• It’s in order, says Oyegun
• Saraki, Dogara receive notice of resumption
• Mixed reactions to president’s speech
Tobi Soniyi, Segun James, Shola Oyeyipo in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade, Damilola Oyedele, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
President Muhammadu Buhari, who resumed duties Monday after a 103-day medical vacation abroad, will operate from his official residence until the completion of the renovation of his office, the Presidency said Monday.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Shehu Garba, told THISDAY that the president’s office needed renovation because of its devastation by rodents during the president’s long period of absence.
“Following the three months period of disuse, rodents have caused a lot of damage to the furniture and the air conditioning units,” he said, explaining that it was impossible for his boss to operate from the office in that condition.
Garba, however, said this would not affect the effectiveness of Buhari’s work since the residence has an annex to the office, adding that the president had been carrying out his duties from home since he resumed.
Saying he could not tell when the renovation would be completed, the presidential spokesperson stated that the maintenance company that was seen at work Monday at the Presidential Villa by THISDAY had been asked to speed up its pace of work.
The president had Monday morning met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and other senior aides, including the Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari, at his official residence, where he signed a letter informing the National Assembly that he had resumed duties.
The president’s decision to work from home got a nod from the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie Oyegun, who said it was in order, explaining that what was important was that the president would do his job.
“What is important is that the job gets done. Whether he does it from his bedroom, or his sitting room, or his ante room, it does not matter. Let the job be done. And the job will be done,” he told ARISE TV, a THISDAY Newspaper sister broadcast network, Monday.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, in separate statements Monday acknowledged receipt of the letter from the president.
“I have received a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari informing the Senate that he has returned to the country. I have also acknowledged the letter,” Saraki tweeted on his twitter handle @SPNigeria.
The letter, said the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, was in fulfilment of section145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation, or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
Nigerians React to President’s Speech
Meanwhile, mixed reactions have trailed the president’s address to the nation.
While the president’s supporters and party members welcomed it as apt, addressing the basic issues affecting the country, others, mostly opposition party members and social critics, described it as uninspiring.
APC National Chairman, Oyegun, said the president’s speech was solid on all substantive issues of national importance, specifically backing Buhari’s warning that unhealthy discussions and divisive comments in Nigeria must stop, saying the comment was in order.
He said the recent unhealthy discussions by some Nigerians were capable of turning the people against themselves, hence could not be tolerated any longer.
Oyegun told ARISE TV: “President Buhari swore to protect and defend the sovereignty of this nation. That is why he first started with a note of caution, but if such unhealthy discussions persist and continue to threaten the basic existence of the nation, then he is obliged to defend the sovereignty of the country.
“If you listen to the president, you will discover he was mild in his words because some of the discussions we hear everyday have gone beyond what can be acceptable. It is as if people don’t just care on the cost or likely repercussion of what they are saying, doing or what they are planning to do. Those who have actually gone through war do not wish another war on themselves, and this is what the president is cautioning against. We elected him to maintain, preserve and defend the constitution of this nation. All he said is to reiterate that he has sworn to defend our nation.”
On the agitation by some groups that they were being disenfranchised in deciding their future, Oyegun said the president was right that such discussions should be taken to the National Assembly.
“The president acknowledged that every group has grievances, but the beauty of a federation is that it allows the people to discuss such issues and work out a basis for mutual coexistence.
“Don’t forget these persons have representatives in the National Assembly. If you don’t trust them enough to discuss national issues on your behalf, why then did you elect them. They are there representing our constituencies. They are there to represent our views, hopes, fears and perceptions. That is the best place to exchange ideas on coexistence. At the end of the day you have your representative in the National Assembly. That is democracy,” he added.
On security, Oyegun said the president believes our security personnel have fought insecurity well, but must tighten loosed ends.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, welcomed the president, said Buhari and his handlers missed a golden opportunity to reconnect with the people as his speech failed to address issues that had direct bearing on their well-being.
It said: “The President’s speech did not contain anything new; just a rehash of statements that already had been made by both government and various leaders of thought across the country,” adding: “The PDP had cause to commend the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for going round the country to engage with relevant stakeholders, which certainly was a better approach.”
The party added: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) believes that rather than rehashing the worn out clichés about Nigeria’s unity not being negotiable, Nigerians would have loved to hear their President come out definitively to tell them what realistic measures his government intended to take to uproot the causes of the perennial agitations and counter agitations that are now becoming a recurring decimal in our national discourse.
“The Party believes that instead of always mouthing the indivisibility of this country, the government should be seen walking the talk by instilling confidence in all the people across board that it belongs to all.”
The PDP said further: “The casual mention of ‘elements of Boko Haram’…kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes’, were also somewhat on the perfunctory side and do not imbue confidence.
“President Buhari returned to the country in a week that saw the closure of all our public universities as a result of the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Yet, not even a whimper from our President.”
An ardent critic of the president, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, welcomed Buhari back but urged him and the APC to henceforth concern themselves with the real issues of governance in order to bring desired the succour to Nigerians, whom the governor said were hungry.
The National Chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yanusa Tanko, was critical of the speech and said the president failed to address the controversy over his health condition.
He said: “I was one of those who said Mr President should help in declaring the status of his health, not for anything but because Nigerians need to know, so that we will be able to address issues properly so that it can clear the rumour that he was poisoned.
“He has to dispel that particular rumour. And again, Nigerians also remember that Mr. President had said he would treat himself at home as against foreign medical trips. Mr President should have to tell Nigerians why the medical trip abroad had to be taken, perhaps because of certain exigencies.”
