Buhari Extends Medical Leave Indefinitely, Nigerians React

  • He’s not in a London hospital, says presidency

By Tobi Soniyi, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos  

The social media went into overdrive sunday once got word got out that President Muhammadu Buhari had written yet another letter to the National Assembly notifying it that he was extending his leave in the United Kingdom in order to complete and get the results of the medical tests recommended by his physicians.

From his well wishers and “prayer warriors” to the downright wacky commentators and conspiracy theorists, the satirists and his critics, several Nigerians had something to say about the extension of Buhari’s vacation in the UK.

A statement yesterday from the president’s spokesman Mr. Femi Adesina confirmed the extension of Buhari’s leave and Nigerians’ worst fears that all may not be well with their president.

It was not helped by the fact that Adesina’s statement did not indicate when the president would return to the country, or the number of days by which his stay abroad had been extended.

Adesina said the president had planned to return to Abuja Sunday evening, but was advised to complete the tests before returning.

He said the notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Adesina said the president expressed his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concerns, prayers and kind wishes.

In addition the president’s second media aide, Mr. Garba Shehu clarified that Buhari was not in any serious condition and not in any hospital in London.

While shedding more light on the president’s decision to extend his vacation, Shehu said the president was residing at the Nigerian High Commission in London.

He said: “I just spoke to the president’s personal doctor, and he told me President Buhari is not in any serious condition to worry about.

“He is not in hospital. He is in the residence at the Nigerian High Commission.”

He explained that the president was ready to return home as scheduled but for the arrival of his medial test results which indicated he needed further tests.

“He and his delegation were ready to come home today but for the delayed test results which came in today and necessitated that he delays his return.

“There is nothing to worry about as far as his condition is concerned,” Shehu said.

Also yesterday, the presidency alerted Senate President Bukola Saraki that it shall be sending the letter notifying the National Assembly of the extension of Buhari’s vacation in Britain.

THISDAY learnt last night that though the letter was yet to be received by Saraki, he had been told through a phone conversation that he might receive the letter either last night or first thing this morning unfailingly.

Buhari left Nigeria for the UK on vacation on January 19 and was slated to return yesterday, preparatory to resumption of work today.

While in the UK, the president was also to undergo a routine medical check up, the presidency had said before his departure.

However, while in the UK, speculation was rife over his health. Some online media outlets went as far as reporting fake news on the president death while others speculated that he was in a critical condition.

Many Nigerians at the time had demanded that the president address the country from wherever he was to reassure the nation. However, that never happened.

In order to douse fears over his well being, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Buhari’s media aides issued a number of statements allaying concerns over is health.

These were followed by the release of photographs to substantiate the claim that the president was alive and well.

The first photograph showed the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Daisy Danjuma visiting the president in London. Another showed the president having either lunch or dinner with Amosun, while the two others showed the president’s wife Aisha sitting and standing beside him.

Some, however, doubted the authenticity of the photographs demanding that the president himself should address the nation.

Last Monday, a statement was also issued by the vice-president’s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande claiming that the president had personally called the Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Mr. Solomon Lalung to commiserate with him on the death of his wife, Briskila.

But as the nation waited with bated breath yesterday for the president’s jet to touch down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the information minister issued a statement denying a report attributed to him saying that all the presidential jets were undergoing repairs and none was available to fly the president back to Nigeria.

His spokesman Mr. Segun Adeyemi said: “Our attention has been drawn to a report quoting the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as saying that the president’s return to Nigeria may be hampered by a faulty aircraft.

“The minister has not spoken to anyone on the issue of the president’s return, hence this report is another from the stable of the purveyors of fake news and should be disregarded.”

Nigerians React

But as the news spread that the president was not going to return to Nigeria yesterday as scheduled, the news pitted Nigerians against one another.

While some received it in good faith and sent their well wishes, many others described the scenario as a possible re-enactment of the 2009 situation when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua departed the country on a medical trip to Saudi Arabia, leaving the country in a state of uncertainly over his health.

Even when his comatose body was returned to the country under the cloak of darkness, his close aides and wife embarked on a huge cover up and lied to the public about his capacity to lead until his eventual death in May 2010.

Reacting on social media yesterday, one Odita Udemagu said: “The truth is that President Muhammadu Buhari is very sick. I think he needs our prayers and I wish him a quick recovery.”

Also toeing the same line was Adeniyi Adeagbo who wrote: “God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. God bless President Buhari and may he get well soon to finish his job of making Nigeria great again.”

While there were several messages that wished the president well, they were many who expressed outrage at his handlers for shrouding the nature of his sickness from Nigerians.

One of such was General Número Uno who tweeting from @Utioh wrote: “Governor Ayodele Fayose warned us that President Buhari is not fit. Now, where is our missing president?

“Indefinite leave? President Buhari enjoy your stay. Yemi Osibanjo (Acting President), can you now forward the name of Onnoghen for confirmation?”

Illoy Atiku tweeting from @Iloydatiku said: “President Buhari should help himself… resign now.”

On Facebook, one Yemi Badejo was sarcastic, when he wrote: “It’s a lie. General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) will land today oooo. Shebi some people shared his pictures where he was chopping rice and chicken during the week!

“We are still waiting for him to land oooo.  Where is my watch make I dey go airport go wait for GMB.

“The lie and propaganda of this government deserves recognition in the Guinness Book of Records! His supporters should roll out the drums too. Continue!”

Nollywood Director, Charles Novia was among those that alluded that this present scenario could be likened to the mystery surrounding the sickness and eventual demise of Yar’Adua.

He said: “And President Buhari has extended his vacation indefinitely. Vacation turns sick leave and the nation is on tenterhooks. 2009 all over.”

There was even the downright bizarre from Sunny Bridge who wrote: “I am not saying President Buhari is dead o, but I don’t think he is still on this planet.”

Nwaegede Onyebuchi wrote: “From the missing Chibok girls to missing certificate and to missing budget and now President Buhari is missing too.”

Ekeru Kingsley said: “NYSC corpers (sic) have not been paid and President Buhari is extending his holiday.”