•Declares he has difficulty coping with official pressure
•Charges security agencies not to relent in protecting citizens, nation •At valedictory FEC meeting, president thanks ministers for loyalty, support since 2015
•Keenly awaits tending his cattle in Daura
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed eager anticipation for his exit as Nigeria’s president in the next five days, even as he sought support for his party, the APC and the incoming President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The President also revealed he is facing tremendous pressure in the last few days of his administration.
Buhari spoke Tuesday night, at the close of the Regimental Dinner organised in his honour by the country’s armed forces at the Nigerian Armed Forces Officers’ Mess, Asokoro, Abuja.
The president chaired a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday, and met with staff of the State House, as part of the countdown to the end of his eight years administration. He expressed appreciation for all the support and loyalty of his cabinet and staff.
At the dinner, Buhari apologised to the gathering for showing up late. He stressed that he had been under immense pressure coping with the array of events lined up for the inauguration, in addition to wrapping up official duties of his office.
The president had same day inaugurated the new headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service in Maitama District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), before virtually inaugurating six other projects across the country.
He also presided another extraordinary FEC meeting from midday till late Tuesday evening, before heading to the Regimental Dinner.
The president told the audience, which included the Chief of Defense Staff, service chiefs, and other top military brass, “Please, I will like to digress a bit from the prepared speech. I apologise most sincerely for keeping you waiting for about half an hour. Actually, I can hardly cope with the pressure and I’m desperately looking forward to the next six days.”
In his address, Buhari charged officers and men of the armed forces, as well as other security and intelligence agencies, not to relent in their effort to ensure absolute security in all parts of the country. He expressed appreciation for the sacrifices they had so far made.
He told the security chiefs, “Please, permit me use to this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the officers and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria for their unwavering loyalty, hard work, dedication and selfless service to our beloved nation.
“I’m fully aware of all your sacrifices and commitment in tackling the various security challenges and your contributions to the successful elections in our country.
“However, until the issue of insecurity is surmounted, much more is still desired from the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Consequently, the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the other security agencies must always remain resolute in the face of the country’s security challenges. In this vein, our administration, though winding down soon, will never relent in providing the needed support to the military, to enable them to effectively carry out their constitutional responsibilities.
“Let me now thank the chief host, the Chief of Defense Staff, the Minister of Defense, the Service Chiefs, and heads of other security agencies at this event, for your dedicated service to the nation. I commend you and thank our esteemed guests for coming to this historic occasion.
“Let me now pray for the repose of the souls of our fallen heroes. Their ultimate sacrifice will never be in vain. May the Almighty God continue to grant them eternal rest.”
Dignitaries at the dinner included Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; Chairman of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu; Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; and members of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, in his remarks at the valedictory FEC meeting held at the State House Council Chambers in Abuja, the president thanked the ministers for their steadfastness in pursuing the goals of the administration. He sought support for the incoming president, Bola Tinubu, even from outside government.
Buhari appreciated the ministers for working closely together, despite many odds and challenges, and sustaining the synergy that translated into many achievements.
“I am proud to say we gave our best,” he said.
The president directed the ministers to tidy up their work and avoid last-minute rush that could compromise the good deeds they had done over the years.
According to him, “In the course of our years together, ranging from our newest addition to the oldest members of the team for the past seven and a half years, we have differed on many issues.
“I urge that we understand that those positions were for the collective good, and no one should keep grievances, or carry these differences forward.
“For those of us that will not directly be in government, I know that I am one of such, I ask that we continue to provide our support, in whatever way we can, if called upon by our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), that gave us the platform to stand and we must continue to support it in every way we can.”
Buhari attributed all the achievements of his administration to God’s intervention, saying, “I also thank God for the strength and for keeping us together.
“I look forward to seeing many of you, disproving that Daura has not become too distant because I am no longer Mr. President.
“I will also be happy to do the many things that I have not been able to do since May 29th, 2015, one of such is my favourite pastime of taking care of my cattle.
“I wish all of us the best and hope to hear good news whenever any of our names are mentioned. Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The president also met with members of staff of the State House, lauding both the senior and junior workers for supporting his administration. He noted that the administration had stretched to accommodate the views of workers and to meet some of their needs, within the available resources.
Speaking with newsmen after the farewell FEC meeting, information and culture minister, Lai Mohammed, clarified that the FEC had not been dissolved. Mohammed described as false the news that Buhari dissolved the council in the course of the meeting.
Rather, he said, the president directed all ministers to return to their desk and continue working on their transition assignments.
The minister stated, “I just want to make this clarification. While we were at the chambers there was a false breaking news that the FEC has been dissolved. That is not correct. As a matter of fact, we have been directed by the president that we should all go back and return to our offices. So it is not true that the FEC has been dissolved, it’s is still very much alive.
“We have all been directed to go back to our offices and ensure that we continue to work to the end of May 29. So, please, ignore the fake news.”
Speaking further, Mohammed disclosed that during the FEC meeting, ministers were allocated time to deliver their farewell messages.
He said, “During that meeting, we adopted minutes of the two extraordinary FEC meetings and at the same time, opportunity was given to every minister to make his own farewell speech. It’s instructive to note that each and every minister present today, and I’m not aware of any who was absent, was given between two to five minutes to make his or her own valedictory speech and I think, largely, everybody commended Mr. President and thanked the president for the opportunity to serve the country at this level.
“Many also took the opportunity to reel out what his or her own ministry or department had achieved over the last eight years. Of course, you know there are about three classes or categories of ministers: there are ministers that came in 2015 and we, who were retained till 2023.
“There’re ministers that came in 2019 and have been there till 2023 and there are the last batch of ministers that came in about nine months ago.
“So everybody made his or her own valedictory speech, depending on how long he or she had been occupying the position. But, generally, I think it was just a glorious moment for all the ministers to thank the president, thank their colleagues and also give gratitude to God, that a journey that started in 2015 is ending very well in 2023.
“I think everybody, including the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of Service, the vice president, all made their valedictory speeches and, then, the president responded. And I think, largely, he thanked all of us for our contributions and prayed for us in our next endeavours.”
Mohammed said the president also emphasised the need for ministers to be up and doing, especially, as it concerns the transition programme that terminates on May 29.
He said of Buhari, “He reiterated the fact that we should all go back to our offices so that we can carry out the assignments and tasks assigned to us in respect of the transition programme.
“For instance, tomorrow (Thursday), we’ll all have to be present at the conferment of the national honours on both the president-elect and the vice president-elect and at that occasion I think the handing-over instrument will also be given to the in-coming president. That’s Thursday.
“On Friday, of course, there will be prayers. On Saturday, there’ll be public lecture. On Sunday, there will be church service and, then, on Monday there will be the inauguration proper at the Eagle Square, and then there will be dinner in the evening, largely for visiting heads of state and those who have been invited to the dinner.
“So governance continues until May 29.”