By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Abdulwahab Abdulah, Dapo Akinrefon, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Gbenga Oke, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Emmanuel Elebeke & Olayinka Latona
•Writes National Assembly
•Senate President has his letter – Saraki’s spokesman
•Babatope, Ango Abdullahi, Fayose, Opara, others react
ON a day he is expected to return to the country preparatory to resumption of office today after 10 days official vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, wrote the National Assembly to extend his vacation on medical grounds.
The extension, which was indefinite, yesterday, elicited mixed views in the polity. While some said it is in order and urged Nigerians to pray for his safe return, others said that a cabal had started holding the country to ransom and cautioned that Nigerians should not be taken for a ride.
The President’s letter stated that the extension was to enable him complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina stated: “The President had planned to return to Abuja this evening, but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning. The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives. Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes.”
Adesina spoke further on a Channels Television programme monitored in Lagos last night. Excerpts of his conversation with the programme anchor on the state of President Buhari’s health:
Channels: Are you not really sure of what exactly the ailment he has gone to the UK to treat is? Nigerians deserve the right to know.
Adesina: You know that there is doctor-patient confidentiality; no doctor would release that to you.
Mr. Adesina, the President asked for the vote of Nigerians and they want to know the situation of things.
I am sure that if we get to point when the President has to disclose the status of his health, if he needs to disclose, he will do that.
Mr. Adesina, if I have a headache, I will say it and as an adviser to Mr. President are you saying you are not aware of Mr. President’s health status?
I am not aware and when I say that to you, believe it, I am not aware. The President is the one who can release his own medical status. The day he left, we spoke and he told me this was his condition. He told me he is going to rest and he would do medicals and that was included in the statement we released. If there is anything serious, the onus is on Mr. President to disclose or not to disclose. Knowing this President as a straight forward person, if there is anything that he needs to tell Nigerians he will surely do so.
He has asked for the prayers of Nigerians and if you are praying for someone, you need to know what you are praying about.
It is not necessary
If you asked me to pray for you, Mr. Adesina, I will ask you what you want me to pray on.
You can pray for people without even knowing specifically what is wrong with them.
God Himself will want to know what you are asking from Him.
No, you are looking at it from a narrow perspective. You can pray for people you did not even know.
You are aware of the rumours in the social media about the state of Mr. President’s health. Are you assuring Nigerians that Mr. President is okay?
Those carrying malicious and evil rumours have the right to the rumours they are carrying. We didn’t respond to them. We have told you Mr. President is okay. When they said he was dead, we said he was alive and that answers the questions as far as I am concerned. Now that he says he wants to do more medical investigation, if you want to pray for him, you do not necessarily need to know what exactly is wrong; just pray for well being of Mr. President.
Do you know when he is returning?
If there is a day he would be returning it would have been in that statement. The issue now is that there is no vacuum in government, no lacuna, because power has been transferred to the Vice President who is Acting President, so Mr. President can take the time he desires and when the doctor gives him a clean bill of health, he can return home.
Saraki has Buhari’s letter – Aide
Confirming the letter, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, told Vanguard, yesterday, that the Senate President had received the letter but was not in town to open it.
Asked the content of the letter, he said: ‘’The letter is with the Senate President, but he is not in town, we cannot open the letter until he comes back,” adding that the Senate President will open the letter when he returns to Abuja from Ilorin.
Pray for Buhari, Fayose urges Nigerians
Speaking on the development, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who was one of those who opposed Buhari’s election on health grounds, was sober and terse. He said: “What else do I say but to ask Nigerians to pray for him?”
Position of the law must be maintained – Oyetibo
A leading lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, who said the development is unfortunate for the country noted that a human being could fall ill at any time but the position of the law, which allows Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to function as acting president must be kept.
“It is unfortunate for the country but human beings can get sick any time. In this case case, what is important is that the position of the law be maintained and that is the Vice President continues as Acting President,’’ he said.
No mystery in the extension – Ango Abdullahi
Former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University and a leader of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Prof Ango Abdullahi, shared Oyetibo’s view.
His words: “The president wrote the National Assembly from day one that he was going for medical vacation and asked the Vice President to assume executive functions. If the doctors didn’t discharge him at the time he expected them to do so, naturally, the Vice President continues in the executive capacity. Everything is clear here. Nothing is shrouded in mystery. He handed over executive powers to the VP and it stays like that.’’
Buhari did the right thing – Adebanjo
To octogenarian and Afenifere stalwart, Chief Ayo Adebanjo: “The president is not well and we all know. He even said so himself. He did the right thing in writing the National Assembly about it and in asking Osinbajo to take over. We should pray for his recovery and meanwhile, the VP should continue as Acting President until Buhari returns.’’
