• No law is breached, presidency insists
• ‘Cabal has captured Aso Rock’
• Nigeria needs a younger leader in 2019, says speaker at Chatham House
Two months after he returned from his medical sojourn in London, United Kingdom (UK) for an undisclosed ailment, President Muhammadu Buhari still operates from his official residence located in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president had, two days after returning from the medical vacation which spanned 103 days, written to the National Assembly, in line with constitutional provisions, intimating the parliament of his return to the country and resumption of office in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The letter dated August 21, 2017 stated in part: “In compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I write to intimate that I have resumed my functions as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, 21st August, 2017, after my medical follow-up in the United Kingdom.”
But barely settling down to take charge of activities of state, news broke that the president would temporarily operate from his official residence located in the villa due to the renovation of his main office. A presidency source had told The Guardian that construction giant, Julius Berger, had already begun the renovation.
Also confirming the development, Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, explained through his twitter handle@BashirAhmaad why Buhari was working from home. “Some renovations are ongoing at the office. He’ll be back to the main office after the work,” he twitted.
It was learnt that the renovation was a result of the damage rodents had caused after they invaded Buhari’s office.
A foreign news agency quoted the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, as saying that while President Buhari was away on the medical follow-up, rats had a field day with the furniture, cables and air-conditioning units in his office.
“He has been using the residential office. What is important is that the job gets done. Whether he does it from his bedroom or his sitting room or his anteroom, it does not matter. Let the job be done. And the job will be done,” he said.
However, two months after, the president still shuttles between the office in his official residence and the new banquet hall located beside the main office, where he occasionally receives visitors.
How long the renovation would last has not been disclosed by the presidency.
A text message sent to the two presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, for the presidency’s reaction to the matter was not immediately responded to. “Good evening sir. In August, we were told the president would be operating from his official residence due to renovation being done in his office by Julius Berger. The Guardian would appreciate a confirmation of when the president will start to work from his main office. Thank you sir. Regards,” The Guardian wrote in the text message.
But later in the night Shehu, responded this way: “No section of the law or constitution is breached. The entire presidential complex is both office and home to the president. He is right to use any part as his office so long as the job gets done.”
Meanwhile, the battle for the country’s topmost job in 2019, assumed a different narrative at the Chatham House – Royal Institute of International Affairs – yesterday afternoon during the third series of the six-part “Next Generation Nigeria” initiative of the world renowned institute.
At the event, the guest speaker, Samson Itodo, indirectly threw a spanner in the wheel of those campaigning for President Buhari to seek a second term on the platform of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.
Itodo, who is the Head of Research, Policy and Advocacy, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) in Abuja, advised that the president should not bother throwing his hat in the ring again by reason of his age and health, for which he famously had two medical vacations of more than 100 days in London between March and August this year.
“The type of leadership we have in the country today is not the type we need if we want to move from being a developing nation to a developed nation,” he said, fielding questions from the audience.
Condemning the inertia that trailed the early part of the Buhari administration, Itodo added that the president was probably not ready for office after being sworn in on May 29, 2015. He argued that Nigeria did “not need a president who did not constitute his cabinet in six months” to come back for another term in 2019.
According to him, while Buhari may have good intentions for the country, there is a cabal running the presidency against his wishes. “Aso Rock is captured, and the cabal is having a field day. And though the president means well for the country, he has his health challenges, and the circumstances around him mean we need a younger president in 2019.”
Itodo, who spoke on “Next Generation Nigeria: Youth, Opportunity and Governance for the Future”, also said that the country was not ready for the next general elections. “We are not ready for 2019 because many electoral commission boards are not properly constituted.”
He called for young people to show more interest in politics and for them to be given opportunities. “Democracy is about inclusion, especially for the youths and women. Restructuring will make no sense to the youths of Nigeria if it does not put people at the centre of governance, especially young people,” he said.
The Chatham House Next Generation Nigeria will feature three more speakers, having already hosted Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo in the opening two rounds of the six-part series.