President Muhammadu Buhari has in an exclusive interview with ARISE News, a THISDAY sister television network, said that he was in no hurry to appoint ministers to his cabinet, wondering why there was so much anxiety over the make up of his cabinet.
Buhari, who met on Sunday night with the ARISE team after the dinner held for the heads of government attending the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, among other issues, also spoke on the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate president, stating that it was up to the members of the National Assembly to sort out the division created from the election that threw up the former Kwara governor as leader of the federal legislature.
On the announcement of his cabinet, he said: “I don’t know why people are so anxious for the ministers. But eventually we will have them.
“The main reason is that I had a Transition Committee which I agreed with former President Goodluck Jonathan that the ministers of the outgone government should handover their notes and documents to this Transition Committee so that we could be prepared.
“The ministers knew that they were going but the technocrats, permanent secretaries and so on, knew they will remain. So if anything goes wrong, they will be invited to explain.
“Unfortunately, the outgone government did not cooperate, so what the committee did was to divide itself into about five sub-committees, and I (only) got the report I think three days ago.
“I was waiting for that report because I would like to know what positions there are in the government, especially in terms of the finance and petroleum portfolios. So I’m not in a hurry to get ministers,” he said.
On Saraki, Buhari was of the view that it was left to members of the National Assembly to sort out any division that has arisen following the election of the former Kwara governor as Senate president.
Drawing an analogy between the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and last week’s election in the National Assembly, he said: “For example, when we came to our party’s primary for the presidential election, four of us stood (in the primary). There was no problem because it is part of the system.
“I happened to win and they agreed there and then that we should all work for the party. But unfortunately, in this National Assembly, there was a division. So it’s up to them (legislators) to sort it out.
Throwing more light on the decision reached by his party to present consensus candidates for the leadership of the National Assembly before his inauguration, he said: “There is a system in the National Assembly – the House of Representatives and the Senate – they have got their own criteria for choosing their leaders.
“We had a meeting and I told the party’s caucus that I’m not going to interfere, because constitutionally, I have (sic) no role as president-elect to tell the party who to recommend or put (forward) as a candidate.
“The party didn’t want to present two candidates because if they presented two candidates, what we heard occurred (would have) eventually happened.”
Alluding to the deal struck by Saraki and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (APC), Buhari observed that “one of the candidates went and got the support of the former ruling party, and he divided our party”.
That was why the party was not pleased about it. The party ran a primary and the one (Senator Ahmad Lawan) who was competing with Saraki won to become APC’s candidate in the Senate.
“But then Saraki did not agree with that; he virtually divided the party and he got the support of the PDP and he allowed a PDP senator to become his deputy.”
Buahri stated that he was interested in the outcome of the National Assembly election, because it was “purely a party affair”.
Also, Buhari yesterday ordered the release of $21 million (N4.16 billion) out of the $100 million pledged by Nigeria to the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) set up by Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger against the terror group.
Buhari, who announced the directive while chairing the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) meeting at the weekend in Johannesburg, said the order should be carried out in a week.
He said the order was in response to the decision by the leaders of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Benin in Abuja to immediately fund the MNJTF with not less than $30 million.
“The member countries of Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin met recently where far-reaching decisions were taken to immediately put into operations the Multi-national Joint Task Force.
“To this end, the summit approved the immediate provision of $30 million for the Multi-national Joint Task Force.
“Consequently, out of the pledge of $100 million which Nigeria made to the Multi-national Joint Task Force, I have directed that $21 million be released within the next one week,” Buhari informed the AU.
He said he was pleased with the support from Cameroun, Chad and Niger in the fight against the Islamist group.
“They are fighting alongside Nigeria under the umbrella of Multi-national Joint Task Force to defeat Boko Haram,” he said.
Buhari observed that the continent was inundated with crises of various forms which required urgent attention.
“We are witnesses to the rampant destruction of homes, roads, communications lines, vital infrastructure and displacement of persons not to mention the terrible loss of lives.
“This is true and I must add of the North-east of Nigeria where we are dealing with the scourge of Boko Haram.
“The Boko Haram insurgency has extended its reach to Nigeria’s neighbours but it is not necessarily limited to these immediate countries as terrorism is a global phenomenon with linkages across the globe.
“Given this dimension of global terror, it requires us to act accordingly in brotherhood and partnership to fight our common goals against agents of evil,” he said.
At the LCBC meeting of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger with Republic of Benin, Buhari had asked the leaders to articulate their needs for onward delivery to the G7 group of industrialised nations.
The request was based on the promise by the G7 to support Nigeria in the fight against terrorism when Buhari honoured the group’s invitation to attend its last summit in Germany.
Buhari, at the AU summit, also charged African leaders to strive to change the face of the continent positively, adding that it had become imperative for African leaders to do the needful in giving hope to the hopeless.
The president, however, expressed doubt over the silencing of illicit weapons in Africa by 2020 as promised by AU when it marked its 50th anniversary in 2013.
Buhari said it was his first time of attending the meeting, adding that he had the responsibility of presiding over the meeting by virtue of the fact that Nigeria was the chair for the month of June 2015.