Toast to a Rejuvenated President

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After 104 days in London on health grounds, President Muhammadu Buhari, saturday, with an evidently better health condition, returned to the country, to continue to tackle the challenges of governance and nation-building. Olawale Olaleye writes

President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to the country yesterday was instructive in many ways than one. The second in a row, the president, during his first medical vacation to London, the United Kingdom, spent approximately 51 days and yesterday again, after spending another 104 days in London, returned from his second trip, also on health grounds.
Before he was compelled to make the second trip, the president had almost confined himself to the presidential villa, challenged by a somewhat deteriorating health. At a point, he was neither attending the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings nor joining other Muslim faithful to observe the Friday Ju’mat service at the villa.

Thus, generally, his absence from the public space had fuelled insinuations as to the degree of his health crisis, such that some had begun to make ridiculous insinuations. Different pictures of what the physiognomy of the president might have become was daily being painted, especially from members of the opposition.

But finally, on May 7, he embarked on a follow up medical trip, which he had also announced the moment he returned from his trip the first time. As expected of him, he transmitted power to his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, through a letter to the Senate, where he said the professor of law would “coordinate the activities of government” while he was away.

Unlike the first time, when attention shifted away from Buhari to Osinbajo, who in turn was believed to have held the forte and lived up to billings, Buhari was not as lucky the second time as attention practically focused on him, both locally and internationally.

First, the question of the nature of his ailment became more pronounced. The poser on who was responsible for the medical bills, including the ones incurred from the parking of the presidential jet, Air Force One, became a public debate, naturally. In another breath, there was general lackluster in the polity, which was believed not to be unconnected with the long absence of the president.

Curiously, these multi-faceted developments heightened tension, with both the pro and the anti-Buhari agitations dotting the polity. This soon necessitated and expectedly so, the need for frequent visits by some prominent leaders to the president.

The first was the visit by the All Progress Congress (APC) members, led by its National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun to the president in London. On that trip were the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi).

But rather than douse tension, this raised suspicion about the possibility of a stage-managed visit as the opposition questioned the disposition of the president in the pictures released from the visit. Immediately, another trip comprising two governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and four others from the APC was also arranged for them to see the President firsthand so as to dispel the misinformation from the PDP camp, often promulgated by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.

Those on this trip were Governors Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano).

From here, the floor was opened to many others as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, paid a second visit to the president. He had visited him the first time Buhari was in London for his medical checkup. Not long after, the media team of the president, led by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and four others visited too and came back with the familiar feedback of a ‘fit as fiddle’ president.

To follow this, was the visit by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Some close friends of the president also visited him. The visits to Buhari were later ‘sealed up’ by a last one from the leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, who pronounced the president healed and whose visit the presidency considered a show of goodwill that Buhari enjoys.

Indeed, it was Saraki, who made more lucid, the possibility of Buhari’s returning home sooner than anyone could have imagined and as it turned out, the president came back yesterday – better, hale and fit – at least, to personally drive to a safe harbour, the remaining days of his current mandate.

Importantly, the period Buhari was away should have provided for him, a rare opportunity to assess the state of the nation, feel the pulse of the people, experience the unwavering love of the people for him, a majority of who continued to pray for his recovery, re-assess the state of the politics of the country, its snarling governance and then come up with an idea that would help enliven the system and give the much needed spark for a more productive administration.

The beauty of his long absence is that he had an uncommon opportunity to read and assess situations in the land by himself, with little or no colouration of any sort. And this is what Buhari must exhibit in his refreshing disposition, even as his improved health condition is deserving of a toast.