Valedictory FEC Session: What Osinbajo, ministers said about Buhari

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and ministers on Wednesday spoke about their experiences working with President Muhammadu Buhari.

They all spoke during a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council, which held inside the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mr Osinbajo and the ministers were each given three minutes to speak on their experiences.

Below is what some of them said.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

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.

I will never forget when you were going on medical leave in May 2017, and you said to me that you would not fault my discretion as Acting President in any way. In keeping with your character and style, you kept your words.

Mr President, many know of your integrity, discipline and capacity for hard work but many will not know just how humorous you are. I remember you, Mr President, telling me once that we should observe the cabinet members, who go out often during meetings, that they were going out to ”finish the coconut and peanuts.” And since then I have noted carefully all those who go out looking very serious, but I’m sure they end up finishing the coconut and peanuts as Mr President said.

I want to use this opportunity to greet our cabinet colleagues. This has been an exceptionally patriotic and talented team. Everyone brought experience, knowledge, wisdom and selflessness to council deliberations at all times. I treasure the friendship that we have built with ourselves and among family members in the last four years. I pray that you will all go from glory to glory, that you will never fail or fall. As we all us depart from the council, I pray that the lord that has guided us this far will be our help in the years to come in Jesus name.

Just to mention for the records that I was elected chairman of the ‘association’ to which Dr Ngige referred, the one to which Adams Oshiomhole (APC chairman), (Chris Ngige and (Governor) El-Rufai are members, not because I’m the Vice President but because I’m the ‘tallest’ member.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama

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. Unless one was told, one would never know who you knew before.

Mr President, no one in the history of the country has held as much top leadership position as you have, so it is intimidating to be called upon to advise you on any matter. But you are humility personified.

I will recall a few very short anecdotes that highlight a few of your many qualities.

In Poland, you showed your humility when, after a long tiring day, you were kept waiting by the Deputy Prime Minister. I advised you to leave but you preferred to wait patiently, and you were proved right, it was a wonderful meeting.

In Mali, you showed very strong stoicism, physical courage to continue participating in a meeting when you were ill. You later needed a long medical treatment.

The Gambia, you showed decisive leadership when you surprised some presidents at a meeting by telling them to be in Abuja in two days, they came. At the working lunch, you called the Chief of Defence Staff and told him to call his counterparts in four countries, plan to launch on land, air and sea and move towards the Gambia, that was the era of Yahaya Jammeh. History.

In Nairobi, you showed great deftness and dribbling skills. We prepared a too long speech for you; we saw that five minutes time limit was being rigorously enforced. After you told me you had to leave for a while and I should sit in your place and deliver your speech. While I did I read so fast; the interpreters could not keep up. You came back and asked me with a smile if I had delivered the speech and I said yes sir with great difficulty! Lesson learnt. I have learnt so much from you, sir.

Mr President, you assembled a great cabinet from advisers, and it has been a joy to work with every one of them.

Your choice of VP was a truly inspired one. You both are a dream team – a match made in heaven. Remember James Ocholi, our late colleague and brother and former minister of state Labour, May his soul continue to rest in peace.

Minister of State (Agriculture), Heineken Lokpobiri

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 House 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.

So my appointment is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the Vice President and members of the cabinet within this period of my appointment, and I’m very glad to say that your leadership style is exemplary, it was God ordained, and I always tell people that you came at a time that God wanted you to come. I have always told people that what saved this country is because of your integrity as the world sees yours as a man everyone can trust.

The president’s integrity is different, between Nigeria and Venezuela that have more oil than us but has been in crisis since 2015.

Mr President as you go to the next level, let me suggest that as president of Nigeria, you’re the president of the black world, you have enormous responsibility, so you need all the time to attend to other matters apart from the FEC proceedings, and so it is my very humble submission that in the next level, let the office of SGF develop standing order that will regulate proceedings of the FEC that will save Mr President a lot of time to attend to other matters.

That will prevent some of my colleagues that will talk four or five times as they would be allowed to talk only once. You will only be allowed to talk twice if you’re the one presenting the memo. It will be nice if we see some of the reforms take place so that we will be able to save Mr President enough time.

Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu

I want to congratulate Mr President for the wisdom in selecting the current members of the cabinet. There is no doubt that while there were some delays in appointing cabinet members, a lot of people had grievances of a sort but the fact that you succeeded in appointing this creme of Nigerians has justified the fact in the saying ‘it is better late than never’. There is no good for you in rushing to appoint the cabinet only for you to have problems along the way.

So, I wish to say that the lateness or the delay has been worthwhile because over the last three and half years we have had one team which has been very compact, focus and determined to contribute its quota under your leadership.

Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali

Upon assumption in 2015, we met ill-equipped armed forces with low morale and the standard of discipline in the military was eroded due to partisanship over the period, leading to neglect of its constitutional role. As you may recall at the time this administration was inaugurated in May 2015, 1/3 of the local government areas of the North-east was under the control of the insurgents, Boko Haram with bombing across the country.

