President Muhammadu Buhari has hinted of his plans to drop some ministers and expand the cabinet to bring in fresh hands, as well as accommodate more members of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He made the disclosure to members of the APC National Executive Committee (NEC), which met at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday.
Addressing the party leaders, Buhari said that he would soon shake up the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and promised to bring in more party supporters into his administration.
The President has been under attack over the composition of FEC members with APC stakeholders accusing him of
neglecting them in his appointments.
The most recent attack came last week from the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), who alleged that the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members hold 50 percent of the President’s appointments.
Buhari’s speech at the NEC meeting was however not read before the media as journalists were asked to leave the hall by the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The President in the speech later made available to newsmen, said: “On the other hand, I am keenly aware that our supporters are very eager for these appointments to be announced. By the grace of God these appointments will be announced soon, especially now that the economy is improving, we will have the resources to cater for the appointees.
“By the same token, the compressed Federal Executive Council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at the federal level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government,” he said.
The APC NEC meeting was attended by 21 governors, members of National Assembly led by the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, state party chairmen and members of the NEC.
However, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was absent, but sources close to him said the he was out of the country.
Among the governors present at the gathering were Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Jibrilla Bindo (Adamawa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna).
Others were Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo).
The senators included the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senate Minority Whip, Francis Alimikhena, Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Binta Garba, Andy Uba, Magnus Abbe, Dino Melaye, Ahmed Sani Yerima, Gbenga Ashafa and Barnabas Gemade.
From the Lower House were the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Majority Whip, and Hon. Ado Dogowa.
There were also the pioneer APC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, and Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matter, Babafemi Ojodu.
The President also regretted the delay in reconstituting boards of federal parastatals, pointing out that it was due to efforts to get the balance right and ensure that all parts of the country were represented.
Buhari said: “Let me on a personal note thank you all for your prayers and good wishes, which the Almighty Allah answered in the restoration of my health. I wish to thank all party leaders for helping to keep the government running smoothly during my prolonged absence.
“I would like to start by commending our party leadership chaired by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. The chairman and I worked harmoniously during 1984-85 in a previous government. Happily, circumstances have brought us again to positions of leadership in the country.
“I must also commend the leadership of the National Assembly led by Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Hon. Speaker Yakubu Dogara. I must place on record the cooperation and understanding of the National Assembly, including some non-APC members who rose above petty party interests and acted in the national interest.
“My deep thanks also go to our state governors who faced stiff challenges, especially their determination to maintain unity and tolerance among our communities. This is in the face of unnecessary politically-motivated strife and violence. Credit should go to APC governors for extending their hand of fellowship to their colleagues from other parties,” he said.
According to him: “Nigeria’s prestige has gone up, Nigeria is now credit worthy, a clear testimony of which was the over-subscription of the Euro-Bond by four times. Nevertheless, we are not resting on our achievements. I am quite aware of the challenges before us.”
Before the meeting, a mild drama played out at the entrance to the APC Secretariat as the presidential guards insisted that the governors will be dropped at the gate, while they walk into the office.
Security aides attached to Governor Yahaya Bello who was the first to arrive in the secretariat engaged in a shouting match which almost resulted into fisticuffs with the guards.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari, was furious that his colleagues were asked to walk into the secretariat, insisting that they be allowed to be driven in, while the cars are taken out later, but the head of the security team told him that “it will not work that way.”