The post May Day holiday is beginning in Nigeria with concentration of national attention on the implications of presidential ill-health. Chief Bisi Akande, a former National Chairperson of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) has widened the fears by saying that poor health of the president “is already taking its toll on the health of Nigeria as a polity”, describing it as one of two red flag dangers capable of “plunging the country into unprecedented chaos and of destabilising the gains of democracy since 1999”. Why the president’s ill-health might plunge the country into chaos is difficult to fathom when the Vice-President has always stepped in as stipulated in the Constitution. Given Chief Akande’s location in the heart of APC politics, however, not many are prepared to dismiss his claim, especially with reported meeting of all but two of the members of the national cohort yesterday in Minna. Akande has particularly identified the second of his red flag threat in relation to Presidency-National Assembly relations.
President Buhari’s dwindling public appearances has raised the stakes recently, particularly absence from the regular Federal Executive Council, (FEC). His absence in Kaduna at the wedding of the son of his former deputy in the aftermath of the 1983 coup made many to conclude his incapacitation.
The debate now is what should happen regarding President Muhammadu Buhari’s ill-health. While The Presidency and several ministers pushed the idea that the president’s ill-health is so minor that he is still the candidate to beat in 2019, political and civil society actors are advising the president to go on another medical leave to take better care of himself. Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, Oil Minister, Ibe Kachikwu and Rotimi Amaechi, among others, said throughout last week that the president is not sick enough to be ruled out in 2019. The Presidency said in response to media speculations, particularly Sahara Reporters, of worsening health conditions that there is no basis for apprehension over the president’s health.
Contrary to the belief in government, speculations are rife that the president is badly in need of advanced medical attention. While some people say he cannot eat, others say he tends to forget. Yet, others assume a system crisis even as no one can name the system. The president, according to Akande, personally alluded to corruption having fought him back, a situation Akande describes as beyond the president’s control or something anticipated. Additionally, the president had confessed to the degree of his ill-health upon his return from London after nearly two months of medical vacation recently.
Central to the unease is the belief that a cabal has disallowed his travelling out because that would mean loss of power. In this sense, the situation has become a replica of the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidential ill-health and its secretive management and the associated political tension in 2009 to 2010. Is Akande thinking the much talked about cabal would dig in? Why the red-flag dangers?
The debate would continue and a lot depends on what happens next. That is whether the president leaves for further treatment abroad or stays put in the country with protestations against the perceived cabalistic entrapment rising. Lagos lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa first hinted the nation in January of presidential ill-health on a worrisome scale. it turned out that the ill-health was beyond ailments typical of people within Buhari’s age bracket and might, as Chief Akande is hinting here, have to do with something not anticipated.
Subsequently, government has been decentered, with power residing in several quarters. Although journalists still have to personify the government after the Buhari personality because that is the norm, it was clear that certain things happening did not bear his stamp. That era seems to be closing as the president might have to be away again for medical attention, however understood.