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I didn't want government to move to London - Buhari

 News By: Okogba    Sunday, March 19, 2017


Muhammadu Buhari

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

An account of President Muhammadu Buhari's engagements in his first week in office after seven weeks in London on medical vacation.

President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of his words.

Upon his return from London on the 51 days medical leave, Friday, last week, he appealed to Nigerians to keep their peace to enable him get some rest, knowing full well that his house would have naturally turned to Mecca of some sort with well wishers.

He had remarked that his coming back on a weekend was deliberate to help him get some rest. It was not reported that the President had public functions or saw anyone that weekend.

And with the weekend over, the President kept to his promise of resuming his official duties on Monday.

With the development, the Presidential Villa is back alive with government activities. Indeed, the President is back. And his engagements spanned across the week.

Monday, March 13 – I am back, Buhari tells Saraki, Dogara

Even though, he was still recuperating, President Buhari demonstrated his agility, patriotism and commitment to duty when on Monday morning, the President, decked in a white flowing gown with a cap to march, walked down to his office from the residence.

On arrival to the office, the President got busy, signing a couple of documents. Two of such documents were separate letters to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara where he officially informed them of his return to the country from London.

Later in a statement, his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated: "President Muhammadu Buhari today resumed duties after his vacation. "In compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the President formally transmitted letters to the Senate and the House of Representatives, intimating the National Assembly "that I have resumed my functions as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, March 13, 2017, after my vacation."

The signing was not what kept Buhari busy at the office that Monday. The president took briefings from some of his aides which included the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and National Assembly (Senate) Liaison Officer, Senator Ita Enang.

More pronounced that day was the visit of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to Buhari's office. Coming out of the office, Osinbajo, who acted on Buhari's behalf for the period he was away, was besieged by a battery of journalists whom he told that the President was fully back to work. He said: "He is very well. We just had a very long meeting, basically, trying to bring the President up to speed as to some of the things we have done while he was away. And he has given a few directives on what we should be doing on so many areas; the North-east, budget, the economy, a wide range of issues. "He held a meeting with me for over an hour where we discussed a wide range of issues. So his readiness for work is not in doubt at all. In fact he is over-ready.

"Oh yes! I'm back to my regular position as vice president."

Tuesday, March 14 – Saraki, Dogara pay Buhari a visit

At exactly 12 noon on Tuesday, the official vehicle of the Senate President, Saraki wheeled into the Presidential forecourt at the Villa. Swiftly, the two occupants who turned out to be Saraki himself and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Dogara alighted from the back. Their destination was the President's office. About 40 minutes later, the two leaders emerged to tell State House correspondents that issues of ambassadorial nominees, Niger Delta, among others, dominated the meeting that held behind closed doors with the President.

They were the first to pay the President a visit from outside the Villa. Later that day, Buhari signed the instrument of ratification of the treaty on establishment of Abidjan-Lagos corridor billed to serve the governments of Republic of Benin, Cote Divore, Ghana, Togo and Nigeria. The President also received briefings from the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele. Outside these two developments, Sunday Vanguard did not see any other guests until the President retired home at noon.

Wednesday, March 15- Buhari chairs first FEC meeting in seven weeks, causes laughter

Wednesdays are sacrosanct. They are days for the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC. And the one of the passing week was chaired by the President as his first in 7 weeks. Remarkably, the meeting began on a comic note when President unconsciously threw up a joke. Walking into the meeting which held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja at exactly 10:03 am, sporting a white flowing gown (Babanriga) adored with northern cap, the hall immediately observed the national anthem.

After the national anthem had been sang, the President called the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi to offer the Christian prayer for the meeting to commence in earnest. Thereafter, he needed some Muslim to also pray. But seemingly acting on impulse, the President said "I have not seen Lai". Just immediately, Lai, the Minister of Information, shouted "I am here, sir".

Lai's dramatic, swift response erupted the hall in a sprawling laughter as the President later asked him to offer the Muslim prayer. One good thing about Buhari is that he is a man of action. He is also time conscious. Wednesday meeting was swift and apparently devoid of long talks as it ended barely three hours after commencement. This is where there is a major difference between Buhari and his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo. It is on record that Osinbajo presided over the longest FEC meeting in the life of the administration as at today. The meeting lasted for almost 8 hours. This happened within the period Buhari was in London.

However, at the end of Wednesday FEC meeting, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah alongside the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed and the Minister of Health Isaac Adewole later briefed newsmen on the outcome of the meeting, saying the council approved the establishment of Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council or Industrial Council. The main objective of the council was to assist the government in formulating policies and strategies that will enhance the performance of the industrial sector.

Wednesday FEC also approved the Draft Bill for the upgrading of National Centre for Disease Control to a full fledged agency.

Thursday, March 16 – Buhari makes special appearance at NEC, orders the release of London-Paris Club refunds to state governments

Buhari on Thursday made a sudden appearance at the meeting of National Economic Council, NEC, held at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa. That would be the first time the President would be appearing at the NEC meeting constitutionally chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Members of NEC included state governors; the Central Bank governor; Ministers of Justice, Finance, and FCT.

At exactly 12:30 pm, the President walked into the chamber, religiously went round and shook hands with all NEC members before taking his seat. It was learnt that before journalists were called in, NEC had earlier resolved to go and pay homage to the President in his office but later, the President offered to come down and meet them. At that point, the Chairman of the Governors Forum and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulahi Yari was called by the Vice President to make some remarks, Journalists were asked to excuse the meeting. In a statement that emerged from the President's media aide, Mallam Garba, Buhari made a strong case for settlement of unpaid salaries and pension liabilities of workers at the state level.

Consequently, he directed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun to immediately release the second tranche of London-Paris refunds to state governments as a way of helping the states to realize their financial obligations, saying he would not rest until he had solved Nigeria's problems.

"I will not rest until I address those issues that affect our people. One of these basic things is the issue of salaries. It is most important that workers are able to feed their families, pay rent and school fees, then other things can follow," he said.

He also rejected the suggestion by the governors to take more rest, recalling that while he stopped visits to London was to prevent a transfer of power to the British capital city.

"I didn't want government to move to London. I wanted it to remain here and I am glad it did," Buhari said.

Friday, March 17 – Buhari worships in Villa mosque

Unlike Wednesdays, Fridays are solemn and worship days even though some official duties are still given their due and proper attention. Last Friday was not different. Contrary to his inability to worship for an undisclosed reason, the Friday he returned to Nigeria, President Buhari last Friday worshiped at the Presidential Villa mosque. He was joined by top government functionaries among whom were the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura.

Others who participated in the prayer included the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje; Attorney- General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau; and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, among others. The President later retired to his residence in the Villa.

Last line

The series of engagements of a recuperating President apparently suggest one thing: that the President is passionate about the development in Nigeria. Again, it also showed that the President is physically and mentally fit to run the affairs of the country after the wide speculation of his death in London. What one can only do for him and the country is to continue praying. To him, there was no going back as he had sworn not to rest until he had solved Nigeria's multi-faceted problems.