Lagos / Abuja – Revelation into why President Muhammadu Buhari failed to inject fresh hands into his cabinet for a straight four-year term, despite subtle pressure from a cross section of Nigerians, emerged on Wednesday, just as the president hosted his team to a valedictory session at the State House, Abuja.
Buhari, who said heated debates sometimes characterise their weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings, also said they enable them make rational decision on the long run.
But contrary to the expectation of Nigerians, the president failed to dissolve his cabinet on May 22, hinging it on the unique skills and strength that each of the ministers has.
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 is our last council meeting, I expect all of you to continue working until Tuesday, May 28, 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 government areas 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 a half years has 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, the late James Ocholi, who died along with his wife and son in a ghastly motor accident along Kaduna-Abuja expressway was not around to witness the valedictory session.
“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 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.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who held forth for President Buhari on several occasions, 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.
Among ministers that resigned from the cabinet include 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.
The valedictory session also afforded each of the ministers the opportunity to reflect on the journey so far, with some of them recounting their experiences.
Non-APC Members To Be Ministers— Presidency
Meanwhile, the presidency on Wednesday said President Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet will not only be occupied by members of the ruling APC alone.
Making the clarification, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, said his principal is currently consulting widely with the leadership of the party as well with others in order to ensure that he assembles the brightest and best minds in his cabinet.
“Yes, the president has to consult widely, not just limited to the party. Yes, the party will be part of it but he will consult widely. If you look at this cabinet that is exiting, there are lots of non-APC members in it. That means the president will draw members from whichever areas he can find”.
On whether members of other political parties will make the list, Adesina said “The president is going to assemble the brightest and best of Nigerians”.
When asked to assess the performance of the ministers, Adesina declined saying, “I sit in the cabinet but my principal assembled the cabinet and he is the one who can assess the cabinet and judge them”.