Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said he was shocked when former president Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat while votes were still being collated during the 2015 election.
He made the disclosure on Monday at the Presidential Banquet Hall, Aso Villa, Abuja, when he hosted the State House press corps to a lunch as part of activities marking this year’s Democracy Day.
“When he made that famous call at 4:45 pm and said ‘Good evening, Mr. President, I have called to congratulate you and I concede defeat’, I was silent for quite a while because I was surprised and he said, ‘Did you hear me?’,” the president said.
Buhari said he was shocked because for someone who was a deputy governor, a governor, a vice president and a president for six years to concede that easily showed Jonathan’s “great sense of patriotism”.
He said another former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, advised him to visit Jonathan for his “statesmanship and decision to save the Nigerian state”.
Buhari said Jonathan belonged to a party that was at the helms of affairs for 16 years and for him to still go ahead and concede “was definitely not an easy decision”.
The president added that during the visit to thank Jonathan, General Abdulsalami again advised that in order to make for easy transition, he (Buhari) should set up a committee to meet with the outgoing ministers to begin the process of handing over at that level.
“Jonathan sincerely agreed to the suggestion and I got one of the best bureaucrats, in the person of Ahmed Joda, and told him to look round the country and come up with a team for the task.
“However, when Jonathan told his government what he had decided, they simply refused and said, ‘How can you hand over to Buhari when he has not been sworn in?’ That was the end of that good intention.”
The president said when he assumed office he trimmed down the number of ministries from 42 to 24, while many permanent secretaries were also dropped for one reason or the other.
He however said his government was still shocked when it realized that ” those below were still living in the past” as evidenced in the infamous ‘budget padding’.
According to him, budget padding was a “nasty experience for me”.
“We had to work day and night to correct the ills and I noticed that some of them were actually losing weight,” he said.
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