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) said the president’s failure to capture the mood of Nigerians on the issue of restructuring was a big minus in his speech.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alfa Mohammed, the party said: “We have listened to Mr President’s speech carefully this morning. While we commend Mr President for resolving to address the worrisome economic situation of the country and invigorate the fight against terrorism and ethnic violence, we disagree with mere passing remark by him on the sensitive issue of the widespread call for the restructuring of the nation particularly in relation to the devolution of more powers to the federating units and the correction of the imminent structural imbalance.
“This issue of restructuring we reason is fundamental to the peace and unity of our great country, and pretending otherwise is like postponing the dooms day.”
The National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Okey Nwosu, described the broadcast as “depressing.”
“We have to thank God that our President came back healthy, strong and but I must say that the President’s speech is very depressing. And this goes to show the nature of people around him. When we have so many sycophants who have taken over power this is what you get.
“For somebody who was out of the country for over one hundred days and you came back to meet the people that you promised so much during your election, you will look at them in the face and said sorry, nature seems to be taking its course, please bear with me and thank Nigerians for their prayers because it is not his will,” Nwosu said.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Niger State chapter lauded the president’s broadcast denouncing inflammatory statements capable of causing chaos in the country.
The state CAN chairman, Mr. Mathias Echioda, commended the president’s resoluteness that the country’s unity was not negotiable.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to Nigerians this morning is a move in the right direction. Buhari’s statement is a clear call to all sectional patriots and hate champions of our dear country to put away their swords. We are better together as a Nation.
“We don’t only welcome Buhari home we congratulate him for such a bold step this morning.”
The Lagos State Chapter of APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, in a statement said: “We are all living witnesses to how the president held his vice president’s hands when he landed in Abuja last Saturday and the whole world saw the affinity, the bond, and the brotherly love that exists between the two great and honest leaders. The photographs spoke a billion words.
“Lagos APC therefore appeals to Nigerians to continue to support the president and his vice as they brace up to deal with the challenges ahead. We have no doubt in our minds that these two patriots mean well for Nigeria and they have demonstrated this through actions and deeds.”
The Rivers State APC Chairman, Dr. Davies Ikanya, in a comment said that all those who wished that the president never came back so as to save their looted funds now had to rethink because the government would ensure that all the looted funds, which is the main reason behind the unwarranted tension and agitations across the country, would be retrieved.
He said: “The president’s broadcast yesterday morning has assured Nigerians that they are now free to live and do business in any part of this country without any molestation or threat. We, therefore, plead with all Nigerians to give this government time and an enabling environment to operate so that it can fulfil all its electoral promises to Nigerians.”
However, there were other Nigerians who held contrary views.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a member of the opposition PDP and a strident critic of the president, said the speech was below average.
He said: “During his thoroughly uninspiring six minute broadcast this morning, instead of appealing to Nigerians for patience and understanding, and instead of apologising to them for the ineptitude and sheer incompetence that his government has displayed over the last 2 years, President Muhammadu Buhari has returned home after 105 days on his sick bed in the United Kingdom, and not only insulted Nigerians but also threatened them.”
He lamented: “The president made no attempt to reach out to the people, to build bridges and to calm the troubled waters in what is clearly a traumatised and divided nation and instead he sought to intimidate and talk down on our people and his perceived enemies.”
Mr. Ebun-oluwa Adegboruwa, a lawyer, said he was disappointed with the president’s speech.
According to him, “One cannot but express a sense of utter disappointment. This is a president who virtually sneaked out of Nigeria, who breached his own self declaration of transparency, by keeping Nigerians in the dark for over 100 days, and in that process grinding the wheel of progress of the nation.
“Notwithstanding that the president took Nigerians for granted, he was not impeached, but rather Nigerians were offering prayers for his recovery, daily, only for him to return with a language of combat and insult, describing his own citizens as ‘irresponsible elements’!
“This should not be language of a president that has benefited from the goodwill and magnanimity of his people, this cannot be the message of gratitude that Nigerians deserve from the president, who has been absent from duty.”
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it was not ready to react to the content of the president speech until Wednesday.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the South-west would collectively react to Buhari’s speech.
“We plan to react to the speech as South-west region, so I will not be able to give you any reaction until Wednesday when we would have arrived at a collective position,” he said.
However, a former National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Dr. Kayode Ajulo, had both praise and knocks for the president over the speech. While he was not taken aback by the president’s refusal to resign as being speculated in some quarters, he said some aspects of the speech were undemocratic.
He said: “If you look at the speech it is less inspiring. For me, with that speech he should have shown empathy with Nigerians, appreciate them and woo them. And he is trying to pitch herdsmen against farmers by saying herdsmen versus farmers. We are all students of grammar. That is uncharitable.
“Here in Nigeria we are practicing democracy and for him to say ‘dear citizens’ is not acceptable. We are fellow citizens. And saying that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable is wrong. Democracy allows everything to be negotiated.
“The essence of democracy is freedom. Saying the unity is not negotiable is taking away the freedom in a democracy. Even marriage where it is for better or worse it is still negotiable. It is a political willy-nilly.”
United Kingdom-based journalist and public relation consultant, Mr. Lekan Fatodu, was of the opinion that the president was not himself during the speech, emphasising that Buhari should allow Osinbajo to continue managing the Nigerian economy.
“The man is so jocular, brutally open and candid, part of why you voted for him and he has just brought these known characteristics into his speech this morning (Monday morning) but many have started to whine,” he said.