Nigeria’s presidency, on Wednesday, said a ‘perfect’ arrangement had been put in place to ensure a seamless handover ceremony for the incoming Bola Tinubu’s administration, assuring that the embarrassing moments that allegedly trailed the Goodluck Jonathan government on the day he exited office would not happen.
Speaking on the state-run Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Shehu Garba, said Tinubu and his deputy, Kashim Shettima, had 60 per cent of the total invited guests.
Specifically recalling the alleged embarrassment at the airport in 2015, when then outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, was reportedly disallowed from taking the presidential wing while exiting to Bayelsa, Garba also noted that whereas he got handwritten notes from his predecessor, it would not be the case this time as Buhari had signed an executive order which would expressly ensure a smooth transition.
“When former President Jonathan handed over to President Buhari at the Eagle Square on May 29, 2015, there were very embarrassing moments that followed reportedly. In fact, the former president trended at some point because the story was told that by the time he got to the airport, security operatives will not allow him the use of the presidential wing of the airport, and all of that.
“So, all of these things have been foreseen. So, you would expect a perfect process of exit and incoming processes involving the two leaders, that is the outgoing president and the incumbent president,” he stated.
Garba also stated that the State House has now been emptied for the incoming president to bring in his own employees, especially political appointees.
On why Tinubu and Shettima were getting their national honours on Thursday, days before the inauguration, against the tradition of giving them out on the day of inauguration, Shehu stated that the committee set up by the president had visited Kenya and the United States to learn how the handover could be better done.
According to him, just 40 per cent of expected guests were invited by the federal government, including foreign missions, explaining that there was ‘massive interest’ by people who wanted to be present.
He noted that people who thought they played one part or another in the process leading to the handover would also want to be there, disclosing that the presidency was expecting ‘a huge crowd full of enthusiastic and very keen people.’
Asked to elaborate on what he meant by the State House being ‘emptied’, the president’s aide noted that Buhari has since quit the main building at the state House for the smaller ‘glass house’ in preparation for May 29.
According to him, the incoming president will make the choice who to go into the State House with him, including his personal staff, but recalled that aside from himself, Femi Adesina and a protocol member of staff, Buhari did not make any major appointments until the third day.
On whether any staff of the Buhari administration had already started switching allegiance to the incoming president, Shehu argued that it was the nature of humans to do so, but noted that Jonathan’s case was more pronounced because many of his aides were angry with him for deciding to handover power peacefully when he lost the 2015 presidential poll.
“You can’t change human beings. So, the man of the moment obviously is the incoming president. So, you will expect people, who will come around him, but I think the case of Jonathan was different, because I think again, there was desertion by a number of people around him who felt disappointed that he chose to be patriotic, nationalistic and accepted defeat.
“And quite a number of people, who were within his camp were not happy with that. So, yes, there was a desertion, but I think in the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Villa had never been like the party headquarters for him in the last eight years
“Visitors come, but there has been some decency in all of these things. And I don’t think that we’re witnessing any spectacular desertion of the place,” he added.
He stressed that the relationship between Tinubu and Buhari remained cordial, noting that the president-elect had once thanked Buhari for being neutral and allowing him win the poll.
“It’s going to be a perfect relationship, because it is going to be the same government although different administrations. He’s APC. When he (Tinubu) took his certificate from INEC, the first thing he did was that he flew to Daura and showed it to the president.
“The incoming president never gets tired of saying that the president allowed him to win. It is very significant. He allowed him to win in a free and fair process,” he stressed.