President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday declared that he was in absolute control of his government and that there is no one too powerful for him to handle.
He also confirmed the sacking of some aides of his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, saying it was done as part of the cost-cutting moves of his government.
The president, in his first official statement since the news of the sacking of 35 aides of Osinbajo broke days ago, said on Friday that there was no rift between him and Osinbajo, contrary to media reports.
A statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed that there was an ongoing overhaul of the presidency which led to the termination and non-renewal of certain political appointments.
It said the office of the vice president had also been shed of such appointees. The statement was, however, silent on who among Buhari’s aides had been equally sacked.
The statement reads: “The presidency wishes to confirm that there is, ongoing, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the second term.
“The exercise, which has been ordered by the president, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration.
“It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on efficiency.
“As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the president were not returned for the second term.
“The office of the vice president, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo has, in compliance with the directive of the president, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.
“In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public. As far as the president is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years.
“In the light of this, the presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation.
“The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The president has always had fewer staff than the vice president, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.
The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the vice president’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.
“The president is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control.”
Names of the sacked 35 aides had emerged in the presidency on Thursday. They are Jibola Ajayi, (SA, Legal), Lanre Osinbona (SSA, ICT), Imeh Okon (SSA, Infrastructure), Jide Awolowo (SA, Oil and Gas), Lilian Idiaghe (SA, Research, Legal and Compliance), Arukino Umukoro (SA, Niger Delta) and Bala Liman Mohammed (SSA, Economy).
Others include Edobor Iyamu (SSA, Niger Delta), Dolapo Bright (SSA, Agro Allied Value Chain), Toyosi Onaolapo (SA, Community Engagement), Gambo Manzo (SA, Political), Bisi Ogungbemi (SA, Political Matters), Edirin Akemu (SSA, Industry, Trade and Investment), Akin Soetan (STA, Economic Matters), Aondaver Kuttuh (Technical Assistant, Rule of Law), Ife Adebayo (SA, Innovation), Yussuf Ali (SA, Power Regulations), Tola Asekun (SSA, National Boundary Commission), Morakinyo Beckley (SA, Off-grid Power), Yosola Akinbi (SSA, NEC), Tochi Nwachukwu (SA, Power Privatisation) and Bode Gbore (SSA, Political).
The remaining are Abdulrahman Baffa Yola (SA, Political), Kolade Sofola (SA, Infrastructure), Ebi Awosika (STA, Community Engagement), Muyiwa Abiodun (SSA, Power), Forri Samson Banu (SA, Entrepreneurship), Bege Bala (SA, BPE), Feyishayo Aina (SA, Community Engagement), Halima Bawa (SA, Community Engagement), Nkechi Chukwueke (SA, Community Engagement) and Ilsa Essien (SA, Media).
In a tweet on Thursday evening, the spokesman of the vice president, Laolu Akande, dismissed the list, saying that it was not genuine and should be ignored.
“Also, a list circulating in the media on d so-called sacked presidential aides is not genuine and ought to be ignored,” he said on his personal handle @akandeoj.
The presidency had begun the implementation of the sacking of the aides on Wednesday.
It was learnt that even when Osinbajo was hoping that the sacking of the aides would be reversed by the president, some of the affected persons on Wednesday had their Presidential Villa access tags retrieved from them as they reported for work.
Some of those who reported for work were said to have been approached at the gate by security personnel who seized their tags upon confirming that their names were contained in the list of sacked aides apparently provided for them.
Some of the aides were said to have left their offices on Wednesday and returned home to avoid being embarrassed.
A source close to the vice president’s office had confided in the Nigerian Tribune that some of the aides who came to work on Wednesday left on their own accord to stave off any incident with security personnel.
Many of the vice president’s aides had earlier been sent out of the Villa and accommodated in various ministries and parastatals, which reduced their access to the Villa.
Akande had also earlier failed to confirm or deny the development when asked for his reaction at that time.
He had told the Nigerian Tribune that he was just emerging from Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and had read the reports just like others.
“I read it just like others. I will like to find out what is happening,” he said.
Reports have been rife that since their re-election, Osinbajo has fallen out of favour with some elements close to President Buhari who are undermining his authority, a situation which has been blamed for the dissolution and replacement of the Economic Management Team hitherto headed by the vice president.