Abuja — It was convivial mood all round yesterday at Aso Rock Villa, as President Muhammadu Buhari held a valedictory, farewell session for his cabinet members, with all the ministers in attendance.
The ministers and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, congratulated Buhari and expressed gratitude that it had been a privilege to have worked with him and wished well in his second term in office.
Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami thanked the President for finding him worthy to serve. He said it was an opportunity that exposed him to how he could build many things as a leader for national development, adding, "You have built in us, me in particular, integrity.
"The relationship that I have enjoyed with my colleagues has shown that unity is what keeps people going and not the other way round. The confidence reposed in me to serve the nation was not taken for granted."
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, also thanked the president for the opportunity to serve the country.
He recalled the helicopter crash involving the vice president, the death of Ocholi, the recession in the early part of the administration and the 2019 election. He said despite these, the president's character saw them (the administration) through.
"Where we failed we apologized and where we did well we thank you so much for the opportunity. I believe that as we enter the next level, I pray that you and your new cabinet will take Nigeria to the next level."
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Minister of National Planning, Senator Udoma Ud o Udoma, also commended Buhari for the opportunity, noting, "You appointed me when I did not know you well. Having worked with you for three and a half years I know your integrity. You used every opportunity to make us know that you value our contributions."
He also thanked the Vice President for the support and expressed gladness for the teamwork with the president. To his colleagues, he said they became friends even when they started without knowing each other and ended up as a team, adding, "It has not been an easy task but we have worked hard" and expressed happiness with the GDP report, saying, "it is the best since 2015."
He asked for forgiveness from colleagues whom he might have offended in the course of his duty and prayed for God's blessings for everyone and the nation.
Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, also thanked the president for the opportunity. He said one third of the local governments in Borno were under the control of Boko Haram but that today all have been taken by the Nigerian military. He saidthat Mr. President's integrity helped immensely with the various financial interventions.
He, however, said the country still faced a lot of challenges, especially in the Northwest and the Northeast.
Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, commended Buhari for the appointment, saying as a journalist, he was always critical of government. He said the president had never asked him for any favour, not even a contract. He, however, noted that the development of human capital is critical and asked government to increase funding of the education sector.
Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said it was a great privilege to have served in the council. She thanked the president and vice president, chief of staff and her colleagues. She said she was proud to have worked closely with the vice president who was also source of inspiration. She said she was anxious during the election period but thanked God it was over and that Mr. President got re-elected.
She said President Buhari has done well in stabilizing the economy, noting that the social investment programme is one of the key programmes that should be sustained.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Oyeama, said it was a rare privilege to serve despite the fact that he didn't know Buhari before. He recounted the generous and disciplined acts of the president at various fora.
"I have learnt so much from you," he said. "It has been a real joy working with this wonderful cabinet."
He also thanked the vice president and chief of staff and prayed for God's guidance and protection for the president, adding, "Nigeria is respected around the world because of your integrity."
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, also thank God for the privilege to have served, saying, "We used your name internationally and it opened doors for us" and also appreciated the VP and the chief of staff, the media and the Villa staff. He prayed for God's guidance in the second term.
Also, Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalama, started by saying, "Think of what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you," and said Buhari had always made himself available whenever they wanted to see him. He said under his leadership they had laid a good foundation for Nigeria in terms of "food security, securing our borders and fighting corruption are the right things to do."
He concluded by thanking his colleagues and prayed that under Buhari's leadership Nigeria would see good things ahead.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said it was a great privilege for anyone to serve his or her country, adding, "I must say that we have learnt a lot under your leadership, Mr. President."
He recalled that Buhari only asked him once for a favour when he (Buhari) called him to accompany him to Lagos. The minister said he had never seen such humility. He also thanked the media for their support.
Minister of Interior, Gen Abdulrahman Danbazzau, expressed gratitude to the president for the privilege, saying it took confidence for the president to appoint one into such position. He prayed God to guide and protect the president as he begins the second term. He also prayed God to restore security to Nigeria.
Minister Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, thanked the president and the Vice President Osinbajo, pointing out that having been chief executive of a state, "when I came to the Federal I realised it was a new school."
He said the president had never interfered in their jobs, saying that he did when he was a governor.
He noted, "The N30,000 minimum wage is a good gesture" and commended the president, the VP and the SGF. Comically, however, Ngige commended Buhari for appointing short men into his cabinet, saying the VP is their chairman, Adams Oshiomhole their deputy, el-Rufai their Secretary while he is the provost!
Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who thanked the president for the opportunity, said he had never met him before. He said it had been a rare privilege working with Mr. President. He said the lesson has been a great one, adding, "Audacity and integrity are some of the key qualities" he learnt from the president. He noted that in the last four years the administration was able to stop pipeline vandalism in the oil-producing region.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the president and his vice provided the inspiration and leadership by example while the Minister of Science and Development, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, highlighted the successes achieved and wished the president and vice a successful second tenure.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, recalled that he met the president first in 2011, saying, "Let me thank you for not converting me to Islam". He recounted how, when he entered Christ the King Catholic, Church, he was chased out for supporting a man that want to change Nigeria to Islam.
He thanked his colleagues and every member of the council. He wished President Buhari well in his second term.
Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, thanked the President for the privilege, and recalled that he started the struggle with the president in 2002 but the president chose him amongst several others.
Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Abubakar, who spoke last and gave thanks to God for seeing the cabinet members thus far. She thanked the president and his vice for the opportunity. She prayed for God's guidance, strength and focus for Buhari to take Nigeria to the promise land.
She, however, reminded the president on the need to give woman 50 per cent appointment in his cabinet in the second term.
In his comments, Vice President Osinbajo, who thanked God and the president for the opportunity. He also appreciated President Buhari for the confidence reposed in him. He recalled that the president assured him that he would not revert any decision taken while he (the Vice President) acted as President.
Injecting some humour, Osinbajo said the president had in one of their sessions asked him to look out for cabinet members who were fond of going out during FEC meetings. Further in a lighter mood, he said he emerged the chairman of the association of short people because he is the tallest amongst them all.