I still respect Jonathan – Buhari

Says I underrated PDP’s 16-year rots        ‘Change mantra saw hell’ 

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reflected on the events that led to his emergence as the number one citizen, saying he still respects his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan for calling him to concede defeat even before the final results were announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Speaking at a lunch with State House correspondents in Abuja to mark his one- year anniversary in office, the President said he was shocked when Jonathan called him because it was the least thing he expected of him.
The President said that that singular act by Jonathan made him to earn his respect till today because he was “quite generous and patriotic.”
“This is where I pay my respect to former President Goodluck Jonathan. This is actually privileged information for you (the press). He called me at a quarter past five in the evening. He said good evening Your Excellency Sir, and I said good evening Your Excellency. He said, I have called to congratulate you that I have conceded defeat.
“Of course, there was dead silence on my end because I did not expect it. I was shocked. I did not expect it because after 16 years in government, the man was a deputy governor, a governor, a Vice President and was President for six years.
“For him to have conceded defeat even before the result was announced by INEC, I think it was quiet generous and gracious of him. Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, recognised the generosity of Jonathan to concede defeat and said, we should go and thank him immediately and that was the first time I came here (Villa),” he said.
Notwithstanding this respect, President Buhari also told journalists that the present administration had underrated the damage the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government did to the system.
“I underrated the influence of the PDP for 16 years watching from outside. The experience of the staff, their commitment and zeal is different from what it is now compared to when I was in government. Sixteen years of development in the life of a developing nation is a long time.
“When we came there were 42 ministries, we cut it to 24. We had to do it on our own because we found out that government could not continue with 42 ministers and the paraphernalia of office, so we cut it down to 24. We had to cut down half the number of permanent secretaries and then do some cross postings.
“The permanent secretaries that were there for the past five, seven, 15 years, the only thing that they know is how things were done in the previous years. Whatever we did in the campaign, in fact we were saying rubbish and that made it very difficult for us,” he said.

The President said the controversy surrounding the 2016 budget was a nasty experience for him and the ministers, adding that by the fourth quarter of this year, the federal government would be able to understand what padding means, particularly for ministers who had to implement what padding contained.
“Things were even more difficult during the budget which you all know about. For somebody like me, for the first time I heard what is called padding.

I think we will recover by the fourth quarter of the year, what padding means especially for ministers who had implement what padding contains. There were very serious developments which I never knew about.
“So really it was a nasty experience for us. It was also a nasty experience for some of the ministers who were never in government, for them to sit down day and night to work. I saw them, some of them, they literarily lost weight because they were sleeping less and eating less. Working on every kobo to be spent. Because we became a mono-economy of oil-rich Nigeria, everybody relied on oil and forgot about solid minerals, agriculture, making and exploring things.
“We recently just found out that we are poor because we don’t have anything to fall back to. This is the condition we found ourselves and this change mantra had to go through hell up till yesterday.

And for you to talk to whoever came to visit us throughout that year, I wonder how each of your diaries would be, because people were expecting this change mantra in their own way.
“How do you define change? Luckily our party identified three major items, security, economy and corruption. One of the men I pitied is Lai Mohammed. Every day, he is on TV explaining our performance or lack of it.

“Most of the permanent secretaries were sent out because it was time for some of them to go and for others, for one thing or the other. Because we were not part of those 16 years, this is where we found ourselves and this is no joke,” he said.
On the $2.1 billion arms deal involving former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, Buhari said during the past administration, people who were supposed to be trusted just shared money into their accounts.

“People were trusted and the most recent one which we haven’t recovered from is the $2.1billion dollars which was given by the government then, to the military to buy hardware to fight the insurgency which had taken over part of the country, and they just sat the way you are sitting now and shared the money into their own accounts. They didn’t even bother. So we are still trying to get the cooperation of the international community and so on, and we have to do it with a lot of respect to the judiciary,” he said.

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