By Tunde Rahman
With the release of the photographs taken last Thursday when the All Progressives Congress national chieftains, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, visited President Muhammadu Buhari in London, two things are now clearer about the president’s present health situation.
The first is the president is not dead as speculated and promoted in some quarters. President Buhari may be ailing but he is not dead. The other is the president is in a residence in London, where his health is perhaps being attended to, not confined to a bed in a hospital as some would want to have us believe. President Buhari received Asiwaju Tinubu and Baba Akande in the Federal Government’s official residence in London, called Abuja House. Not in a hospital. Information Minister Lai Mohammed had told the nation the president is not nursing a life-threatening ailment and not in a hospital. Despite all the verbal attacks on his person for mounting a bulwark for Aso Rock, it seems the minister knows more than we thought he knew after all.
The shots were taken as Tinubu and Akande were received by Buhari in the living room, when they launched into a discussion with the president and when, as a mark of respect, he saw his guests off to the door. It is puzzling, therefore, that even after the release of the photographs, some have continued to live in disbelief and denial. The rumour mill has been agog with all kinds of speculations and innuendoes and conspiracy theories. I don’t need to dignify them by recounting all that here.
But real pictures don’t lie. It is dismaying, however, that some still doubt or disbelieve what they see in pictures? Why do some still live in denial, even after being confronted with live pictures? Let me hazard two guesses for this. One, having experienced something like this before, perhaps some Nigerians now, understandably, get skeptical when it comes to issues relating to their president’s health. Remember the case of late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. The information about the real health status of President Yar’ Adua was hidden for so long. Nigerians were kept in the dark until it engendered a big crisis.
Two, you may say the way and manner the presidency has handled the present situation has not helped matters by not saying it all and you may be right. This may birth suspicions and engender speculations. But President Buhari told the nation he would use the opportunity of his vacation to undergo a check-up. Some other people will, however, choose to believe what they want even when confronted with facts.
Like every other mortal, the president may fall sick at some point or another.
For the life of me, is it out of place to expect a 74-year-old to have some health challenges? So what’s the big deal about the president falling ill?
I’m not saying here that the president is at present enjoying the best of health. But why do we continue to distrust information around our leaders, particularly when they concern their health, even when we are presented with pictorial evidence to suggest that the situation may not be as bad as some would want us to believe?
Now, back to the photographs in question, the persuasive force is not only in the pictures themselves, it is also in the people in the pictures. I mean the efficacy of the message is not borne by just the pictures. It is strengthened, in my view, by those captured by the camera, the political enigmas therein. This point becomes more salient when you recall that some others had visited Buhari before and the pictures rolled out with little effect. Within seconds of the release of Thursday’s pictures, they had become national and international headlines. They went wild on online platforms and social media. The major newspapers in Nigeria slammed them on their front pages the next day.
Indeed, I cannot agree more with Amit Kalantri, who posited in his book “Wealth of Words,” that “a photograph should not just be a picture; it should be a philosophy”. What is the spirit behind the visit to Buhari and the pictures taken? In my view, it is to send a message to the whole world that though President Buhari may be ailing, his is not a bad case. Those photographs are not just pictures, they have meanings; they convey messages of truth, messages of hope. But I also know that, as pictures, they will conjure memories in the future. They will conjure memories of this period in our national history.
*Rahman is Special Adviser, Media to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.