Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has denied reports that he rejected a second slot to be appointed a ministerial nominee by President Mohammadu Buhari, saying rather that he was not given a chance.
Ogbeh spoke while addressing a delegation of the Idoma Development Forum led by Dr. Jacob Okwori who paid him a visit on Friday in Abuja
According to the former minister, “there was no such thing that occurred. I never rejected Mr. President’s offer for re-appointment. No one approached me on behalf of Mr. President since we left office on 29th May, and I never went to lobby anyone, because I had a very good and smooth working relationship with Mr. President.
“It is complete falsehood and mischief for anyone to insinuate that I declined the offer of re-appointment.”
Rather, he thanked President Buhari for the opportunity given him to serve the nation.
“At any rate, I am grateful to Mr. President for giving me the chance to contribute to the development of our dear country in the last four years. President Muhammadu Buhari is such a good man who means well for the country. I believe we all need to support him to take the country to the next level of national development.”
Speaking earlier, the leader of the delegation, Dr. Okwori, said, “We your kinsmen were living witnesses to your outstanding performance as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development between 2015 and 2019 when you worked assiduously to transform Nigeria into the world’s agriculture centre, and flood the global market with food of Nigerian origin.”
He continued, “within the period”, Ogbeh supervised the ministry, “one of Nigeria’s biggest businesses of FOREX namely RICE alongside others were literarily removed from the list of food import items to save about N21b according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2018. Agriculture export grew by 77.3 per cent, from N170b in 2017 to N270b in 2018.”
He posted his achievements to include, “the three Universities of Agriculture (Makurdi, Abeokuta and Umudike) were back under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with increased funding.
“The Bank of Agriculture underwent restructuring in a plan that was to sell majority share to farmers to make it a Farmers’ Bank, with targeted lending rates at five percent.
“Today, Nigeria is the largest seed producing country in the West African sub-region, and we were all exceedingly hopeful that you were amongst Mr. President’s foremost re-appointees and that he had no plan of relieving you of the job.
“We like to think that the most credible evidence from the success of this administration agriculture initiative was the election”
Okwori expressed shock that Ogbeh did not make the list despite his record of achievements.
“We were really surprised when your name was not on the list, considering all these accomplishments, but our greatest dismay came when we gathered that you had declined the offer for reappointment by Mr. President for some personal reasons, when he sent to you.
“Honestly, we felt really disappointed that you would take such a decision without reflecting on the larger impact it would bear on the Idoma nation, Benue state and Nigeria at large.
“We are sure that Mr. President himself would have felt slighted that you rejected his offer.
“There has been strong indication that your denial gives credence to the stories going round in the social media and official circles that the so called ‘cartel in the villa’ actually interfered with the list of Mr. President and even the Vice President by replacing some names with their preferred candidates.”