Absentia President: Now that we have become the subject of international ridicule, what next?


Olamilekan Okeowo


Those handling the affairs of President Muhammad Buhari must be cringing in shame and should bury their heads following the reports of Cable News Network, CNN, who on Sunday mocked Nigeria in its latest edition of “The Global Public Square (GPS)”, a foreign affairs show anchored by Fareed Zakaria.
In an apparent mockery of Nigeria and her President Muhammadu Buhari, CNN, on its programme displayed at 11:59 am on Sunday posed this question to its teeming populace of viewers.
“The head of state from which country has not set foot in his homeland in over two months?”
The Cable News Network proceeded to tick an option with the name Nigeria as the correct answer.
The options were given as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Nigeria and Syria.
This is clearly unacceptable and in any sane clime, heads should have rolled by now. It is saddening that Nigeria is subjected to a ridicule of this magnitude on an international cable network because of the incompetence, political inclination and economic greed of some people who stand to gain from this shame.
It’s been over 80 days since the President left the shores of this country on yet another medical vacation and since innuendoes and side-talks have been the order of the day as speculations are rife about the true condition of the president with some even insinuating that the president was dead or is in a vegetative state.
What is worrisome is the way the handler of the president has gone about the issue with conflicting reports keeps emanating from the corridors of power as Nigerians still do not know the President’s ailment, the treatment he traveled for and when he will be back.
It is more worrisome that Nigerians are kept in absolute darkness about the health status of their president.
Nigerians need periodic information about all these questions. This will keep Nigerians abreast (of developments) and make them sympathize with the president. What happens to the president of a country cannot be kept private or secret.”
We are calling on the National Assembly to demand an official medical examination to determine whether he is still capable of ruling the country or not. That is the constitutional procedure. If he is not able to function in that capacity, he should fully hand over to the vice-president.
It is too long a time for us not to have an official statement about his medical position and other information about his health.
There is today no clear leadership; there have been rumors of cabal taking over the presidency. His absence harbors potential seeds of instability.
According to Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution,
(1) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office, if –
(a) By a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is declared that the President or Vice-President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and
(b) The declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the President or Vice-President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.

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(3) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.
(4) The medical panel to which this section relates shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and shall comprise five medical practitioners in Nigeria:-
(a) One of whom shall be the personal physician of the holder of the office concerned; and
(b) Four other medical practitioners who have, in the opinion of the President of the Senate, attained a high degree of eminence in the field of medicine relative to the nature of the examination to be conducted in accordance with the foregoing provisions.
(5) In this section, the reference to “executive council of the Federation” is a reference to the body of Ministers of the Government of the Federation, howsoever called, established by the President and charged with such responsibilities for the functions of government as the President may direct.
It is in light of this that we are demanding that the provision of the constitution is invoked.
The concealment and non-disclosure of the President’s health status is an aberration and we strongly condemn it.
The vagaries of sick presidents are not limited to Nigeria as Zimbabwe is having the same experience with Robert Mugabe. Oil-rich Angola longtime president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, recently returned from Spain after over 50 days where he went to seek medical treatment.
Patrice Talon of Benin is another African president who was away for quite a number of days on a medical condition.
Where these Presidents differ from the case of Nigeria was that at every point in time the citizens of these countries knew what procedure their number one citizen was undergoing.
The presidency in Benin opened up about his condition disclosing that the 59-year-old underwent two successful surgical operations during his recent visit to Paris.
According to a statement released on Monday (June 19), one procedure was due to doctors finding a lesion in his prostate while the second operation was in his digestive system.
After opposition parties heaped pressure on Angolan president, the foreign minister disclosed what was wrong with their president.
Why is Nigeria’s case different?
Rather than do the needful, Nigerians are treated to a daily jamboree of governors turning the issue into a form of tourism at the expenses of the taxpayer. Only God knows which set of governors will leave the shores of Nigerian tomorrow on yet another “visit to go and see the president”.
It is time to put an end to all these shenanigans and stop Nigeria and Nigerians from another bout of international ridicule.

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