President Muhammadu Buhari has relieved the moment former president Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat after the March 28, 2015 presidential election, describing it as shocking.
Buhari who hosted State House correspondents to lunch, as part of activities to mark his one year in office, said there was dead silence from his end when he received the call because he was not expecting it.
Jonathan had called Buhari to concede defeat even before the Independent National Commission (INEC) announced the final result on March 31st.
Buhari described Jonathan’s action as generous and gracious, saying his good intentions were rubbished by his ministers who refused to work with the transition committee in preparing the handover notes, blaming part of the teething problems the administration had in kick-starting the government to that non-cooperation.
“This is where I pay my respect to former president Goodluck Jonathan. This is actually privileged information for you (the press). He called me at a quarter past five in the evening. He said, ‘Good evening, Your Excellency, Sir’, and I said, ‘Good evening Your Excellency’. He said, ‘I have called to congratulate you that I have conceded defeat.’
Of course, there was dead silence on my end because I did not expect it. I was shocked. I did not expect it because after 16 years in government, the man was a deputy governor, a governor, a vice president and was president for six years. For him to have conceded defeat even before the result was announced by INEC, I think it was quite generous and gracious of him. Abdulsalam (Gen Abubakar) recognized the generosity of Jonathan to concede defeat and said we should go and thank him immediately and that was the first time I came here,” he said.
Former president Jonathan said that he took the decision to concede defeat because the consequences of not doing so would have been dire not only for Nigeria, but also for Africa.
Buhari described the last one year of his administration as tumultuous for everyone in the Presidential Villa, saying that watching from outside, he underrated the influence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 years.
He also described as shocking, that $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency was shared into personal pockets without any conscience, saying this is why his administration is seeking international cooperation to repatriate (the monies stashed away in foreign banks) and to avoid loopholes in prosecuting those found wanting so as not to fall victim to technicalities.
President Buhari stated that the change mantra has gone through hell in the first year of his administration.
“I will talk about my experience here in Aso Villa. I underrated the influence of the PDP for 16 years watching from outside. The experience of the staff, their commitment and zeal is different from what it is now compared to when I was in government. Sixteen years of development in the life of a developing nation is a long time.
“When we came, there were 42 ministries; we cut it to 24. We had to do it on our own because we found out that government could not continue with 42 ministers and the paraphernalia of office. So, we cut it down to 24.
“We had to cut down half the number of permanent secretaries and then do some cross postings. The permanent secretaries that were there for the past five, seven, 15 years the only thing that they know is how things were done in the previous years. Whatever we did in the campaign, in fact, we were saying rubbish and that made it very difficult for us.
“Things were even more difficult during the budget which you all know about. For somebody like me, for the first time I heard what is called ‘padding.’ I think we will recover by the fourth quarter of the year, what padding means especially for ministers who had to implement what padding contains. There was very serious development which I never knew about.
“So really it was a nasty experience for us. It was also a nasty experience for some of the ministers who were never in government, for them to sit down day and night to work. Some of them literarily lost weight because they were sleeping less and eating less; working on every kobo to be spent. Because we became a mono-economy of oil rich Nigeria, everybody relied on oil and forgot about solid minerals, agriculture, making and exploring things.
“We recently just found out that we are poor because we don’t have anything to fall back to. This is the condition we found ourselves and this change mantra had to go through hell up till yesterday.
“And for you to talk to whoever came to visit us throughout that year, I wonder how each of your diaries would be, because people were expecting this change mantra in their own way. How do you define change? Luckily our party identified three major items: security, economy and corruption.”
The president said one of the men he pities is Lai Mohammed, who struggles everyday “on TV explaining our performance or lack of it.”
He also wondered how some Nigerians betrayed the trust of the people by diverting $2.1 billion meant for fighting insurgency.
“People were trusted and the most recent one which we haven’t recovered from is the $2.1billion dollars. It was given by the government then to the military to buy hardware to fight the insurgency which had taken over part of the country and they just sat just the way you are sitting now and shared the money into their own account.
“They didn’t even bother. So we are still trying to get the cooperation of the international community and so on and we have to do it with a lot of respect to the judiciary.
“We can’t go out and talk too much, we have to allow the judiciary to do their work. We gave them the facts, the names, countries, bank accounts. If you talk too much technicalities will come in, then we will realize less than what we want to realize.
“So, please when next you want to interrogate our visitors try and do some research so that when they are coming next time, they will do research themselves,” he said. -The Sun