Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday night held a closed door meeting with governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The meeting came as the presidency earlier Wednesday disclosed that President Buhari would Thursday embark on a 10-day vacation to the United Kingdom.
Answering questions from journalists after a closed-door meeting with the president, the Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, lamented the defection of three governors on the platform of the ruling party to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), describing it as unfortunate.
He said the APC governors visited the president to pledge their loyalty to both the APC and President Buhari.
Okorocha said the defection notwithstanding, the party remained stronger and even more united.
He said: “Two of our colleagues left our party. This is politics, it is unfortunate that they have to go. We have 22 states, 53 senators. Nobody is leaving the party anymore. Those who have left, we are aware that they will leave long ago.
“PMB means well and he is willing to fight corruption and you all know if you are fighting corruption, it will fight back and this is what’s happening. As you are aware, three of our governors left our party and we got one in through Ekiti.
“This is politics, it is unfortunate that they have to go. But that has not in any way reduce our party or has it in any way touched us. We are still as strong, even stronger and more united.”
President Buhari had Wednesday night met with the governors behind closed-doors at the Presidential Villa.
Attended by 15 governors and a deputy governor, the meeting which started at about 9.46p.m. ended at 10.28p.m.
Present at the meeting were: Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Kashim Shettima of Borno, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Abubakar Bello of Niger and Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna.
Others were Simon Lalong of Plateau, Mohammed Jibrilla of Adamawa, Abubakar Bugudu of Kebbi and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Aminu Masari of Katsina, Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa, and Godwin Obaseki of Edo.
The Deputy Governor of Osun State, Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori represented the governor.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha also attended the meeting.
Meanwhile, President Buhari will Thursday embark on a 10-day vacation to London.
According to a terse statement by his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, while the president is away, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would act as president.
“In compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, a letter has been transmitted to the President of the Senate, and the Speaker, House of Representatives to that effect.
“While the president is on vacation, the vice-president will be in acting capacity as president.
“President Buhari will be in London for the holiday,” the statement read.
The president’s 10-day medical trip to the UK will be his sixth to the country that would be made public since he assumed office three years ago.
The last time President Buhari travelled abroad for medical vacation was on May 8, 2018, when he went on a four-day trip.
The president first proceeded on medical vacation on June 7, 2016 over what the presidency described as a persistent “ear infection”.
At the time, he was forced to cancel a two-day visit to Lagos to inaugurate projects in the state due to the “ear infection” suspected to be Ménière’s disease.
His trip at the time occurred days after Adesina was quoted as saying Buhari was as “fit as fiddle” and “hale and hearty,” to much criticism by political analysts and several Nigerians.
On January 19, 2017, the president embarked on yet another medical vacation and was billed to return on February 6, 2017, following what was described as a “routine medical check up”, but did not return until March 10, 2017.
Although information was limited during his stay in London, he was pictured on March 9 meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Abuja House, the official residence of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK.
On his return, Vice-President Osinbajo continued to steer the ship of the country while the president recovered in Abuja.
Buhari during this period missed several major official and public engagements, and appeared very frail the few times he appeared in public, until his return to the UK on May 7, 2017 for medical reasons.
He eventually returned to Nigeria from his medical leave 104 days later on August 19, 2017.
His 10-day trip to the UK to see his doctors again is bound to set tongues wagging and raise questions over his ability to run the country.
Buhari, 75, had since announced his intention to seek re-election in the 2019 presidential election.