Fresh anxiety is mounting over the state of health of President Muhammadu Buhari, who returned to the country on March 10 after a 49-day medical sojourn in London, United Kingdom.
The 74-year-old Nigerian leader was only seen in public once throughout last week, when he joined other Muslim faithful for a Juma’at service on Friday at a mosque located near his office inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The service lasted less than one hour after which Buhari returned to his residence.
Before Friday’s brief appearance, the last time he was seen in public was penultimate Friday when he attended the same service at the same venue.
Presidency sources attributed the President’s continuous non-appearance at public events to his ailing health and the need to take further rest.
“It is no longer news that the President has been sick. His ill health coupled with his age is responsible for the scaling down of his activities,” one of the sources said on Saturday.
In the Presidential Villa, there have been continuous whispers among workers over Buhari’s continued absence.
The concern was further heightened when it was observed that many of the President’s assignments were transferred to the Vice President.
During the week, a delegation of the Arewa Consultative Forum had met with the vice president and told him they were welcoming Buhari from his medical vacation through him (Yemi Osinbajo).
“Was it that they were denied access to the President himself due to his ill health?” some workers wondered aloud.
One of our correspondents reported that, although some government officials were reported to have met with Buhari in his office during the week to update him of developments in their ministries, no photographs or video recordings of such encounters were made available by the Presidency, which was contrary to the usual practice.
Although the government officials spoke with reporters after their separate meetings with the president, the absence of such photographs and video recordings raised doubts as to whether, indeed, the government officials met with the President.
When confronted with such suspicion on Thursday, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Usani Usani, who was one of the government officials that met Buhari during the week, said those who held the opinion that he did not meet the president were entitled to their opinion.
He, however, insisted that he met Buhari and briefed him on developments in his ministry.
Others who met the president during the week were the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winnifred Oyo-Ita; Minister of Solid Mineral Development, Kayode Fayemi; and the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung.
Speaking on the development, a former Joint House Leader of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as a member of the Defence Committee in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, told SUNDAY PUNCH that there was every reason for Nigerians to be worried about the president’s health, especially because he has hardly been seen in public.
Mohammed said, “The Presidency needs to tell the truth. It is disingenuous and not good for the country for the people to be told lies about their president.
“We need to know the truth and not be told lies. People have genuine cause to be worried because they don’t see their president as they should. Knowing about the health of the President is not a personal issue; it is of public interest. Nigerians are genuinely concerned.”
Also speaking on the rare appearance of Buhari in public, a member of the National Executive Committee of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, said Nigerians should be worried that the cabal in the administration of the president might have hijacked the care of Buhari from his wife, Aisha Buhari.
“That was what happened to Gen. Sani Abacha. The same happened to (ex-) President Umaru Yar’Adua when he took ill and eventually died. Aisha has to learn the ropes and should not allow the cabal in her husband’s government to mismanage the President’s health. While I think the President’s illness is due to old age, there are concerns in the public that he has continued to stay away from the public and the Presidency keeps saying the President is fine. People are worried because Buhari is a president they love,” the ACF chieftain told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday night.
Similarly, the leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, stated that Nigerians were worried about the continued absence of the President in the public. He noted that Buhari was not elected to stay indoors.
“Nigerians want to see the President they voted for. Nigerians want to know the status of his health. We are praying for him to get better but nobody should hide him from us. We are worried. It is disturbing and worrisome that we have not seen him in public and that we do not know his exact health status. Nobody should hide him away from us because we feel he has been kidnapped from Nigerians. He is being treated with taxpayers’ money so they deserve to know the status of his health.
“It is sad that against all odds, a cabal in the government has turned Buhari to a private property. But Buhari is a public property as an elected president of the country. Tradition and constitution demand that we should know about his health. No one has the right to hide him from us. We are concerned; we are worried. We feel that our mandate is being hijacked by some people. The electorate must know what has happened to their mandate,” Shettima said.
He is recovering, says Presidency
When contacted on Saturday to react to the fresh anxiety over the President’s health, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari was recuperating, adding that the prayer of all was that he recovered fully soon.
When further asked when the President would likely return to see his doctors in the United Kingdom, the presidential spokesman said Nigerians would be adequately informed about Buhari’s movement when the time comes.
Adesina said, “The President is recovering, and our prayer is that he returns to full heath soon.
“On arrival in the country on March 10, he (Buhari) said he would still travel at a later time. No date was given, but be assured that when it’s time to travel, the country would be told.
“The President is a plain and straightforward person.”
It will be recalled that the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, had questioned Buhari’s absence from state functions, especially the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings.
The Convener of Every Nigerian Do Something, Perry Brimah, had also claimed in a statement on Friday that the President was critically ill and was being locked up inside the Presidential Villa by a selfish cabal.
Fayose, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, on Thursday, issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, had asked if the President was governing the country by proxy.
According to him, it is becoming obvious that a group or cabal is exercising the powers of the President.
Olalekan Adetayo and Bayo Akinloye are Punch correspondents