President Muhammadu Buhari’s prolonged absence from office for over 100 days has made unprecedented history, following his second medical trip to treat a yet-to-be disclosed ailment in London.
Before the president left the country on May 7 for London he transferred power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to lead the affairs of the country. He had earlier left Nigeria on January 19 for London to “undergo routine medical check-ups” during a short holiday. He only returned on March 10 after an extended period of medical treatment.
But Tuesday, August 15th marks President Buhari’s 100th day’s absence from office since his second medical trip to the UK. This has consequently made him the first incumbent head of state to have spent an extended number of days outside his domain, while Osinbajo has also made history as the first Acting President, globally, to clock 100 days in office.
Meanwhile, President Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina has said he has no idea who is bankrolling the president’s medical treatment in London.
Though the media aide acknowledged that as a president, Buhari’s medical bill can be footed by Nigeria, in an interview with Channels TV he said: “I do not know who is paying, but as a president, he has a right to be treated by the country.”
Adesina, who was among the president’s media aides who recently visited him at the Abuja House in London, maintained that he still did not know the true nature of Buhari’s ailment. According to him, the president offered no explanation either.
Acknowledging that his recent meeting with Buhari was the first time he would either see or speak with him since May 7 when he left the country, Adesina, however, noted that the 74-year-old President “had mended considerably.”
The media delegation that met with the president included the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina; Senior Special Assistant, Diaspora Matters, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; and the President’s Senior Special Assistant, Digital/Online Media, Lauretta Onochie.
Moreover, a statement released after the President’s media aides visited him in London quoted Buhari as categorically saying his health had improved tremendously and was ready to return to Nigeria but would need clarifications from his doctors.
“I feel I could go home, but the doctors are in charge. I’ve now learnt to obey orders, rather than be obeyed,” President Buhari told his aides during their visit.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, has also expressed ignorance over Buhari’s ailment, stating that the president would speak to Nigerians when he returns from his medical vacation.
When asked if Buhari would seek re-election in 2019 during an interview, a few days after the presidential media team paid the President a visit in the British capital, Shehu Garba maintained that the president is “good enough to continue” if given the opportunity to contest the 2019 presidential election.
He, however, added that the president’s re-election was not the issue at the moment.
“The main issue is the President comes back home in full health and resumes office. It is left for Nigerians to decide. I know the decision is with the people. But President Muhammadu Buhari is good enough to continue,” he said.
Shehu said he could not speak specifically about the nature of Buhari’s ailment but assured Nigerians that the president would talk to them about what he went through in the course of his treatment.
“I cannot tell because I do not know the nature of his ailment. As he is, the president does not need prompting from anyone before he comes out and tells Nigerians what happened to him.
“When he came back last time, President Buhari told Nigerians what he went through in the United Kingdom. I think the president will choose the right moment to talk to Nigerians,” he said.
Shehu also argued that Constitutionally, nothing requires the president to disclose the nature of his illness. In the Constitution, there is nowhere the president is required to disclose his illness.
“In the Constitution, there is nowhere the president is required to disclose his illness. This is a country where past presidents never fell ill before. Even when they fell ill, nobody knew about it. This is a country where past presidents never handed over to their deputies. We had a president who was dying in office. Nobody was ready to talk,” he explained.