The Federal Government has ruled out the possibility of providing daily bulletin/update on President Muhammdu Buhari’s health status and treatment while in London, the United Kingdom.
Top Federal Government sources told Saturday PUNCH that there was no need for such updates since Buhari had handed over to his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is now the acting President.
The President had traveled to London last Sunday, almost two months after returning from the European country for medical treatment.
He had first left the country for London on January 19, 2017, and returned on March 10, 2017, in what would be his longest medical trip ever so far.
He had after returning to Nigeria confessed that he had never been that sick in his life, adding that he would again embark on another medical trip in the future.
There had been overwhelming calls from several sections of the country for the Federal Government to make the President’s health status public.
Having returned to London for another medical vacation, there had also been calls for the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to provide daily updates on the President’s health.
Mohammed, had in December 2009, in his capacity as the spokesperson for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, stated that, “The current situation, whereby ministers and aides of the President give out uncoordinated information on his health, is doing more harm than good.”
He was referring to the late President of Nigeria, Umaru Yar’ Adua.
He had said, “It is clear to discerning Nigerians that those pretending to speak authoritatively on the President’s health are deceiving the public since they are neither well-informed on the issue nor competent to speak on it.
“Therefore, a daily briefing by the Minister of Information, based on authentic details provided by the President’s doctors, should start forthwith. As we have said many times, the health of the President, as a public figure can no longer be of interest only to his family and friends. Nigerians have a right to know.”
However, a top FG source ruled out a daily update on Buhari’s health as requested by Mohammed in his days as the opposition spokesperson.
According to the source, Buhari’s health status is of no consequence since there is no vacancy in government and things are running smoothly.
The source, who craved anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Buhari’s health crisis was different from that of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and it would be unfair to treat the two cases as the same.
He said, “The case of Yar’Adua could not be compared to that of President Buhari. Yar’Adua did not hand over to Jonathan when he was sick for several months. However, Buhari handed over to Osinbajo, which means there is no reason to panic since the government is running smoothly.”
Another source said the president should be allowed to recuperate, adding that there was no point asking for details about his health condition.
“Since Buhari has traveled to London for treatment, let us give him some time to recuperate and in due time, he will let Nigerians know about his health. In any case, it is those who are with him in London that will be getting information on his health.
“We, who are here in Nigeria, do not speak with the President daily so we can’t give updates on his health.”
All attempts to speak with Mohammed proved abortive as he did not respond to telephone calls placed to his phone last night.
Meanwhile, lawyers across the country have warned politicians against making “unnecessary” visits to the President in London, where he is receiving medical treatment.
While Buhari was in London during the 49-day medical vacation, a couple of politicians had been seen visiting him while he was recuperating.
Then, the Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, had gone to visit President Buhari in company with a former senator, Daisy Danjuma, and another individual.
Afterwards, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and a former national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, also visited the President.
After Tinubu and Akande’s visit, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; and the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, had also thronged London, where the President was receiving treatment.
As politicians could be making plans to visit the President now that he has traveled to London for medical treatment again, lawyers have said no politician should be seen disturbing the President with “unnecessary” visits.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said Buhari should take the bull by the horn and not be seen to be controlled by a cabal.
He said Buhari should tell anyone who wants to pay him a visit that he (the President) is not a tourist attraction.
He said, “Buhari is not a small boy for a cabal to be controlling him. He should say to people who decide to visit him that he is not Mecca, Jerusalem or Rome.
“The President should be able to tell the peddlers, the bootlickers, and pretenders who want to be seen to be close to him that he is not Jerusalem or Rome, where people go to for pilgrimage.
“He should tell them that he is not Yankari Games Reserve or Obudu Cattle Ranch where people go to have fun. He is not Badagry or Kuramo Beach in Lagos. He has gone abroad to seek proper medical attention, to get treated by expert doctors. He looks sick. He has served the country well and there is nothing more for him to prove by remaining in office. So he needs to take care of his health. Dead men don’t govern.”
Ozekhome added that having disclosed how ill he was and still is, the President should be man enough to say no to the cabal and power-mongers should they want to visit him.
Lagos-based lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said it would be a mockery of the Nigerian state for any politician to visit the President while he is receiving treatment abroad.
