A group of leading civil society activists in Nigeria has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take an official leave and hand over his office to his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osibajo.
Buhari returned from the UK, where he was on medical vacation, on 10 March and since his return, he has only made a few public appearances.
The activists’ call comes as many Nigerians are openly expressing their disquiet over the secrecy surrounding the health status of their 74-year-old leader. The president has not been seen in public in two weeks, fuelling rumours that he might be gravely ill or even incapacitated.
Under the Nigerian constitution, the president is expected to hand over power to his deputy if he’s seriously ill to take care of his health. In case of incapacitation, the president is obliged to resign his office.
The 13-member activist group, including prominent human rights lawyer Femi Falana, in a statement issued yesterday, told President Buhari to take the advice of his personal physician and take some time to attend to his health.
The politics surrounding Buhari’s health re-enacts the drama of President Umaru YarAdua’s sickness in 2010. Critical voices are getting louder on the absurdity of a situation whereby a president who is seriously ill is supposedly governing the country. Like it emerged in 2010, some persons close to the president are suspected of taking important state decisions on his behalf possibly without his knowledge.
The ensuing uncertainty in the country is having a very negative impact on the country’s economic health as investors are said to be holding upon important projects as the death of the president could change the political landscape in the country.
Read the group’s full statement below:
“When President Mohammadu Buhari was recently in the United Kingdom on a medical vacation, which lasted 59 days, many public officers said that he was “hale and hearty.” But upon his return to the country President Buhari disclosed that he had never been that sick in his entire life. Even though the President did not disclose the nature of his ailment, he revealed that he went through blood transfusion. While thanking the Nigerian people for their prayers, the President announced that he might soon travel back for further medical treatment.
“A few weeks ago, the Governor of Kaduna state, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai urged Nigerians to give President Buhari time to recover from his sickness. The plea was made after the Governor had visited and presumably assessed the state of the President at the presidential villa in Abuja. However, due to the apparent deterioration in the President’s health condition, he has neither been seen in public in the last one week nor attended the last two meetings of the Federal Executive Council. His absence at the last Jumat service in the villa has fuelled further speculations and rumours on President Buhari’s medical condition.
“But instead of embarking on regular briefing on the actual state of the health of President Buhari, officials of the federal government have continued to assure the Nigerian people that the is no need for apprehension over the matter. In defending the absence of the President at the last FEC meeting and other state functions, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu stated that “the president’s doctors have advised on his taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment in the United Kingdom some weeks ago.”
“As we join the Nigerian people of goodwill to pray for a speedy recovery of President Buhari, we are compelled to advise him to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay.
Apart from Falana, those who signed the statement are Debo Adeniran, an activist; Jibrin Ibrahim, an academic; Adetokunboh Mumuni, executive director of SERAP; Shina Odugbemi, programme manager of the Democracy Vanguard, a non-governmental organisation; Chris Kwaja, a lecturer and researcher and Y.Z. Ya’u, director Centre for Information Techology and Development in Nigeria, CITAD.
Others are: Chom Bagu, a pro-democracy activist; Olanrewaju Suraj, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC; Ezenwa Nwagu, a community development expert; Awwal Rafsanjani, excutive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC; David Ugolor, an environmental activist, and Mohammed Attah, National Coordinator, Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative, PRADIN.