Thirty-seven days to the end of his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he could not wait to go home after eight years of being at the helm of affairs in the country, serving the people.
The President also pleaded with all those he has hurt in the course of steering the affairs of state since he assumed office almost eight years ago to pardon him.
President Buhari spoke at the final Sallah homage, which took place yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. His words: “I think this is a very good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you and to thank you for tolerating me for more than seven and half years now. I assure you, I have deliberately arranged to be as far away from you as possible not, because I don’t appreciate the love you’ve shown to me, but because I think I’ve gotten what I have asked and I would rather quietly retire to my hometown.
“I can’t wait to go home…I deliberately arranged to be as far away as possible from you people.”The outgoing President described himself as a lucky man to have led Nigeria in various capacities as governor, minister, head of state and elected two-term president.
He also thanked residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for indulging and tolerating him in the last seven and half years. He said the Sallah festival has afforded him a good coincidence to say “goodbye and to thank you for tolerating me for eight years.”
“I am counting the days,” the President enthused. “Democracy is a good thing otherwise how can somebody from the other side be a president for two terms? My hometown to Niger Republic is eight kilometers.
“I honestly consider myself very lucky. I was made a governor, Minister of Petroleum, Head of State in uniform, then after three attempts, God through technology and the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC), I became president. I tried 2007, 2011 and 2015 and ended up at Supreme Court three times.”
The President chided those who claimed that they cannot get justice at the court, recalling that all Supreme Court justices in all the election cases he took to court were Muslims from the North and yet he lost, saying: “Thanks to technology and the PVC”, which made it possible for him to be president in 2015.
The President added: “Having been a Governor, Minister and the President twice, I think God has given me an incredible opportunity to serve as your president. And I thank God for that. So, please whoever feels I have done wrong to him, we are all humans.
“There is no doubt I hurt some people and I wish you will pardon me. And those that think that I have hurt them so much, please pardon me.” The President, who also spoke with newsmen shortly after observing the Eid prayer, said the future of democracy as a system of government is bright, adding that as he prepares to leave office in a little over a month, he feels satisfied and duly assured that Nigerians would defend the system against all threats.
“Nigerians appreciate the stability of democracy. The outcome of the elections, in which more than 10 governors failed to make it to the Senate, sent a clear message that ordinary Nigerians know the power of their votes and how to use it.
“Nigerians cherish democracy. They have shown their love for it and will defend it against real or perceived threats. They will continue to vote one way or the other depending on their preferences,” he stated. President Buhari assured that the May 29th hand over date remains sacrosanct.
“God willing, nothing will stop it,” he added. On His plans after leaving office, the President said: “I thank God for what He has done for me personally and for what He has enabled us to achieve. I am looking forward to returning to my town, to be as far away as I can from Abuja so that the in-coming President will have the time and the space to take decisions without my distracting him.”
Fielding questions from newsmen after joining residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to pay Sallah homage to the President, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, commended Buhari for his service to the country in the last eight years, saying the administration has done “tremendously well.”
He added: “The Buhari administration is closing on a very strong note. We have succeeded in reducing, minimising the insecurity that we met in 2015.
“This administration has provided so much infrastructure across the country, like no other administration did before. This administration, this President particularly assented to legislations more than any previous president, especially in the last four years.
“And we are so proud of this administration, that we have been able to achieve so much. It is therefore a thing of joy for all of us to come and celebrate with Mr. President, the Eid-el-Fitr, today.”
Lawan noted that the legislature did much to support the administration to succeed, saying: “That is why the legislature and the executive arm of government and this President will go home, by the grace of God, after May 29, 2023, very satisfied.
“But of course, there are things that we have not been able to do well. The new administration of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu will come in and it’s going to be a continuity with those areas that we’ve gotten well, and those areas that we have not been able to get well, we will rework them; we will retool them, we will rekindle them and ensure that we continue with the progressive APC administration.
“It is one administration; it’s one government so to speak, and we are proud to be part of everything that has happened in the last seven and a half years.”
Lawan further said that he has no regrets over his actions as President of the Senate, conceding, however, that there were things he could not satisfactorily deal with.
“You can’t say regrets. We can only say there are things that we have not been able to satisfactorily deal with. And this is natural, because one, we don’t have sufficient funds. Two, as human beings, there are areas that naturally whatever you do, you may not get it right. But it’s for us to identify those areas, go back and rework them and as this administration winds up, a new one, an APC administration, is coming in to take over and by the grace of God will have a National Assembly that is also All Progressives Congress (APC).
