. No one can dictate where Buhari hosts meetings, says Presidency
. You lied, apologise to Nigerians now – PDP
The Presidency and Nigeria’s main opposition Peoples Democratic Party are at loggerheads over last Thursday’s hosting of the National Executive Committee meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress inside the Federal Executive Council chambers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On Sunday, both parties traded words on the propriety of President Buhari convening the APC NEC meeting inside the FEC chambers.
While the Presidency said no one could dictate to President Buhari on which part of the Villa he could hold meetings, being the current occupant of the country’s State House, and that he did no wrong hosting the APC NEC meeting therein, main opposition Peoples Democratic Party deplored the Presidency for allegedly denying at first that President Buhari convened the APC NEC meeting inside the FEC chambers.
President Buhari had drawn criticisms from some individuals, including a former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, for hosting the APC NEC meeting in the FEC chamber.
The critics had argued that the chamber is meant for government business and that the party’s NEC meeting did not fall under the category of government business that should be conducted from the hall.
Chidoka, who is a PDP chieftain, had, in a statement, said, “The country witnessed a new low today (Thursday) when Mr President, for the first time since 1999, used the Federal Executive Chamber for APC NWC meeting.”
But the Presidency in its response on Sunday had argued that since Buhari lives in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, and no one could dictate to him the right place to hold meetings within the premises.
The Presidency also said no law prohibits or forbids the President from holding meetings in any part of the Presidential Villa.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
The presidential spokesman, Shehu, said claiming that the meeting was convened at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was wrong.
He said the meeting was a virtual one so that the protocol of social distancing could be observed and the President needed to address party leaders from any of his offices inside the Presidential Villa.
Shehu added that while it was true that state governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined Buhari from the chamber where he spoke, the majority of the members connected via video calls.
He said that criticisms of the hosting of the APC NEC meeting at the Villa by Buhari showed a lack of understanding by the opponents of the President.
Shehu said, “The stubborn opinion held by the critics of the administration is that President Muhammadu Buhari had called a political meeting in the ‘hallowed’ chamber of the Federal Executive Council as if there is a law that says the President is barred from holding meetings in certain sections of the vast Presidential Villa.
“Since the President lives in the Villa, no one can, legally speaking, choose or dictate to him where he can sit to hold meetings. So, what is wrong in the President presenting himself before a camera and a TV screen in a digital conference at a given location within the Villa?
“Just for the sake of the argument, this meeting, we say emphatically, was not convened at the Council Chamber. It was virtual, not a physical meeting.
“Why was it a virtual meeting? The idea was to observe social distancing in view of health concerns. Knowing how small the conference hall of the party is, social distancing would only have been observed in the breach.
“President Buhari was billed to address the meeting from his office (just any of his offices) and chose the Council Chamber where the digital facilities are located, and other members, including the bulk of National Executive Committee members, state party leaders and members of the National Assembly were all linked using video conference calls. You saw them all on TV.
“Yes, it is true that governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined the President from the Chamber from where he spoke. But the larger body of the members in attendance were all connected via video calls.
“Do not forget that these are not the normal times in view of the COVID-19 circumstances in which we have found ourselves. President Buhari placed health and safety above courtesy to the party by not going to its headquarters.
“In the end, a wise thing had been done because the President wants to curtail the spread of the coronavirus disease.”
Recall that the APC NWC was dissolved at last Thursday’s NEC meeting and a caretaker committee was put in place.
The PDP, however, said it is unfortunate that the Presidency would post a denial even when the media and the public space are already awash with photographs and videos of the NEC meeting, with APC leaders physically in attendance inside the FEC chambers where Buhari presided.
The main opposition party said it was shocked that Buhari’s Presidency could make such a denial “even when the world watched Mr President addressing the applauding APC leaders, in addition to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, physically administering oath of office on the Chairman of APC National Caretaker Committee, Mai Buni, on the floor of the FEC chamber.”
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement on Sunday, “It is a fact before Nigerians that the meeting was physical and only virtual to the extent that some members of the APC NEC members were linked via conference call.
“Moreover, our party refers the Buhari presidency to reports already in the media where the AGF admitted administering oath of office to the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee; an event that took place on the floor of the FEC chamber. Such a denial by President Buhari’s handlers has further exposed the decadence in the APC and the Buhari presidency.
“What Nigerians expected of the Buhari presidency and the APC was to tender an unreserved apology to the nation and desist from further desecration of our national values and official conduct requirements.
“The PDP charges President Buhari to call his handlers to order so as to protect the integrity of his Presidency from further damage.”
Buhari’s incumbency gives APC right to use Villa – Presidency
But to further drive home its argument, the Presidency said the use of the Presidential Villa by the APC was part of the benefits the ruling party could derive while its candidate, President Buhari, enjoys incumbency.
The PDP and others had no right to the same privilege now because they didn’t win last year’s election, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, however, said.
Shehu spoke on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme on Sunday against the backdrop of criticisms from the PDP and other opposition figures that Buhari was wrong to have dissolved the APC’s National Working Committee and inaugurate a caretaker committee at the council chambers.
Reacting to Buhari’s critics, the President’s spokesman said, “Incumbency confers on a leader a number of advantages. The chairman of the PDP cannot say today ‘give me a room in the Villa, I want to go and sleep there’. They will not admit him because he didn’t win an election.
“The opposition cannot go to the Villa and say give us a conference room, we want to use it. You have to win an election to go in there. Those who won elections before us have used the Villa. When we have finished our own term we will leave and new people will come to come and occupy it. The incumbency advantages are there. That is the essence of winning. If you lose, you don’t get there.”
He added that the President had the right to choose anywhere in the Villa, including his bedroom to host a video/telephone conference, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic forced Buhari to use the council chambers.
Shehu said, “If you look at the laws of the country, there is nothing that says a section of the Villa is designated for this meeting or that meeting. So, no law was violated. The President is a permanent resident of the Villa so long as he is serving his elected term in office.
“He was required to present himself before a TV camera and be part of a digital meeting. This meeting had been called not to take place in the Villa but to talk place digitally and the President had around himself some governors who came and some members of the National Assembly and the President chose to do this from the council chambers because no law says he cannot make a conference call from the bedroom or any chambers.”