President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of integrity. We recall that in all his years of bitter political campaigns against former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua (late) and Goodluck Jonathan, whom he defeated in 2015, there was no credible allegation against his integrity. The worst allegation thrown at him were the certificate issue and the issue of religious extremism.
Buhari rode to power on account of his credibility. Just because of him, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the 2015 election woefully across the country, particularly in the North.
Thus, it has never been in doubt that Buhari remains credible, with his integrity intact.
Between January 9 and March 10 this year, the president was away on a medical vacation in London. While he was away, his minders and government officials took Nigerians for a ride, dishing out stories of how the president was resting in London, was not sick and was only taking time off to get medical attention. Buhari himself came back and told Nigerians that he had never been as sick as he was in his over 70 years of living.
He said: “I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including the military with its ups and downs.
I couldn’t recall when last I had blood transfu sion….”
That put a lie to all the spin doctors’ stories. In the past three weeks, the president has been absent from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings he usually presided over.
Just last Friday, for the first time since he returned from his medical leave, the president failed to attend the regular Friday prayers at the presidential villa. Much as we would not want to speculate on the health of the president, we believe that time has come for a full disclosure on his health status to Nigerians.
The reasons are simple. One is that where there is no credible information, rumour takes over. For a man, who promised to always tell Nigerians the truth, rumour, speculation and lies on his health at this point in time does not edify the Buhari brand, which Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for in 2015.
We note that there have been efforts by his minders and handlers to diffuse speculations arising from his absence and lack of visibility in critical state functions. But the efforts are at best, timid, ludicrous or outright unbelievable.
Last Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, tried in vain to explain away the absence of the president for the second time in a row from the FEC. Penultimate Wednesday, the FEC meeting was cancelled for what presidential spokespersons blamed on the Easter holiday.
They claimed that the two-day holiday did not allow ministers prepare their memos for presentation to the Council early enough. In this digital age, such an excuse sounded flat. But on Wednesday, Mohammed told reporters that the president “asked that he should be allowed to rest and the vice president should preside.”
A day after that, the Presidency came up with a statement signed by Garba Shehu, assuring Nigerians that there was no cause to panic on the president’s health. It also acknowledged that the president had slowed down based on doctors’ advice. Shehu, a senior special assistant on media to Buhari, stated that Buhari’s absence at the FEC meeting was a last-minute decision.
He said: “Otherwise, the cabinet and the public might have been alerted in advance.
As eager as he is to be up and about, the President’s doctors have advised on his taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment in the United Kingdom some weeks ago.”
We agree with Shehu that “God is the giver of life and health”, as he stated.
We also acknowledge that for a man of Buhari’s age, health challenges are not rare.
We also note that it is not the fault of the president that illness has slowed him down.
But Nigerians expect more than perfunctory explanations and empty platitudes of statements in matters as serious as the health of their president. The president is a public figure, an elected official and the number one citizen of the country today. Whereby his health is a challenge to his discharge of the demands of the office, we believe that Nigerians should know.
There are provisions in the Constitution of Nigeria, to deal with such challenges. We are of the view that Buhari should not be left to suffer ill health with a smear on his integrity also. We believe that the president has been forthright thus far in his openness to Nigerians.
He must not be ridiculed or his integrity tarnished by those who merely seek power. It is time Nigerians are told clearly what the state of health of the president is. We believe that in doing so, Buhari’s integrity would be kept intact.