By Rose Moses
The outgoing week, like many others in recent Nigeria’s polity, has been very eventful, full of drama. This is even more so with news of the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from London after about 104 days away.
The president, who left the country on May 7, 2017 to the United Kingdom for medical vacation, returned on Saturday, August 19, 2017. This also followed a similar visit in May this year, during which the president spent about 50 days, still in the UK.
One would have thought that the sudden return of the president would have doused tensions his long stay away from office had generated in the already heated polity, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
The drama is still playing out; this time following every word and action of Mr. President since his return. A national broadcast by the president on Monday, August 21, and which Nigerians had anxiously waited for, opened up a new wave of controversy. While some hailed as the case may be, a whole lot others knocked and ‘wailed’ that the short speech, which dwelt extensively on the nation’s unity crisis and fault-lines, was delivered in military language.
It failed to answer their question on whether the 74-year old president still has the capacity to lead a country going through severe economic and even political crises, considering his health challenge. They people were hoping to find out just what was wrong with their president and to get some clarity on the mystery illness that led to his absence from work that long.
With the Presidency’s apparent intention to keep this a secret, the public, clearly, is not convinced with the often touted line that the President is “hale and hearty.” Under the circumstance, natural thing is resolve to interpret things for themselves and by themselves.
Hence, statements from the presidency are often greeted with several interpretations and often rabidly attacked. Meanwhile, the nation trends on the cyberspace for all the embarrassing reasons.
From the shortness of the president’s national broadcast, mostly described as a missed opportunity to reconcile a highly divided nation; to his choice of words and the fact it did not address issues still staring us on the face that are majorly responsible for the security situation in the country, among others; to the cancellation of the first Federal Executive (FEC) meeting after his return, introduction of rodents to the national discourse took the whole narrative to a totally different level.
An aide to the president, Malam Garba Shehu, Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, reportedly announced an invasion of the president’s office by rodents as reason the president was absent from office on Monday. This was despite the president’s show of readiness during his early morning recorded broadcast, same Monday, to take the reins again.
Although Nigerians were told the president would be working from home, following ongoing “renovations” in his office, it didn’t take long for social media to be abuzz with stories linking the development to rodents’ invasion of Nigeria’s seat of power. Shehu had reportedly told a national daily that the renovation was as a result of various damages caused by the rodents to the president’s office.
“Following the three months period of disuse, rodents have caused a lot of damage to the furniture and the air conditioning units,” he was quoted to have said, adding that the president would return to the office whenever the maintenance company was done with the work.
This is so absurd, really, because the office in question couldn’t have been left untended to this long. And if that truly is the case, how do we expect the world to see us if the president is made to work from home because rats invaded his office? Which foreign investor is going to feel comfortable discussing business in a country where the highest office in the land is rat infested?
Which brings me to the point that if the country had given adequate attention to its health sector, the president would probably not have been away from his office this long for rodents to take over.
That the president still finds it safer to be treated abroad, despite all the fuss about huge sums of money budgeted for Aso Rock clinic leaves a lot to imagination on the fate of ordinary folks in the country.
In addition to the story of rodents, which is capable of spreading Lassa fever, the president’s medical trips abroad only highlight the fact that our health sector is helpless.
That is very sad, indeed, because a healthy nation, as the saying goes, is a wealthy nation. Something drastic ought to be done to the health sector, even if only to spare us the havoc rodents can wreck in the highest office in the land, and its subsequent embarrassment in the comity of nations.