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Buhari is not missing, he is just keeping away

by ELIZABETH ARCHIBONG

May 6, 2017 | 8:00 am
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Nigeria’s question on the whereabouts of President Muhammadu Buhari reached a crescendo last week when even his aides confessed they had no idea what is going on. These are aides who, ideally, should have an idea of the state of health of Mr. President. And their ignorance was palpable.

Their countenance gave away sentiments of wanting to know where the President is and if he is doing fine. After all, he is their principal. So on impulse, they tell the media what it wants to hear just to get us off their back. Personally, I am tired of writing about his absence.

But I can’t help it.

Last week, for a third consecutive time, President Buhari failed to show up at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting. And it is beginning to get worrisome that since his return from medical leave in London eight weeks ago, we have only seen him at FEC four times, despite the meeting been rescheduled to 11 a.m. from 10 a.m. His last official public function was on April 5 at the launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Even then, he was visibly frail and was barely audible though he spoke into a microphone and with a pin drop silence at the council chambers on the day.

On Wednesday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo looked well put together. It was obvious he was aware Mr. President would not be attending the meeting. The meeting began in earnest. Also, the President’s seat was unmanned and that was a pointer for me.

Usually, a security detail secures the President’s seat before his arrival. It didn’t take long for the social media to be awash with news of the president’s absence at the meeting. And there was no Babachir Lawal to bully everyone around, which was a good thing too.

On Tuesday, an online medium had reported that the President’s condition had deteriorated to a point where he was now being aided even to eat. Aisha Buhari was quickly out on Twitter, albeit late, trying to salvage the public relations mess, saying her husband’s illness wasn’t as bad as perceived. She added that Mr. President met with the Attorney General and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC. But a reliable source informed me that these visits to the President was at home and not in the office as is customary.

This brings me to the point of the spin doctor spinning off on impulse.

Penultimate Wednesday when the President failed to show up at the FEC meeting, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Mr. President needed time to rest and that he would be working from home, that day. He later said he was quoted out of context when some reported that the president would now be working from home. At the end of the day, it became clear that he has actually been working from home.

So, back to Wednesday, it was a fight for the President’s aides to convince us that all was indeed well with the President.

First, it was Lai Mohammed at the post-FEC meeting briefing. Before disclosing the decisions of the FEC, he immediately set out to address the President’s absence. You could see he did not want the questions coming at him, so better to be on the defensive already.

His first comment on the matter was that the President, “was at his office yesterday, and he worked at his office yesterday (Tuesday). A few days before now we came out to say he’s been asked to take some rest by his doctors, and he chose today to rest and not to attend the Federal Executive Council meeting”.

He struggled further to convince us that the President has been open about his situation all the while by stating upon his return that he will be taking it easy and later return for further treatment.

Whatever was happening today was not any strange development, Lai Mohammed told perplexed and giggling journalists. I kept shaking my head even as the other ministers on the podium with him tried hard to conceal their smiles. They saw he was struggling alone, inside they wished they could help him.

We were not so daft, even a child could see that he had no idea, he was just doing his job as a spin doctor. He was very unconvincing, so the questions came started to pour. At a point when asked if it was true that the President was now being fed, Lai Mohammed almost lost it as he replied that it is “absolute bunkum”. I pitied him at this point. It was hard to defend what even you do not know about. He couldn’t wait to scamper off the podium and out of the press gallery.
I can tell you, he has no idea where his principal is or what the true picture is.

This is the case not only with the Information Minister, other aides of government who I expect should know, have no idea too. I approached them casually and asked, please where is the President and they replied I wish I knew the answer too. Nigerians are asking for their President and there is no one to tell them anything. Question is, if you ask me, please who do I ask?

On Thursday, there was some good news. It came that the President would be receiving the Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou. It was refreshing that at least we would get to see the President in public for the first time since his return, at least besides the FEC meeting.

Hopes were however dashed when later that night a statement was put out by Presidential Spokesman Femi Adesina saying that the visit had been put off. According to the statement, the visit was put off at the instance of Issoufou.

“All arrangements had been concluded for President Buhari to receive his Nigerien counterpart and his delegation at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa and attend the Jumaat prayers together as well as lunch, before the last-minute postponement. A new date for the visit will be announced in due course” the statement read.

While we agree  that the President is human and therefore prone to sickness, it is my personal opinion that the situation is poorly managed. If the President needs more rest he can have it, the right way of course. But being around and allowing Nigerians paint the wrong picture that he is missing is unfair even to himself. He is the President and has a
capable Vice who probably would do only his bidding, so there should be nothing to fear in the handling of the affairs of the country in his absence or no?

His absence without proper reason may soon start to affect the confidence of investors (that is if it is not the case already) and this is not the best. We love our President and do not wish him bad, it is also not wrong for Nigerians to want to see their President right?

Just as I was about wrapping this up, it was time for the Jumaat prayers and viola, the President made an entry facing a battery of journalists and cameras. He looked okay to me, although frail.

Although I cannot completely say what is wrong with the President, I cannot deny the fact that he didn’t look well, he looked very frail but steadied himself with the posture of a former military officer that he is. Infact I am thinking this is the reason the President chose some sort of seclusion.

You see, this particular Friday looked like some kind of ceremony, everyone rushed out to catch a glimpse of the President.

Since taking over the reins of government, Buhari has made it a tradition to pray at the Aso Rock mosque both within the week and on Fridays, with other Muslim faithful to avoid the huge traffic that follows his presence at the national mosque. However, since his return, he has prayed here only a few times, mostly on Fridays. Some critics have even resorted to calling him the Friday President since it is almost guaranteed he will show up at the mosque on Fridays.

So who is hiding the President? I can say that he is just keeping away and being behind the scenes but from what I saw, he really needs the rest. Well, just let us agree with Lai Mohammed that he is resting or what do you think? Pray for your President people, pray. He too is human.

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by ELIZABETH ARCHIBONG

May 6, 2017 | 8:00 am
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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