At 74 Muhammadu Buhari is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He came to power in May 2015 after winning a landmark presidential poll of the same year. He was subsequently sworn into office on the 29th May. After three failed attempts to democratically capture power at the apex he finally made it to Aso Rock Villa through the opposition All Progressives Congress in a blaze of glory. Nigeria then needed desperately a change at the centre and Nigerians wanted same given the rampaging uncontrollable corruption and the growing insurgency in the north-east spearheaded by Boko Haram. Millions of Nigerians felt that a Buhari presidency would stabilise the polity and win the war against both corruption and Boko Haram. Today, two years on, very few are disappointed with Buhari as he has done very well fighting the two monsters.
Buhari, from all indications, is a good man, a man of honour and high integrity. His credibility has never waned over the years. He is patriotic, determined and hard-working. And he genuinely wanted to reposition Nigeria for the greatness that has eluded her for decades. His quest for accountability in our public affairs and his drive for better economic environment that attracts foreign investments are areas of note. While the nation could be said to be experiencing certain economic challenges leading to recession no one doubts his desire to make things better. He may not be an economist but assembling a good economic team could help in tackling the economic worries of the average Nigerians.
A strong man of strong vision and strong will, Buhari came into office at a terrible time in our national history when Boko Haram terrorists up north were busy seizing villages and towns and openly challenging Abuja for a fight! At a challenging moment in time when corruption had almost ‘killed’ the Nigerian dream under the defeated ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. The war against the Islamist militia has paid dividends as Shekau and his drugged boys had beaten a hasty retreat. Besides, the war against corruption has netted in billions of Naira and millions of Dollars taking in rogues and leading to a better/safer economic atmosphere.
Buhari may be old but not too old to preside over our national affairs. After all, he is not the oldest Head of State in Africa where you have the likes of Obiang Mbasogo, Yoweri Museveni, Alassane Ouattara, Alpha Conde and Robert Mugabe still leading their respective countries. But there are real and imaginary anxieties over the state of health of the Nigerian leader. After staying in London for close to two months recently for health reasons Buhari seems to be embattled health-wise. And he is not communicating enough with Nigerians over this matter. His handlers are not doing better either!
When Buhari (ably assisted by the late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon) first came to power via a popular putsch in late December 1983 I was still in the primary school in the village somewhere in Ihiala town in Anambra state — barely ten years old! As one of the Buharists in the Diaspora our rigid belief in the capacity of the Daura-born retired General to deliver has never wavered even when he was still in the opposition wilderness. We are not withdrawing this support for whatever reason — his martial antecedents notwithstanding. A former benevolent dictator could be a repentant democrat!
Like many Buharists everywhere I was seriously concerned when I recently read a report online that was as troubling as it was pitiful. A notable columnist and convener of Every Nigerian Do Something (ENDS), Dr Perry Brimah, has raised the alarm over President Buhari’s health status and described him as “no more than skin and bone” and “dying” inside the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Declaring that Buhari is “chronically ill” and in need of urgent rest and medication, Brimah decried what he termed “the wickedness of the selfish cabal that forces him (Buhari) to remain locked up, ‘dying’ in Aso Rock instead of receiving best therapy”.
In a statement he had issued he contended that: “there can be no denying how chronically ill President Buhari looks when he seldom does appear in public. The last time was last week Friday when Kaduna state governor Nasir el-Rufai came visiting….the videos of Buhari walking for Friday prayers bring tears to eyes. His asthenic figure now no more than skin-and-bones as he sat down for the Jummah service was heart-wrenching….how can a people be so cold they expose a grandfather to this type of extreme stress and deprive him of his needed rest and medical expert attention by tasking him to lead the world’s most complex nation?”
The Convener of ENDS continued: “Have we as a people lost our humanity that we continue to task Buhari like this and not campaign for him to be relieved of our burden and rest towards recovery?…It is insane to continue to deprive him and the nation by locking him up and burdening him with a challenge too heavy for even a strong young man to bear talk-less an old man who just returned from a 49-day leave in which he received blood transfusions and unknown cocktails of serious medications…For those of us in the medical profession, we recognise the President’s loss of hair on his head and facial hair as well as his reported blood transfusions as possible evidence of cancer chemotherapy.”