Nothing wrong with Buhari asking for more days – Falana, Fashanu
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, said: “There is nothing wrong with President Buhari requesting for additional days for his leave, especially when it is clear it is on medical ground. So, there is no problem as far as the law is concerned. The Vice President will continue to act pending the approval of the request by the Senate and also his final return. That is the law. There is no limitation to the number of days he can request for. The most important thing is for him to formally inform the Senate and get their permission.”
In like manner, Mr Babatunde Fashanu, SAN, said: “As prescribed by the law, the Vice President will continue to act in acting capacity as the president. The president has the right to request for additional days so far he complies with the provision of the constitution.”
Buhari’s handlers making a mess of it —Afenifere
On its part, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said those shrouding the President’s alleged ill-health in secrecy are making a mess of it. Its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “The handlers are making a mess of this all. They told us a man is not sick and now they are expecting medical result after two weeks. They should treat us like thinking people; we wish the president well.”
Cabals have started holding Nigeria to ransom again – Junaid
In his reaction, Second Republic, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said it is unfortunate Nigeria is being held to a ransom by some cabals within the administration of President Buhari.
According to him, “The development regarding the President’s health is a very bad indication and it is unfortunate Nigeria has found itself in another quagmire. It is also unfortunate that Buhari and his handlers are trying to cause another constitutional crisis rather than telling Nigerians the truth. This development is similar to that of Yar’Adua when a cabal with the help of his wife held this country to ransom and deceived Nigerians”.
He went further: “During Yar’Adua’s administration, 180 million Nigerians were taken for a ride. The same people in the Villa under Buhari have started towing the same path. I believe Nigerians should rise up against this if the Senate cannot impeach the President who now seems to be incapacitated and unable to discharge his duties as President of Nigeria”.
“It is now seen that the cabal do not want an end to this and that is why they keep playing us. These are some of the things we have seen ahead and have been shouting that Nigerians should be told the truth about the President’s health. I pray God saves Nigeria but Nigerians must take their own destiny into their hands,” he added.
Pray for his safe return – Babatope
Reacting, former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said Nigerians should pray for the safe return of President Buhari.
His words: “My view is that Nigeria should be full of prayers for the President. During Yar’Adua, no letter was transmitted to the National Assembly but in the case of Buhari, a letter has been passed. We should be prayerful about his safe return because anything short of that will put Nigeria into another crisis”.
Nigerians should not be taken for a ride – Opara
Also speaking, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, said Nigerians need to be briefed about the true situation of the President’s health rather than playing a hide-and-seek game.
He said: “There is nothing wrong if the President is ill and has passed a letter to the National Assembly but Nigerians should be told the truth. This idea of hide-and-seek and deceiving Nigerians is not the best. Nigeria is not a banana republic, so they should disclose the true situation of Mr President’s health to us. They should not take 180million Nigerians for granted with some cock and bull stories they keep telling us”.
Vacation extension in order – Usman, Ajulo
Mr. Yunuz Uztaz Usman, SAN, said: “The President has the right to go on vacation and if the period is not sufficient he can apply for extension. There is nothing wrong with it. The implication is that the Vice President will continue to act until he comes back.
“But it should be made clear that the President is not seeking permission of the Senate. The Senate does not have power to permit him or not. He is only notifying them, not seeking for permission. You can take a look at Section 145 of the constitution.
On his part, a human rights activist and former National Secretary of Nigerian Labour Party, Mr. Kayode Ajulo said: “When it comes to the issue of vacation of the President, there is no law that stipulates that the President has a specific period within which to go on a vacation. But in a situation that there is a lacuna to that effect, what is only open is that the President too is a public officer and it is the same rules that govern every other public officer that should govern him.
“As at today in Nigeria, the number of working days any public officer can go on vacation is a month except there are arrears of unspent ones. So it is expected that if he has gone on 10 days I believe he still has more days to complete that.
“Then secondly, with this extension it has shown clearly that our President is sick. It is expected that we should be looking at the section of the constitution that talks about incapacity of the President to know if actually there is a need to get the personal physician of the President to look at the well being of the President.
“I think instead of this letter, it is the personal physician that should meet the National Assembly to assure them of position of the health of the President. That is what the constitution envisaged because when it comes to the issue of health it is a serious issue and the constitution has made a provision for it.
“Now the physician we don’t know. He is in a foreign land. The question again is how can somebody who is sick write a letter? We don’t need to be deceived. We wish the President well, we wish him to come back to this country, we love him but I speak as a lawyer. The personal physician of the president needs to meet National Assembly members.”
I didn’t attribute failure of President’s return to faulty aircraft – Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that he did not attribute the failure of President Buhari to return to Nigeria to a faulty aircraft.
In a statement, he said: “Our attention has been drawn to a report quoting the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as saying the President’s return to Nigeria may be hampered by a faulty aircraft.
“The Minister has not spoken to anyone on the issue of the President’s return, hence this report is another from the stable of the purveyors of fake news and should be disregarded.