From a national broadcast to the signing of treaties and several high-level meetings, the first week of President Muhammadu Buhari at his desk after he returned from a 103-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom was a busy one. Omololu Ogunmade chronicles the president’s schedule of activities during the week and reactions they generated
Monday, August 21
The president began the day with a six-minute nationwide broadcast. The broadcast was accompanied by a wide range of creactions from Nigerians who expected him to address his health status, raise the hopes of downtrodden Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of the nation’s economic crisis and clearly define the way forward on raging issues in the polity.
Critics of the broadcast said the president’s address said it was characterised by autocratic tendencies and failed to address economic challenges facing the nation.
The president had threatened to deal with anyone who troubles the country’s unity, insisting that Nigeria’s unity was settled and non-negotiable. Hence, he said matters of restructuring which had been a subject of agitation in the past three months was the exclusive preserve of both the National Assembly and Council of State. Buhari also did not have kind words for criminals such as terrorists, kidnappers and violent herdsmen threatening security of the nation as he tasked security operatives to take the battle to them and put an end to their nefarious and deadly activities.
However, there were many other Nigerians who were excited by the president’s broadcast. They hailed him for avoiding verbosity in his broadcast and making it concise, sharp and straight to the point.
Also on Monday, shortly after the broadcast, the president wasted no time in signing a letter of resumption of duty which he accordingly dispatched to the National Assembly. With the letter, Buhari retrieved power which he transmitted to his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on May 7, when he was leaving for London on medical vacation.
But the news of his resumption which ought to be accompanied with grinning expressions was followed by a wide range of criticisms following a comment credited to one of his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Malam Garba Shehu, that he would be working from home because rodents had taken over his office. The declaration was the subject of discussion on all social media and traditional media throughout the week. The foreign media also joined the fray as they mocked Nigeria with such headline as: “Rats Chase Nigeria’s President from Office.”
Tuesday, August 22
While the condemnation of the news of the president working from home and the reason behind it raged in both the traditional and social media throughout the week, the president was busy meeting with service chiefs at the annex office in his home the following day.
Present at the meeting, which lasted for three hours, were the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Sadique Abubakar, National Security Adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, Director General of the Department of State Services, Mr. Lawal Daura, Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, and Acting Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency. Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ekwe Ibok-Ibas, who was absent only service chief absent, was represented at the meeting.
During the meeting held behind closed doors, Buhari ordered the service chiefs to rid the nation of various security threats confronting it and simultaneously ensure the protection of lives and property of citizens.
The president specifically ordered the security chiefs to deal decisively with the threats posed to Nigeria’s corporate existence and its citizens by activities of Boko Haram, Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), violent herdsmen and kidnappers. The president also warned the military heads to fight any threat to Nigeria’s unity, insisting that the nation’s corporate existence was not negotiable. The service chiefs promised to comply with the directive.
Wednesday, August 23
While the nation looked forward to seeing Buhari preside over the first Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the past 103 days since he left the country, information came from the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, that the FEC meeting had been canceled. He gave no reason for that. This came as a surprise to many because all through the time the president was away, the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo-led cabinet never missed any weekly meeting, thus raising further speculations about the reason for the cancellation.
However, the president received the report of the probe of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke, from the Osinbajo-led investigative committee set up to probe the two officials.
The three-man panel was mandated by the president on April 19, to investigate the SGF over allegations of financial impropriety in his handling of the work of Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and equally probe the discovery of $43.3 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos earlier in the year. Oke had claimed that the money belonged to NIA.
Other members of the committee were the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno. The committee which initially had 14 days to conclude its assignment and submit findings to the President on May 3, later asked for five days extension.
However, 24 hours before the committee was expected to finally submit the report on May 8, the president proceeded to London on medical vacation. He did not return until Saturday, August 19, 103 days after.
After submitting the report, Osinbajo declined to disclose the content of the report, saying having submitted it to the president, the document became his exclusive preserve. He said the president would make his own decision from the report based on the committee’s findings and recommendations, adding however, that members of the committee were fair to the persons investigated.
Thursday, August 24
On Thursday, Buhari signed nine international agreements meant to strengthen anti-corruption war, boost the economy and improve security. After appending his signatures to the treaties, he expressed hopes that the action would enable the country to pursue the war against corruption with vigour, check illicit flow of funds, boost the tax regime, guarantee food security and also improve Nigeria’s living standard.
Submitting that his action was in compliance with the powers conferred on him by Section 5(1) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, the president directed all relevant agencies to ensure they play their own defined roles in the implementation and application of the treaties with a view to providing Nigeria with inherent benefits.
He described the move as an important milestone in Nigeria’s sovereign capacity to fulfill its own international obligations, noting further that it was another step in the pursuit of improved security, economy and anti-graft war by the country.
According to him, the act which had equally been replicated in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), provides Nigeria with the full-fledged opportunity to enjoy cooperation with foreign authorities in its pursuit of anti-corruption campaign.
The agreements signed by the president were: Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and an Extradition Treaty.
Others were: Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad; African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters and World Intellectual Property Organisation Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty aimed at facilitating access to published works for persons, who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise.
Also on Thursday, the president received two high commissioners. They were Ambassador of the United States to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, and that of the United Kingdom, Paul Arkwright.
Friday, August 25
On Friday, the president met with governors of the 36 states. In the meeting, Buhari publicly praised his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, saying he deployed the opportunities of his age and intellect to effectively govern the country when he was away.
The president who said he was so impressed by Osinbajo’s performance while watching him on the television, said he was compelled to invite him to personally thank him for his services.
Buhari who also said his morale was boosted by the love shown to him by Nigerians irrespective of their religious and ethnic backgrounds, thanked the governors whom he said pleased him by their performances.
The president who further stated that the current depreciation in the value of the naira was not the design of his government and would take sometime to correct it, added that the situation could not be changed overnight.
He said when he was in London, some Nigerians marched against him, sang the national anthem and asked him to return home. He said he had heeded their call and returned home, praying that such Nigerians would not be stranded abroad but would also return to the country.
Earlier on Friday, Buhari had simultaneously received members of the executive committees of both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who had visited him in the State House to welcome him back home.
During the meeting, Buhari said being in opposition in a democracy did not imply enmity, hostility or antagonism but rather an involvement in the membership of a vibrant and responsible platform.
According to him, the visit of both party leaders at the same time was an expression of the unity of Nigeria, adding that the situation also showed that the nation’s democracy was maturing.
Buhari who further said he was glad to see the leaders, asked them to convey his gratitude to Nigerian citizens in their respective states who prayed for his recovery as he enjoined them to keep praying for the prosperity of the country.
In his remark, National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said despite being in opposition, members of the PDP did not fail to pray for the recovery of the president when he was on medical vacation because they knew that the nation’s health was also connected to that of the president.
Makarfi who also said opposition was not synonymous with “madness,” added that the PDP would play its own opposition role “energetically, vibrantly, but very decently and with all sense of responsibility,” assuring that this will be done “by giving you a good run for your money and constantly keeping you on your toes as we all strive to make this country better.”