|Olalekan Adetayo writes|
President Muhammadu Buhari was on May 29, 2015 inaugurated the fifth elected President of Nigeria. By tomorrow, it will be exactly one year after that event.
The focus of this piece this week is not to list those electoral promises that Buhari and his All Progressives Congress had fulfilled and the ones they have failed to do. Rather, my intention is to highlight a few unique things that have happened in the Villa during this period.
President’s stranded guests. A few minutes after Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo took their oaths of office, they and some dignitaries, including world leaders, moved into the Presidential Banquet Hall inside the Villa for lunch.
That day was Friday. No sooner had they settled down inside the venue than Buhari left. It was later discovered that he left the venue to attend Jumat service at the National Mosque. Despite all efforts of the compere to apply some delay tactics so that the President could still join his guests, the Daura-born retired general did not come back. At last, Osinbajo was asked to move the vote of thanks on behalf of the President, which he did.
It was the Vice-President who also took over the responsibility of seeing the world leaders off to their cars one after the other according to protocol. That action of the President attracted comments both in support and against him. Some believed he did the right thing by placing God above men while some held the view that his action was against protocol, especially since world leaders were involved.
Shunning the Villa for weeks. On Monday, June 1, 2015, many Villa workers who were already aware of Buhari’s no-nonsense posture resumed very early at work. Many did so out of the belief that since that day would be the first working day after his inauguration, the President might want to tour some offices in order to familiarise himself with his new environment.
That however did not take place. As a matter of fact, Buhari did not enter the seat of power again until about three weeks later. He decided to be operating from his private residence and the Defence House, the official residence of the President-elect located in Maitama.
That made covering of the President’s activities very tedious for State House correspondents who were left with no other option but to be perching under trees while it lasted. They were left at the mercy of harsh weather such as rainfall and scorching sunshine. They had no choice but to endure.
At last, reprieve came the way of the reporters on Monday, June 22, 2015 when Buhari finally resumed in his office inside the Villa. He had relocated to the official residence of the President inside the Villa on the evening of Sunday, June 21, 2015 on his return from his private visit to Kaduna State. He joined his wife, Aisha, and other family members who had relocated to the residence on Friday, June 19, 2015 when he was still away.
Buhari as reporters’ guest. Shortly after resuming in his office on Monday, Buhari visited State House correspondents inside the Council Chambers’ Briefing Room which has been serving as their operational base. He was accompanied by his two spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, as well as some other top aides. He made a brief remark and promised that he would remain brief for as long as he would be in office. He did not leave the venue until he shook hands with all the reporters who took turn to carry out self-introduction.
Ex-President’s fading legacies. Suddenly, the Ijaw traditional dress which was popular among workers and Villa guests during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan gave way to babariga. Almost everybody started looking like Northerners.
Muslims who before then were not known to be taking part in prayers during working hours suddenly became converted. Some others who had been praying in the two other mosques located inside the Villa changed loyalty and started joining the congregation at a mosque close to the President’s office where Buhari always prays.
In contrast, the population of the Aso Villa Chapel where Jonathan and his family were worshipping before his exit started plummeting. There was even a time there were hues and cries about an alleged plan to close down the place of worship allegedly due to its proximity to the President’s residence.
Taking Jumat service closer. After attending about one or two Jumat services outside the Villa, Buhari decided that he would no longer be attending the service at the National Mosque. His handlers issued a statement to the effect that he was not comfortable with the hardship Abuja residents were being made to endure every Friday due to his movements.
So the President decided that he would be observing Jumat services in the mosque close to his office. That again attracted the Muslim faithful. Apart from Villa workers, Muslims started coming from outside to join in the Friday prayers in the seat of power. The size of the congregation started increasing.
It got to a point that the situation was fast becoming a security threat. A decision was quickly taken that only worshippers with Villa identification tags should be allowed access to the praying arena. There are however some big shots who still join the President regularly for the Friday prayers till date. One of them is the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
A show of force. There was a show of supremacy among security agencies in the early part of this administration when Buhari showed his preference for military men as his body guards as against men of the Department of State Services that had been carrying out the duty for successive former Presidents. The crisis cost some security aides, including his former Chief Security Officer, their jobs.
Ministers and related matters. For months, Buhari did not appoint ministers. He however made permanent secretaries to take turn to brief him on the real situation of things in their ministries apart from what were contained in the handover note he received from Jonathan. He later relieved some of them of their positions on the eve of the day he inaugurated his ministers while he appointed some new ones to take over from them.
The meetings of the Federal Executive Council have been irregular under this dispensation. Before his assumption of office, the meetings were holding every Wednesday except when it had to be cancelled for one reason or the other. When he started, the meeting did not have actual day. But as time went on, they settled for the same Wednesday. But it has not been regular.
One thing you cannot take away from Buhari is his respect for time. He has made it a point of duty to always start his meetings or any programme for that matter on time. In fact, there was a time he started a meeting of the FEC about 10 minutes before schedule!
Unlike what was obtainable in the past, the President has not been holding too many late night meetings. Again, all his meetings have been brief like he promised. Let us take a break here. Enjoy your weekend.