By Tunde Rahman

It was quite gratifying seeing President  Muhammadu  Buhari  display rare strength and character recently in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s capital.  Strength because without betraying any sign of tiredness or weakness, he was engaged in one bilateral meeting after another, lasting well past midnight for the duration of the conference.

And character as evident in the currency and depth of issues – some of them African-themed – he reportedly canvassed at the talks.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC)

President  Buhari  was in Cote d’Ivoire for the just ended 5th African Union-European Union Summit which took place from Tuesday, the 28th to Thursday 30th November.

Buhari  had entered the  Sofitel  Hotel venue of the conference from around 9.00am Wednesday, the day the conference officially opened. And about midnight, precisely 12.26am, that is Thursday morning, the president was still on his feet.

This writer saw him coming out of a dinner hosted by the Ivorian President  Alassane  Quattara  and his wife in honour of visiting heads of state and government and other heads of delegation, and entering into another round of meeting for multilateral talks with some heads of state at past midnight.

The talks were on the sidelines of the conference and the All Progressives Congress’ National Leader,  Asiwaju  Bola  Tinubu, who was part of his entourage to the summit, was with him at some of these meetings. Also on the entourage were  Bauchi  State Governor  Muhammed Abubakar  and his  Akwa  Ibom  State counterpart Emmanuel  Udom  who attended a few of such talks. President  Buhari  held back-to-back bilateral talks with  Quattara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ghanaian President Nana  Akufo-Addo  and the Vice President of Gambia  Fatoumata  Tambajang, with barely any little time between each meeting. He later attended the summit proper.

Those round-the-clock meetings underscored  two things. One, having such  a whole day non-stop engagements showed that the president was truly back to full health.

He is fit, mentally alert, active and agile. As he moved from one meeting venue to another, he carried himself sprightly with the agility of a 50-year-old. President  Buhari  has his sights on the problems afflicting Nigeria and Africa. The raging issues plaguing Nigeria and Africa were the focal points, and rightly so, at his meetings. When he met the German Chancellor, the illegal migration of some Nigerians to Europe in search of elusive greener pastures and the new slavery they are being subjected to, particularly in Libya dominated discussion. President  Buhari  was quite emphatic at the talks: this trend must be checked.

The two leaders made a passionate commitment to expand discussions on how to stem the tide of such illegal migration. They agreed to strengthen legal migration. At the talks,  Buhari  also spoke of his government’s commitment to securing lives and property in Nigeria which, according to him, remains paramount.

He said prompt attention was being given to gainful employment of youths in Nigeria through education and the acquisition of skills and vocational training, adding that Nigeria and Germany could draw from their experiences to cooperate effectively in the area of investing in youths for a sustainable future. On her part, the German Chancellor commended  Buhari  for the giant strides recorded by his administration in revamping the economy, promising to increase support for Nigeria in dealing with terrorism. Merkel disclosed that 58 German companies are at present operating in Nigeria. More companies have indicated  interest in investing in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture and construction sectors, she added.

The political instability in Togo also seized a part of  Buhari’s  attention. In his bilateral meeting with President  Quattara,  Buhari  expressed the view that if the instability was not averted, the Togo problem could have dire consequences for the region. He told the Ivorian president: “We must have a solution in Togo.

The friends of the opposition and authorities must talk to them on the steps to jointly take to achieve stability. They must work towards gaining the trust of each other. There will be regional consequences for instability in Togo and this will surely come at a cost to development”.

These bilateral talks were held behind closed doors, with the president supported by just one or two other personalities in some cases. In one instance, at the president’s behest, Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey  Onyeama  had to vacate his seat to allow  Asiwaju  Tinubu  take the lone seat at one of the meetings in order to be with  Buhari.

It was instructive that President  Buhari  and  Tinubu  had graced most of the meetings together.  Asiwaju  was by the president’s side as he met with the Nigerian community in Cote d’Ivoire at the Nigerian Ambassador’s residence, barely two hours after they arrived in that country. At the meeting, President  Buhari  enjoined Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to be good ambassadors. He said he brought the two governors in his entourage along because he might need their votes in future, hinting at his presumed second term ambition.

At that interaction,  Tinubu  urged the Nigerians to help in preserving the country’s good name in Cote d’Ivoire. He spoke about President  Buhari’s  achievements in office thus far and his good plans for the country going forward. It emerged also that the bulk of the Nigerian population in Cote d’Ivoire are mostly of  Osun  State origin in the South-west.

But  perhaps the most interesting bit  of news for many Nigerians was  Buhari’s  comment about  Tinubu. Speaking about  Asiwaju  at that meeting, the president said the APC national leader brought him “a beautiful piece of information” of which he had been oblivious.  Tinubu  had handed that piece of information to the Nigerian leader right inside the Nigerian  Airforceplane taking them to Abidjan.  Buhari  did not disclose the nature of the information  Asiwaju gifted him. “I also thank our leader,  Asiwaju  Bola Ahmed  Tinubu.

He has brought me a very beautiful piece of information, which I was not aware of until I sat down and read it this evening (penultimate  Tuesday night). Thank you very much for your hard work and I will discuss that paper with you,” he said.

But what precisely is that piece of information all about? Well, only President  Buhari  and  Asiwaju  Tinubu  can answer the question.

  • Rahman  is Special Adviser, Media to  Asiwaju  Tinubu.

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Source: Vanguard News

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