President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said he never expected that former President Goodluck Jonathan would concede defeat so easily after the March 2015 presidential election.
He said it was unbelievable that Jonathan, who had spent 16 years in public offices ranging from deputy governor and state governor to being vice-president and president, could throw in the towel like that.
Buhari spoke while hosting State House correspondents to a lunch at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as part of the activities marking his one year in office.
He said, “This is where I pay my respect to former President Goodluck Jonathan. This is actually privileged information for you.
“He called me at a quarter-past-five in the evening. He said, ‘Good evening, Your Excellency, sir’ and I said, ‘Good evening.’ He said, ‘I have called to congratulate you that I have conceded defeat.’
“Of course, there was dead silence on my end because I did not expect it. I was shocked. “I did not expect it because after 16 years; the man was a deputy governor, governor, vice-president and was president for six years.
“For him to have conceded defeat even before the result was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, I think it was quite generous and gracious of him.
“Gen. Abdulsalami recognised the generosity of Jonathan to concede defeat and said we should go and thank him immediately and that was the first time I came here.”
Buhari recalled that it was the former military leader, Abdusalami Abubakar, who suggested the setting up of transition committees because that was the way he did when he wanted to hand over to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
Buhari regretted that while Jonathan was not opposed to the idea at the beginning, he was later prevailed upon by his ministers not to do so. He said their argument was that the former President would have handed over government to him (Buhari) before his inauguration.
Watching from outside government, Buhari said he underrated the influence of the Peoples Democratic Party’s 16 years in power. Buhari recalled that he reduced the number of ministries from 42 to 24 and reduced the number of permanent secretaries.
He regretted that some permanent secretaries were used to the past arrangement, hence they saw the All Progressives Congress’ campaign promises as rubbish. He said things became more difficult during budget preparation as some government officials padded the document.
The President, however, expressed the hope that the nation would recover from the setback by the fourth quarter of the year. Buhari said, “The permanent secretaries that were there for the past five to seven years, the only thing that they know is how things were done in the previous years.
“Whatever we did in the campaign, to them, we were saying rubbish and that made it very difficult for us. “Things were even more difficult during the budget, which you all know about. For somebody like me, for the first time I heard what is called padding.
“So, really, it was a nasty experience for us. It was also a nasty experience for some of the ministers who were never in government, for them to sit down day and night to work. I saw some of them literarily lost weight because they were sleeping less and eating less, working on every kobo to be spent.
“Because we had become a mono-economy, everybody relied on oil and forgot about solid minerals, agriculture, making and exploring things. We recently just found out that we are poor because we don’t have anything to fall back to.”