While condemning the cabal hiding Buhari from the people, the wickedness of the selfish cabal that forces him to remain locked up, ‘dying’ in Aso Rock instead of receiving best therapy he concluded that “It’s time for Nigerians to demand full disclosure of the true state of health of President Buhari and immediate best options for him to be allowed to rest and recover instead of being locked up to literally die under the weight of Nigeria”.
Of course the declaration of Dr Brimah is a true affirmation against the backdrop of the last rare image of the President attending the Friday prayers in the mosque in the Villa. The picture delivered an incontrovertible message of a dying leader whose fate is found more in the hands of Almighty Allah. President Buhari was looking gaunt, emaciated; very much like a Somalian victim of famine or war! A President of the richest nation in Africa, a nation of the richest black man in the world looking like that is shameful and disgraceful. Though he has never been on the fat side but we have seen a better slim radiant President, tall in his nature and gracious in his septuagenarian status. Today he looks beaten by the sickness that is ravaging his system.
And for reporting the generalised anxiety trailing Buhari’s indisposition in his widely-read national newspaper the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President, Bashir Abubakar, had had The PUNCH State House correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo, expelled from the Villa. Bashir Abubakar may be aspiring to be another Major Hamza Al-Mustapha during the late Gen. Abacha’s tyranny but he must be educated that what he did unilaterally amounted to a gross abuse of power and grievous attempt to stifle the freedom of speech and expression which the constitution guarantees. It is never the duty of the CSO to ‘arrest’, prosecute or judge journalists no matter their professional ‘offense’. Abubakar must be sanctioned or sacked outright to demonstrate that he had usurped power and over-reached himself. He cannot claim to love Buhari more than the rest of us do! He cannot play God by wishing the President’s condition away! Nigerians deserve to know why Mr President is incommunicado and confined to his bedroom for weeks running!
Nigeria has had recent history of presidential infirmity and even mortality. During the years of the Locust of the late ‘Khalifa’ from Kano Nigerians were kept in the dark as to what kept Sani Abacha indoors — delegating power and authority to killers like Al-Mustapha and Sergent Rogers. We were ‘delivered’ when an Indian imported prostitute fed Abacha his last apple here on earth! The crude dictator was taken out and the liberated nation heaved a sigh of collective relief upon his committal to mother earth! The only difference one could cite here is that Abacha was never elected by anyone, so demanding for accountability or probity was almost a taboo!
And just less than a decade ago we lost another sitting President to a debilitating ailment. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua was nursing a terminal ailment which was carefully concealed. But when he succumbed to the grim reaper we discovered that the Katsina former Governor and university lecturer had been suffering from the incurable Churg-Stauss Syndrome! A cabal led by his wife, Turai, had done everything within its power to mask the President’s condition until the ultimate leveller brought the inconvenient truth to the public domain. When Yar’Adua died the nation was thrown into a political uncertainty which took time to resolve constitutionally.
Before another Yar’Adua happens before our very eyes , therefore, necessitating another “doctrine of necessity” we hold that the President must be patriotic and democratic enough to know when the time is up. And the alleged cabal holding him hostage apparently and shielding him from the public view should do the needful by releasing their ‘executive captive’. Of course the nation cannot afford yet another acrimonious divisive political consequencies akin to the Yar’Adua scenario. While we sincerely wish the President prompt recuperation from whatever malaise ailing him we make bold to declare unequivocally that throwing in the towel appears to be the right thing to do under the present destabilising circumstances.
There is, indeed, life after power! Ruling Nigeria by proxy and failing to attend weekly FEC meetings are signs of how things have degenerated. It cannot be considered a mark of statesmanship for a leader to want to die in office. Playing Museveni, Mbasogo or Mugabe (despite the ubiquitous politico-economic muddle) is a demonstration of insensitivity; of political weakness and not strength. Mr President, resignation, in our reckoning, remains a better option faced with the current speculations arising from the grave illness afflicting you whose state or condition we know not. Declare yourself incapacitated, Buhari, and quietly retire. Tomorrow may be too late to contemplate this honourable exit.