He said politicians traveling to London to visit Buhari would make the country a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
He said, “First, I believe the trip of the President abroad for treatment is a direct indictment on the APC regime because what is happening is contrary to what the party promised in its manifesto in 2015. The party had promised to rehabilitate teaching hospitals to become world-class. If they had done this, there would be no need for President Buhari to travel to London.
“Now that the President has traveled again without telling us the specific place he went to and the nature of his illness, it will be totally hypocritical for some politicians to try to use their visit to bribe Nigerians, making us to believe they care.
“Politicians who do so would be making a mockery of us abroad. They should not make us a laughing stock again; they should conserve the resources they would use to travel abroad to make Nigeria the kind of place they all rush to. It is not reasonable to be wasting our hard-earned foreign exchange on such trips.”
Adegboruwa added that if it was “really” true that the President is sick, then there is no need to visit him.
“He needs rest. This is why we have been calling for transparency, we need to know what’s happening to our President,” he said.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Ali, asked politicians not to bother President Buhari with any visit, describing such trips as an act of sycophancy.
Ali said those who paid Buhari visits during his recent 49-day medical trip might only have done so in order to be seen as loyal to the President.
He said, “Sometimes, politicians want to promote sycophancy to the level of loyalty; meanwhile, sycophancy is not the same thing as loyalty. It’s just that in this part of the world, anyone who is not seen with the leader is seen as an opponent.
“We saw what happened the other time the President was abroad for treatment — everyone started trying to overdo one another in showing that they cared for the President. Most of them also probably used state resources to do so.
“If someone is ill, they deserve rest. Even on medical ground, people should be discouraged from going there. Let’s keep praying for him here and our prayers will work for him over there. Politicians should let the President be. Their going there will not heal him.”
Another lawyer and President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Malachy Ugwumadu, said it would amount to wastage if politicians started visiting Buhari in London.
He said, “It is unfortunate, on two grounds, that the situation we’re in as a country has been foisted on us. First, in the developed and even some developing countries, medical treatments for ailing presidents are handled in their municipalities. For instance, Nelson Mandela was hospitalized and died in South Africa; also, Fidel Castro of Cuba was treated in his own country while sick.
“The disposition of these leaders and others to stay in their countries for treatment was symbolic. They know such gestures, apart from showing loyalty to their countries, also boost medical tourism. President Buhari had the same opportunity, but he blew it. Fine, he might have been using a London hospital all this while, but the moment he became the President, it would have been fantastic if he had said, no, he wouldn’t travel abroad for treatment. If his treatment needed expertise, he would have insisted that his doctors come to Nigeria.
“Having said all these, it is wasteful for politicians to turn London to a political Mecca again. It is totally irresponsible, uncharitable and insensitive to the ailing President. It is sycophancy at the highest order. The last time President Buhari returned from London, he was direct and blunt when he told Nigerians how he had been very sick, but said nobody should bother coming to the State House to visit him.
“If he could say that while he was home, how much more when he is abroad? There are millions of activities that should engage our politicians rather than visiting Buhari in London again, which is even an act of political hypocrisy. I don’t think Buhari will even be excited by anybody moving around anyhow using state money.”
Human rights activist, Annkio Briggs, said politicians should not visit the President in London while receiving treatment.
Rather than make “unnecessary” visits, Briggs said the political leaders should devote much attention to the problems facing the country towards solving them.
She said, “I see no reason why politicians — be it senators, governors or ministers — should go this time around to visit the President in the London hospital where he’s being treated. They are not entitled to go. They are not his children. Only the President’s wife and children are entitled to go and visit him.
“Why would anybody leave their job to go and visit the President in London, wasting state resources? Of what value will their trip be to the country and to the government? Meanwhile, this government is toying with Nigerians’ intelligence, or why would it be hiding the President’s nature of illness?
“Then, they would say we should be praying for the President. How do we pray when we don’t know what we are praying on? They should stop harassing us with prayers for the President.”
A social commentator, Mrs. Aisha Yesufu, said should any politician decide at all to visit the President, it should not be done with state resources.
“People visiting the President should not do so with government money. If they want to visit, they should do so with private funds,” she said.
Likewise, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) said although politicians have freedom of movement to visit anyone they like, they should not do so with public funds.
“Being public office holders, if they want to visit, they should not spend public funds and time on such visits. Except the President specifically requests for an official visit, it is wasteful to spend state resources on such trips,” he said.