By Adeboye Adegoke
Editor’ note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Global Sentinel
It’s 100 days today, since the president left the country to attend to his health, and this will be the second instance this year alone. It must be noted that the president had earlier spent about 50 days during his first medical vacation this year. Anyone can fall sick, no doubt. However, we are not talking about anyone here; we are taking about the president of the Federal republic of Nigeria. Lately there has been an increase in the agitation that the President should resume or resign due to his protracted stay in London due to illness. It is yet to be known what is the nature of the President’s illness and part of the call to the President is the need to disclose the true state of his health.
The President’s handlers have argued and rightly that the President has done the needful by handling over power to the Vice-President, so there is no vacuum in government and the President should therefore be allowed to attend to his health. Well, going by our constitution this argument is apt and can hardly be faulted. Section 145 of the constitution says: ”Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President”. The obvious lacuna in this section of the constitution is that it doesn’t specify for how long the President may be away for.
Nigerian politics is quite interesting. Only the naïve would look at any national issue from just a common sense perspective. You wouldn’t even want to rely on the letters of law solely because in our clime every issue has a political and sectional coloration. For example, if Mr. President should resign, he would be relinquishing power to the South unwittingly, and it would mean history has repeated itself. For it was the same fate that befell the last Northern Presidency of Umar Yar’Adua. For those who are about “it’s our turn to be President” or “born to rule” mindset, a Buhari had better remain President even if he was totally incapacitated. Thankfully and against what Governor Ayodele Fayose wanted us to believe, President Buhari isn’t incapacitated at least from the pictures and videos of him we have seen as released by his media team during the various visits by members of his team, but that is just to score a point that Buhari is holding the seat of the President on behalf of the North after the region was deprived of power when president Yar’Adua passed.
Unfortunately, we are so divided across tribal lines in Nigeria that we have sub-consciously arrived at a consensus that “where the President comes from” is key in determining who becomes president at every point in time. Our leaders are barely selected on merit. Those who are hell bent on President Buhari remaining president until 2019, and even for another 4 Years are largely his staffs, appointees and political party. Every other proponent either holds the belief that ‘it’s the North’s turn” or “Buhari is the messiah”. We must ask ourselves what standard of leadership we demand in Nigeria. Let us stop lying to ourselves. No one is irreplaceable. The statement attributed to the garrulous Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El Rufai that “…Nigeria needs Buhari for the stability in the political environment and for the country to make progress” is nothing but balderdash.
With the way the matter of President’s Buhari’s health has been handled, we should be checking for the definition of the word “integrity” again. If President Buhari who had called for the resignation of President Yar’Adua when he was in similar situation now needs to be pressured to do the needful then we must agree that Buhari like any other politician in Nigeria is just an opportunist. A politician will do anything to cling to power and that’s exactly what Buhari is doing.
While the President Media team and aides have done a good job at defending his sick leave and why this scenario is quite different from what played out during President Yar’Adua government, there is a question that they and every Buharists must now answer and the question is very simple. Given all that the Buhari brand represents, should President Buhari remain in power indefinitely or honorably resigns as President of the Federal Republic Nigeria? Despite being touted as a man of Integrity, President Buhari has failed to declare what exactly is the nature of his illness. The average Nigerian whose taxes are paying for the health bill of the President are not considered worthy of being addressed by the President in over 100 days of absence from duty. We have taken for granted the fact that the President was elected to do a job and inability to perform on the job whether due to illness or any other reason should in a sane clime mean a voluntary resignation but voluntary resignation does not exist in the average Nigerian leaders’ dictionary. Even if he wants to, the cabal wouldn’t let him! Our politics of sycophancy has blinded our eyes to the ridiculousness of having presidential aides and associates take turn to travel to London to deliver a ‘get well soon’ message to the President. I can imagine the politicking that’s currently ongoing among the President’s appointees and party members on who’s next to visit the “lion king” right now. If the President handlers cannot see the need for him to address Nigerians directly, I expect the president to know better.
And for those who in defense of President Buhari, are casting aspersion on the person of Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charley boy, for leading/participating in the resume/resign protest against the president, arguing that he has no moral standing to lead/participate in such protests because he had posed nude in a widely circulated picture on social media, they are ironically shooting themselves in the leg because on Buhari’s neck hang the greatest moral burden at the moment. While Charles Oputa is a private citizen whose private life is his private business, Buhari is a public citizen and his affairs are subject to public concern and scrutiny.
Declaration of the nature of the President illness has specific implications which in my judgment explain why the nature of the President’s illness will never be disclosed at least not for now. Going by Yar’Adua experience of ill health and now Buhari, it gives political mileage to conceal the nature of the President’s illness so as to manage the likely reaction from the Nigeria populace and buy as much time as possible. If it is declared for example that the President is suffering from a certain illness that is considered serious enough to impact on his ability to perform as President, we must expect that there will be increase in the call for his resignation or that for the Senate President to constitute a medical panel to declare him unfit to govern.
As I close, I must commend the effort of the President’s team including Vice President Osinbajo and the great job they have done at diverting attention away from Buhari’s state of health as a matter of expediency. Comments by aides such as “His sense of humor is still intact” or the one credited to Buhari himself “I am ready to go home, only waiting for my Doctors approval” to say the least is ridiculous. How sustainable is this strategy of distractions and the post tourism pictures and videos they have been posting to douse tension and the fears of those who may want to believe the President is totally incapacitated.
In conclusion, I personally don’t see how a 74 year old man (That age itself has been described as “official age” in many quarters), a man recovering from a major illness at a very old age can be fit enough to continue as President of the Federal republic of Nigeria. Whether he chooses to hang on, relying on legality is a different conversation entirely but if he has got any iota of morality in him as he has been largely projected over the years, it is my considered view that President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria should resign honorably not of law but of morality!
Adegoke @adeboyeBGO is a public affairs commentator and writes from Abuja, Nigeria.