By John Alechenu, Fidelis Soriwei, Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor
and Olaleye Aluko
As President Muhammadu Buhari resumes duty on Monday (today), Nigeria Labour Congress and other eminent groups have set a target for the President on what should be his focus.
Besides the NLC, organisations and personalities, who spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH, included the Northern Elders’ Council, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; and Dr. Junaid Mohammed.
They advised the President to focus on the economy so that the plight of the masses, who could not travel abroad for medical treatment, would improve.
The President arrived in Nigeria on Friday after 49 days medical vacation in London.
While addressing members of the Federal Executive Council shortly after his arrival, Buhari said he would rest last weekend and resume duty on Monday.
The NLC called on Buhari to focus on the challenges facing the country, especially the economy.
The General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said the government should tackle the problem of the economy to get the country out of recession.
He stated that it was important for the government to initiate policies that would reduce the suffering of Nigerians.
Ozo-Eson also called for the immediate constitution of the tripartite committee on the new Minimum Wage.
He stressed that the continuing delay in the constitution of the wage committee was no longer acceptable to organised labour.
He added, “Well, the challenges facing the country remain the same. The economy is at the top of it. The government needs to tackle the economy and see how to get it out of recession. Within that framework, we believe that with the suffering of Nigerians, policies need to be deployed quickly to ensure that it is reduced, that inflation is controlled.
Also, the Executive Secretary, Anti-corruption Network, Mr. Ebenezer Oyetakin, said the President should improve on the economy.
Oyetakin stated, “Buhari should focus on getting the economy to work better in the interest of the common masses. He should increase the battle against corruption and make it more potent. He should work towards the re-denomination of the naira as a way to administratively deal with corruption in one swoop and to free the naira from both local and international currency war and manipulations.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said it was high time the country was restructured.
Odumakin said, “The President has told us he has never been this sick and he is going back for treatment in weeks. All he can do in the immediate dispensation is to reorganise his team so it can face the urgency of now.
“The country is drifting dangerously and the release of the timetable for the next elections by INEC will put the government under serious pressure as it signals the commencement of serious politicking.
“He therefore needs a dedicated team that can deliver on his core commitments to Nigeria in the few months left for governance under this dispensation.
“It would be nice if the President realises that holding elections under this structure without modifications may not augur well for the polity. A restructured polity therefore seems the low hanging fruit that can give him a lasting legacy.”
The spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said it was left for the President and his close aides to decide his area of priorities.
He believed Buhari must have used part of his medical leave to refresh his mind on areas he would like to face.
He stated, “If he cannot do all, he would probably have to prioritise areas that will be of greater importance to the public. It is entirely up to him and those who are close to him, either as ministers or others, whatever their functions are in the system.”
On his part, a former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said the President must carry out a thorough review of his economic policies.
Balarabe stated that the economy was “very sick” going by the daily hardship of Nigerians, and a good way to prove to the people that he was refreshed was for Buhari to come up with policy directions and plans to uplift the economy.
“There is need for a fundamental change in the economy in particular. This is because the economy is the sum total of the welfare of the people. He must provide a healthy economy that will make Nigerians glad. He must face the stark realities that the economy and welfare of the people are in danger, simply because we have economic and political systems that put the interests of a few forward.”
The President, Nigerian Voters Assembly, Masud Erubami, advised the President to come out with a new style of anti corruption crusade.
“From Monday, the President should show in his speeches and body languages that he had healthily returned as the true Buhari that we knew by displaying his distaste for corruption and from the way it is being currently handled,” Erubami stated.
The President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, said Buhari should deepen the consultation in the Niger Delta.
But a member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, predicted a clash between Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and members of “the cabal” around the President over the exercise of presidential powers.
Mohammed, who is also the convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, said this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH.
He said, “I’ve heard from some people that the President has reaffirmed his mandate of handing over executive powers to the Vice-President which means even though he is back in the country, he is not likely to continue to exercise the full awesome powers of the President.
“The whole idea of this indecent haste to rush back Mr. President to Nigeria and make sure that he assumes his full executive powers in this situation is nothing but the intrigue of the cabal, especially those who are his personal relations and cronies.
“If they realise they are not happy with the new arrangement, whereby the President is there physically but the powers are being exercised by somebody else, there is likely going to be a lot of trouble for sure.”
No scheduled assignment for President today
Meanwhile, no assignment has been scheduled yet for Buhari on Monday (today) as he formally resumes from his 49-day medical vacation, The PUNCH.
He had told state governors and top government officials, led by Osinbajo, who came to receive him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday, that he would continue to rest over the weekend and allow Osinbajo to work.
Investigation by one of our correspondents on Sunday showed that no assignment had been scheduled for the President on Monday (today).
The Protocol Unit of the Presidency is saddled with the responsibility of preparing weekly scheduled assignments for the President.
The itinerary is however open to amendments if the situation arises.
A government official, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, attributed the “blank” nature of the President’s schedule for Monday to the fact that Buhari only returned to the country on Friday.
The source said the first draft of the President’s schedule for the week was always ready on the preceding Friday.
“For now, the President does not have anything on his schedule for Monday. That, however, is understandable as he only returned to the country on Friday.
“The President’s schedule for the week will be clearer by Monday, which is the first full working day after his arrival,” he added.