BY Bode Gbadebo, Tarkaa David |
The presidency yesterday refuted reports suggesting that it was lobbying Senators for the smooth confirmation of the immediate past service chiefs as non-career Ambassadors.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last Thursday, February 4, 2021, announced the nominations of Gen Abayomi G Olonisakin (rtd); Lt Gen Tukur Y Buratai (rtd); Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd); Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S Usman (rtd).
The president in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, said, “In accordance with section 171 (1), (2) (c) & sub-section (4) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, I have the honour to forward for confirmation by the Senate, the under-listed five (5) names of nominees as Non-Career Ambassadors-Designate.”
The announcement, however, generated dust in the polity last week as the Senate minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) and some political commentators decried the nominations, describing them as a reward for failure or non-performance.
But the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare, told journalists yesterday that the presidency was not losing sleep on the request to the Senate for confirmation of the nominees.
Asked if the presidency was lobbying to get the nomination of the erstwhile service chiefs confirmed in the Senate, the presidential aide said he was not aware of such a move.
He, however, added that the practice of lobbying between the executive and the legislature and vice versa was normal and is obtainable in all democracies around the world.
He said, “I think if anybody says there is any lobbying going on as regards nominations of former service chiefs for Ambassadorial appointments by Mr President, I am not aware.
“But if there is lobbying going on for them to pass through the confirmation process, I sincerely think it is in order. It is not an aberration; it is not a transgression and it is not a sin for lobbying to occur.
“Having been service chiefs before, should they be nominated as ambassadors, especially because the Senate and House of representatives have not been on the same page with them? It is normal.
“That does not mean they cannot be successful Ambassadors. It is for the senators to determine, looking at their profiles, their curriculum vitae and their credentials, whether they can be good representatives of Nigeria.
“For them to even be service chiefs it means they have attained some heights because being service chief is being at the pinnacle of their career which is an achievement,” he said.
Omoworare added that as cordial as the relationship between the 9th Senate and the Presidency is, some presidential requests for confirmation had been rejected without causing any ill-feeling between the two arms of government.
“The president must have done his homework very well on nominations of the former service chiefs for the Ambassadorial positions which gives somebody like me the confidence that the appropriate committee of the Senate will confirm them at the end of the day,” he added.
It’s An Honourable Retirement, Appointment – Buratai
Meanwhile, the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai (rtd), has said he would bandy words with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the party’s hard stance on his tenure.
Insisting that he performed well as army chief, Buratai who spoke at a reception organised by the 29th Regular Course in his honour in Abuja said he was short of words to reply to the position of the opposition.
He said, “It’s an honourable retirement and also an honourable appointment. I’m not a politician, so I have no word for the opposition. I have done well.”
The PDP had faulted his nomination as ambassador, saying it was a ploy by the government to shield him and other service chiefs from probe over alleged human rights abuses committed as service chiefs.
Buratai however said his reign as army chief was eventful.
“I am happy that in July last year, my officers at the Army headquarters compiled a compendium of my achievements. In fact, I can’t even remember all the projects that we have executed. Is it in terms of infrastructure? Is it in terms of capacity building? Is it in terms of training?” He queried.
Buratai said, “Since I was appointed, there was never a dull moment in terms of training.
“Remember the various exercises. These are training exercises from ‘Python dance’, ‘Crocodile smile’, and even the latest one ‘Exercise Sahel Sanity’.
“Is it in the area of medical? In terms of education of our children and wards, the Nigerian Army University is a great achievement”.
The former army chief commended members of the 29th Regular Course Association for being wonderful friends and course mates and for organising such a befitting event in his honour, adding that he felt so happy to be celebrated.
He said, “It means a lot to me and my family. It is also a mark of fulfillment and pride that you have been recognised for the service you have rendered to your nation and your people.”