President Muhammadu Buhari’s vacation in the United Kingdom has been a subject of rumours, speculations and anxiety bordering on hysteria since he left Nigeria on January 19. Although he duly notified the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and transmitted power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo before he travelled, as required by Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution, his absence has heightened tension in the country.
While some segments of the Nigerian population believe that the president might be dead or incapacitated and have called for his resignation, with some seizing the occasion to embark on public protests against the hardship occasioned by the recession in the country, yet others hold the view that he is alive, well and having a well deserved rest as afforded him by the Constitution.
We do not think that the medical vacation of the president calls for the ongoing hysteria in the country. This is not the first time that the president will be on vacation and receive medical treatment abroad. It is on record that he took his first vacation after eight months in office, on February 5, 2016. He also took a medical vacation from June 6 to June 16, 2016. On his current trip, however, the assurances of the president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, that the president is not in any danger, have failed to douse the anxieties of some pessimists, who appear convinced that the country is having a replay of the circumstances that attended the demise of the late president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
We appreciate that there are good reasons why Nigerians should be concerned about the health of the president, but the whirlwind of rumours about his demise and permanent incapacitation are clearly without basis. The demise of a president often comes with great national sadness, but the institutions of government are meant to cushion the state against social convulsion and political turmoil.
The political succession of leaders is also clearly spelled out in our Constitution. In that regard, the rumours of pressures on Osinbajo to resign because he would not be allowed by politicians in northern Nigeria to become president in the event of Buhari’s demise, as provided for in the constitution, is disconcerting, to say the least. Osinbajo even had to reassure Nigerians that he was not “under pressure to resign.”
We see no need for the hoopla that has attended the president’s medical vacation. Our grouse, if any, is with the continuing prostration of our medical institutions which made it necessary for the president to travel out of the country for treatment. For how long will our supposed centres of medical excellence be unable to offer top grade medical services, thereby making the president and all other Nigerians who can afford it, medical tourists? Why can the nation not provide top grade medical services to the president in spite of the billions of naira voted for the medical centre at Aso Rock? These are questions that are crying out for answers.
We are, however, not impressed by claims that the president is “hale and hearty.” The president cannot be said to be hale and hearty” because if he is, he will be in the country attending to his onerous duties. Our view is that the president is ill and is receiving medical treatment abroad. He has duly met the constitutional demand of asking that the Vice President serves as Acting President in his absence, and the Vice president is already doing this.
Going forward, we believe the president should be allowed to have his medical treatment in peace, while Nigerians are duly informed about the progress he is making. The state of his health concerns all Nigerians because what he does affects their lives. Openness on all issues concerning the president, including his health, will go a long way in preventing and quelling unfounded rumours.
We wish the president a quick recovery so that he can return to the duties for which he was elected and urge all Nigerians to cooperate with Acting President Osinbajo until President Muhammadu Buhari returns.