“Can anyone please tell me where is our president?”
This was one of the tweets that was posted with the hashtag #WhereIsBuhari which trended for two days on Twitter. Over the past two weeks, since the hashtag started being used, about 6500 tweets were published with it, reaching approximately 25.6 million people.
This is a measure of the frustration that Nigerians are feeling over the controversy of President Muhammadu Buhari and his absence from public life. It is in this period that he missed his second cabinet meeting and on his way to miss one more, the third time in a row. His last public appearance remains his attendance at the Friday Juma’at prayers on April 21 at the State House mosque.
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Each time the president’s absence at cabinet meetings is raised, the reply is the same: that the President is resting, or in one instance, that he is working from home that day. On Wednesday, there were news reports that the President had resumed and even met with the Attorney-General Abubakar Malami and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Maikanti Baru – however, not a single picture of these meetings was released.
It is very apparent that the president’s health situation is graver than the Presidency wants to let on, an opinion further buttressed by tweets from the First Lady Aisha Buhari which said that his health “is not as bad as it is being perceived”.
I wish to inform everyone that his health is not as bad as it's being perceived,Meanwhile he continues to carry out his responsibilities 2/4
— Aisha M. Buhari (@aishambuhari) May 2, 2017
It remains to be seen how far the Federal Government and the Presidency can continue to push the narrative of the President resting or working from home while keeping him away from public view.
For Nigerians, their previous experience with late President Umaru Yar’adua’s illness and the controversies that followed all the way to his death – the seventh anniversary of which is today – is all too fresh in their memories.
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In President Yar’adua’s case, it took protests to the National Assembly and the Assembly responding with a “doctrine of necessity” in order to make then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan the Acting President. However, they still refused to declare him incapacitated as a result of ill-health nor did Nigerians ever see or hear from him directly till his death.
Although the Buhari administration is managing the political fallout from his illness much better – such as ensuring that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo takes over whenever the President is away on medical leave – there is still a lot of uncertainty on the stability of the government as a result of his ill-health.
It is leading many Nigerians to ask questions, and rightly so, about where the president is and the true nature of his illness. After all, it was the President that they voted for, not for his proxies.
The danger of allowing this controversy to worsen is that it will rob Nigerians of the sympathy they would naturally have had for the president, as it happened with late President Yar’adua when his death was met more with relief than sorrow. This is besides the fact a worsening of the controversy will increase uncertainty and tension in our polity.
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It is about time that the Presidency stops running rings around Nigerians in the matter of the President’s health. They should either disclose exactly what is ailing him or have him appear in public and address the people as a healthy leader ought to do.
This matter has gone on for far too long.
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.
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