“So, we will continue to work on those areas that we need to improve. So, I am not going to talk about what areas because the time we have here is very limited.” He said the ruling APC must court the opposition political parties in the formation of the leadership of the parliament to ensure stability.
“I don’t ever think the opposition should be pushed away. I don’t believe in that. I only believe in the very bipartisan chamber because it is more productive,” Lawan said.
The lawmaker, however, downplayed insinuations that the opposition members could spring a surprise and sweep various posts in the configuration of the 10th National Assembly.
He acknowledged that parties other than the APC would have a strong presence, but noted that, “I don’t think opposition parties are planning to usurp, because it is presumptuous that the APC will not be a united party.”
He added: “APC is a united party and the opposition party will simply work with the APC majority for us to have stability, because there is no way an opposition will decide who should be the senate president; who should be the speaker. It is our party and other leaders that will decide which zone or whoever, and the rest of us in the party will key in and of course the opposition would have no option but to support.
“I don’t see anything wrong in the opposition talking to us or we talking to the opposition to ensure that we are on the same page, because we need opposition to ensure that we get most of our constitutional amendments, when the time is right, passed.
“You need 73 senators at least for you to have any constitutional amendment. So, you would need opposition.
“That’s why it is very, very critical; it is very essential that you work with opposition right from the beginning.
“Don’t ever think the opposition should be pushed away. I don’t believe in that. I only believe in the very bipartisan chamber because it is more productive. It is more stable; it’s calm and it gives you the kind of outcome that you will never get with a very rancorous chamber. And I’ve seen it; we have done it.”
Asked whether he would heed calls from some quarters to re-contest the senate president position in the next assembly, Lawan said: “I’m not here to answer whether I’m running for senate president or not.”
In his remarks, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, noted that in few weeks, President Buhari would conclude a very successful tenure with tremendous infrastructure transformation in the FCT.
On his part, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria FCT chapter, Rev. Timothy Amakon, thanked God for using Buhari to transform the nation as well as to maintain peace and development of the country.
While praying God to continue to strengthen him even after he leaves office to continue to play the role of an elder statesman, the cleric also prayed that God would help the incoming administration to continue the works President Buhari administration begun.
Executive Director, Al-Halbbiya Foundation, Adeyemi Faud, said that Christians and Muslims live peacefully in the FCT and commended the cordial relationship between them.
Senator Philip Aduda also congratulated President Buhari for a successful tenure and thanked God for granting him wisdom to lead the nation. He commended Buhari for tolerating the opposition and prayed for his good health so that he would always be available to provide wise counsel to the nation’s leaders.
The highlight of the celebration was the presentation of a giant Sallah greeting card to the president. Other notable personalities present during the occasion were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Service Chiefs, Cabinet members, presidential aides, traditional rulers and the business community among others.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged Nigerians to use the occasion of the successful completion of the Ramadan to pray and work towards the entrenchment of justice, equity, fairness and good governance in the country.
It noted that the Holy Ramadan offers Nigeria the divine opportunity for serious introspection especially on issues of the fear of God, integrity, accountability, adherence to set rules and constitutional order as well as the respect for the rights, personal freedom and will of the citizens in a democratic setting.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP said Nigerians, especially leaders, must reflect on the essence of Ramadan and use the occasion to reawaken the virtues of selflessness, honesty, self-restraint, fair-mindedness, mutual respect, forgiveness, love and compassion for one another without regards to ethnic, sectional, religious or partisan considerations, stressing that this is the only way to achieve the much-desired politically stable and economically viable nation.
The PDP said it was deeply saddened that at a time such as this, “Nigerians were still under siege by terrorists and subjected to a life of fear, misery, anguish, abject poverty and excruciating economic hardship occasioned by the inexcusable misrule of an incompetent, insensitive, heavily corrupt and manipulative leadership in the last eight years.”
“It is more saddening that efforts by Nigerians to instill a purposeful, honest and responsible leadership is being sabotaged by oppressive forces desperate to impose themselves against the will of the people,” the statement added.
The party, however, said it was optimistic that with fervent prayers to God and determination of the citizens, “our nation will triumph in the collective quest to entrench a God-fearing leadership that is derived from the free will of the people as expressed at the polls. ”
The PDP urged Nigerians to use the occasion of the Eid-el-Fitr to further strengthen the bond of unity, forgive, love and care for one another in the hope for a new dawn of a regenerated nation where peace, justice, rule of law, security, prosperity and happiness of citizens shall reign.