President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said it will take him time forget the contribution of the outgone Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, who has resigned from his position to pursue Ekiti gubernatorial elections next month.
The president stated this while delivering a valedictory message to the former minister during the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in Abuja.
According to him, due to Mr Kayode’s contribution to the mining sector as well as the impending general election, it would take him some time to appoint a substantive minister to replace Mr Fayemi.
“So, we certainly wish you the best of luck but it will take me sometimes to get a substantive minister and more so with the 2019 prospects that I have already indicated.
“But we need a very, very strong minister, strong in intellect and courage, so as to make sure that both the Nigerian and foreign collaborators of taking away our resources can be checked effectively,” the president said.
Mr Buhari admitted that he reluctantly allowed the former minister to quit his cabinet because of what he had brought into the sector.
The president, therefore, hoped that he could win Ekiti for the ruling party.
According to him, “I very reluctantly allowed Fayemi to go to his state because of his constructive contributions. As I sat here, I watched every minister that spoke and about his contributions.
“This revealed not only intellect but when he is given the necessary time to contribute to the important memorandum, he made contributions. Which shows commitment to the progressive of this government and the country.
“By chance, he was given the portfolio of Solid Minerals and Steel Development and you know that sector was virtually abandoned.
“During the colonial days, they took what they wanted from us – tin, columbite and the rest were the priorities until they struck oil somewhere. It was simply priority of investment shifted offshore.
“When he went in, he began to deal with both Nigerians and foreigners that are exploiting the lack of commitment of those who are responsible for that sector before he went there.
“If you recall the number of children and women that suffered from the effect of mining in Zamfara State and other parts of the country and the people responsible, knowing that Nigeria will dump as decently as possible.
“He only briefed me occasionally but he was packing them out of the country, with the cooperation of some of his colleagues. He will come here and let me know.
“I hope you will get the Ekiti back for the party.”
While recalling his travails in losing elections and heading up to Supreme Court three times, the president said he had met with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yakubu Mahmud, to impress upon him the need to emphasise voter education.
He commended the introduction of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and the card reader, saying that with the devices, Nigerians would be more confident in the electoral process.
He added: “The only time I saw the INEC chair was to insist that voters education should be emphasised so that ordinary Nigerians will believe that Nigeria is beginning to respect them and that their PVC is their status.
“And when coupled with the card readers, God willing, we are here with the help of technology.
Because, previous elections and I am in the position to say so having lost three times and got to Supreme Court, I know if not for technology, we will be doing the same thing.
“A lot of constituencies were bought, votes were allocated and results were announced and people were told to go to court if they don’t agree with it.
“Now, for someone who is looking for the next meal, how is he going to get the money to give to SAN, to demand justice for his marginalisation?
“So, we thank technology because with the introduction of PVC and the readers’ card, votes counted.
“Please go and emphasize this to your constituencies. Let Nigerians be respected that they can vote anybody across any party and at any constituency.
“I think that will give them the pride to voluntarily go and vote. It is not easy to go to Supreme Court three times, but I went through it, I wonder how many people will be proud to go through it in this country.”
One minister was selected in each of the geopolitical zones to extol the qualities of their former colleague.
In his own remarks, Fayemi affirmed his support for President Buhari who he recalled gave him the opportunity to serve, thanking him for not rejecting his decision to return to “rescue Ekiti.”
He also thanked his former colleagues for their support, cooperation and kind words.
The former minister described himself as an accidental miner as he was a novice in the sector when he was appointed over three years ago.
He said he however acquired experience along the line and improved the sector.
Fayemi said if elected as Ekiti governor, it would be another opportunity to expand his service to the fatherland.