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Why Buhari cancelled Lagos trip

By Alifa Daniel, Mohammed Abubakar,Tope Templer Olaiya and Tunde Alao
24 May 2016   |   3:11 am
Amidst speculations on why President Buhari cancelled his scheduled official visit to Lagos, the presidency yesterday insisted it had nothing to do with an illness.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode (left); Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Osolo of Isolo, Oba Kabiru Adelaja Agbabiaka and Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Ganiyu Johnson during the unveiling of a plaque to formally commission the newly constructed Ago Palace Way, Okota, Isolo, Lagos...yesterday.

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode (left); Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Osolo of Isolo, Oba Kabiru Adelaja Agbabiaka and Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Ganiyu Johnson during the unveiling of a plaque to formally commission the newly constructed Ago Palace Way, Okota, Isolo, Lagos…yesterday.

• President hale and hearty in Abuja
• Nigeria on economic recovery path, says leader

Amidst speculations on why President Mohammadu Buhari cancelled his scheduled official visit to Lagos, the presidency yesterday insisted it had nothing to do with an illness. It maintained its official position that scheduling difficulties led to the postponement.

Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said yesterday: “People are free to express whatever they want to say, but the truth is constant and we stay on our story.”

Asked to explain what he meant by scheduling difficulties he said:  “If you are challenged with scheduling, then you reshuffle things and see how best you can use whatever time that you have. The President needs more time for both Lagos and Edo and this time space does not allow him the kind of time, the much time that he thinks he wants.”

On whether he knew why the President needed more time for Lagos and Edo, he said he did not.

Asked if it was because both states were strategic strongholds of the APC in the south, Shehu maintained that he did not know, but threw up possibilities.  “Or maybe there are more projects to inaugurate; may be there are more people he wants to see; the possibilities are many.”

Among the speculations thrown up in the 48 hours were that some security hawks in the administration did not want to take chances with Lagos with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) strike still on as the President could have been subjected to embarrassment while in Lagos. The cancellation was announced before the NLC called off the strike.

This school of thought points out that the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, actually came to Abuja to ensure the NLC strike did not sabotage the presidential visit. But government officials shot down the argument because, “Lagos is overwhelmingly an APC state and the strike did not gain any foothold in Lagos.”

“Do you think that in Nigeria, if the President is to visit an area, striking workers will come anywhere near the place? Give us a break,” a government source derisively commented yesterday.

Many said that the manner in which the Lagos government went about announcing the presidential visit did not go down well with Abuja even if the President was ill as a result of an ear infection as reported by an online publication that forced a suspension of his visit to Lagos

But that illness seems now most unlikely after all as the President was in office performing his duties yesterday.

The President, who was officially scheduled to visit Lagos State had to cancel it at the last minute, due to what the Presidency described as conflict in schedules, and asked his Deputy, Yemi Osinbajo to represent him at the commissioning of some projects.

The Presidency confirmed that Buhari would now visit Lagos after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed the re-scheduling on Sunday. The fasting is expected to begin early in June.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had confirmed the cancellation late on Sunday before the scheduled visit but did not give any reason for the last-minute cancellation, beyond that Buhari would be represented by Osinbajo.

An online report had on Sunday announced that the president was cancelling the visit due to an ear infection but Shehu, who also confirmed the development, said Buhari would still embark on the visit after Ramadan.

“The Vice-President will only inaugurate some of the projects. The President will still embark on the trip after Ramadan to inaugurate the remaining projects,” he said. This year’s Ramadan is due to start in June 6 and would not end until July 5.

Buhari, who was said to have been in his office as early as 8:00 a.m. yesterday, received briefing from at least three ministers.

First were the Minster of Environment, Amina Mohammed and her Minister of State, Ibrahim Usman Jibril. He also received in audience the Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun and later he had audience with the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige.

Besides, the president was physically present at the Villa mosque where he joined the congregation for both 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. prayers before he closed for the day and he did not show any sign of ill health.

Shortly after the Zuhr prayers, Shehu, in a brief interview with The Guardian reaffirmed his earlier claim that the President was faced with ‘scheduling difficulties” and that he would still visit the state at a later date.

Asked if the President truly had infection of any sort, Shehu said: “You can see that the man has been in the office performing his official functions. He has been meeting with the ministers; he met with a governor ; does he look like somebody who is sick?”

He noted that the media report of the President’s alleged ear infection was the handiwork of some people who he said had made up their minds, not to see anything good coming from the Buhari’s government.

His words: “What do you do when some people have made up their minds not to see any good coming from the President despite the good works he is doing, we have to leave it to the people to decide for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Concerned about the economic situation associated with the recent increase in fuel price, Buhari yesterday assured Nigerians that the policy is well-thought out and that the country is on the path of recovery.

Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who disclosed this on behalf of Buhari at the commissioning of security vehicles and equipment to support the Nigeria Police provided by the Lagos State government at Tafawa Balewa Square, as part of his official visit to the state had earlier commissioned the new Lagos State Emergency Management Agency( LASEMA) Rescue Unit at Cappa, Oshodi and Ago Palace Way in Okota.

At the colourful event, Osinbajo was received by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, along with the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu and members of the state executive council.

He said government was fully aware of the economic crunch being felt by Nigerians and was ready to alleviate the impact within the shortest possible future.

While admitting that the pains are there, he announced the Federal Government’s N500 billion social investment plan as part of measure to tackle the economic problems as well as provide palliatives for citizenry.

Osinbajo said the investment plan would address the challenges of unemployment, industries, manufacturing, agriculture, among others.
According to him, there were plans to create 500,000 employment opportunities for graduates with another 370,000 for non-graduates.

He added that there would be provision of micro loan facilities for market women, using associations.

On the physical absence of the President, Osinbajo assured that Buhari would personally visit Lagos immediately after the Ramadan, “The President holds Lagosians in high esteem,” Osinbajo stressed.

The Vice President continued: “We are aware of difficulties Nigerians are going through but the future is certain, abundance and prosperity are assured. A lot of readjustment will be done. Our country has gone through many pains but we are determined to make the correction. We are on the path of recovery.”

While lamenting the neglect of the state for the past 16 years , Osinbajo assured that the government was more than ready to give support to the state in every way, stressing that Lagos deserves more benefits being the economic hub of Nigeria.

He commended the landmark achievements of Ambode in the last one year, assuring that government would soon embark on infrastructural assistance in the state with specific focus on rail and road construction which is included in the infrastructural development plans.

Osinbajo specifically mentioned the Lagos-Calabar and Kano rail routes and completion of the ongoing construction of Lagos- Ibadan Expressway.

Welcoming the president, Ambode had noted: “Lagos as the Centre of Excellence is a place of unending opportunities where dreams come true. On behalf of the good people of Lagos State, I welcome you to a city for all.

“It is our hope that your working visit to our dear state will inspire us to continue to raise the bar of growth and development.”

Earlier, Ambode who expressed his administration’s commitment to the protection of life and property, urged security personnel to continue their good work by making Lagos safer for all, assuring that the state government would continue to reward gallant officers in the course of their duties.