President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in Nigeria early on Friday via the Kaduna Airforce Base and was flown by helicopter to the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Buhari returned several weeks after he proceeded on a 10-day vacation which was extended indefinitely to enable him receive comprehensive treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
The president landed in Kaduna as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was closed on Wednesday for scheduled repairs.
Thisday reports Presidency sources as hinting that President Buhari might address the nation on Friday after his long absence, in order to quell any concerns over his capacity to govern.
The news of his scheduled return was broken on Thursday in a statement by his media aide, Mr Femi Adesina.
Adesina had said in the statement, “The President left the country on January 19, 2017, for a vacation, during which he had routine medical check-ups. The holiday was extended based on doctors’ recommendation for further tests and rest.”
Speaking to newsmen at the airport on the president’s return, Adesina said:
“The president is going to begin work tomorrow. As the Vice President explained last week, he would arrive today, and he has arrived, and then work starts in earnest tomorrow. Those who criticised his treatment didn’t understand the statement we issued earlier. That statement said he had been looked at by Nigerian physicians, who said he was okay, but that since he was going on holiday abroad, then experts could look at him again there. So, it was not as if he wasn’t treated in the country; he was treated, well treated, certified okay, but then since he was going on holiday, the physicians said experts would look at him again out there. The president himself said it that he’s fit.
Leave or medical vacation?
The president’s spokesman clarified the issue of whether his principal had gone on a regular leave or had taken a medical vacation:
“We said it before he left that he was going on holiday. Some people called it medical leave; no, it was not. it was a leave to rest and during that rest, experts now looked at his health. So, it was principally not a medical leave. But then I’ll also use this opportunity to thank Nigerians who wished the president well, and who asked for information about his state of health. And then, those who went into overdrive, who went into some sort of hysteria, I’d also want to appeal to them to have a positive mindset. They don’t need to look at the worst case scenario when they hear about the health status of anybody – not even just the president.”
Osinbajo to continue as Acting President
Contrary to Adesina’s assurances that the president would resume work on Saturday, President Buhari has asked Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to continue in an acting capacity while he continues his rest.
TheCable reports that shortly after his arrival, Buhari met with top government officials at the First Lady’s Conference Room of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the president; Babagana Monguno, national security adviser; Lawal Daura, director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman; were among those who attended the meeting.
Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano state, and Abdulaziz Yari, his Zamfara state counterpart, also attended.
Buhari expressed gratitude to all those who prayed for him during his time in London and asked for more prayers.
He said he was feeling better but still needed to rest and retired into his residence at the end of the meeting.
There had been reports that Aso Rock insiders were worried that the longer the president remained out of the country, the greater the rumours about the true nature of his ailment.
The president returns a day after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the timetable for the 2019 elections.
According to a statement posted on its website on Thursday, INEC said it was making the announcements well ahead “in order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders”.
The 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections are scheduled to hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections will hold on Saturday, 2nd March, 2019.
The commission also announced that 23 of its electoral officers being prosecuted for various electoral offences will be placed on half salary and will not report for duty pending the determination of their respective cases by the court.
In Nigeria, the constitution provides for elections to hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure.
Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has been widely commended for some positive strides made in the absence of President Buhari but Osinbajo, who is deeply loyal to Buhari, has maintained that everything he has done was within the president’s plans or approval.
Watch youtube video of the president’s arrival here, courtesy ChannelsTV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKTUG3fnPG8