No insult to the sensibilities of 180million Nigerians could be greater than the one Femi Adesina hauled at them on Sunday. The special adviser to the president (media and publicity) issued the statement below on a day President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to return from London to resume duty on Monday, after a 17-day absence:
PRESIDENT BUHARI EXTENDS VACATION, WRITES NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly today, February 5, 2017, informing of his desire to extend his leave in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.
The President had planned to return to Abuja this evening, but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning. The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives.
Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media and Publicity)
February 5, 2017
Adesina’s statement didn’t place a deadline for the extension – it’s indefinite.
The Nigerian president’s health status has been the subject of debates among Nigerians, but the authorities consider it a state secret. Speculations have taken over. However, there have been facts indicating that Buhari’s health has deteriorated rapidly. He has travelled at least five times on health grounds since May 2015 when he was sworn in. His recent pictures tell the story of a very ill senior citizen.
When, therefore, he travelled again on January 19 – to London, as was officially stated – many believed his illness had got worse. He had handed over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo through a letter to the legislature stating he would be on leave for 10 days.
Doubts about the president’s health status persisted in the social media, prompting presidential aides to publish different photos of their principal watching TV, receiving guests and standing with his wife Aisha. The IG of police had travelled to London also, allegedly on the invitation of the Metropolitan Police.
The suspicion grew only worse. Youngsters spoke of “photoshopping” and old photos presented as new. Even when it was published that he had spoken to sports minister Dalung to commiserate with him on his wife’s death, the report came from an aide of the minister. Let the president address Nigerians, if by Skype, some suggested.
Another presidential aide, Garba Shehu, Sunday night came to his colleague’s rescue. He issued a statement announcing that the president and his delegation were ready to return any moment from then. “I just spoke to the president’s personal doctor, and he told me that President Buhari is not in any serious condition as to worry about. He is not in hospital. He is in the residence at the Nigerian High Commission,” Shehu said. The test results, he noted, were delayed but were ready later on Sunday.
After the 17-day wait, everyone was waiting for the riddle to be solved by President Buhari’s return to Nigeria, only for Mr Adesina to issue his insulting statement. Do Nigerians have no right to know their president’s whereabouts? many have asked.
The ailment afflicting the Nigerian leader may be prostate enlargement, which a majority of his age-mates suffer.
But the popular view in the media is different: the president is on life support or brain-damaged! If either is the case, it means he has become incapacitated and can’t therefore continue as president. The Nigerian constitution says so.
If the presidency had told the truth, there would have been no tension in the land. Secrecy fuels speculation.
A similar thing happened in Nigeria seven years ago. Then President Umaru Yar’Adua had fallen sick and been taken to Saudi Arabia. A “cabal” kept issuing statements on his behalf and looting the public treasury. His deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was shut out of the goings-on. Following the tension all over Nigeria, the National Assembly relied on the “Doctrine of Necessity” to make Jonathan acting president on February 9, 2010.
A month or two later, Yar’Adua (likely on life support) was ferried home in the dead of the night. When the plane landed all the lights in the Abuja airport were switched off, to prevent prying eyes from catching a glimpse of the dying president.
The attempt by the cabal to let Yar’Adua remain as president failed on May 5, 2010. He died. And Jonathan was sworn in as president.
History seems to be repeating itself in Nigeria. There is palpable tension everywhere including in Aso Villa. Nigerians demand to see their president live.
A perceived power struggle is likely to continue on the floors of the Senate and the House of Representatives this week. That is, if President Buhari failed to resume work. Likely he won’t.