Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday said the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to take only half of his salary was what made him (the Vice-President) to do same.
He said he also failed in his attempt to convince Buhari to donate the half salary he rejected to him (Osinbajo).
Osinbajo said this at the public presentation of a book, “Making Steady, Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity” at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He spoke about the President’s frugality, saying he does not believe in amassing wealth at the detriment of those he is leading.
Osinbajo said, “Some things have not been included in the book and I might just supply some of that. One of such things is the exemplary frugality, the honesty and humility, and sense of humour of Mr. President.
“That frugality can sometimes be a problem. As you know, Mr. President decided that since government provides accommodation, food and transportation for the President and the Vice-President, we didn’t need a full salary.
“Now, how much is this salary by the way? It is public knowledge and I think it is N1, 750,000.00 or so, which is under N2m. He said he would take only half of his salary and so I had no choice but also to take half of my own salary.
“Unfortunately, Mr. President turned down my request, to give the other half to a worthy cause – his Vice-President. He didn’t consider me a more worthy cause to give half of his salary!
“In a country where politicians sometimes want to be as wealthy as Dangote, it is refreshing to have a President who most people won’t even dare to discuss any private benefit on a project with let alone a bribe or a kick-back.”
While describing corruption as Nigeria’s major problem, he added that the menace was the main reason for the depletion of the nation’s resources, such that the country had no savings when oil prices fell.
Osinbajo said it was the prudence and honesty of the President that ensured that despite the economic downturn, the Federal Government was able to support the states, spend N1.3trn on capital expenditure, the largest in the history of the nation, and also ensure it met all our other obligations, both foreign and local.
He added, “Mr. President’s unassuming personality and humility, is in my view, probably his greatest strength. This is why he is never flattered, or carried away by praise or adulation.
“He has always said ‘I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I am here to provide stability and leadership, to a generation, a group of people, determined to run this country honestly, to provide jobs and prosperity to the poor, and our huge youth population.’
“I remember when he was on medical vacation, and I was speaking to him on the phone fairly regularly and giving him a rundown of what was going on, especially when he was on the first medical vacation. He said to me, ‘don’t worry about telling me all that is happening, I rely on your judgment keep doing your best, what if I drop dead?! You would have to run it anyway.’
“I had to say to him, that his dropping dead was not part of the plan.”
Osinbajo said the ultimate benefit of public service was the ability to touch millions of lives for good or for ill, by governmental policies and actions.
He said the reality of honest and serious-minded nation building is that in the short- run, tough and unpopular decisions have to be made.
“The greatest challenge is how to take the tough decisions, do the difficult things, and keep the people’s support.
“I suppose you cannot be a Buhari and shy away from tough decisions, and the President has not been afraid to take the bold decisions even when they are criticised.
“What has happened so far under this government is the tough business of laying strong foundations. The first, is honesty and good governance, and prudence in government spending.
“The second is in ensuring that we have an infrastructure that can sustain our economy, not now, but in the next decades. For the first time, in at least a decade, we are spending 30% on capital expenditure,” Osinbajo said.
He said the government was dedicated “to ensuring that it gives the best that is possible to Nigerians.”