Similarly, under your leadership, the ministry of defence has recorded a lot of achievements, some which include the review of national defence policy, the increased occupational capability of the Armed Forces, the conduct of internal security and the decapacitation of Boko Haram, among others.

Despite all these achievements recorded so far, the nation is still experiencing serious security challenges, especially in the North-east and North-central. These challenges are not insurmountable. The Armed Forces and other security agencies are doing their best to address these problems.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

As a journalist, who has been very critical of the government and perhaps a nobody, I would never have become a minister, if not for this gesture of Mr President

I will like to thank Mr President for giving freedom since I became a minister; the president has never asked me to give anybody a contract or directed me to employ anybody, and I think this is very rare. Also, I will like to thank the Vice President for his humility. Like I have said on other occasions, Nigeria has never been lucky to have a combination like this. The president who is famous for integrity and the Vice President, who is a true man of God.

Both of you have the greatest burden on your shoulders to ensure that this alliance that produced you prevails and it’s maintained. And sir, it will not prevail until something is done because immediately after you, what will happen to Nigeria if you are not succeeded by your type of integrity, then we are going back to something worse than the one you succeeded. This is very important; I hope this occupies your mind, the next cabinet and perhaps the party. The ministry of education should not get less than N1 trillion.

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed

The 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. Today I’m proud to be graduating with the first degree from the PMB’s school of governance, integrity, accountability and due process. I’m proud to say that I was in the department of EMT that was ably chaired by His Excellency, the Vice President which will all call silently as a workaholic who expects you to be there sometime till 2:a.m. He is never tired.

Minister of State (Petroleum), Ibe Kachikwu

My appointment was unique because before now, I have never been in politics before my appointment. Unlike many people, I didn’t know the president directly, but you gave me the twin portfolios of managing director of NNPC and minister of state petroleum. This put on me the responsible for trying and cleans 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.

We have done that with very many sacrifices, this is probably the first president that I will know who would have served four years and I can attest that no oil bloc has been given to him. I can also attest that there is no contract that he has shown interest personally, neither have I. This is probably the first crop of ministers that worked with no official residences and sometimes from their cars.

But I have learnt that if you come to serve Nigeria, you have come to sacrifice and if you can’t serve with sacrifice, then there is no need to serve.

Three things I have learnt from you which have been very very helpful. In the first, is the power of silence, especially if you don’t have anything to say that is meaningful.

The second is the power of calm when the water is turbulent, and the third is the audacity of integrity.
That integrity is what has led us to take some of the bold steps that we have taken that ordinarily, Nigerians wouldn’t have forgiven inclusive of the lifting of the price of petroleum products which was essential at the time.

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi

Let me begin by thanking God for the opportunity Mr President has availed me to serve. I met a lot of people in the cabinet.

Mr President, if I exceed the three minutes it’s not because I failed grammar in school, I had credit in grammar. As a student of grammar, we are told to summarise, and that is exactly what we have done.

Mr President, I met you first in 2007 I had never seen you before because when you were the head of state I was a student in University of Ibadan, a radical one at that, a Marxist, so we were among those who demonstrated against some of your policies. You recalled when you came to my chambers in 2007, I wished you good luck, and you turned to be and said, don’t wish me good luck, wish me the best of luck.

Recalled I told you, you are the best material to be president of Nigeria but unfortunately, the elite will not allow you to be president and I was in PDP. I said they would not allow you and your chances of becoming the President was high.

The next time I met, you were not in person but through the phone. You called me after I had defeated governor of Plateau for my second term as governors forum chairman. You said to me that you were so elated that you gave somebody free money. I was impressed.

Mr President, let me thank you for not converting me to Islam. I say that specifically because in 2014 when I walked into Christ the King Catholic Church, I was chased out of the church as a governor because I was accused of supporting a man whose agenda was to Islamise Nigeria. And in Rivers State, they begin to call me Alhaji Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. I thank you because they have dropped the Alhaji and I am back to Mr Chibuike Amaechi.

I was told in the cause of the campaign that you were autocratic, and therefore you will not be democratic. Most of us are not happy that you have moved from your autocratic nature of yours to an extreme democrat that everything puts to test of the people, to the extend that the people now feel that the only way things can go on in this country is by the rule of law. We all know that the rule of law is the beginning and the end of this government. Talking about the financial impunity that we saw before, people were making money without having any productive capacity for that.

Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru

I have seen the passion of my president trying to get the ministers.

I have seen Mr President try to make the minister comfortable, but the laws or lack of laws has 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.

I will like to suggest, that in the second run of this administration, there should be deeper discourse for policy articulation which will inform all participants in that administration of the update of whatever decisions the government takes.

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