- President works from home Wednesday
Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) wednesday explained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence at the weekly cabinet meeting was preceded by a formal request to the council, informing it of his decision to rest and work from home.
The government also said the president consequently asked Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to preside over wednesday’s meeting on his behalf.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the president had before wednesday’s meeting sent a request to the council, stating that he needed time to rest and work from home.
Mohammed, who also said that the president asked Osinbajo to preside over the meeting, added that the vice-president would brief him later.
“You might have noticed that the president was not in the meeting today. The president sent word that he would rest today and he asked the VP to preside over today’s meeting. In addition, he also asked that all his files be taken home to him and he will be working from home today,” Mohammed said.
The president first stayed away from the FEC meeting a fortnight ago, compelling the vice-president to preside over the meeting. His absence, however, fuelled speculations over his health but his close aide say he is recovering from illness and had improved recently but just needs time to fully recover.
And in defence of the president’s absence at the FEC meeting on April 12, Mohammed dismissed speculations on his health, arguing that the president had looked at the meeting’s agenda and opted to yield the floor to his deputy to enable him attend to other issues.
However, the speculations were given fillip the following week when the cabinet meeting was not convened at all.
The reason given this time was the Easter holidays, which the presidency said had prevented civil servants from preparing the necessary memos for the meeting.
Also briefing newsmen yesterday, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said the council approved N5 billion for the construction of a head office for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He also disclosed that the council approved a memo seeking to protect the maritime environment through the lease of vessels at the cost of N3.8 billion in one year.
He said another N358 million was approved for the purchase of 36 vehicles for border patrol.
In his briefing, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, put the death toll from the Meningitis outbreak at 813, assuring State House correspondents, however, that the intensity of the outbreak had dropped.
Just as members of the cabinet attempted to project normalcy, the governors on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also said that there was no cause for alarm.
The governors also asked Nigerians not to overheat the polity over the president’s health, noting that FEC meetings are not compulsory for the president to attend.
Addressing newsmen last night after a closed-door meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-rufai, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said it was normal thing for the president at his age to have one ailment or the other.
“We are not worried about the development, it is not compulsory for the president to preside over every Federal Executive Council meeting; that is why our constitution makes available the place of the vice-president,” he said.
El-Rufi said rather than worry over the president’s health, people should pray for his recovery and for him to get back to work.
“Mr. President is 74 years old, at that age it is possible to have one ailment or the other. Even I at 57 take medication for one ailment or the other.
“Our prayer is that the president gets better but the reason he has a vice-president is because of a time like this, it may also not be because of sickness that he did not attend FEC. He may have had other pressing issues to attend to.
“I have not had to chair every state executive council meeting in Kaduna State because the deputy governor is there if I have other issues of greater priority to attend to.
“We are not worried yet or have any reason to be worried. But I call on every Nigerian to join all of us to pray for the improved health of the president.
“It has improved in the last few weeks since he came back and we will continue to pray for his improved health,” he said.
The governors, at the of their meeting with the party’s NWC, resolved to meet monthly to chart the way forward for the party.
The meeting, the second of its kind this year, lasted for about three hours.
El-Rufai, who was flanked by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdulahi, said the governors agreed to meet every month with the NWC to foster better relations between the national and state leadership of the party and to work towards strengthening the party.
“The 24 APC governors have committed to work assiduously at strengthening and rebuilding the party and ensuring reconciliation and unification of the party at all levels.
“We also resolved to give the national leadership all the support it needs. We will also engage in fund raising from our donors and sympathisers of the APC to ensure that the national headquarters and indeed all organs of the party have the wherewithal to continue the difficult work of rebuilding the party,” el-Rufai explained.
He said they also resolved that at their next meeting that “we are going to look at arrangements for our mid-term convention and put in place the resources necessary to ensure that we have a convention as required by the constitution of the party”.
Speaking further, el-Rufai said the governors restated their “loyalty to Mr. President, the vice-president and all our leaders of our party, and we ask Nigerians to continue to pray for the improved health of the president”.
However, four state governors presumed to be loyal to the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar were absent at the meeting with the party’s executive.
The absentee governors included Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
Also, Adamawa State governor, Jibrilla Bindow who is considered to be an Atiku loyalist, was also conspicuously absent.