Put national interest first, Buhari tells APC leaders
• I’ve not made demands on party, says Tinubu
• Probe looms as disquiet greets military overhaul
• Saraki clarifies tweets on NSA, Service Chiefs
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, appealed to members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to forget their differences and their personal ambitions in order for the party to achieve its campaign manifestos of addressing security, economy, employment and corruption.
“If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria,” he stated.
This is just as the leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, dismissed criticisms from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and others that the Buhari administration was too slow.
He said the government could not clean the 16-year- mess of the PDP in 30 days.
Tinubu also debunked speculations that he was at odds with the President because of his alleged demands for political patronage by the party.
Meanwhile, with Monday’s sacking of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Service Chiefs appointed by his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and their replacement with new hands , Buhari may have taken the first steps towards commencing a probe of the Nigerian military which he had promised during his campaign.
As a result, there is an unusual disquiet within security circles as guesses go on as to what nature and toll the probe would take.
Buhari who hosted the party leadership to Ramadan fast at the new Banquet Hall at the Presidential Villa, went down memory lane of how the party surmounted many obstacles to emerge strong enough to dislodge the PDP, urging members to lay aside their differences and unite for the sake of the country.
Buhari who commended Tinubu, the first chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande and the former chairman of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, for their sterling leadership roles in the consummation of the alliances that led to the birth of the APC, said it was important to reflect on their journey in order for them to appreciate how lucky they are as a political group.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the dinner, Tinubu denied media speculations that he had fallen out of favour with the President because of the later’s alleged refusal to patronize him politically, saying he was a loyal party member who believed in the philosophies and the ideals of the President.
According to him, “I have no demands of the party. If you understand what party politics and leadership is all about, it is about loyalty and commitment to the values which the leadership believes in. I believe in what the President believes in, I respect him and I stand firmly loyal to his cause.
“So you can go to any length of speculation . I have not responded to all of that because I understand the President and the President understands me clearly too.”
Explaining his apparent silence on the festering crisis trailing the June 9 election of the leadership of the National Assembly, Tinubu said: “That is an area where I am very cautious of my position and my utterances. I still want to keep my side of the interpretation or analysis to be able to achieve a resolution of the matter as quickly as possible.
“I am backing what the President has carefully enumerated and articulated to the party. The party is supreme. The party must have disciplined leadership and followers. The party’s process must be respected because that is the confidence and the trust of the people.”
“However in every environment, we should conflict, that is politics and conflict resolution mechanism would be applied to resolve all the problems so we are there. There is honour in every struggle and every competition, there must be honour in victory too.”
He said the APC was conscious of the expectations of Nigerians saying that it would not repeat the mistakes of the PDP. His words, “We are different, we cannot be PDP, we are APC, we will not repeat their mistakes. We know their mistakes, errors, we understand what Nigeria wanted and Nigerians gave this party victory because of our manifesto.
“We are pro people, we are progressives. We have had a conservative government in the last 16 years, this is a progressive party, just coming in barely 30 days. We understand the hope of Nigerians, we understand the expectations of Nigerians, we believe in that expectation and in our promise of prosperity to the people. We will not change that.”
While spokespersons for Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force have not issued a statement regarding the itinerary for handing or taking over, it is the President’s appointment of Major-Gen. Tukur Buratai from Course 29 set as the Chief of Army Staff that would set in motion the retirement of many senior officers.
Meanwhile, following criticisms of his Monday evening twitter message that: “Appointment of Service Chiefs is the exclusive function of the President. Senate can only confirm ministerial appointments”, Senate President Abubakar Olusola Saraki issued another statement to explain his earlier position.
A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, had on July 1, 2013 ruled that any appointment of Service Chiefs by the President without approval of the National Assembly is unconstitutional and illegal.
Justice Adamu Bello declared the appointments of the Service Chiefs without the National Assembly’s approval as null and void because they did not conform with Section 18 (1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20, Laws of the Federation.
A military source told The Guardian that the appointments actualise the pledge by Buhari when he was campaigning for votes to probe and restructure the military on assumption of office.
On February 1, 2015, Buhari, then a presidential candidate of the APC stated during his campaign in Bauchi, that he would probe the Nigerian military, accusing the high command of incompetence and sluggish execution of the war against Boko Haram.
He also accused them of corruption, vowing that they will account for the huge budgetary allocation to Defence and the way they procured military equipment to prosecute the war.
The statement released then by his campaign organisation read: “What he (Buhari) said at every given opportunity is that he is keenly interested in knowing what has gone wrong, if any, with the army that he knew. When he has access to them as Commander-in-Chief, he will like to hear from his commanders what the problems they are dealing with are so that they can be solved.
“In a democracy such as ours, all institutions of government, including the armed forces, are accountable. No country can achieve results in its counter-terrorism efforts when there is no transparency in the management of huge resources for the purpose. He will reinvigorate the Armed Forces and restore their rapidly- evaporating morale,” the statement had concluded.
The appointment of Buratai marks the first time since the return of democracy that such a large number of Courses will have to go to enable the President pick his choice, Chief of Army Staff.
For example, Lt.-Gen Victor Malu, who served from May 1999 to April 2001, was of Course 3 while Gen. Alexander Ogomudia, who succeeded him from April 2001 to June 2003, was Course 7. Similarly, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (2003 to 2006) was Course 9 while the late Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi (June 2006 – May 2007) was Course 12. Late Lt.-Gen Luka Yusuf (June 2007 to August 2008) was Course 14. Lt.-Gen Abdulrahman Dambazzau (2008 to 2010) was of the 17 Regular Course. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (2010 to 2014) was Course 18 while Gen. Minimah, who was appointed on January 2015 is Course 25.
The planned probe of the military is also in line with the advice of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who in a letter dated March 31, 2015, told Buhari: “With so much harm already done to many national institutions including the military, which proudly nurtured you and me, you will have a lot to do on institution reform.”
Similarly, a critic of the Jonathan administration and Second Republic Federal lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed also advised that “given what we have seen in the military lately, Buhari must move immediately to clear the armed forces of politicians and ensure that only dedicated officers and men, who are willing to work for the country, are allowed in the system.”
Another military source said for the fight against insurgents to be intensified, the need to change the leadership of the military is imperative because “the chiefs knew they were going to be relieved of their appointments, so that focused commitment was no more there, even though they were allowed to carry on for 43 days into the new administration.”
The case, instituted by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had challenged the practice of appointing military chiefs by the President without seeking the approval of the National Assembly.
Keyamo had argued in court that the appointments of Service Chiefs, which are political appointments, could not be different from other political appointments that require the confirmation of the National Assembly such as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, ministers, and so on.
Based on that judgment, which has not been appealed till date, Jonathan sought and got the approval of the National Assembly in January 2014 when he appointed Alex Badeh as the Chief of Defence Staff, Kenneth Minimah as the Chief of Army Staff, Usman Jibrin as the Chief of Naval Staff and Adesola Nunayon Amosu as the Chief of Air Staff.
In a statement issued by the Media Office of the Senate President in Abuja yesterday, it was made clear that Saraki’s twitter message was not intended to mean that Senate had no role in the appointment of Service Chiefs.
The statement also said: ‘‘For the avoidance of doubt, Saraki has said his comment is without prejudice to extant laws and court pronouncements on the issue and therefore that the Senate will do the needful when the list of the new Service Chiefs is sent to it by Mr. President.’’
The Senate President himself, in a new tweet yesterday, said: “This is to clarify the earlier position which was not up to date and does not represent the position of the Senate President on the issue of screening of the newly appointed service chiefs. The Senate will perform its constitutional duty when it receives communication from the President on the appointments.”