•’Like anybody, I can fall sick’
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has defended his decision to travel out on a 10-day vacation during which he would also see a specialist for a persistent ear infection. He said as a human being, he is not immune to ill-health.
“Is there anybody that doesn’t fall sick?” the president asked newsmen rhetorically at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, just before departing for London on the recommendations of his personal physician to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.
Buhari is said to be suffering from Menière disease, a disorder of the inner ear that usually affects both hearing and balance.
The president said he has done the needful by properly informing the National Assembly about his vacation. “The National Assembly knows, they have been formally informed,” he said.
However, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina insisted that Buhari is not ill.
He said the word ‘ill’ is not the right word to use in describing the present state of his boss.
“The buzz going round town is that the president is “ill”, but, “ill” will be a misnomer; it should not be the right word to use.
“The president is going for a 10-day rest and, during that period, he will see specialists who will look at his ear because he has been treating that ear locally for sometime. “Nigerian physicians have looked at it and, now, they have said ‘you are going to UK, now that you will be there, let specialists look at the ear.’ They have treated it locally so, it is not a question of whether the president is ill. If he is ill, it presupposes that there are certain things that he cannot do.
“Till the very last minute to traveling, the president performed the duties and functions of his office. So, illness is not the issue, but, as a human being yes, he can rest.
“He has been president for one full year. You know that in February, he took five days leave.
“He is taking another 10 days now; that means 15 days leave in one year. You and I take more than that; so, it is natural that the president as a human being is taking 10 days rest but, he is not ill.
•It’s a national disgrace, says ex-NMA president
Meanwhile, immediate past national president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Vice President of Commonwealth Medical Association, Osahon Enabulele has described Buhari’s trip to treat an ear infection as “a national disgrace.
“I consider it a national shame of immense proportions that Mr. President had to be recommended for foreign medical care/re-evaluation despite the presence of over 250 ENT specialists (and professors) in Nigeria as well as a National Ear Centre located in Kaduna State.”
Enabulele said the ailment that can be handled by experts in the country.
has left a “blot” on the reputation of Nigerian doctors and, contrary to his promise to change the way government is run and how public officials conduct themselves.
Enabulele said in a statement yesterday that the trip violates section 46 of the National Health Act, which seeks to address the abuse of taxpayers’ resources through frivolous foreign medical travels embarked upon by political and public office holders.
“I am very constrained to state that this foreign medical trip flies in the face of the Federal Government’s earlier declaration of her resolve to halt the embarrassing phenomenon of outward medical tourism, which as at the end of 2013 had led to a humongous capital flight of about $1 billion dollars, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders (and their accompanying aides), whose foreign medical trips (most of which are unnecessary) were financed with tax payers’ resources.”