When President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on what the Presidency described as a ‘short vacation’ from February 5 to February 10, 2016, barely eight months into his administration, critics launched a ‘we had warned you’ campaign against his supporters and fans.
Their argument was that electing a 72-year-old man as the President would come with some natural consequences like frequent medical trips, delayed signing of bills into law and likely hijack of the government by either his wife or kinsmen, among others.
But the critics were almost lynched literally as the President’s supporters insisted that anyone could fall ill at anytime and that medical routine check was important for everyone, irrespective of age or status. However, it appears that the consequences are already manifesting.
Between February 10, 2016, when the President resumed from his first medical trip, and February 2017, the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces has travelled twice for similar reasons. In June 2016, five months later, he took a 10- day vacation, flew out of the country to seek proper medical attention in the United Kingdom.
While such irrational thoughts of death towards the President could be termed as preposterous, the seeming failing health, necessitating frequent travel for medical attention, it must be told, is disturbing and has telling effects on governance
That trip generated a lot of controversies across different quarters. The chaos was attributed to the event that took place shortly before the vacation. Less than 24 hours after the Presidency gave the C-I-C a clean bill of health, saying “he is hale and hearty”, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, released a statement that the President would embark on the UK trip to seek proper medical attention abroad.
Another factor that contributed to the knocks received by the Presidency, was that his aide, who had tongue-lashed a reporter, who revealed that his principal had ear infection a few weeks earlier, disclosed in his statement that, “during the holiday, he will see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a persistent ear infection.
The President was examined by his personal Physician and ENT specialist in Abuja and was treated. Both Nigerian doctors recommended further evacuation purely as a precaution.” The current trip, which busted the bubble, has made the hope of several Nigerians in the Buhari-led administration wane further.
If the President had stuck to his 13-day vacation (January 23 to February 5, 2017), perhaps, Nigerians might not have lost their patience. But soon as President Buhari wrote the National Assembly on February 5, informing the lawmakers of his desire to extend his leave indefinitely in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors, speculations went wild across the country.
While some alleged that, because the President was hurriedly jetted out of the country, three days to his vacation in what they described as a secret event, he could be suffering from a terminal ailment, others said top sources had confirmed to them that the C-I-C was in a vegetative state or had even died, and that there was pressure on the acting President Yemi Osinbajo, to resign by some Buhari’s kinsmen.
While such irrational thoughts of death towards the President could be termed as preposterous, the seeming failing health, necessitating frequent travel for medical attention, it must be told, is disturbing and has telling effects on governance.
Though, sections 145 and 146 of the Nigerian Constitution clearly states that whenever the President is proceeding on vacation, the Vice President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President, some legal luminaries have explained that the functions the VP can perform when the President is away depend on the law and circumstances surrounding the President’s absence.
Some analysts have also expressed the view that the Acting President may be restrained and careful to avoid using his powers in such a way that may suggest that he harbours a different motive from his principal on issues he decides on.
This, they surmised, could be a clog in the wheel of the governance, especially as the nation battles to emerge strong from the current economic recession. Osinbajo is also likely to avoid pushing decisions on matters that will normally take considerable period for completion.
As being currently witnessed, a lot of actions and decisions, which ought to have been resolved with finality, are kept in abeyance. As Nigerians await the return of the President to his duty post, it is imperative for the country to move on in his absence.
The VP should take urgent decisions that need to be taken for the country to move on, while the policy makers, legislators and other stakeholders should refrain from further draining Nigeria’s purse with frequent visits to London.