President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday committed a gaffe in protocol during his presentation of the 2016 proposed budget to a joint session of the National Assembly. Immediately after acknowledging Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Buhari bypassed both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to mention Governor Umar Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State.
SaharaReporters learned that the gaffe has led to recriminations at the Presidency, with some of Mr. Buhari’s staffers blaming the blunder on Lawal Kazaure, a diplomat recently appointed as the president’s chief protocol officer.
A director at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Kazaure was appointed as the president’s chief of protocol based on what one Presidency source described as Mr. Buhari’s habit of trusting only people with whom he has one form of relationship or another.
“Ambassador Kazaure’s only qualification is that he is married to Mr. President’s niece. He is married to the daughter of Lawan Daura,” said the source. Mr. Daura has emerged as one of the most powerful figures around President Buhari.
Mr. Kazaure was a deputy director at the NIA before he was redeployed to the Presidential Villa. Two officials at the Presidency accused the new chief of protocol of having little or no knowledge of how protocols work, adding that he had to be first named “Ambassador” on the recommendation of the Director-General of the NIA before he could validly be appointed State House Chief Protocol. Typically, protocol heads are appointed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with appointees drawn from among the ranks of senior ambassadors seasoned in protocol matters.
One source at the Presidency said Mr. Kazaure had in the last two weeks transferred numerous competent officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs out of the Villa and replaced them with NIA officials he “trusts to do his bidding.”
The source added that the newly recruited officials’ lack of experience had contributed to the president’s gaffe during his budget presentation. “They [the newly recruited officials] did not know that, in the order of protocol, the Senate President comes after the VP, followed by the Speaker and the Chief Justice of the Federation.”
A State governor occupies the 10th spot on the protocol list at official State functions, one of the irate Presidency officials told our correspondent.