Editor’s note: President Muhammadu Buhari’s heath has dominated public discourse in the last few weeks. While some Nigerians believe that some cabals within Buhari’s cabinet have hijacked the government using the president’s current health status, others opine that it is better for him to resign and allow his vice, Yemi Osinbajo to continue with his good vision for Nigeria.
In an article sent to NAIJ.com, Sani Mohammed Uzairu writes about the controversies that surround President Buhari’s health condition.
Sani Mohammed Uzairu writes from Near East University, Cyprus. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Jerrold Post, a political psychologist, once submitted that an illness to a president is not just a personal matter but a devastating public crisis. In the last decade, starting from 2008, there have been about 13 presidential deaths in the world, with serving African leaders accounting for 10 (76.92%) of the deaths.
This should serve enough deterrent for our political office holders to relinquish power under severe health challenges for the sake of the socio-political and economic development of their countries, if sincerely they are altruistic in their claims to seeking the progress of their nations.
Alas, our vain and self-centered leaders enjoying the spoils of office would never give such a thought, even at the detriment of their life. Living a life of luxury far removed from those of the ordinary citizens, they would rather prefer to listen to the whispers of few sycophantic aides who themselves are seeking to maintains their grips on power.
Just like it obtains elsewhere in the world, an illness to a president means his political apparatchiks are in trouble – the circle around the president, his aides, advisers, ministers etc.
Despite having Nigeria’s top medical care team to address his everyday health concerns and emergency situations, Buhari’s health has become one of the most controversial issues in the country’s politics, leaving many with the question: what ails Buhari?
This, his handlers and manipulators have failed to come clear, and his inability to preside over the federal executive council for the umpteenth time has even yet heightened tensions and left many compatriots in déjà vu.
Often times, presidential media advisers do not hesitate in informing the public that the president has flown out on vacation and will cease the opportunity to see his doctors. This is a political game; and many times it has backfired in the face of these advisers.
We cannot forget too soon the circumstance and drama that surrounded the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Yar’adua took ill whilst in office. An anecdote has it that the former President once had to be carried off a runway by a military officer whilst on a state visit to Togo.
The soldier assigned to President Yar’adua, it was related, had to drape traditional cloth to hide what was happening from the prying eyes of on-lookers. State-run televisions came under a directive to film only one side of his face because the other side was puffed up.
The cabal around the then president concealed his deteriorating ill health to the public even when it was obvious, and continued to read riot act from the presidency. It took the intervention of civil society organizations for the national assembly to activate what they referred to as a doctrine of necessity, which allowed the then vice president to take over in acting capacity so as steer clear the ship of the country.
Unfortunately, Africa is littered with many of such reprehensible incidents. The former president of Ghana, our next door neighbors, Prof. Atta Mills died in 2012 under similar circumstance. Until his death, his illness was concealed and his handlers hoodwinked him from handing over power to his deputy with a view to maintain their political relevance at the seat of power, and milk their country dry.
Anxious to repudiate speculations of his ill health, the cabal deceived him into jogging at the airport in apparent display of energy and vigour upon his return from a medical treatment in the USA. A month later, his health condition aggravated and he was reported dead.
His intent was to seek another term of office in spite of his undisclosed and deteriorating health. Needless to say, that was unjust to the people he purports to serve. It is indeed a sad pass that political leaders in Africa are in the habit of concentrating power in themselves until death snatches them way.
Similar to the cases outlined above, the illness and eventual demise of former president of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, stoked public controversy. Speculations about his health challenges had heightened when he failed to attend African union summit in Addis Ababa in July 2012.
His illness seemed hidden from the public for political reasons until death came calling. Zenawi’s demise was consequently received with mixed feeling of surprise and disenchantment, which set alarm bells ringing about the possibility of leadership vacuum and eventual instability in Ethiopia.
Lack of transparency and accountability is a dreadful political disease undermining the progress of Africa. Leaders apparently live in fortresses far removed from the economic and social realities and too distant from the very citizens they profess to serve.
Far away in Guinea, the concealed illness of Lassana Conte generated widespread controversy before he gave up the ghost in 2008. Rumors of his death surfaced occasionally, and at one particular point in 2003, the cabals in his government had to arrange for him to appear on live television to disavow claims of his death.
A week before his demise, his spokesman assured the nation that the president was as fit as fiddle, and against that backdrop the government even ordered the arrest of a journalist who published a picture of the president looking frail.
In Gabon, few hours before the demise ex-president Omar Bongo, his prime minister came out to say he was alive and well despite grapevine reports that he was battling health complications.
Following death of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s in Malawi, and despite constitutional provision which stipulates that the country’s number two citizen fills the void, cabals sympathetic to the dead president hijacked power and displayed brinkmanship in their attempt deny Mrs Joyce Hilda Banda of her inalienable right. Sanity eventually prevailed before she was inaugurated as President.
I have deliberately taken you through a ride down memory lane to drive home a point. Political leaders should make the populace aware of their health condition as a matter of transparency and accountability.
Where lies your integrity if you cannot be sincere to the people you presume to serve? President Buhari must not live the country in suspense. He must come out clear about his health challenges, and if possible take a break with a view to getting proper medical care.
If he recovers well enough, then surely he can take over and continue with the business of government. Of course political adversaries may capitalize on that to score cheap political points; and perchance foster their political agenda but ultimately he stands on his honor to be accountable to the people.
Yes, power is sweet; but again, we must understand that it is not an end on itself and that there is life after power.
The major critics of the Buhari-led federal government are supporters of the Biafra agitation. Watch a NAIJ.com video of them speaking below: