President Muhammadu Buhari says he feels pity for Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, for having the responsibility of explaining government’s actions or inaction to Nigerians.
Speaking on Monday when he hosted state house correspondents at the presidential villa in Abuja, Buhari said he and his cabinet members have been doing their best to deliver the change which the All Progressives Congress (APC) promised Nigerians during the electioneering campaign.
The president described his ministers as hardworking, saying they toil day and night to ensure that his administration succeeds.
“One of the men I pity is Lai Mohammed. Everyday he is on TV explaining our performance or lack of it,” he said.
“The ministers sit down day and night to work. Some of them have literarily lost weight because they were sleeping less and eating less (while working on the budget). They were working on every kobo to be spent.
“We recently just found out that we are poor because we don’t have anything to fall back to. This is the condition we found ourselves and this change mantra had to go through hell up till yesterday.
“And for you to talk to whoever came to visit us throughout that year, I wonder how each of your diaries would be, because people were expecting this change mantra in their own way.
“How do you define change? Luckily our party identified three major items, security, economy and corruption.”
The president spoke on why he reduced the number of ministries from 42 to 24. He also revealed that some of the permanent secretaries were disengaged because of lack of commitment.
Buhari added that there is a possibility of the economy recovering in the last quarter of the year.
“When we came there were 42 ministries we cut it to 24. We had to do it on our own because we found out that government could not continue with 42 ministers and the paraphernalia of office so we cut it down to 24,” he said.
“I underrated the influence of the PDP for 16 years watching from outside. The experience of the staff, their commitment and zeal is different from what it is now compared to when I was in government. Sixteen years of development in the life of a developing nation is a long time.
“Most of the permanent secretaries were sent out because it was time for some of them to go and for others for one thing or the other. Because were not part of those 16 years this is where we found ourselves and this is no joke.
“We had to cut down half the number of permanent secretaries and then do some cross postings. The permanent secretaries that were there for the past five, seven, 15 years the only thing that they know is how things were done in the previous years. Whatever we did in the campaign, in fact 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.
“I think we will recover by the fourth quarter of the year, what padding means especially for ministers who had implement what padding contains. There were very serious developments which I never knew about.”