Undoubtedly, one of the most intriguing characters in Nigerian politics, especially in the past three years is Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose. Ever since his successful second bid at becoming the governor of his state, Governor Fayose has ensured he remained a constant in the news courtesy of his rambunctious, politically-incorrect way of behaviour.
One person who has been on the receiving end of this behaviour is President Muhammadu Buhari, during the campaign run-up to the 2015 elections, Governor Fayose took out a distasteful advert on the frfront pagef two national dailies where he advised the people of the North-West not to shortchange themselves by letting President Buhari win the elections – as he would die in the office.
He arrived at this conclusion by bringing up examples of the last three Nigerian presidents or heads of states from the region: Generals Murtala Muhammed and Sani Abacha and President Umaru Yar’adua who all died in office (Muhammed was assassinated). It also fed into speculation around the health of then presidential candidate Buhari, as rumours filled town that he was unhealthy.
The advert was roundly condemned across the country, and even the political spectrum by some members and supporters of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. The governor refused to retract the ad and stood his ground, saying he was merely exercising his right to freedom of expression of opinion.
Two years since the election, the rumour about President Buhari’s illness has been verified as a fact. To date, he has been on three medical trips abroad, including two lengthy ones this year, the second of which he is still on.
Through these medical vacations, the nature of the president’s illness is yet to be disclosed and attempts by the presidential media team to downplay the severity of the illness has resulted in contradictions amongst the members, with the biggest contradiction coming from the president himself.
Between the return of his first medical “vacation” and his departing for the current one, President Buhari only made three public appearances, two of which were attending Friday prayers at the mosque and spoke in public once. The curious absence of the president from public events only further fuelled rumours, helped again by the refusal of the Presidency to come clean on the nature of his illness.
It is now six weeks since the president has been in the United Kingdom for more checkups, and the only time his silence was broken was his Sallah message a few days ago in Hausa, which turned out to whip up controversy. In it, he sounded very sick and not his usual self.
Another controversy from the message was whether it was authentic, the experience Nigerians had with when President Yar’adua’s voice was supposedly faked on a phone call in 2010 still very fresh.
Unsurprisingly, Governor Fayose waded into the debate as he always has in all matters Buhari-related, alleging that the phone call was fake as the president was on a life support. While he presented his claim without evidence, it is important to ask: what if he is right?
The Presidency has consistently refused to operate on full disclosure regarding the president’s health, thus creating a vacuum of information. This vacuum has given room for rumours to abound, such as those of Governor Fayose. Considering the fact that his 2015 claim on the President’s ill-health has turned out to be true, it will not be smart to dismiss him again this time.
The only way to prove him wrong is for the Presidency to provide empirical evidence that will prove him wrong.