It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari could not return to the seat of the Nigerian government in Abuja on Sunday, February 5, as earlier scheduled. The National Assembly has been duly informed of this development as explained in a press release by the Presidency.
I do not and would not pray for anything bad to happen to our president. My religion teaches me to pray for my leaders for they are ordained by God. The same religion also admonishes me to let my YES be YES, my NO be NO, give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. I frown deeply at those who were so peeved as to wish the death of someone they did not create.
Having said that, it is said that everything happens for a reason and in every incident, there is a lesson. Were there lessons to be learned from a similar incident involving a former Nigerian president in the past? Obviously, yes. Were those lessons learned by both the ‘governors’ and the governed? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
Definitely, there was no basis to compare the nature of that previous debacle and the present incident, as a colleague and friend of mine rightly argued on his wall in his intervention on the matter. He posited, “the level of secrecy that obtained then does not obtain now….Even when the ailing President was sneaked back into the country in the middle of the night and we dared security to cover his arrival, the intrigues continued…”
He also pointed out (rightly) that “the level of cooperation between the President and Vice President is different from what obtains now….for Chrissake today’s Vice President is an Acting President without the rigours of a debate in the National Assembly and a “doctrine of necessity”, there’s no cabal waiting in the wings, manipulating the issues of governance, planting stories in the media, signing budgets from anywhere in the world and importing clerics into the Presidential Villa to pray for a comatose President”
Then he asked the all-important rhetorical question: “Is it now a crime for a seventy-three-year-old man to do a medical check-up after a very rigorous schedule in the past three months? How many younger men feel the need to refresh after a ton of stress?”
My friend ended his intervention on this note: “So whether we like it or not we have to wait for him to resume next week. Until then one would just have to bear and grin the rather clueless commentaries being put out in an attempt to prove all is not well”.
Now, let us try to look at the whole thing from an objective point of view if ever there is anything like that. While not attempting to x-ray the merits and demerits of my friend’s passionate submission and the supportive comments it attracted, there are questions that need to be answered. First, we have waited and we all now know that the president may not resume this week – definitely not on the day we were told he would. So, can the commentaries of those who voiced this possibility still be considered “clueless”? Were the speculations totally baseless? If the president had stayed in Nigeria for his vacation and been attended to in Nigeria whether by a Nigerian or foreign medical doctor, would we have had this kind of speculation, if at all?
Indeed, any president is entitled to the best medical care he/she can get. It’s difficult to believe that there is no Nigerian doctor anywhere in the world who can attend efficiently to the medical needs of our president. If we can recruit the best brains in the Diaspora into the cabinet why can’t we do the same for our number one citizen’s personal doctor(s)? Even if he had to keep to the doctor he’s been using for years, (which is quite rational), why can’t the doctor be scheduled to fly quietly into the country from time to time to do routine medicals on the Principal? If it’s a matter of facilities, what stops the government from equipping Aso Rock Clinic with all the facilities that befit a presidential clinic? What is done with the millions, if not billions, budgeted for the clinic periodically? As for cynicism, how can a father tell his children not to eat beef but they see him eating juicy beef suya from time to time? Our people say that truth is bitter – and so are the most effective medicines I know. Try agbo and chloroquine.
Attempts to mitigate the speculations only provided more fuel
for them. Some argued that it was not necessary for the president’s handlers to show video proof that he was in good health but they went ahead all the same to show photo proof. I ask, what is the difference? I recall when we were covering the Villa, OBJ’s security details used to caution cameramen not to take photos of the president while eating. I never really got any convincing answer as to why not. That question came to my mind again when I saw photos of President Buhari at table, apparently enjoying a continental dish in front of him with one of our guest governors. I guessed continental because I know you don’t tackle tuwo with such seriousness and with fork and knife. There were even photos of him with madam in the sitting room. That gave the speculations new life with cynics claiming the images were photoshopped and asking for dates or calendars on the wall to confirm their currency. It is said that if you walk on water your detractors would claim that it’s because you can’t swim. One would have thought that the president’s handlers would know better.
There was also a Facebook post, supposedly by the president’s daughter, Zahra, claiming that PMB was “now in sound Health condition.” It is doubtful whether Zahra, with all her top class education, was actually the author of that post, given the number of syntactic and mechanical errors in such a short message. Nevertheless, whoever authored it had the ‘good’ intention of helping to allay fears about the president’s state of health. However, one is forced to wonder whether the author was confirming that PMB was not in a “good and sound Health condition” before the post. Nigerians are not dumb in every sense of that word and they are bound to say what they hear, see or feel – which of course is their right for this is a democracy and in a democracy, according to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, “We are living in an open world. There is freedom of speech, and clearly, freedom of speculation.”
With the recent development, it would seem the previous speculations were not misplaced after all. At least, public office holders may now have to think twice before wasting taxpayers’ money (not sure how many Nigerians actually pay tax) to go for medicals abroad even when they are hale and hearty. To that extent, the speculators are doing a greater service to the nation than the multitudes who sit on the fence for fear of stepping on toes or the sycophants who see black and call it white. Those that criticize the government do not necessarily love the president less. Until we discard the Ostrich mentality and the na-me-love-president-pass syndrome, na where we dey we go dey for dis kontri.
For now, we shall see how much speculation will be rekindled with the current development. Again, the wording of the press release announcing the extension of the president’s vacation is likely to provide tinder to rekindle the speculations. It states inter alia:
President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly today, February 5, 2017, informing (sic) 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 special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina who signed the statement, further told Channels TV:
“I am sure it will get to a point when the president has to disclose the status of his health if it needs to be disclosed……….So, Mr. President can take the time he desires and when his doctors give him a clean bill of health, he then can return home.”
Explaining that all the information he has on the president’s health had been released, Adesina said what Buhari needs from Nigerians at the moment is prayers.
Already, I’ve heard a commentator asking, “If he is hale and hearty as we were told last week, why does he need another cycle of tests and results that cannot be conducted in Nigeria? Isn’t Adesina’s statement that the president would return when given a clean bill of health by his doctors contradictory? What’s wrong with simply telling us that the president needs to recover fully from his condition, whatever it is, before returning? Isn’t it better that they tell us than the foreigners treating him leak information that may suit their purpose? And if we need to pray for the president, wouldn’t it be better to have a specific prayer point?”
My prayer is, may the outstanding series of tests and results not take too long so that the president can come and deliver on the many remaining promises his party made to the people during the presidential campaign. Amen, somebody.
Lest I forget
Sometimes, I wonder why people keep saying that Nigerians are among the most intelligent human beings on earth. How can that possibly be when many Nigerians forget so easily? Doesn’t it border on the absurd to still hear people saying that President Jonathan did nothing special by ‘conceding defeat’ in the 2015 election; that he only played by the rules of the game? Pray, were there different rules in 2011? I’ve said it before and will say it again that the real problem with Nigeria is not corruption but the hydra-headed monster I call hypo-syco-amnesia; in other words, hypocrisy, sycophancy and selective amnesia. Why have our people mastered the art of crying more than the bereaved? President Buhari rarely misses the opportunity to praise President Jonathan’s statesmanship when he did what he did in 2015, and which has been commended by many well-meaning democrats the world over. In his inaugural speech, Buhari said:
I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.
The same horde of eye-service merchants continues to hold that the problems of Nigeria were caused by the ‘16 wasted years of PDP misrule’ (especially the ‘lootocratic’ 6-year season of Jonathan’s presidency). They prefer to conveniently forget the 39 years of ‘planlessness’ and profligacy of all previous administrations after independence in 1960. How ‘smart’!
(From Random Thoughts: A Collection of Essays & Poems by Tony Ekata)