By Obi Nwakanma
Many Nigerians would agree that former President Olusegun Obasanjo represents his own kind of villainy, but the former president, a serial interlocutor of Nigerian public affairs, seems to have spoken the mind of numerous Nigerians when he declared this past week that the incumbent President Buhari is a man who is “sick in body, soul and spirit.” To all intents and purpose, President Muhammadu Buhari’s health as a national security burden, should concern all Nigerians. The evidence seems out there; writ large in his recent performance in the interview on NTA with Kaderia Ahmed. To most viewers, President Buhari was not really in there. He showed profound symptoms of exhaustion and physical degeneration. Yes, indeed, it was a graceless, subpar performance.
But something nudged me into this realization that the president was not in there. It was the fright in his eyes as he struggled with words and the incoherence of his automatic response. And this is serious. Would this be why his minders have been shielding him from addressing Nigerians directly, and from participating in public debates which should give him the platform to address questions about his prospects and preparedness, and defend his ideas and policies in seeking a second term as president? The truth was revealed further in the president’s public appearances: He appears not in a fit state to debate and defend his policies, much less govern Nigeria. His episodic memory is gone! His motor skills shot!
This is dangerous, and it ought to raise a national emergency alert about the occupant of the presidency of Nigeria, his state of wellbeing and mental preparedness for such a task. Perhaps if all was well, President Buhari may not do some of the things he’s been doing lately. It leads me therefore to presume, and perhaps even conclude that President Buhari has been altered, and held hostage by a really dark, special interest or “cabal” which is manipulating the president in his current state, shielding him from his cabinet and the public, and issuing policies in his name. When Mrs. Aisha Buhari first raised this alarm about “a cabal” that had taken over the administration of Nigeria, it did not quite register so fully for me, I must admit, until I saw the president’s interview with Ahmed last week, and his fluffing of names, and the Warri APC campaign episode where he was inevitably sloppy, slow, tired, and incoherent.
These are not good signs for a man who wants to be reelected president of especially a country like Nigeria. And it is as a result of these contingencies that the constitution placed the president’s health as a national security objective, and requires that the president’s health be constantly verified by the National Assembly, which must, should evidence come before it of a president’s inability as a result of a current, severe health crisis be unable to carry on the functions for which he was elected, remove him from office in the national interest. A sick president is liable to undermine Nigeria’s national interest, including her security in a number of very interesting ways.
Buhari seems to surrounded by external interests currently undermining Nigeria’s foundational interests, and moving towards securing their long term objectives by using President Buhari, already too weakened and already too fragile and vulnerable as a result of his ill health and possible side effects of his medication. The National Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly must therefore act very quickly by constituting an independent legislative investigative panel to determine the true state of the President’s situation and provide advisory to the National Assembly, particularly on whatever might be the role of Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari, in shielding the truth of the president’s situation from the Cabinet and from the National Assembly. Mr. Kyari’s role in the hijacking of presidential powers, with the diminished mental function of the president is tantamount to a coup against the constitution and the republic.
This is a very urgent task before the National Assembly. But if anyone is in doubt about the president’s health, the truth seems bare. And if they deny this, the APC and the Buhari campaign organization, must ensure that the president honours his obligation to debate his opponents, especially Mr. Atiku Abubakar, who has thrown down the gauntlet for Buhari publicly. I wager that this president cannot, and will ordinarily not want to debate anybody in his current situation. He is unable. Because of this situation, the possibility that an elected president may, as a result of ill health degenerate both physically and mentally, and therefore constitute a national security risk, was anticipated by the framers of the constitution, the Nigerian federal constitution thus made the following provisions: “144. (1) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office, if – (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is declared that the President or Vice-President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and
“(b) the declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the President or Vice-President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.
“(3) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.
“(4) the medical panel to which this section relates shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and shall comprise five medical practitioners in Nigeria:- (a) one of whom shall be the personal physician of the holder of the office concerned; and
“(b) four other medical practitioners who have, in the opinion of the President of the Senate, attained a high degree of eminence in the field of medicine relative to the nature of the examination to be conducted in accordance with the foregoing provisions. (5) In this section, the reference to “executive council of the Federation” is a reference to the body of Ministers of the Government of the Federation, howsoever called, established by the President and charged with such responsibilities for the functions of government as the President may direct.”
The foregoing is unambiguous. Although the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria places the generation of this move about the health of the president in the hands of the ministers of Government, it is also very clear that the principal conduct of verification of the President’s health lies with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives who must, given the clear public evidence of President Buhari’s situation, constitute a high powered medical panel to verify the true state of the president’s health, and the possibility whereof it is established one way or the other that the function of that office is still in capable hands or not, relieve Nigerians the anxiety about the health status of the current president.
President Buhari’s infirmities have led to all kinds of conspiracy theories and speculations about a double; about a clone; about a ghostly president; a situation significant enough that this president was forced to publicly address it in one of his European travels, to the Netherlands, when he said, “I can assure you, I’m no clone.” This president may not be a clone. But this president has health challenges. His ill-health has reduced his capacity to function, and the secrecy around his medical records, and the fact that this president’s deepest medical secrets are in the hands, not of Nigerians, but of a foreign government, and that he is treated in facilities outside Nigeria that can compromise him and his loyalty to Nigeria, makes this president a high national security risk.
Under the knife, and in the care of a foreign government, President Buhari, even if he does not wish, could sign away Nigeria’s sovereign interests. That’s the way these things work. In my view, it is time that the Senate President constituted a panel to verify the president’s health, and if he is found too ill to govern, given his recent performance, the Vice-President, Yemi Osibanjo must be sworn in, and his name replaced on the APC ballot for this election. Not to do this will amount to the National Assembly failing in its sworn duties to protect Nigeria as the constitution requires of them. To clear this doubt, APC must present Buhari to address Nigerians publicly, and to debate his opponents in this poll, and of course submit to a medical panel.