President Muhammadu Buhari’s extension of his vacation has put the rumour mill on the overdrive. JONATHAN NDA – ISAIAH, in this report, examines the controversy surrounding the president’s health condition.
President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s letter to the senate informing them of his decision to extend his vacation threw spanners into the already heated up debate about the health of the president. Even the attempt by the acting president, Yemi Osinbajo to calm frayed nerves in this regard did not do much in cooling the lips of hot blooded critics. Osinbajo told Nigerians last week that the president is hale and hearty, but some Nigerians have kept expressing doubts about the credibility of the statement.
Last week, the president was poised to return to the country at the weekend. All arrangements were made for his return and even protocol officers in the Presidential Villa were on standby, waiting for orders to proceed to the airport. Speculations about his imminent return was heightened when the president called the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
It was, however, learnt that the doctors attending to him prevailed on the Buhari to stay back in London until they were satisfied with his health condition from the series of tests and results carried out.
Keen observers of the polity have expressed concern over the unnecessary debate the president’s vacation and health condition is generating. They posit that the president followed all required constitutional processes and that there is no vacuum in government as the acting president was fully in charge. The thinking is that if people in their 30s and 40s embark on medical check on regular basis, there is nothing wrong with President Buhari at his age doing same.
It is instructive to note that, during their respective tenures, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan also went for medical checkup abroad. The difference is that they did not officially communicate their intention to embark on the medical trips to the National Assembly or to Nigerians. They often hid under the guise of private visits whenever they embark on such medical check trips abroad.
The minister of Information, Lai Mohammed had this in mind last week when he rightly said that President Buhari is a victim of his own transparency. Recall that 15 million Nigerians voted for Buhari based on his integrity and so far, in his dealings and actions, the president has acted with a sense of nobility and obligation.
Keen observers have queried the purveyors of the death rumours of the president, saying it is un-African, wishing the Buhari dead. According to them, Nigerians should rather pray for their president. Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello did not spare the death peddlers either. He carpeted those propagating death rumours about President Buhari as the real enemies of Nigeria.
The governor, who gave the caution through a message to the Apapo Omo Yagba Congress held at Isanlu last weekend through his Director General on Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo said the nation stood to benefit nothing from such “evil wishes against the president”.
Bello said, “The emergence of President Buhari at this critical period of our nation’s economy is a big blessing. The president has confronted the recession in the nation with all the deserved seriousness to lift her off the woods. Every leader is installed by the Almighty Allah to help humanity and advance the wishes of God over the people. The Holy Books urge us to pray for our leaders. The injunction is for our benefit because when leaders act right, the people will reap the fruits. Wishing a person dead because of political, ethnic or religious difference is a sin and I will urge all those who wish the president dead to seek for forgiveness from God.”
“All of us must face the current realities. The president has come out to say he is hearing the voices of the people. We have a president who will stake everything to bring us back to reckoning. The grandiose corruption of the past is the reason we are suffering today. But the president is not complaining but taking the right steps to help our nation.”
On his part, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo described the people behind the death rumour of President Buhari as abnormal human beings.
Obasanjo said instead of bothering Mr. Buhari with such “worrisome” declarations of his own death, what the president needs “is our prayers and best wishes, which will ginger his morale to come back stronger and better.” He cautioned against “politicising” every situation in the country, saying he was also a victim of death rumours while in office.
“No normal human being will wish an elderly person dead, irrespective of their differences. If you don’t like him, wait for another election, not going about to say he is dead. No matter his health situation, we should pray for him to recover quick and come back stronger and better”, the former president said.
Despite these admonitions, Nigerians on the other side of the political divide have kept arguing that the citizens need to know the true health status of the president to avoid another Yar’Adua debacle. The thinking is that the president is a public figure and owes Nigerians an explanation, maybe via a video interview telling them he is okay and enjoying his vacation.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in his response said it is ridiculous to compare President Buhari ‘s health situation with that of the late former president, Umaru Yar’Adua.
In all these, the presidency has not relented in its efforts to prove to Nigerians that the president is hale and hearty. Pictures have been released, showing Buhari having dinner with Ogun State governor, Ibidokun Amosun and also a visit by his wife, Aisha. Last week, APC leaders, Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande visited the president in London.
Even with the pictures on the front pages of national newspapers, some Nigerians are still doubting the authenticity of the visits, claiming that nothing but a video evidence would do for them.
On Monday, United States President, Donald Trump spoke to Buhari on telephone. Trump encouraged President Buhari to keep up the good work he was doing; he also commended him for the efforts made in rescuing 24 of the Chibok Girls and the strides being taken by the Nigerian military.
President Trump also assured the Nigerian President of US’ readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism.
Observers say Trump’s call may have ended the speculation about the Nigerian President being incapacitated and all doubting Thomases would have seen the light. The thinking is that the president of the most powerful nation on earth could not have been part of the Yar’Adua- like conspiracy.