As President Muhammadu Buhari continues to mark his one-year in office, he has opened up on how shocked he was when former president Goodluck Jonathan made that call to him that prevented the country from chaos and reported war.
Speaking on Monday at the Presidential Banquet Hall, Aso Villa, Abuja, when he hosted the State House Press Corps to a lunch as part of activities marking this year’s democracy day, President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that he was shocked when former president Goodluck Jonathan called him to concede defeat while votes were still being counted during the 2015 election.
“When he made that famous call at 4:45 pm and said ‘Good evening Mr. President, I have called to congratulate you and I concede defeat’, I was silent for quite a while because I was surprised and he said ‘did you hear me?,” the president said.
The president said he was shocked because for someone who was a deputy governor, a governor, a vice president and a president for six years to concede that easily showed Mr. Jonathan’s ‘great sense of patriotism’.
President Buhari also said another former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, advised him to visit Goodluck Jonathan for his ‘statesmanship and decision to save the Nigerian state’, adding that Jonathan belonged to a party that was at the helms of affairs for 16 years, and for him to still go ahead and concede, ‘was definitely not an easy decision’.
The president revealed that during the visit to thank Goodluck Jonathan, General Abdulsalami again advised that in order to smoothen the transition process, he (Buhari) should set up a committee to meet with the outgoing ministers of Jonathan to begin the process of handing over at that level.
“Jonathan sincerely agreed to the suggestion and I got one of the best bureaucrats, in the person of Ahmed Joda, and told him to look round the country and come up with a team for the task.
”However, when Jonathan told his government this is what I have decided, they simply refused and said how can you hand over to Buhari when he has not been sworn in. That was the end of that good intention,” Buhari said.
The president said when he assumed office he trimmed down the number of ministries from 42 to 24, while many permanent secretaries were also dropped for one reason or the other, adding that his government was still shocked when it realized that ‘those below were still living in the past’ which, he said led to the infamous ‘budget padding.’
“The budget padding was our nasty experience, for me and many ministers who were not in government. We had to work day and night to correct the ills and I noticed that some of them were actually losing weight,” he said.