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Buhari, the Friday president, returns to base in London

Muhammadu Buhari, who has gone from working part-time as president to “working from home”, and then to not even bothering to turn up for work, only showing up at mosque on Fridays, has now abandoned all pretense and flew to London in the dark of last night for what his spokesman called “follow-up medical consultation with his doctors”.

Buhari had previously left Nigeria in January, spending 49 days on what his handlers said was a “medical vacation” in London.  On return he secluded himself in the presidential mansion and in the past weeks has avoided the Federal Executive Council meetings.  The president and his handlers have continually refused to reveal to Nigerians, the people he is meant to serve and who are footing the bills for his medical trips, the nature of his illness.

Instead, a tweet last night from his official Twitter handle claimed there was no cause for worry.

This is not quite true.  Firstly, pictures of the president show that whatever is wrong with him is cause for serious concern.  Secondly, Buhari only returned from his extended leave in London on 10 March and he is off again 57 days later.  That is no way to run a country.  Thirdly, there were reports that three of his UK doctors were flown to Nigeria after he had missed cabinet meetings and it is clear that this has not been able to prevent the need for another London trip for “follow-up medical consultation”.

Fourthly, and perhaps most seriously, is the absence of embarrassment about the president of a supposedly independent country handing over matters around his life and death to foreign nationals.  There is little consideration of this matter in many Nigerian circles, with scant regard for the fact that a president’s life is a matter of national security.

But the country has long been ruled by people devoid of embarrassment.  Buhari even revealed last year that he has been seeing doctors in the UK since 1978.  From 1994 to 1999, Buhari was Chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), which had a remit to deploy billions of naira from the sale of petroleum in programmes that should benefit ordinary Nigerians.  Those programmes included healthcare delivery.  But Buhari had no interest in improving the hospitals even in his hometown, Daura.  His healthcare needs were taken care of in London.

He has continued to patronise British healthcare even after becoming president nearly two years ago and after budgeting over 3bn ($9.5m) on the presidential clinic.  Despite that outlay, even his Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, declined use of that facility and also flew abroad for treatment a few months ago.

While Buhari, at 74, has every right to be ill, the refusal to state what is wrong with him, the refusal to be treated in his own country, the extended spells abroad on “medical vacation”, have not only undermined Nigeria’s credibility as a sovereign nation, but have also made a mockery of the president’s campaign slogan of “change” when he was running for office.

The only “change” that makes sense now is for him to do the honourable thing, accept that his sickness renders him incapable of leading a complex country like Nigeria, with a multitude of problems.  He has to put an end to this charade and go, or be forced to go.



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