Judging by the fluidity of the official position on the health of President Muhammadu Buhari, there are three President Muhammadu Buharis currently on medical vacation in London.
First is a sick Buhari. Second is a hale and hearty Buhari. And third is a resting Buhari. All of them are coequal, coexistent and powerful–like a trinity!
The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, on February 3, introduced Nigerians to the sick Buhari. Speaking at an event in Ilorin, Shittu denounced the fake news that President Buhari had died. He said ‘’President Muhammadu Buhari is not dead, he deserves prayers for sound health as well as for the growth of the entire nation’’.
Shittu is Buhari’s associate from the CPC years. His long-standing relationship with the president may make him privy to palace secrets. Shittu didn’t provide details, but his innocent rebuttal bore the supplement of a dead giveaway.
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo unveiled the second Buhari on 6th February.
Speaking to State House correspondents, Osibanjo reported that he had spoken to Buhari on the phone: the London vacationer was ‘’hale and hearty’’ and ‘’in a good shape’’. Osibanjo said he judged Buhari healthy because the president had the stamina to indulge in ‘’a long conversation’’ with the vice president!
Osibanjo is a professor of law. He is a worldly-wise man, the most knowledgeable Nigerian ever to occupy his position. But he cannot presume to be versed in the art of divining a person’s fitness by the sound of their voice on the telephone. The art doesn’t exist. There is no means of perceiving a person’s health status from the tone the individual emitted–on a long distance call!
And just as right: it is ludicrous to equate the ability to participate in ‘’a long conversation’’ with good health. Chatty does not necessarily mean healthy. Health is so much more than capacity to exercise the vocal cords!
Three days after Osibanjo gave Buhari a clean bill of health, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, affirmed the ‘hale and hearty Buhari’. Lai declared to State House press corps, ‘’I can say without equivocation, Mr. President is well, he is hale and hearty; no question about that’’.
Lai Mohammed was in Abuja when he was vouching for the health of the man in London. And Lai had no memory of a recent telephone exchange to cite as putative backup for his claim. He was content to allow his audience assume that he reached his own awareness of Buhari’s sound health through… telepathy!
Senate President Bukola Saraki also lent credence to the ‘hale and hearty Buhari’. After Saraki led a National Assembly delegation to visit the president in Abuja House, he relayed that the Buhari he encountered was ‘’cheerful and in good spirits.’’ Buhari was ‘’healthy, witty and himself.’’
To give credit to whom it is due: Saraki is qualified to pronounce upon human health. He is a medical doctor. Although he has almost never practiced, he most probably retains knowledge of the basics of his training.
Yet, Dr. Saraki’s credentials did not equip him to discern the health of an individual by their appearance. You cannot make a credible determination on the basis of someone’s exterior and demeanor. There is no such science.
A physician needs to examine a shrewd politician to prove the true condition of their health. Buhari did not submit himself to Saraki for such examination. Thus, the clean bill of health Saraki issued did not emerge from the sure ground of standard medical practice.
Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman, revealed the third Buhari.
On the day that was supposed to mark the end of Buhari’s 10 day medical vacation, he sent a letter to the Senate, informing the body that he has postponed his return indefinitely. He said: ‘’In the course of routine examinations, certain test result indicated the need for a course of medications’’. He would have to tarry in London ‘’until the doctors are satisfied that certain factors are ruled out’’.
Adesina would later expand on the infinite elasticity of Buhari’s medical Sabbath. He said the test results showed that Buhari needed ‘’longer period of rest.’’ This implies that Buhari had been resting in London all along and needed more of the same. This account diverges from Buhari’s admission that his doctors had established the ‘’the need for a course of medications’’ to address his case.
Chimamanda Adichie enriched the world with her TED talk on the danger of a single story. But sometimes, reality has a single face, not manifold facets. It is definitely not a blessing to have the embarrassment of riches of numerous narratives when there ought to be one truth.
There is only one President Muhammadu Buhari. And he can be only one person at any given time. But officialdom is relentlessly fictionalizing President Buhari as a three-in-one human being; concurrently ailing, healthy, and convalescing.
The Buhari trinity is an accidental creation of a random, uncoordinated spin operation. It is a deified lie. It is a post-truth gospel that means to save the very object of its hero-worship by cultivating a human following whose belief would serve to validate the falsehood of the imaginary three-personality president.
The characterization of Buhari as a dissimilar plurality with a single corporeal identity owes its materialization to the rat race of sycophants. Every ambitious power player in Abuja is trying hard to overimpress. They are under self-induced pressure to demonstrate loyalty by ventilating flattery as fact.
Buhari reached his spokesmen only yesterday. For more than one month, he denied them personal contact and a line of access though he was privileging his favorite governors with phone calls. But the uniformed Adesina and Shehu were speaking on his behalf, inventing the most positive stories about his health.
And Buhari called his spokesmen not enlighten them but to thank them for ‘’holding out against mischief makers’’. The ‘’mischief makers’’ the president referred to are Nigerians making conjectures about his health because he would not deign to clarify his condition and quiet the rumour mill once and for all.
The real Buhari on medical vacation should not be divorced from Nigerian taxpayers who are paying his bills. Nigerians deserve to know who they are paying for. Is it a hale and hearty Buhari, or the ailing Buhari or the resting Buhari? Nigerian taxpayers need to know what condition of the president is consuming their hard-earned money.
Adesina says asking about Buhari’s fitness amounts to intrusion; that Buhari has a right to protect himself from the curiosity of the Nigerian people. Adesina states that ‘’it is a point of principle that Buhari is not speaking to Nigerians’’. The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, supports that view. Adewole says the president is a ‘’ private citizen ’’, entitled to withhold his information from the public.
President Buhari is not a private citizen. He is a public servant. Every part of his life is eligible for public interest, scrutiny and interrogation. The only zone of privacy that courtesy requires us to allow him is his sex life.
His health is particularly a matter of national importance. The ability of the president to discharge the functions of his office is tied to his fitness. He can’t concentrate or perform when he is contending with a health challenge.
Nigerian voters hired Buhari for a term of four years on the basis of the mutual understanding that he would be available to serve that span of time. If there is a condition that has arisen to impede his capacity to fulfill the contract, he owes his employers, the Nigerian people, some token of honesty.
Yes, he handed over to the vice president and there is no apparent vacuum in government. Buhari’s men glorify the difference between the particulars of this situation and the Yar’Adua saga. But the smooth running of the administration does not, in itself, mean Buhari has a blank cheque of everlasting absence from the job.
Nigeria is an underdeveloped democracy governed by strong egos and weak institutions. The chaos theory applies here. Every minute change in the system causes disproportionate chaos in the entire polity.
Truth has to be injected into this escalating confusion. The country cannot continue to be held hostage by a guessing game. Buhari has to come clean so that the structures of governance can reconcile with his situation and adapt to the corresponding exigency.
Last time President Buhari went on medical vacation, he acquainted Nigerians with his ‘’ ear infection ’’. This time around, he deployed his aides to defend his obscurantist snobbery of the Nigerian people. What could he be hiding and why is he hiding it?
During the Jonathan presidency, President Obasanjo famously wrote that there were 5 presidents in Nigeria and that President Jonathan was the weakest of them all.
The question of the hour revolves around the mythologized trinity of one president. Nigerians need to know which of the sick, hale and hearty, and resting Buhari is the incumbent president of Nigeria. And until Nigerians receive a truthful and straight answer, the question will continue to assert itself with increasingly louder echoes.