in their respective ministries.
He said the diversity in thought of the ministers were a reflection of the diversity of the entire country, hence every opinion mattered and needed to be considered thoroughly.
“Although we all had a common vision, we frequently had heated debates in this room on the best way to achieve our goals. These differing views are what made the decisions we took all the more rational.
“It is this quality that made me retain my cabinet for the full term. Each of you in this room has a unique skill and strength. We are a reflection of the Nigeria we aspire to achieve.
A diverse but tolerant nation where no one is silenced and where every opinion should be heard and considered,” the President stated at the valedictory session.
While mandating the ministers to continue to hold brief in their respective ministries and submit their handover notes to their Permanent Secretaries on May 28, which happens to be the eve of his official swearing-in for a fresh four year term,
Buhari said they ought to be proud of contributing their quota to the development of the country, especially with the initial challenges that trailed the current administration.
Buhari said: “Although today (Wednesday) is our last council meeting, I expect all of you to continue working until Tuesday, 28th May 2019 when you will officially hand over your schedules to your respective Permanent Secretaries. Your handing over letters should be submitted to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“I want you all to leave this meeting proud to have served your nation to the best of your ability. You should be proud to have been part of the Government that liberated the local governments previously under Boko Haram rule.
“You should be proud to have contributed to our food security and economic diversification agenda which led to the revival of our rural agrarian economy.
You should be proud to have been part of the team that developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which led Nigeria exiting its worst recession in decades.
“You should be proud to have introduced the social investment programme that enhanced livelihoods of millions of Nigerians.
You should be proud to have participated in settling outstanding pensions of many senior citizens abandoned by previous governments while supporting state governments to meet their salary arrears.
“And of course, you should all be proud to have overseen the most ambitious road, rail and airport rehabilitation programmes in the history of our country.
“I must put on record that your achievements in the last three and half years have guaranteed your position in the history books of this nation. You have certainly built the foundations for an improved economy and a more purposeful government”.
The President however regretted that Minister of State for Labour and Employment, late James Ocholi, who died along with his wife and son in a ghastly accident along Kaduna-Abuja express way was not around to witness the valedictory session.
“Today’s Federal Executive Council meeting is the last time we will meet as a cabinet before the commencement of the second and final term of this Administration.
“Our first meeting in this chamber was in November 2015. Over the past three and a half years, we worked together to deliver our campaign promises. I strongly believe that it is this team work that led to the successes recorded during our first term.
“Some of our colleagues, with whom we started this journey, unfortunately are not here to join us in celebrating our successes.
“Specifically, I must recognise our late brother, James Ocholi, SAN, who passed away in a fearful motor accident with his wife, Blessing and son, Joshua, only four months after being sworn-in as a Minister.
“I want us to all put him, and indeed his family, in our memory. He was a true patriot committed to our change agenda.
“I also acknowledge the contributions of other Council members who resigned before the completion of our tenure to pursue other opportunities. You will recall that when we started this journey, our country was facing numerous challenges.
“We inherited a broken economy which eventually went into recession in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2016. The situation was further compounded by insecurity and massive corruption.
“Many would have given up. Indeed, many outside commentators said our situation was well nigh hopeless. However, we all came together and pushed forward to deliver our campaign promise to rescue our country from its parlous state”.
Buhari said he would remain grateful to his cabinet members for agreeing to serve the country during these difficult times, adding that the contributions of other silent partners to the cabinet, their spouses, families and friends, would remain invaluable.
“I wish you the very best of luck and pray for your successes, for your families and our country in the years ahead,” he stated.
Apart from a few Ministers who resigned their appointments to pursue political ambitions, Buhari will go down history as the President that retained his cabinet members for a straight four year term.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has emphasised that he respects the country’s judiciary and is willing to abide by their decisions at all times.
Speaking at an Iftar dinner with the representatives of the Third Arm of the government, the Judiciary, on Wednesday in the evening at his official residence, President Buhari said he believed that the judiciary should be independent and recalled how he submitted himself to the adjudication of the courts three times on his way to becoming President without any fuss because, as he said, “I respect the institution.
I have come before you three times before I got here on the fourth run for the office. Your word is the last word on any given issue.”
He praised the capabilities of Nigerian judges, saying that “your training and experience has earned you respect.”
In his remarks in appreciation of the Ramadan fast-breaking, the Acting Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, leading retired Chief Justices, some Justices of the Supreme Court and heads of courts in the Federal Capital Territory, assured the nation that judiciary will continue to do its best in safeguarding the country’s democracy.
He praised President Buhari for not meddling in the affairs of the courts in the country.
Speaking during the valedictory session at the Council Chambers on Wednesday, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who held forth for President Buhari on several occasion, especially during his health challenges, however said many Nigerians are ignorant of the humorous nature of the President.
He also said while serving in Acting capacity, Buhari never for once faulted his decisions, a development that has endeared him to the President.
Osinbajo said: “I thank almighty God for preserving our lives to serve our nation this past four years. I will like to thank Mr. President for the opportunity to serve as your vice president and your running mate twice. My deepest gratitude comes from the great trust that you reposed in me at all times.
“I will never forget when you were going on medical leave in May of 2017 and you said to me that you will not fault my discretion as acting President in anyway. In keeping with your character and style, you kept your words.
“Mr. President many know of your personal integrity, discipline and capacity for hard work but many will not know just how humorous you are.
I remember you Mr. President telling me once that the we should observe the cabinet members who go out often during meetings, that they were actually going out to finish the coconut and peanut.
And since then I have noted carefully all those who go out looking very serious but I’m sure they end up finishing the coconut and peanut as Mr. President said.
“I want to use this opportunity to greet our cabinet colleagues. This has been an exceptionally patriotic and talented team. Everyone brought experience, knowledge, wisdom and selflessness to council deliberations at all times.
I treasure the friendship that we have built with ourselves and among family members in the last four years. I pray that you will all go from glory to glory, that you will never fail or fall.
As we all us depart from council, I pray that the Lord that has guided us this far will be our help in the years to come in Jesus name.
“Just to mention for the record that I was elected chairman of the association to which Dr. Ngige referred, the one to which Adams Oshiomhole, Ngige and El-Rufai are members, not because I’m the Vice President but because I’m the tallest member”.
Among Ministers that resigned from the cabinet includes former Minister of Mines and Steel Development and current governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; former Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jubril;
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba-Ibrahim and Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed.