5 November 2019
President Muhammadu Buhari is at it again on a London trip shrouded in secrecy, evasion and probable lawbreaking. The Globetrotter-in-Chief returned to Nigeria from a trip to Russia last month and then headed off to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia three days later. He didn’t bother return to Nigeria from Riyadh and instead flew from there to London last Saturday for what his spokesman called a “private visit”. He is expected to be in London until 17 November.
In April this year he spent 10 days in London on another “private visit”. In 2017 he was holed up for 104 days in London in what was termed a “medical vacation”.
Buhari has persistently refused to reveal to the Nigerian public, that he is supposed to be serving and who are footing the bill for these “private visits”, the reason why he needs those visits. This has left the room open for speculation about the president requiring treatment. The failure to disclose the ailment is in addition to the staggering hypocrisy of a president that has closed the country’s borders and only three days ago urged Nigerians to patronise locally-made products.
Another troubling angle about this “private visit” is that it is for two full working weeks. Most normal working people would term a two-week absence from work as a holiday/vacation. The Nigerian constitution in Section 145 states that the president should notify the National Assembly when he is going on vacation and the vice president take over: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
There is no indication that Buhari has notified the National Assembly of his absence and the picture of him signing a bill in London yesterday indicates he hasn’t handed over to his Number Two.
This appears to be in contravention of the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitution. Buhari’s actions do nothing but add fuel to the fire of suspicion that all is not well in terms of his relationship with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. There has been talk that Osinbajo’s wings have been clipped by the “cabal” surrounding the president as part of a plot to derail the presidential ambitions in 2023 of either the vice president or his “godfather” Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos State governor.
For all intents and purposes the president’s two-week absence is either a vacation or sick leave, if, as is likely, he is in London receiving treatment. He has deliberately chosen not to notify the National Assembly of his absence by saying, rather dubiously, that he is away on a “private visit”. This seems to have bee done so that he won’t hand over to the vice president. In January 2017 he notified the National Assembly of a 10-day annual vacation and has failed to do so this time most likely for ulterior reasons. The National Assembly should demonstrate that they are not poodles and show some teeth by investigating the president’s actions in relation to his absence this time around. The public needs to know the purpose of the “private visit”, why a two-week absence was not called by its right name – a holiday or vacation, and why the National Assembly wasn’t informed in writing and power handed over to the vice president.