By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Simon Ebegbulem
LAGOS—The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Afenifere and other major stakeholders, yesterday, reacted to the presidency’s release of an audio tape to debunk insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari had lost his ability to speak properly.
While stakeholders from across the country generally welcomed the audio, there was, however, criticism of the president for speaking in Hausa, a development critics said undermined the country’s multi-lingual setting.
In dismissing the insinuations that President Buhari’s speech was impaired, the presidency released the President’s voice message to Nigerians to debunk reports that he was suffering from speech impairment.
There had been reports in the social media, claiming that the President was suffering from speech and memory loss.
However, in a recording aired, yesterday by some radio stations, including British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, released by the Presidency, the President was heard felicitating with Nigerians on the occasion of Eid-el Fitr wherein he thanked them for their consistent prayers for his well-being.
The President also urged all citizens, irrespective of socio-political affiliations to always avoid hate speech and divisive tendencies capable of causing disaffection among them.
He also prayed for good harvest as farmers embark on agricultural activities occasioned by the commencement of rainfall across the country.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, had on Saturday in a statement, issued a similar message.
A presidential source on Saturday had earlier confirmed that “the President is getting better “ and will return to Nigeria very soon.”
Buhari left Abuja for London on May 7, to see his doctors for follow-up medical checks.
It caused more damage than good — Afenifere
Reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere said the audio evidence caused more damage than good, adding that it should have been more credible.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “The audio evidence provided should have been more credible in this age and time when it is easy to do all kind of things with voice on computer. However, whatever purpose the audio message was intended for was damaged because it was done in Hausa Language given our multi-ethnicity.”
Second national vice-president of the National Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani also flayed the president for resorting to Hausa to speak to Nigerians, saying that rather, the president only spoke to a section of Nigerians.
“Not every person understands Hausa. If the President wants to talk to Nigerians, he can call Nigerians through NTA or other means that would afford all Nigerians the opportunity to understand him. He should address us in a language that we understand. The important thing is for us to know that he is recovering. Since he spoke in Hausa, that means he addressed a section of Nigeria.”
It’s an irrelevant medical jargon – Osuntokun
On his part, Mr Akin Osuntokun, Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, described the controversy over the President’s speech impairment as a reduction to kindergarten contention over a largely irrelevant medical jargon.
Osuntokun said: “Of what significance is it if he has speech impairment or not? What matters to Nigerians is whether he is fit and capable enough to function as president. Is speech impairment the only malfunction that can incapacitate him? What if he has something worse? All this nitpicking is only good for theatre and distraction. It is a tragedy that the governance of Nigeria is being reduced to kindergarten contention over a largely irrelevant medical jargon.”
The PDP which reacted through Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the spokesman of the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, NCC said: “Well, it is reassuring there is nothing surprising about it, it is customary for the president to speak to the nation on such occasions like this, so we see nothing unusual about this,” Adeyeye said.
Recorded voice shows his condition is improving—Tsav
Also speaking, a retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said: “The fact that he has spoken and the recorded voice released, is enough evidence to show that his health condition has improved. And considering his age, we may not know the type of ailment he is battling with, but the best option is for us to pray for him to fully recover.”
Osinbajo has been empowered by Buhari’s spoken language – Ikokwu
Second Republic Politician and a chieftain of the Ohanaeze, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said it is good to hear the recuperating president’s voice once again and urged Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to do the needful as enjoined by President Buhari to ensure that the country did not disintegrate.
His words: “It is good to hear from the president in London. Even though it is one sentence statement, he wants Nigeria to live in peace and justice. This empowers the acting president to do the needful. What is the needful is how to keep Nigeria one.
The APC manifesto with which he won the election, is in favour of restructuring the country. What I read is that the acting president has been empowered to ensure that Nigeria does not disintegrate. With Buhari’s statement, it is no longer body language; it is spoken language that Acting President Osinbajo should do the needful; he is happy with the meetings and consultations the acting president is holding with various sections and stakeholders across the country.”
Allow Buhari to resign if —Gen.Idada, Owie tells APC
Former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and a leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Brig.Gen.Idada Ikponmwen (Rtd) and former chief whip of the senate, Senator Rowland Owie said weekend that the prayers of all Nigerians is that President Buhari gets well soonest so as to fulfil his campaign promises. They, however, said that the leadership of the ruling party can find immediate solution in the event that the President becomes incapacitated.
Idada also said that President Buhari’s led administration will not lead this country to progress through rhetoric’s but addressing those issues that led to the agitation for a Biafrian State by Ndigbo and other sections of the country.
According to him, “what I said was that we are happy with the news coming in that our President is getting better and we are happy with that because a lot of things are going on wrongly without him and that is why Nigerians voted him in. If he is recovering it is well for Nigeria. But if not I said we must look for a solution because the country is too big to be left lonely.”
On his part, Senator Owie asserted that “as a man who has seen it all in the politics of Nigeria I pray for President Buhari to recover quickly because people are suffering and dying of hunger. Osinbajo has his limits and there is nothing like a President with full powers. But in the event that he can no longer carry on, the President can resign because APC will still be in power with Osinbajo.
“Health is more important, it is sad we found ourselves in this situation but we cannot question God. All I am saying is that people should not push the President too far, if he is not able to function properly let his Vice take over and we move on. He will still be alive like Pope John Paul 11 did. So this is not politics but reality.”