Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, told Saturday Tribune that the theme of the President’s speeches at the meetings has been unity and peace which he described as crucial at this critical period in the development of the country.
He was answering questions from Saturday Tribune against the background of meetings between the President and leaders of the two major political parties in the country – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – and the 36 state governors.
President Buhari, on Friday, met with leaders of the opposition PDP together with their APC counterparts at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting, which was the first of such since his assumption of office, was couched as a welcome visit for the President following his recent return from the United Kingdom after about 105 days away on medical vacation.
Buhari, in his address, stressed the imperative of a viable opposition in a democracy, noting that it was not hostility, enmity or antagonism.
“Multi-party democracy is a very tried and tested form of government. Opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible,” he said.
The president thanked the party leaders for taking out time from their busy schedules to welcome him back home, observing that the meeting signified national unity.
“This visit signifies the unity of Nigeria. It is not a party occasion. It is not a political gathering. It is a symbol of our national unity. It is also an expression of the maturity of our democracy,” he stated.
He expressed delight in seeing the politicians together and urged them to convey his good wishes to their members.
“I am very pleased to see you assembled here all shades of opinion in Nigeria. Please convey to our countrymen and women in your respective states my deep gratitude to all those who prayed for my recovery.
“I am imploring all Nigerians to continue praying for peace and prosperity in Nigeria,” he added.
In his address at the occasion, the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said the party had continued to pray for Buhari’s good health when he was away, saying that now that he has recovered, the opposition would give him a run for his money.
“In any case, this PDP firmly believes that opposition is no madness; it will therefore never wish ill of anybody, let alone the person saddled with the responsibility of leading our country.
“Mr President, you will agree with me that the PDP has more than a fair knowledge and experience of the weight of that responsibility.
“Mr President, having welcomed you back and prayed for you, let me seize this opportunity to assure you, and through you, the entire country, that the PDP having assumed the leadership of the opposition in this country, is poised to play that role energetically, vibrantly, but very decently and with all sense of responsibility.
“This we shall do by giving you a good run for your money and constantly keeping you on your toes as we all strive to make this country better,” Makarfi said.
While pledging the opposition’s support for government’s fight against terrorism, herdsmen/farmers clashes, among others, Makarfi said such vices had slowed down the nation’s wheels of progress.
On the war against corruption, the PDP boss offered the party’s cooperation but admonished the government to grant anti-corruption agencies the needed independence and be sure to obey judicial pronouncements.
Makarfi stated: “We also offer our support for the fight against corruption and appeal that the institutions saddled with this onerous task be given a necessary encouragement and independence to do the right thing.
“This will help in further strengthening our institutions and insulating them from undue political interferences. It will also help give them a more credible outlook in the eyes of the public
“There is no way we can have a respectable voice in the comity of civilised nations until we rebuild our institutions and imbue them with the necessary independence and confidence that will improve both their visage and standing with the citizenry.
“The government should lead the charge in this regard by, especially, exhibiting greater respect to judicial pronouncements as well as respecting the fundamental rights of all Nigerians.
“The PDP as a great believer in the unity of this country will also partner with the government in any way(s) that will strengthen our historic bond and rebuild bridges of our beautiful relationships that seem to be cracking at the moment.”
In his remark, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, praised the idea behind the meeting, saying that it was an indication that Buhari was president of all.
President meets 36 govs
President Buhari, also on Friday, met with governors of the 36 states of the federation.
The president maintained that while he was away, he closely monitored events, particularly in the states and was happy with the way the governors tackled the issue of inadequate food production as high food import was taking its toll on the naira.
Buhari explained that the devaluation of the naira was not his government’s making, noting that even though it might not be a comfortable development, there was nothing that could be done about it.
He said: “I had so much time to watch television. I heard so much information about the states. I am very pleased with the states, you are all doing your best and it is proving to be good enough on agriculture and solid minerals. You are succeeding in agriculture because I think people cannot afford foreign food.
“The devaluation of the Naira is not my making; it may not favour us but it is something we cannot change. Some people were asking me if we should be more strict on the border, but I want to thank God this year is better than what it used to be.”
The president mocked the ResumeOrResign group who protested against his presence in the U.K.
He said now that he was back to the country, members of the group especially those who do not pay taxes to the U.K. government should consider returning home or get caught by the implications of Brexit.
Brexit is the term for the United Kingdom’s intended withdrawal from the European Union (E.U.).
He advised them to consider the implications and make plans to return home.
According to him, those that have plans to sell their properties should consider bringing some home to help the Nigerian economy.
Buhari said: “I’m very happy with the national prayers it was very well covered and reported, across religions and ethnicity, people were praying. In fact some groups in London came and sang the national anthem and asked that I should go back home, indeed I have come back home.
“I hope those who went there are not stuck there, they should come back and join us, those that are stuck there with the Brexit, I hope they have weighed the implications that it won’t affect them, including those that have properties there, those who are not paying tax here. I hope when they sell their properties there they will bring some of the money here. We need it very badly here.”
The President said the visit of the governors has boosted his morale, adding: “I thank you very much. My morale have been raised greatly by the love shown to me and the security of the country.”
He told the governors that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo applied his intellect to administer the country commendably prompting him to invite Osinbajo to London to personally thank him.
“The efforts by the vice president are commendable. He used his intellect to run all over the place. I was seeing him 24 hours on NTA. I congratulate him. I allowed him to come and see me to thank him personally for what he has done,” Buhari explained.
Osinbajo on July 11 made a 24 hours return trip to meet President Buhari who was on medical vacation at Abuja House in London.
The Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, in his remarks observed that the Buhari administration has enabled state governments that hitherto could not pay workers salaries to meet up with their obligations.
He added that the bailouts and the refund of the Paris Club funds authorized by the president have helped to cushion the effects of recession in the states.
Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, expressed happiness with the improvement of Buhari’s health.
He said: “Our President went to take care of his heath and now he is back healthy and healthier than before. We are here to appreciate him. We thank almighty God that he is back safely.
“We equally thank his able lieutenant, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who held the country firm in his absence. That is the demonstration of team work.
“It has equally shown that Nigerians selected the best and elected the best in 2015 general election and today Nigeria is better for it.
“He is back we are celebrating life. We are celebrating health.”
In his remarks to State House correspondents later, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state, said governors were happy about the president’s return.
He said: “You can see some level of enthusiasm and happiness on the faces of all the governors. That is to say all of us were anxiously waiting for the return of our dear President.
“You saw it today, the President went around to greet all of us and you can see he has come back more healthier than when he left.
“Our prayer is that God will continue to guide Mr President and also the challenges of governance in Nigeria, he will give him that good strength and good heath to solve the problems of the nation.
“With him back, everything is taking shape again. This is not to say the acting president was not doing well.
“Our Acting President, we must commend him. In the absence of the president, there was not vacuum because the acting president filled in the gap and did his best up to this moment and showed absolute loyalty both to the nation and Mr President.”