President Muhammadu yesterday left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on a 10-day private visit during which period, credible sources told the Daily Trust, the president may likely decide on cabinet positions for his second term.
Daily Trust had last month exclusively reported that the president would compile his ministerial list during his vacation abroad.
Buhari, who left for UK after a working visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, would be inaugurated for his second term on May 29, 2019.
He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5, 2019," his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in a terse statement yesterday.
Sources said there were indications that many serving ministers may not make the list for reasons ranging from political to governance and performance.
The president would also likely expand his cabinet in line with the promise he made to members and officials of his political party the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Buhari had in October 2017, during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC, disclosed his intention to expand his cabinet.
"Apart from appointing one minister from each of the 36 states as enshrined in the constitution, the president would also pick one person from each of the six geo-political zones in the country," one of the sources said.
The source added that more ministries would be created and others splitted in line with the exigencies of the moment.
The plan in the new cabinet, it was learnt, would also enable the president accommodate some governors who lost their second term bids and senior party faithful who couldn't secure seats in the National Assembly.
However, another source said the president is keeping the issue of who will be in his cabinet close to his chest just like he did in 2015.
"What I can tell you is that many of the current ministers may not be considered in the next cabinet. We are expecting a massive cabinet change," he said.
In a May 2015 interview with Daily Trust, ahead of his swearing-in, Buhari was asked about his cabinet, he said, "I have not put anything on paper, so nobody has seen it and I haven't discussed it with anybody. I am just keeping it close to my chest."
It's strictly an internal affair - APC
When contacted on whether the president had confided in the party, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the issue of the composition of the next cabinet of President Buhari was being treated "strictly as an internal affair."
Issa-Onilu, during a phone interview with Daily Trust, said the party would not only refuse to discuss the issue on the pages of newspapers but also keep the list of the next set of ministers confidential.
Asked whether the APC would get involved in the selection of the next cabinet, he said, "That is strictly internal affairs of the party I will not want to bring to the pages of newspapers."
When reminded that the party spoke on the coming election of leadership of the ninth National Assembly, the APC spokesman said, "Yes, because they are two different issues. How we handle this, we want to keep it as strictly an internal affair of the party."
However, another source in the party, who does not want to be named, said there was a clear departure from what happened in 2015.
"There are two scenarios here: In 2015, the party did not play any role but this time around there is a clear departure, and this does not mean that the party leadership is usurping the powers of the president; he is fully in charge and it is his prerogative to select the people he wants to work with," the source said.
"But I can assure you that there are informal consultations; there was no any special committee set up by the president or the party to say Mr A should make the cabinet or Mr B should not... There is nowhere you can have this under presidential system.
"This said, I want to tell you that the president knows capable hands in each of the 36 states of the federation and he is a party man; he knows those who sacrificed for the party; he knows those who work with governors coming back for a second term and those newly elected in various states and he consistently said those who worked for the party would be rewarded this time around.
"He also knows the technocrats and professionals that we have in the country who would add value to the system... All these factors would come to play this time around for the progress of the country and stability of the ruling party," he said.
FEC holds valedictory session May 22
Meanwhile, a valedictory session of the federal cabinet will hold on May 22, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said yesterday.
The session will hold a week before President Buhari will be sworn in for his second term, Daily Trust reports.
Mohammed, who spoke to State House Reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said "The cabinet is still intact. We are going to have the valedictory service on 22nd of May. So, you will still see more of my face," he said.
The minister later clarified in a statement that the fact that the valedictory session will be held on May 22 does not mean that the cabinet would be dissolved on the same day.
He said it is the prerogative of the president to dissolve the cabinet anytime he chooses.
"It is therefore inaccurate to extrapolate from my statement - that the FEC valedictory session will hold on 22 May - to say that the president will dissolve the cabinet on the same day. They do not mean the same thing," the minister said in the statement signed by his Special Adviser, Segun Adeyemi.
Daily Trust reports that the directive by President Buhari, last week, for a comprehensive "status reports on policies, programs and projects" from cabinet members on their respective ministries, departments and agencies, there had been speculation of imminent cabinet dissolution.
The deadline for the submission of the report to the Presidential Audit Committee in the office of the Vice President was Wednesday.
A circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, also requested members of the Federal Executive Council to "ensure that all outstanding memoranda they intend to present to the Federal Executive Council are submitted to the Cabinet Affairs Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, not later than Tuesday, 30th April, 2019."
The circular also informed members that the "9th and 10th meetings of the Council have been rescheduled to yesterday and Thursday, 2nd May, 2019 respectively" in view of the Easter break and May Day celebrations.
Buhari's many trips to UK
Our correspondent reports that with this visit, the president had spent 227 days out of his four years tenure in the UK. Previously, the president had visited Britain for medical reasons.
The president was in the UK between February 5 and 10 in 2016. In May of the same year, he was there for an Anti- corruption summit. Also, in 2016, the president was in the UK for treatment of an ear infection.
In 2017, the president was there from January 19 to March 10 on medical leave. Daily Trust reports that he handed over the affairs of the country to Osinbajo, who acted throughout the period. Two months after he returned to the country, he went back and spent 104 days, from May 8 to August 19.
President Buhari was in the UK in 2018 from April 9 to 21 for his annual leave. In May, he had a technical stopover there. Between May 8 and 11, the president was also there. Similarly, he was there in August 3-18.