Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where is Muhammadu Buhari?

By Chuks Iloegbunam 
Yes, indeed. That is the question. Where is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? The man left Nigeria in mysterious circumstances sometime between February 15 and 19, 2015. His manner of disappearing raised eyebrows across the country, for he suddenly melted into ether. To divert the attention of the curious, his handlers posted numerous false pictures on the Internet and planted same in national newspapers. There, suddenly, was Muhammadu Buhari, confidently emerging from airport formalities at either Heathrow or Gatwick! There, suddenly, was a relaxed Buhari in some well-appointed London studio, granting a press interview. 

*Muhammadu Buhari 

It didn’t take a century for the pack of lies to crumble. It turned out the pictures released of Buhari by his handlers were of the man on a UK visit during 2013. It turned out that the Buhari interview was years old, and had been conducted not anywhere in Europe but inside an Abuja Transcorp Hilton suite. Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose personally visited the suite and demonstrated beyond every iota of doubt that it was the venue of the so-called interview the APC claimed its presidential candidate had granted in London. Eagle-eyed journalists supported Fayose’s findings by detailing features of the interview picture that pinned its origin to the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Why did the APC have to dish out these lies? Why is it that, upon the unraveling of the APC’s web of falsehoods, the party decided against tendering an unreserved apology for misleading the Nigerian electorate? The answer lies in the fact that the APC has something to hide, despite its claims to transparency. But it went about the hiding project in an amateur way. The party said Buhari was in London on a “brief working visit”! But his itinerary was unpublished and unknown. Reacting to the consternation caused by this development, the APC said Buhari was in London to deliver a lecture at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, otherwise better known as Chatham House, the name of the building in which it is situated. 

This raised two questions. Buhari dreams of becoming the elected President of Nigeria. In that respect he should be addressing Nigerians, and he could be doing so at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Victoria Island, Lagos. Instead he flew 6275 kilometres to talk to white folk and a handful of Nigerians none of whom has the vote. The lies continued to rear their ugly heads. A check at the list of impending Chatham House engagements showed that Buhari’s name was not there. The Chatham House talk was, after all, an afterthought. The APC wangled an emergency slot for Buhari at Chatham House, an institute seemingly overcome with the obsession of packaging Buhari for the international community.

Tinubu and Buhari 

After his speech at Chatham House, Buhari granted an interview to Channels TV in which he said that, following his campaign tour of 35 Nigerian state capitals, he needed to leave all the hoopla and cavalcade behind and flee to London, to grab a rest! Isn’t there a place in Buhari’s entire hometown of Daura for him to retire and recover from his punishing campaign schedule? Another question: what kind of president will this man make who requires a mandatory escape to England after every month, to clutch at rest? Compare him to President Goodluck Jonathan who has, through the past five years, been directing the affairs of Nigeria, without as much as taking a full annual leave. Yet another question: Would it have been inappropriate for Buhari to admit that the “peeling was from the Iroko’s trunk”? if he got exhausted because he went political barnstorming, would it have been out of place if the 72-year old politician acknowledged that he was in Britain primarily to have a reading of his pulse taken, to have his organs examined and his vital signs medically assessed and documented for likely emergencies?

That is the crux of the matter. Muhammadu Buhari needs to come clean on his health status. Not because he is a retired Major General of the Nigerian Army. Not because he has left more questions than answers on too many aspects of his controversial past. But because he desires to be President of Nigeria. A politician with intent to lead Nigeria should let Nigerians into the entire picture of his circumstances, in order that they can make informed decisions on his suitability or otherwise for the highest office in the country. Some opposing politicians have listed all sorts of medical conditions they say are indicative of the man’s ineligibility for the presidency of Nigeria. The taste of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. But, rather than disprove the allegations of poor health against Buhari, his handlers are charging that his political opponents wish him dead. This charge holds no water because wishes are no assassins. Were wishes murderers, Nigeria would since have been severely depopulated. Nigerians hold overwhelmingly to the attitude that life belongs only and strictly to God who gives it or takes it as He pleases.

*President Jonathan

The presidency of Nigeria is a most tasking job. As Chief of Staff in a state government not very long ago, I recall that we reported for work every morning at 7am, and hardly closed for the day before 10pm. Still, the governor was liable to phone you at midnight or at 3am, to ask for information, a speech or an explanation, if not your physical presence. And there was the daily manifest, and all the travel and other functions it entailed. If Buhari required to go abroad for medical attention because he toured 35 states over one month while flying in the comfort of a private jet, how does the man expect to shoulder the exigencies and extreme pressures of presiding over Nigeria, an entity far in excess of any of its component parts in terms of size, complexity, peculiarities, population and international imperatives?

Muhammadu Buhari’s “brief working visit” is stretching into one month, during which period he has missed all but one (Chatham House) of the appointments keyed against his name. Like a hermit he remains strangely incommunicado. Not even Mutesa II, the Kabaka of Buganda, was in this severe form of isolation and seclusion during his London exile in the 1960s. 

During the presidential campaigns of 2007, Nigeria, at a stage, suffered the fait accompli of PDP Candidate Umaru Musa Yar’adua being hospitalized in Germany, while his supporters, led by a certain Matthew Olusegun Obasanjo, insisted that he was in robust health. For seemingly endless months in 2010, Nigeria endured the dangerous precedent of presidential power vacuum as Yar’adua went through death throes in a Saudi Arabian hospital, while his handlers claimed that he was as medically and physically fit as an Olympic sprinter. Nigeria is again at the epicentre of another explosive political scandal. For nearly a month now, Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the APC has been away from the shores of Nigeria, with his fellow countrymen and women at a loss as to the true circumstances of his self-inflicted exile. The leadership of the APC owes the country a moral and political obligation to answer this straightforward question: Where is Muhammadu Buhari?

*Chuks Iloegbunam ( wrote this article from Lagos.

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