31 Days After, Nation Awaits Buhari’s Return
Thirty-one days after President Muhammadu Buhari left the country, supposedly on a vacation for ten working days, an air of mystery continues to prevail over the status of the president’s health and when he would return to the country, despite the numerous adjectives ranging from “hale and hearty” to “witty”, provided by the presidency, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and the leadership of the National Assembly to describe the president who remains holed up at the Abuja House, London, for unclear reasons.
The president left the country on January 19, 2017, a clear four days before the date indicated for the commencement of his vacation, stating that he would return to resume work on February 6.
According to a letter dated January 18, 2017, addressed respectively to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Buhari had said he would proceed on vacation for ten working days effective January 23, during which he said he would undergo a routine medical checkup in the United Kingdom.
Assuring that he would be back at his desk by February 6, Buhari said while he was away, his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, would act as the president and discharge the functions of his office.
However on February 5th, the presidency announced the extension of his vacation indefinitely, claiming that the president was waiting for the results of various medical tests conducted on him before leaving London.
Since then, the nation has been treated with carefully choreographed photographs and platitudes about the state of the president’s health without explaining why a “hale”, “hearty”, “healthy” and “witty” president prefers to remain in cold and dreary London at the peak of winter instead of returning to his job in sunny, but dusty Abuja.
Rather than being transparent about the state of the president’s health, or the date of his return, government functionaries, party officials and presidential aides have employed various clichés to paint a rosy picture of the president’s health.
While the vice-president on February 6, told the country that the president was “hale and hearty” judging from the conversation he said he had with him, Saraki and Dogara fell over themselves two days later to inform the country that they had spoken with the president on the phone and he was in “good spirits”.
These claims were followed by photographs via Twitter posts from the presidency a few days later, showing the president receiving two leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, who had visited him in London.
The latest episode regarding the president’s continuous stay in London was the visit of Saraki, Dogara and the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, to him in London, which was also accompanied by photographs of the visit.
While in London, Saraki issued a statement saying the president was “witty” and in “high spirits”.
But Nigerians are beginning to get impatient with the excuses and so-called status reports on Buhari from the various organs of government that contradict his continuing absence from the country,
Specifically, questions are being asked that if the president is indeed “hale and hearty”, “witty” and in “good spirits”, why has he failed to return to the country to govern?
Several Nigerians are also questioning the rationale behind the excuses, arguing that they are untenable, flimsy and self-serving by telling the nation that the president is awaiting the results of medical tests in this technologically-driven era when his test results could either be e-mailed to him, or his doctors flown to Nigeria with the results.
According to them, it is disconcerting for a president, especially one who coveted and contested for the office for 12 years, to be waiting for mere medical results abroad indefinitely, while shirking his responsibilities at home.
Although the president handed over to his deputy who has been performing the functions of his office since he left the country, pundits have said it is unacceptable for him to remain abroad indefinitely.
History is replete with records of presidents who took ill while in office, but whose health status was not shrouded in secret from their citizens,
However, as Nigerians wait for the truth on Buhari’s prolonged stay in the United Kingdom, the Senate will reconvene for plenary tomorrow to consider among others, Buhari’s letter extending his vacation in London and Osinbajo’s request for the confirmation of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Though the absence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, works, allocations, appointments, commissions and other Presidential activities are still ongoing.