Penultimate Friday, President MuhammaduBuharireturned to Nigeria after his medical vacation in the United Kingdom. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, in this report, chronicles the president’s activities in the last one week.
At exactly 7:41am on Friday March 10, 2017, the Presidential jet landed in Kaduna airport, ending speculations and anxiety about President Muhammadu Buhari’s state of health. Thereafter, he flew in a helicopter to Abuja. Immediately he landed in Abuja, he went straight into a meeting with all his cabinet members, service chiefs and top government officials. At the meeting, he admitted he had never been this sick but also restated his commitment to taking Nigeria to the promised land.
After the meeting, he retired to his official residence and was conspicuously missing from the Friday Juma’at prayers at the Villa mosque. On Monday, he resumed official duties in his office and quickly scribbled a letter to the National Assembly, informing them that he was fully back to work. That same morning, the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo who had been holding the fort in the absence of the president, briefed Buhari on goings-on in the country in his absence. Briefing State House correspondents after his meeting, Osinbajo said he had just handed over back to the president and was reverting back to his position as the vice president.
He also disclosed that President Buhari gave marching orders on the revival of the economy, as well as the budget, the North East and other issues. On whether Buhariwas impressed with the way he handled the country while he was away, the vice president said Buhari was reasonably satisfied.
The VP also dismissed insinuations that because of his health, Nigerians will witness a lot of delegation of duty to his vice, saying the president had always given him several responsibilities. He pointed out that it has always been team work.
“I think the president as you know has always given me several responsibilities. I think what we must recognise is that the way this administration works is that it has always been team work. Very little is done without the president’s clearance”.
On Tuesday, the President met with the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele. Recall that in the president’s absence, the CBN had injected huge sums of dollars into the economy all in a bid to stabilise the free fall of the naira in the parallel market. The move which was seen as a temporary measure achieved its aim, with the Naira appreciating from N500 to about N450 within a space of a week.
That same Tuesday, President Buhari signed the instrument of ratification of the treaty on the establishment of the Abidjan-Lagos corridor. In the afternoon, he granted audience to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. The meeting lasted for over 40 minutes.
When asked by journalists their mission in the Presidential Villa, Saraki said, “After bring away for a while, it is good for us to meet and generally review things that were done in his absence. So, it is normal consultation”.
On what to expect from the National Assembly, he said, “Well, the budget is ongoing, things that we passed in his absence, the issue of the CJN, the Eurobond, just general issues that are pending: the issue of the ambassadorial nominees that is due, the stability in the Niger Delta and a whole range of issues were covered in the short period of time”.
On Wednesday, the president presided over the Federal executive council (FEC) meeting, his first in seven weeks. The meeting lasted for close to three hours after which he retired to his residence.
On Thursday, was the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, which comprises governors of the 36 states and chaired by vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Two hours into the meeting, the President met briefly with the governors. Recall that during his medical vacation in London, save for Ogun governor, Ibikunle Amosun, other governors were barred from seeing the president.
Recall that during his speech, immediately he arrived, President Buhari subtly told governors and other top government officials not to bother sending delegation to visit him. That Friday, some governors were barred from going to the president ‘s residence to see him.
However, on Thursday, the president delivered probably the best news the governors would want to hear when he stated that he had directed the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emefiele, to act appropriately and with dispatch in releasing the second tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds to the states in order to ease their financial hardships.
“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. President Buhari, who went round the Council Chambers to greet the governors one after another, praised the unity of the forum of state governors. He thanked them profusely for their display of “love and respect” for him.
The President said he was overwhelmed by his recent experience in which states, irrespective of political differences, charged their citizens to pray in mosques and churches for his well-being and apologised to governors for barring them from visiting him in London. “I didn’t want government to move to London. I wanted it to remain here and I am glad it did”, he said.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara State assured the President, on behalf of his colleagues, that they will continue to support his policies and actions which they had adjudged as being in the nation’s best interest.
The governors of Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Osun and Abia States thanked President Buhari for saving the day for states through the first tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds, while calling for the immediate release of the second one.
On Friday, the President met with the vice president and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno. Thereafter, he proceeded to the mosque for the Juma’at prayers.