Nation Awaits Buhari’s Return, After 31 Days Absence



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 check up 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 5, 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).

A statement at the weekend by the Senate Committee Chairman on Media and Publicity, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said when the Senate resumes plenary, it would continue legislation on the 2017 budget and other economic priority bills at different stages of work.

Abdullahi said Senator Saraki would also read the president’s letters at plenary tomorrow.

He added: “From tomorrow, various committees are expected to start submitting reports to the Committee on Appropriation based on the schedule provided following the conclusion of the budget defence by the MDAs.

“This will be followed by a compilation of the reports by the Appropriation Committee and engagement with the leadership of the Senate and interface with some committees where necessary.

“The last stage of the budget process will be laying of the report at plenary by the Appropriation Committee, as well as the consideration and passage of the Appropriation Bill.

“Simultaneously, the Senate will also begin to consider several economic reform bills that form the basis of the Red Chamber’s priority economic agenda.

“This may see two of such bills – the Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Act and the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) – come up during plenary sessions.”

Meanwhile, the president’s media aide, Garba Shehu has remained unrelenting about showcasing the positives of the Buhari presidency, stating yesterday that Buhari fully appreciates the support and prayers of Nigerians and has promised to ensure enduring legacies before quitting office.

He said the president would need the continued patience and understanding of Nigerians for him to build an enduring foundation for a better future.

He said that apart from fixing the problem of insecurity that threatens peace and stability of the country, the president who has been in the United Kingdom for a month, was working hard to restructure the economy.

Shehu, who spoke during an interactive session with Nigeria students and youths organised by the Citizen Support for Good Governance in Nigeria (CSGGN) in Abuja at the weekend, urged Nigerians to appreciate the achievements Buhari has recorded in the areas of security and the fight against corruption.

“He wants to build a future of prosperity, a future that will be everlasting. Something that will stay for generation upon generation and I assure you that this is a beginning of the good things to come,” he said.

While insisting that Buhari means well for Nigerians, Shehu claimed that Boko Haram insurgents would have taken over the seat of power, Aso Rock, had the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under former President Goodluck Jonathan continued in office.

Shehu said: “Your support for Muhammadu Buhari, I assure you, will not be in vain. If you look at him, he has achieved everything one desires to achieve.

“He chose the military career and rose to become an army general. Beyond that he became a military head of state.

“So if the ambition of one is to rule one’s country he has achieved that already. But President Buhari fought three times and won on the fourth count with the firm belief that he has something to offer the future generations of this country.

“In essence, what I am saying is that he doesn’t have a personal wish for fortune, for power, to acquire houses or money. No, that is not Buhari.

“He wants a future that is secure and stable for young generations that are coming, that is yourselves.

“This why, in his message, he has stayed on three key issues, he has repeated this over and over again. He says this country cannot make any progress without security.

“Look at all the efforts that have been made in rolling back Boko Haram. There are many people who believed that had it not been for President Buhari and if PDP had continued to rule this country in 2015, Boko Haram would have taken over Aso Rock by now. So we have achieved so much in terms of security.

“On the war against corruption, people were stealing money, huge amounts of money, the kind of money that they don’t need, what do you need that kind of money for?

“Look at the one from Kaduna (GMD of NNPC), I was at another event and they said the man’s aunt said she wanted food, but he said there was no money.

“Look at the huge amount of money in a neighbourhood that had no electricity, no road, no water, in the same compound in which you had low level working Nigerians.

“They did not know that they resided in a compound with billions of naira from stolen funds that were kept there.”

The presidential aide pleaded with Nigerians to remain patient with the Buhari administration, describing the president as a long distance runner not a sprinter whose tenure would not be “flash in the pan”.

Throwing more light on why he described Buhari as a marathoner, Shehu said there are presidents who are 100-day presidents, who seek to make the impact they want to make in 100 days or in one year, in order to get headlines and create an impression.

Shehu said Buhari, on the other hand, intends to put in place enduring legacies.

Reeling out the administration’s achievements, he said: “The important whistleblowing policy that the president has instituted, it provides an opportunity for me, you and to every citizen of this country.

“If you see stolen money going anywhere, you will not only be honoured for pointing it out, you can earn a commission.

“So, there is a reward for exposing that and that money can change one’s life.

“The president is also working hard to restructure the economy. This is very much misunderstood by Nigerians; unfortunately it is easier to destroy than to build.

“We met a situation whereby the economy had been ravaged and people were used to lifestyles that could no longer be sustained.

“No country can develop when you have to import everything including toothpicks and tissue paper.

“All of the money earned was just going to buying food. As I speak to you, Nigeria just achieved the record of being the second largest producer of rice in the world.

Yet, the rice revolution just started a year ago. A newspaper did an investigation in Kebbi and they found out that there were 48,000 new millionaires in the state alone for growing rice. Over reliance on oil has killed this country and we cannot continue like this.

“The jobs are being created as promised, that is, half a million jobs a year. The economy could not have supported it in the past, but before the close of the year, we would have done more than 300,000 new jobs while the balance will be carried over into the new year.”

Earlier, a member of Board of Trustee (BoT) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ismaila Ahmed said that Nigerians have the right to hold Buhari and the ruling party accountable on all the promises made during the 2015 presidential election campaign.

According to him, “As a government, we have to be open to criticism. Some people are not happy, people have to express their frustration, people have to express their anger, we can not and we should not have a problem with that.”