WE have gone full circle. Nigeria is once again back on the tenterhooks over the illness of its leader, President Muhammadu Buhari. When, earlier in the year, the president was out of the country for 49 days on account of an undisclosed ailment, the rumour mills roared with sundry “news” of his death, incapacitation and what have you. He, thereafter, returned to the country and admitted the seriousness of his illness, which, according to him, necessitated several blood transfusions.
Between that time and his second medical trip, Buhari made few public appearances, mainly in the mosque and for specific appointments, which were well celebrated in the media.
The objective, it appeared, was to give some semblance of normalcy; to create the impression that all was well and the president was back to work. At least, until the president had to return to London for further medical treatment, as he had earlier disclosed when he returned from his first trip.
But then, the president’s health did not hold out that long. With his missing the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting for three weeks in a row, and his inability to go for the usual Friday prayers at the mosque, the thinly-veiled allegations of his gross incapacitation and possible death, again burst of their holdings, with calls in some quarters for his resignation to take care of his health. Even three of the nation’s former leaders, ex-presidents Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdulsalam Abubakar, also reportedly met to deliberate on Buhari’s ill health and the way forward for the country.
Certainly, somewhere in between the claim of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, that the president missed a meeting because he was resting, and would be working from home that day, and the allegation of his gross incapacitation by his critics, lies the simple truth – that the president is gravely ill and will not be able attend to his duties.
What does the Nigerian constitution say regarding this type of situation? It is that the president should hand over to the Vice President to perform the functions of his office until he is able to return and continue his work. This is exactly what Buhari has now done.
This step looks simple enough, and should be able to rest all the permutations and perambulations on Buhari’s ill health saga. But then, not in Nigeria, where a certain cabal reportedly ensconced within Aso Rock walls is alleged not to be disposed to allowing the wheel of state roll freely with Vice President Osinbajo at the helm, as provided for in the constitution. It is this same cabal, which was said to be responsible for the decision to bring Buhari back to the country when he initially returned from London. It is the same one that is also said to be holding the president hostage and dictating his major appointments, which are unabashedly skewed in favour of his geopolitical zone. It is this same cabal that was reported, during Buhari’s first trip, to be undermining the Vice President and his efforts to steer the ship of state out of troubled waters.
Buhari and Osinbajo were elected on a joint-ticket. Now that Buhari is seriously ill, is unable to discharge the functions of his office and has handed over to VP Osinbajo to perform those functions on his behalf, Nigerians will be better off allowing Osinbajo to do what he has been asked to do by the president.
This should not be the period for conjuring up conspiracy theories against Buhari and trying to obstruct governance. If Nigerians had any say in this matter, Buhari would be in his seat, doing his work, but no man has a say in the matter of anybody’s health. Since he in unable to discharge his functions, Osinbajo should be given the peace of mind to perform the onerous duties while he is away.
There are too many problems plaguing the country for the nation to be in endless crisis over the health of the president. Nigeria is lagging behind in all indices of development. The states cannot pay the salaries of their workers. The workers are demanding increase of the minimum wage to N56,000. There are still so many important things that have to be done by the government. There are the challenges in health, educational and health sectors. Many federal roads are crying for attention. The nation is only just beginning to get a handle to the restiveness in the Niger Delta. The Boko Haram insurgency is only now abating, somewhat. The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), especially the children among them, need to be taken care off. About 82 Chibok girls were only recently released. They need to be cared for and reintegrated into the society. All the efforts in these areas need to be consolidated to achieve the ultimate desired objectives.
Nigeria should look beyond the issue of Buhari’s health and demand solutions to the problems plaguing the nation. While it is good for the people to be duly informed of the president’s health, this information cannot, on its own, solve the nation’s myriad of problems.
It is important, therefore, to keep the nation’s many problems in focus and ensure that those charged with the responsibility of resolving them do not take their eyes off the ball at any time. This is the time to demand hard work and accountability that can lead to real improvements in the lives of ordinary Nigerians.