Femi Adesina, in an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, and responding to a question whether President Muhammadu Buhari should disclose the nature of his illness to Nigerians, declared arrogantly: “The prerogative is his own to disclose and if he wants to disclose, he will. But nobody should be asking him to do it. That would be an infringement on his right”.
Adesina, also claimed that: “It is within his prerogative to do that. Nobody can do it for him. Not even the doctors treating him can do it for him. Under the Hippocratic Oath, nobody can do it except the patient. Nobody. Under the Hippocratic Oath, it says that even the doctor has no right to reveal the health status of his patient to anybody. So, it’s only Mr President that can say what exactly is wrong with him”.
The spin-doctor may have missed the memo that Buhari is a public servant, on the payroll of the Nigerian treasury, and his treatment in the UK is funded by the public purse. While private individuals have the right to keep their illness as a personal matter, it is not so for a president. The president is at the service of the Nigerian people and Nigerians are, in essence, his employers. Employment law in most countries dictates that if you are absent from work for over a week, you should present a doctor’s certificate to your employer. That certificate should show what you are suffering and how long you are expected to be off work.
With typical Nigerian “big man syndrome”, Buhari and his handlers seem to think they are exempt from the requirement to disclose to your employer the nature of your sickness. It displays an utter disregard for the social contract between the ruler and the ruled to think that a president who left Nigeria for 49 days due to ill health in January and has left again five days ago, should not inform Nigerians about what is wrong with him. If he wants to remain a private citizen and keep his illness private, he should resign.
Another reason why he should come clean about his health is that a decision would have to be made sooner or later on whether he is “incapable of discharging the functions of his office”, as required by the constitution. Since he returned from his “medical vacation” in March, he was holed up in the presidential villa, avoiding public functions, allegedly “working from home” until he flew out again last week. This is a sign that he is “incapable of discharging the functions of his office”.
Continuing to hide his illness means that Buhari can’t be trusted to make the call on his incapacity to discharge the functions of the office of president. The constitution prescribes that the decision on whether the president is incapable of carrying on would have to be made by two-thirds of the cabinet (all Buhari appointees). This bunch of opportunists can’t be trusted either to do the right thing.
But the fact that a sick man and his handlers think it is right to hide his condition from his employers, tells you all you need to know about the arrogance of these people and their ignorance of the concept that power resides with the people.