Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
In an emotional meeting yesterday in London with his media team, led by Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, President Muhammadu Buhari said he feels he could return to Nigeria, but added that he was waiting for his doctors to give the final go-ahead. He explained that he had recuperated tremendously and was longing to come back home.
The meeting came amid growing media hysteria about the presidentâ€™s medical vacation since May 7, which marked the second time he would be transmitting power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to travel abroad for medical treatment. Buhari had left Nigeria on January 19 for London on medical vacation and was initially scheduled to return to work on February 6, but he eventually returned on March 10.
Following his latest medical trip, some groups and individuals have been calling for his return or resignation if he is unfit to govern. They have persistently called on the Federal Executive Council to declare the president incapacitated. However, ministers, governors and other officials of the government have paid him visits in London, in apparent moves to try to calm the fears about his health.
But during the meeting at Abuja House, in London, saturday, Buhari said he was in London because he had to abide by his doctorsâ€™ instruction.
A statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina quoted Buhari as saying, â€œI’ve learnt to obey my doctor’s orders, rather than be the one issuing the orders. Here, the doctor is absolutely in charge.â€
According to Adesina, Buhari made the statement in response to an expression of excitement at his improved health by the visitors. The president added, â€œI feel I could go home, but the doctors are in charge. I’ve now learnt to obey orders, rather than being obeyed,â€ lightening up the mood at the meeting.
Adesina said Buhari told the team how he had followed events at home very closely and praised the Nigerian television stations and the media, in general, for keeping him informed about happenings in the country. He also said Buhari thanked those praying for him, recalling how his role in the ouster of former Gambian President, Yahaya Jameh, in January brought him a huge goodwill.
“What we did in The Gambia early this year fetched us a lot of goodwill on the African continent. It gave us a lot of latitude. I thank all those who are praying. May God reward them,” he was quoted as saying.
The president’s chief spokesman added that Buhari sent his appreciation to all Nigerians and was optimistic that he would join them soon.
In the team that visited Buhari were, besides Adesina and Mohammed, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, Personal Assistant to the President on Digital/Online Media Lauretta Onochie, and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Like the previous meetings the President had with some leaders of his party and seven governors, photographs of the meeting were released to the press. In the photographs released yesterday, the president was seen smiling as he looked at a get-well-soon card presented to him by his media aides. In another photograph, they were all smiles as the president took a stroll on the forecourt lawn.
Throughout the week, a group of protesters led by rights activist, Dele Adeyanju, and maverick entertainer, Charles Oputa, caused a stir in Abuja with demonstrations calling for Buhari’s return or resignation on moral grounds. The protesters anchored their agitation on the theme expressed in Pidgin English, “Our Mumu Don Do,” which being translated means “we have been foolish enough.”
However, on Thursday, another group of protesters commenced a pro-Buhari protest in the country’s capital, dismissing the protest for his resignation as unnecessary. The pro-Buhari group insisted he had complied with the constitutional provisions by transferring power to his deputy and had not fouled any law, the same position held by the Senate.
But whereas anti-Buhari protesters were brutalised by the police with some of them hospitalised, the pro-Buhari protesters enjoyed police protection. The law enforcement agents gladly led them through with horses to the Presidential Villa into the waiting hands of officials.