During the period President Muhammadu Buhari was on his first medical leave this year from January 19 to April 09, we were daily regaled with stories of how he was doing and treated to news reports and pictures of dignitaries in and out of government that daily trooped to London to meet with him.
Although the handling of information surrounding his illness was less than satisfactory, which this newspaper had cause to criticise in nothing less than three editorials, there were efforts to keep him in the consciousness of Nigerians, willingly or unwillingly.
However, there is a curious silence about the president on his current medical vacation: not only have the visits dried up, but there is hardly any word about how exactly he is doing. Nigerians are still in the dark over what exactly ails him and when exactly he will be back.
While it is a positive thing that the business of governance has not stopped since President Buhari handed over the helm of affairs to Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to act in his stead until he is back, how long this will continue is not known.
If his current vacation is still being described as indefinite, then it begs to ask this very crucial question: is the president fit to remain in office?
Like we have stated before, it is human for one to fall ill. However, as a president, one’s illness has implications for the whole nation. It is with this in mind that the framers of our constitution included Section 144 which deals with how to declare a president or his vice incapable of discharging their functions on medical grounds and their removal from office.
It has become necessary to explore this option because just like before, Nigerians are once again left in the dark on how ill the president is, and are instead constantly pulled here and there by unsubstantiated rumours in the press and conflicting statements from his handlers.
In a previous editorial, we stated that it is possible that Vice President Osibanjo has a different approach to the issues that we deal with from principal. This was apparent in his first stint this year as Acting President as it is now in how he has handled the illegal refineries issue in the Niger Delta and engagement with groups on political issues that can easily get out of hand.
However, the uncertainties surrounding the office prevents him from making radical policy changes to shifts in direction, no matter how desperately needed as the president can return anytime.
The Nigerian government is thus left with two options: it is either we get a full disclosure of the status of the President’s health or it becomes incumbent on the Federal Executive Council to declare him incapable of discharging his functions and the Senate to comply with the constitutional process of ascertaining his medical capacity.
It is immoral for Nigeria to be held captive due to the illness of one person.