On Thursday night, President Muhammadu Buhari confessed that he has been under unprecedented pressure to release his ministerial nominees’ lists.
However, the President, who made a short remark during a lunch with the National Assembly leadership, retained that he would not be rushed in releasing the list.
He said the majority of ministerial appointees were not known to him personally when he first went to office in 2015. However the President stated this time around that things would be different because he would appoint people he knew personally, a reason why the search had continued so far.
He said, “Many say they want to see the list of the proposed cabinet at this dinner meeting so that they can go on peacefully.
“I’m quite aware of it ; I am under tremendous pressure on it. But most of them in the last cabinet that I headed, the majority of them I didn’t know. I had to accept party and other people’s names and recommendations.
“I’ve been working with them for at least three and a half years – meeting twice or two weeks in a month. So, I understand them.
“But I’m going to be quiet this time round – me in the sense that I’m going to select people I understand personally.
Buhari, who was sworn in on May 29 for a second term, had more than a month after his swearing-in yet to appoint his ministers. In 2015, only four months after his inauguration, the President appointed ministers.
In a statement after dinner, the Presidency said Buhari called for cross-party cooperation to deepen the democracy of the country. He also praised the National Assembly for the peaceful conduct of the presiding officer’s election on 11 June.
The statement, signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, quoted him as stating, “I was delighted that people were expressing their wishes across party lines at the National Assembly. Neighbourliness is very important.
“Cultivating neighbourliness on individual and national level makes sense. You will save a lot mentally and materially if you cultivate a healthy connection with your neighbour”.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, had led the leaders from both chambers to the dinner.
Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, went with his House team to join Lawan, who doubles as National Assembly Chairman.
Lawan spoke with correspondents from the State House about 10 pm as the dinner was winding down.
Earlier this week, Lawan had announced that Buhari was supposed to present the list to the legislature this week. But last night the Senate President reversed his comment, denying that he made such a direct statement.
Reporters first questioned him if the president gave him the list at dinner. Lawan answered, “Well, I came for dinner and the process of getting the list is not at dinner. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
He denied the earlier announcement that this week the president would release the ministerial list, saying, “I’ve never done it. Let me take this opportunity to put that right. A senator raised a point of order under personal explanation and said that the executive arm of government should send us the list of ministers.
“And in my answer I said the executive is working so hard to make sure that the list of Nigerians that will help this administration work will be made up, we could even receive it this week. Could be conditional and I’m going to urge everyone to report it as it is.
Majority Leader, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya, Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ajayi Borofice, Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, and Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Deputy Chief Whip were among the chief officers in attendance at the dinner.
Others included Emmanuel Bwacha, Minority Whip ; Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, House Leader ; Ndudi Godwin-Elumelu, House Minority Leader ; and Deputy House Minority Leader Toby Okechukwu.
Before dinner there was speculation that there was more to it than to eat and drink. Sources claimed that Buhari had an opportunity to soften the ground before forwarding to the Senate the list of ministerial nominees.