A tale of two night-crawling former presidents -By Olalekan Adetayo

Filed under: Political Issues |
Olalekan Adetayo

President Muhammadu Buhari and former president Olusegun Obasanjo


Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are household names in Nigeria. They have both at different times, presided over the affairs of the country from the Villa. Obasanjo is widely believed to be instrumental to Jonathan’s emergence, first as Vice President to the late President Umar Yar’adua and later as Yar’Adua’s successor. At the later part of his Presidency, Obasanjo and Jonathan fell out and the rest is history.

Jonathan contested the last presidential election with President Muhammadu Buhari being his major contender. He lost that election and bade the Villa farewell in the morning of May 29. Since that day, he did not visit the seat of power up until last Thursday.

That day, State House correspondents waited patiently for Buhari to conclude all his scheduled official functions for the day as usual. When they discovered that the President had retired into his official residence, they also left.

But some close aides and family members of the President were taken aback when Jonathan arrived late into the night. He must have acted based on his knowledge of the Villa by coming not only late but also going straight to meet the President in the residence. That must have been done in order to avoid having contact with journalists who worked with him throughout his Presidency.

The walls, they say, have ears. His coming like a thief in the night later became a public knowledge and expectedly, meanings were read into it. That visit came at a time the present administration is investigating some activities carried out under his watch. So the general consensus was that his night mission was to intercede on behalf of his former aides who are currently under investigation and those who may still be invited.

About 24 hours after Jonathan’s visit, Obasanjo who turned himself to his “tormentor-in-chief” with his open letters and public statements critical of his administration also played a similar visit to Buhari. His visit was also in the night without the prying eyes of the media. Many also concluded that the two separate meetings must be connected.

To further give credence to the belief that the two meetings must have something to do with the ongoing anti-corruption war, another former Nigerian leader, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (retd.), on Tuesday led members of the National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections to meet Buhari. Their position was that the anti-corruption war should follow due process.

Unlike Jonathan and Obasanjo’s meetings with the President, the Tuesday meeting was held during daylight and a member of the group spoke to journalists at the end of the parley.

What could have made Jonathan and Obasanjo to run to Buhari under darkness? The answer will definitely come one day either through interviews, open letters or books!

Day NASENI excites Buhari with its innovations

For weeks, the President has been listening to Permanent Secretaries who have been briefing him of their ministries’ activities. The idea is for the President to be familiar with the true situation of things in the ministries despite that some of these have been stated in the handover notes he inherited from the past administration.

On Thursday, Buhari listened to a presentation by officials of a government agency that is not too popular among Nigerians. That was the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. Naturally, this should be one of the federal agencies that government should be considering for merger.

Indications that their encounter with the President will be an exciting one started emerging as the agency’s top officials started arriving the Villa. Unlike Permanent Secretaries who always come armed with documents, these officials were seen coming in with items in cartons of different sizes and shades.

The cartons contained some of the innovations made by NASENI. They included light weapon designs, laboratory equipment and new energy-saving LED lamp products. Some other products of the agency include NASENI Tricycles (Cargo and Passengers), Kinetic Turbine, Propeller Hydro-Turbine, Small Hydro Power Turbine, Rotary Furnace, Cassava Flour Plant, Dryer, Transformerless Voltage Stabiliser, NASENI Solar Panel and Primary Science Kit among others.

The President too was pleasantly surprised about the products presented to him. He therefore directed the agency to do more to publicise its inventions for the benefit of Nigerians. He said he observed that unless the agency’s inventions are adopted and further developed by manufacturers, the country and ordinary Nigerians will not enjoy the fruits of its good work. He also also directed NASENI to explore ways of working with the Defence Industries Corporation, Kaduna to manufacture the light weapons it has designed.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, who was elated by the reception granted him and his delegation by the President later told State House correspondents that Buhari also directed his agency to seek the patronage of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for some of the products it has produced especially to boost rural electrification. He added that the President also directed that the agency collaborate with Ministries, Departments and Agencies to ensure that there is synergy in their activities.

“The President directed that we must collaborate with relevant MDAs to ensure that there is synergy. Also that we should have patronage of the Governors’ Forum of the products that have been produced in NASENI so that they can meet up with some of their challenges in their states. That is to meet up their rural electrification with our solar manufacturing facilities, small hydro and intervention in education with the scientific kits we have. Other MDAs such as Defence, Ministry of Trade and Investment to liaise with us such that the technologies that are matured in our system, SMEs can be supported to take this to the market,” he said.

To the officials, the agency had over the years worked under difficult operational environment ranging from poor funding, lack of patronage of its products, equipment and machine by Nigerian entrepreneurs and governments and the non-implementation of the agency’s funding mechanism as contained in its establishment act among others. According to them, one core challenge of the agency’s status is its current supervisory location in the Ministry of Science and Technology which they claimed is in violation of the NASENI Establishment Act which provided that the President is the chairman of the agency’s Governing Board. They also argued that the founding fathers of the agency did not envisage an agency that would be encumbered by the usual civil service bureaucratic decision-making process, saying research and development cannot be realised under such processes.

Going forward, Haruna is of the belief that the challenges facing the agency especially as it concerns funding would be addressed by the President going by his excitement about their innovations.