By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA –PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was not on hand yesterday to preside over the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took charge.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, explained that President Buhari did not attend the FEC meeting because he attended to “other issues” since the issues on the agenda were ‘’light.’’
The minister said the President was not ill as currently being speculated, adding that he delegated his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo to function in his capacity.
Mohammed gave the explanation while addressing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Members of cabinet were already on their seats for the meeting scheduled to begin at11am.
They had apparently expected the President to preside over the meeting when suddenly Osinbajo called for their attention to recite the national anthem, which was followed by Christian and Muslim prayers.
There were signs that President Buhari would preside over the meeting when a security operative in plain clothe stood behind the President’s seat to secure it.
Such had been the culture at the meeting and, indeed, any other function the President is billed to attend.
But by 11am when the FEC meeting was scheduled to commence, Osinbajo’s voice resonated from the background as he called for the National Anthem.
The development abruptly alerted most ministers, who were hitherto exchanging pleasantries with one another to settle down for the day’s business.
This would be the first time Osinbajo would be presiding over FEC meeting since March 10 when President Buhari returned from London on medical vacation after spending 50 days.
Mohammed, however, said that it was not unusual to have the Vice President preside over the meeting.
He said: : “Clearly when we came in this morning, Mr President was not in the chambers but the Vice President did preside over the council meeting. Understandably, that has sparked a lot of controversies and imputations in the mind of people.
“I just want to make this clear, Mr President is in town. Mr president is attending to other issues. Mr president looked at the agenda, it was a very light agenda and decided that the Vice President should preside.
“It’s not unusual for the kind of interest that is shown especially given the fact that Mr president was away for a while on medical treatment. We are not surprised that people will be wondering is he ill again?
“He is not ill, he is not sick. I am sure that later in the day or tomorrow morning (today), he will be back in the office. I just want to clear that misconception.
“It is not unusual even if Mr president is hail and hearty and everything is going on well, for the VP to come and preside over meetings of the federal executive council. The fact that Mr President is not in the office does not mean that he is not working. I have just been told now that the secretary to the government is already with him in the residence working. So, the fact that you did not see him in the office does not mean that he is not working at all.”