The return of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) after a 50day medical vacation in the UK have doused the tension and speculations about his health status. Nonetheless, public comments signals that many thinks he is neither incapacitated nor medically fit. Being mortal, it is not anomalous for PMB to be ill, but the inaudibility of his communication makes many cast doubts on whether communicating with Nigerians is indeed important to the president.
The thesauruses depict inaudible as being unable to be heard, closemouthed and uncommunicative. Within the context of this piece, inaudibility connotes low output, willfully being incommunicado, communication by proxy and regarding communication with some powerful few as communicating with all Nigerians. Having clarified that, may I request that you kindly take a walk with me? Please be alerted that this literal journey is for someone who is politically unemotional, ethnically unsentimental, religiously non-fanatical and analytically proficient. If you fall short of one or more of these qualities, your limitation would certainly limit your comprehension.
The verdict of many, including PMB, his wife, the ruling and opposition party, foreign media and analysts, is that Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s performance as acting president is satisfactory. Aside expressing confidence in Osinbajo, Buhari also intuitively affirmed he is not totally fit by signaling his return to the UK soon. He said “I am feeling much better now, there may, however, be need for further follow up within some weeks”. PMB’s statement at the ‘well-wishers welcoming meeting’ held at the First lady Conference Room shortly after his arrival clearly reflects his confidence in the reviving capability of the British health system. However, the unintended after-effect of PMB’s statement is that he had unintentionally offered the British health system a free medical advert. Within an eye twinkle, there would be a remarkable hike in the number of wealthy Nigerians trooping into the UK to treat headache and toothache. Have you thought of what would have happened to PMB if the British health system and that of other nations of the world is like that of Nigeria? As you are pondering on that, I have moved on to accept that PMB is a Nigerian serving the state and he is lucky (not all are) to be adequately provided for by the state. However, it is disheartening that thousands of our people are losing their lives daily to minor ailments. The presidency is hyper-concerned about the president’s health, but inaudible on delivering the change it promised Nigerians on health service delivery.
The prolonged stay of PMB in the UK ignited incapacitation and death rumors, emergency political re-strategy, debates, sentiments, prayer sessions and public opinion. In a frantic effort to dispel any bad news, the presidency allowed few individuals visit the president at the Abuja House in London and the president personally made effort to verbally communicate with selected governors, ministers, aides and ex-president. Nonetheless, of all the categories of persons he directly reached out to, he made limited effort to directly communicate with his employers; the Nigerian populace. This doubled the president’s aides and ministers challenge to convince Nigerians that the president is hale and hearty. Enemies of the president thereafter exploit the situation to orchestrate mischiefs and the Nigerian political-class tried to avoid missed calls as the next incoming call might just be from PMB.
In a situation where the president’s health is generating confusion and emotions, ability to continue leading being questioned, economy nose-diving and legitimacy fading, the best medium of communication to adopt is not through proxies. Nigerians lamented on the need for PMB to speak directly to the citizens, but he never did. A minute Skype video call to NTA would have rest the case. If you argue PMB is free to choose his preferred means of communication, are the people he spoke directly to important than the millions of Nigerian populace? Through the likes of Lai Mohammed, Femi Adeshina, Garba Shehu and some political associates, Buhari’s mouth was moving, but his voice was inaudible.
Moreover, PMB’s advisers and political strategists are yet to realize the displeasure the president’s selective communication mode is causing in the political circle. People’s importance, closeness to the president and political relevance have now been measured by whether you are privileged to visit PMB in London or whether you received a presidential call from the UK or not. This is dangerous to the political fortunes of PMB or his anointed successor. Nigerians are sensitive and any strategy adopted by the president must always be such that cut across the majority of the populace, irrespective of cabal, party affiliation, ethnicity, religion, class and gender.
Political pressure and PMB’s inner circle may have compelled him to return. If so, it’s mindboggling the inner-circle understands the importance of power, but undermines the importance of him speaking directly to Nigerians when abroad and even upon arrival at the airport. The league of journalists present could have been utilized by the president. Rather, when a journalist loudly and repeatedly asked “…how are you” the president just responded “fine” and walked into his waiting vehicle. During such a historic return from medical exile, Nigerians do not want to listen to Femi Adeshina’s rhetoric, they wish to hear from the president himself. Speaking directly to those waiting journalists at that point in time is him (Buhari) directly speaking to Nigerians who have been bothered and praying for him to recuperate. Kicking against this view can be taken as you opining that sacrificing a minute to the media when abroad or upon arrival is too much to offer the populace on whose mandate PMB occupies the presidential seat. If that is your position, how do you justify the minutes he spent communicating with few powerful individuals via phone from abroad?
You may also want to contend that the president have addressed Nigerians at the “well-wishers welcoming meeting” held at the First Lady Conference Room. Please observe that the president was not speaking offhand, he was reading a speech most likely not prepared by him and he may have not gone through the content before the meeting. Besides, the speech is a remark to the welcome address rendered by governor(s), service chief(s), minister(s) and the acting president. He only made-use-of-the-opportunity to thank Nigerians not that he intentionally programmed himself to speak to Nigerians, having abandoned his duty for 50days. Our leaders, past and present, only communicate regularly with the public during election periods. This needs to change and the change begins with the president.
To those chanting “Sai Baba”, PMB should beware that the mind of the Nigerian political class is filled with greed and deceit; most of the ruling elites are good in programming anyone in power to accomplish their interest. If PMB is not yet healthful, then whoever have pressurized him to return are more concerned about their relevance in power than the president’s health. These people are the president’s unnoticed and most dangerous enemies. The hard truth no-one seems to be whispering to the president’s ear is that if anything happens to him (God forbid), Prof. Osinbajo would become president and most-likely appoint a new vice president from the North. Such person would in all likelihood be from Buhari’s close aides, ministers, governors or party men. For this reason, PMB must be watchful as those who his demise would make are wishing he doesn’t sees the next second, while those who his demise would mar are wishing he lives forever.
PMB must rationally consider advices and reports before taking decisions. If Judas can betray Jesus, then PMB should beware of those around him, especially during this health challenging period. The anti-corruption and anti-terrorism war is yielding results, but the president needs to be more committed to resuscitating the economy. The opposition party must also rise above politicking and complement the president’s effort to fortify Nigeria.
Surely important, Governor Fayose’s conclusion that Nigerians would believe the president is truly not incapacitated if he (Buhari) calls him from the UK can be described as self-overrating. Governor Fayose needs to desist from branding himself as the voice of the people and be less vocal as he was when PDP’s late president Yar’ Adua was ill.
The wellbeing of the president is crucial to the realization of the change agenda. His health his important to most Nigerians, especially we that presently have no political ambition or belong to any political party. May God grant PMB the grace to live long and strong. If he feels weak, he should not hesitate to return for treatment immediately. Whenever he returns to the UK for “further follow-up” he should always remember that the audibility of his voice conditions a lot in Nigeria, hence he must be audible. As PMB recuperates he must strive to “rededicate himself to serving you, protecting your interest and keeping your trust”.
* Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst.