Why I didn’t sack cabinet, by Buhari

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It was an emotional session spiced with some drama.

The President recalled that some cabinet ministers with whom he started the journey were not at yesterday’s valecdictory session. And ministers took turns to relive their experiences with him.

The ministers are to handover their portfolios on May 28.

President Buhari gave the directive during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) valedictory session at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Handover notes, he said, should be submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.

The President said: “Some of our colleagues, with whom we started this journey, unfortunately, are not here to join us in celebrating our successes.  Specifically, I must recognise our late brother, James Ocholi SAN  who passed away in a fearful motor accident with his wife, Blessing and son, Joshua only four months after being sworn in as a minister.”

The President hinted of why he did not reshuffle the cabinet for four years. He said: “We inherited a broken economy, which eventually went into recession in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2016. The situation was further  compounded by insecurity and massive corruption.

“Many would have given up. Indeed, many outside commentators said our situation was hopeless. However, we all came together and pushed forward to deliver our campaign promise to rescue our country from its parlous state.

”Although we all had a common vision, we frequently had heated debates in this room on the best way to achieve our goals. These differing views are what made the decisions we took all the more rational.

“It is this quality that made me retain my cabinet for the full term. Each of you in this room has a unique skill and strength. We are a reflection of Nigeria we aspire to achieve.

“I want you all to leave this meeting proud to have served your nation to the best of your ability. You should be proud to have been part of the government that liberated the local governments previously under Boko Haram rule.

“You should be proud to have contributed to our food security and economic diversification agenda which led to the revival of our rural agrarian economy.

”You should be proud to have been part of the team that developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which led Nigeria exiting its worst recession in decades.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo thanked President Buhari for the opportunity to serve as his deputy and as his running mate twice.

He said: “I thank Almighty God for preserving our lives to serve our nation this past four years. I will like to thank Mr. President for the opportunity to serve as your vice president and your running mate twice. My deepest gratitude comes from the great trust that you reposed in me at all times.”

All the 31 ministers in the Council chamber took turns to thank the President for finding them worthy of their appointments in the past three and a half years.

Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi thanked Buhari for the opportunity to serve in the cabinet.

Minister of Education Adamu Adamu warned that Nigeria may become worse than in 2015 if the person that would succeed President Buhari in 2023 has no integrity.

According to him, Nigeria has never been lucky to have a good combination of Buhari and Osinbajo.

Minister of State for Agriculture Heineken Lokpobiri said: “Mr. President, let me join my colleagues in thanking you for appointing me a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What I have learnt in the last three and a half years I have not learnt in my 12 years as a parliamentarian. I was a speaker in Bayelsa State of Assembly in 1999. I was a senator in 2007 to 2015 but the last three and half years cannot be equalled to what I learnt as a member of the cabinet.”

Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed said: “Wealth of knowledge, skills and experience that we have been compelled to learn from each other. For me, every encounter I had with Mr. President is like going to school.”

Minister of Petroleum Ibe  Kachikwu said: “My appointment was unique because prior to now I had never been in politics prior to my appointment. Unlike many people, I didn’t know Mr. President directly but you gave me the twin portfolios of managing director of NNPC and minister of state (Petroleum). This put on me the responsibility to try and cleanse that ministry so that it will be useful to Nigerians.

“I have had the unique privilege of working with Mr President directly; different from being my president, he was my direct boss. In that prior, we had worked together to deal with many problems that beset that industry. Problems of fuel scarcity, dwindling production, transparency, the crisis in the Niger Delta and fiscal federalism and the TSA ultimately captured most of the earnings of this country from that sector.”

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs  Usani Uguru said: “I have seen the passion of Mr President trying to get the ministers. I have seen Mr President try to make the minister comfortable but the laws or lack of laws have not allowed it, in this case leaving us with so many sacrifices as ministers. In this sacrifice, we have had a lot to learn, which has enriched my experience.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama thanked the president for the opportunity. He said: “Thank you for the opportunity, despite the fact you didn’t know me from Adam. But your leadership has been such that you treated everyone the same – whether you knew them before or not. In fact, unless one was told, one would never know who you knew before.”

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said his appointment exposed him to the dynamics of leadership for national development.

Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbe noted that God made the President to overcome his ill health and saved Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from a helicopter crash prior to the 2019 general elections.

He added: “Where we failed we apologise and where we did well we thank you so much for the opportunity and your support.

“I believe that as we enter the next level, I pray that you and your new cabinet will take Nigeria to the next level.”

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, said: “You appointed me when I did not know you well. Having worked with you for three and a half years, I know that that your reputation for integrity is well deserved.”

Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu said his appointment into the cabinet was the highest point in his 40 years in politics.

He urged Nigerians to pay more attention to the utilisation of ICT towards boosting the economy.

Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali said one-third of the local governments in Borno State was under Boko Haram’s but today all have been taken by the military, noting that Mr. President’s integrity has helped immensely with the various financial interventions.

Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said it was a privilege for anyone to serve his or her country.

Minister of Labour Chris Ngige said the President never interfered in ministers’ jobs.  According to him, the N30,000 minimum wage is a good gesture.

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