by Alexander O. Onukwue
President Buhari, on Friday evening, approved the overseas treatment for currently ailing former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme. Immediately the announcement was made, the knights and ladies of social media socio-political nightwatch let out their weapons with different assortments of accusation towards the President for his latest “disgraceful” and “embarrassing” act.
The principal taunt was that Buhari’s ordering of overseas treatment for Dr Ekwueme was not something to be “announced”, as though it were a favour being done him. In the part of constitution titled Perquisites of office of former Vice-Presidents, “treatment abroad for former Vice Presidents and their immediate family and where necessary at Federal Government expense” come under the fifth sub-article. This makes the overseas treatment an entitlement of Dr Ekwueme, hence President Buhari should not pose as though he were doing something unprecedented.
But the Presidency has done nothing wrong in announcing that Buhari approved – not ordered – the movement of the former VP abroad. This is only in line with the duties of the President who has to approve such matters as brought to him from the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government. As much as such rights and privileges are provided for in the nation’s law books, due process and the law requires that it must be approved by the President.
The matter of announcing it via the Government’s official channels on Twitter, with a Press Release, appears to be the particular itch. It appears to be Buhari show-boating that he is taking care of an elder statesman as though it were the equivalent of actually doing something tangible to bring about the change he promised. This, it is said, is just a stunt for wooing the people of the South East in preparation for elections. Then again, it is almost slapping at the wind because to not officially announce the matter is to not treat the personality of Dr Ekwueme with the respect he deserves, regardless of the political bad blood between the President and the persons in the Eastern region of the country.
As some observed, the former Vice President probably does not need the State’s funds to get treatment from any part of the world. Barr Chidi Alexandra Ekwueme-Onyemelukwe, the PDP’s Deputy Governorship candidate in the coming Anambra elections, is the former VP’s daughter. However, that does not preclude the national treasure from getting the particular attention he deserves from the country at this time. Announcing it should be seen as merely for the records.
In an atmosphere of palpable animosity, every matter takes on a political colouration and perhaps such vigilance is necessary for keeping the spirit of accountability alive in the ruling class. The President, Muhammadu Buhari may have given cause to the pessimism due to his previous posture towards the people of Eastern Nigeria until now. That said, the need to logically analyze situations and simply nod in agreement, without giving praise or making detractions, should not be overridden for the pleasure of landing political fisticuffs.