Against the backdrop of President Muhammadu Buhari’s return from a three-month medical holiday abroad, TONY AILEMEN, in Abuja, writes that while many are happy, even relieved at the President’s return hale and hearty, there are still fears about what how much the 74-year old President at his age and in his state of health.
After several months of intense speculations about his state of health, President Muhammadu Buhari finally returned to Nigeria on Saturday to a rousing welcome by his political associates, admirers and well-wishers.
This development was a big relief for the country as it brought to end, several months of speculations about the future of the country following the way the President’s health challengehas been managed
Before his return last Saturday, Nigeria had gradually become a semblance of William Sydney Porter’s ‘Banana Republic’ with its unstable political economy that was dovetailing into an unstable polity.
On his arrival, the President, in line with the constitutional requirements, quickly transmitted a letter to National Assembly, notifying the legislature of his return, and his intention to resume office, immediately.
The President’s address to the nation in the early hours of Monday also revealed that he was kept abreast of developments in the country while he was away.
Despite the good performance of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who effectively stood in for the President, there are several urgent issues requiring his attention which he must address immediately
The President’s resumption letter stated in part: “In compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I write to intimate that I have resumed my functions as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, 21st August, 2017, after my medical follow-up in the United Kingdom.”
President Buhari had left for London on May 7, this year, and handed the reins of government to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who functioned as the Acting President.
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters in charge of House of Representatives, Hon. Sumai laKawu, was summoned to the Presidential Villa Abuja to covey the letter to the National Assembly.
On his arrival, Buhari quickly settled down to face the duties he had eagerly looked forward to, since May 7th, 2017 when he left the shores of Nigeria for medical treatment.
He had spent a total of 103 days outside Nigeria during his sojourn for medical treatments, making it the very first time any Nigerian leader would abandon his duty post for that long.
Despite his apparent display of fitness and willingness to work, many believe that not much should be expected from the President, considering the many months he stayed away and his old age.
The President had in line with constitutional requirements, written and transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, notifying the legislature of his return to office, after returning from medical vacation in London.
In the letter which he addressed to both the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives, the President said he is back to the country and was resuming office.
The letter read in part: “In compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I write to intimate that I have resumed my functions as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, 21st August, 2017, after my medical follow-up in the United Kingdom.”
Recall that since the President left for London on May 7, 2017, he had handed the reins of government to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who functioned as the Acting President.
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters in charge of House of Representatives, Hon. Sumai laKawu, was appropriately summoned to the Presidential Villa, on Monday to personally collect and deliver the letter to the two Chambers of the National Assembly as required by law.
Despite these Arrangements however, the President, it was revealed, would be operating from a makeshift office prepared for him within his official residence. In other words, the President would be operating from his residence as against the official office he operated from within the presidential Villa, prior to his sojourn to London for medical treatment.
This has raised the fears about the fitness of the President as it was not officially stated what informed the decision neither was the time frame within which the arrangement would last, disclosed.
Urgent issues needing attention
Nigerians had waited patiently for the results of the panel headed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to look into the alleged violation of procurement laws with regard to the grass-cutting contract, which led to the suspension of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal and the case of $43 million Osborn
House discovery involving the suspended Director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr.Oke. It was reported that the Osinbajo committee had long concluded its investigations into the matter, but could not submit its report because of the absence of the President.
The development has led to a vacuum in the office of the SGF,easily the engine room of government.
This is just as the insistence by the National Assembly not to clear Ibrahim Magu for the position of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC has continued to create frosty relationships between the Legislature and the Executive arm of government, a development the President is expected to address as soon as possible to promote the smooth running of government.
Implications for 2019
By 2019, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be facing Nigerians with its scorecard. The President’s health issues will certainly play an important role in determining whether President Muhammadu Buhari will return or not.
Recent developments within the APC and opinions in public domain show that the party is no longer as homogeneous as it was in 2015 when the party defeated the incumbent People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which had ruled the country for close to 16 years.
The direct result of this is that the health issue has succeeded in polarizing not only the party but also the entire North, which views the current dispensation as the “chance” of the North.
Recall that following the eight years reign by former President OlusegunObasanjo from 1999 to 2007, the unwritten political arrangement, which guided the political parties had polarized the country into North and South, especially for purposes of selecting their presidential candidates.
The North was unhappy that it could not immediately replace former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, after his unfortunate demise in 2010, which paved the way for the emergence of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidency.
Many Nigerians believe that this, more than any other thing, led to the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.
Thus, during the 2014 presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Presidential Screening Committee was careful in selecting a “strong and credible ” flag bearer, which led to the clearing of former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well as the former Governor of Kano State Rabiu Kwankwaso to contest for the party’s presidential slot.
Although, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the Publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah were also cleared, many had concluded and correctly too, that any of the first three would emerge as APC’s presidential candidate.
To further consolidate the position of the APC, the five aspirants were made to sign an undertaking before the final outcome of the results not to decamp to any other party if they failed to get the party ticket.
They were to support whoever emerged as candidate at the end of the primaries, which they faithfully adhered to.
About three years down the line, many members of the APC appear to have lost faith in the political party, citing its performance in government, the health of President MuhammaduBuhari, amongst others.
Former Vice President AtikuAbubakar has also openly criticized the absence of internal democracy in the party, which he said may derail the party’s chances ahead of 2019 general election. According to Atiku, APC is more of a bullying party now than a democratic party where the voices of the people count.
Speaking at the 2nd Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) annual conference in Abuja, the former Vice President drew the attention of the APC to the problem, adding that the party must address the issue to remain relevant.
“For a number of years now, we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their Constitution,” he said.
“In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the Executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations.”
Atiku’s open criticisms of his party have given credence to speculations that things may not remain the same in the party come the 2019 general election.
According to elder statesman Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, “Nigeria’s political space is very fluid and anyone can jump into any other since there are no clear-cut ideological differences”
“As the late NnamdiAzikiwewould say, in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent political enemies. What you have is permanent political interest. So, politicians are allowed to migrate to places where their interest will better be protected,” he said.
Similarly, a top-notchof the All Progressives Congress and former Governor of Adamawa State, Ambassador James Barkadeclared that the APC would need to work harder in 2019 if it hopes to win at the centre.
“The truth is that for many of us who had to abandon the PDP to work for the party in 2015, the level of disappointment is beyond what we can take for granted,” Barka said. “You will not believe that even I was side-lined during the last party congresses. I did not know how most of the delegates even from my ward emerged. We only saw names of people published at the party offices and in newspapers. There was no congress to elect anyone,” he agonised.
” l am also afraid for my country. Many of us cannot go home for fear of being kidnapped. This is the new trend now, from Abuja to Kaduna and even Adamawa. There are many cases of kidnapping that are not being reported.”
He attributed the increase in insecurity to youth unemployment which he said has assumed high proportions under the current regime.