It is becoming clear even to the most fanatical of Buhari’s supporters that the president is indeed very ill and in need of serious medical attention. This much was confirmed by an APC chieftain, Bisi Akande who said he wept profusely when he did not see the president at the wedding of his adopted son last week in Kaduna. Femi Falana and some civil society groups have advised the president to go on medical leave to take care of his health. But those around the president will have none of it.
Last week, Lai Mohammed, while briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting – a meeting Mr Buhari has now missed three times – said following doctor’s prescription, the president will henceforth work from home. Coincidentally, Buhari’s office and home are a walking distance apart, all located inside Aso Rock, the seat of power. The import of Mr Mohammed’s statement is that Nigerians should not expect to see the president any time soon.
When Buhari returned from his 51 day medical trip to London, the presidency announced that he will soon return again to London for further medical care. Why then are they choosing to lock him up in Aso Rock rather than fly him back to London for further medical care as earlier planned?
I will hazard a guess. I think it is a push back by the inner circle of Buhari against the rising profile of the vice president who received positive reviews when he acted in Buhari’s stead the last time. It may be that keeping the president sequestered in Aso Rock, even if his health continues to deteriorate, is a sure way of preventing another hand-over of power to Mr Osinbajo.
Besides, the absence or near incapacitation of the president is allowing these shadowy figures to continue to exercise untrammelled powers across board, issuing instructions, firing and hiring all in the name of the president that no one can have access to.
And what better way to downgrade the authority of the Vice President than for over 20 ministers to stay away from the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting at the Villa. When has it become fashionable for ministers to absent themselves from cabinet meetings that the president usually chairs, but which the vice president now chairs in his absence?
What is the implication of this for the country? It is simple: we are currently an acephalous (i.e headless) state with shadowy and divergent figures exercising different aspects of presidential powers. But like I argued sometime ago on this page, “the bigger picture is the threat posed to Nigeria’s democracy by the constant hijack of power by an unelected and shadowy cabal, who, though, wield untrammelled powers, are not accountable for the powers they wield.” Also, Olu Fasan, a respected political economist and columnist avers, “nothing undermines democracy and good governance more than shadowy people who wield so much power but are unaccountable.
But this is not unfamiliar to us. We have been here before. In 2010, the shadowy group behind the late Yar’adua fully exploited the ill health of Yar’adua to exercise untrammelled powers, loot the treasury to their heart’s content and create confusion in the polity. They were also resolute on not allowing then vice president Jonathan exercise presidential authority. It took the unusual move by the Senate, using what it described as “the doctrine of necessity” to force a transfer of power to Goodluck Jonathan.
But to prevent Jonathan’s exercise of presidential powers, the group surreptitiously rushed back Yar’adua to the country in the dead of night with little or no regard for his health and well-being. He was moved, not into a hospital, but straight back to Aso Rock and stories of him recuperating and playing with his children always circulated. It was only after his official death on May 5, 2010 that Jonathan fully took charge and was able to exercise full presidential powers. Many analysts fear a repeat of that scenario now. Coincidentally, Buhari was in the league of those calling for the impeachment of then president Yar’adua over his ill refusal to hand over power to his deputy even when he was sick and clearly incapacitated. Now the tables have turned and president Buhari needs to heed his own advice in 2010.
As I was rounding off this piece, it hit the news wave that the president has resumed again, meeting with various officials in his office. This is no cheering news. The facts remain that the president is seriously ill and cannot effectively steer the ship of state in his current condition. He needs to take an extended leave and go for comprehensive treatment. The longer he continues to keep up with the pretences, the more he plays into the hands of the powerful group working to sabotage effective governance in the country.