Despite the controversy generated and the public outcry, I decided not to comment on the medical trip of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom. Many readers have asked for my opinion on the matter. The reason is simple. Even though Mr. President is a public figure, but the fact remains that he is still a citizen who should enjoy his liberty and privacy, no matter how little. For me, the man should just be left alone to enjoy his vacation. On whether he should seek medical help outside the country in view of the parlous state of our medical facilities, this is an issue for discussion at a later date.
Nigerians seem not satisfied with the explanations and assurances that all is well with the President. Since assuming office in May 2015, the President has embarked on three medical vacations abroad: February and June 2016 and the current one. It is just natural that in spite of the public statement given by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Information Minister, Lai Mohammed; and Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina, the people are not really convinced that there is truly no problem with the nation’s number one citizen. Without prejudice, Nigerians are used to hearing different versions of public information such that at the end of the day, what they have heard could be a radical departure from reality.
Apart from having human feeling for another fellow, many questions would continue to agitate their minds: Is the President still alive? Is the same fate befalling another siting President in office in the annals of the nation? What happens to the ‘change’ mantra of the current administration, if the unexpected happens? Could there be any form of conspiracy against the President anywhere? How soon would the President come back to the country? Unlike what was obtainable during the Musa Yar’Adua Presidency, the good thing about the current process is that the President Buhari has transmitted his absence to the National Assembly in line with constitutional provisions. We recall that the late President Yar’Adua was on admission in a Saudi Arabia hospital during the 2009/2010 Year before he eventually died in May 2010.
The citizens would be more worried that many things would have to wait until the President gets back to duty. This is just natural because charismatic leadership revolves around a personality. No matter the administrative mechanism that has been put in place to fill the vacuum, things can never be the same. Within the first family, his absence is going to be seriously felt. Within the executive arm of government, major and sensitive decisions would have to wait. As the leader of the party, crucial actions must receive his input and blessing before implementation. Certainly, with all these streams of activities and roles, the place of the President in the society like ours is paramount. That is why his continued absence should worry every patriotic citizen because the health of the President is the health of the nation.
The latest extension of President Buhari’s stay, vide the letter of February 5 on the grounds that he needed to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors, to complete the test cycle before returning to the country, makes it imperative now for either the President to speak to the people or the extent of his sickness should be revealed to the nation. When this is done, many people would be relived and the mounting pressure, rumours and falsehood being peddled, would be greatly doused.
I have heard some people talk that why the President’s true health conditions is not being revealed is that if that was done, some Nigerians could be calling for his resignation from office on the basis of ill-health. This may not be the case, afterall. However, the truth must be told at all times.
As is being speculated, if it is true that the condition of the President is serious that has warranted the managers of his information dissemination machinery to feel that the current approach being adopted in managing the situation is the best for now, it should be noted that this may not be sustainable. The reason is that information has a way of diffusing, irrespective of the obstacles. In the real sense of it, nothing is really hidden in life. It is just a matter of time, what is kept secret would become common knowledge within a twinkle of an eye, especially, with the growing influence of the social media. At that stage, peoples’ empathy could become apathy. That is why it is better to be proactive rather than reactive in the management of important information such as this.
All tiers and arms of government in Nigeria should always strive to keep members of the public correctly and accurately informed of what happen to those who occupy public offices.
It is their right to know. This is required in a democracy, where emphasis is placed on transparency, accountability, rule of law and the freedom of the people to know what goes on in government. Furthermore, this would reduce the crisis of trust and leadership that has been blamed as one of the main reasons for bad governance in the country.
Being a public figure, it is understood why the people are much interested in the President’s state of health. The moment someone assumes public office, it is expected that such an officer has no right to his/her privacy any longer. This assertion is not correct. Although, a public officer is expected to display accountability and transparency at all times but this does not completely take way his/her right to privacy.
However, efforts should be made without further delay by the Federal Government to let the members of the public know the real state of things before it becomes too late. I am sure that the way and manner insinuations are being peddled about the health of the President is likely to give him a great cause for concern. This can be avoided. That is why the hard truth must be told at this time. When this is done, it is hoped that all parties would be relived and Mr. President would be placed in a better position to get the deserved rest and medical attention.