Anxiety over Buhari’s health
- No cause for alarm — Presidency
THE urgency that surrounded the proceeding on medical vacation to the United Kingdom last week by President Muhammadu Buhari generated worrisome anxiety across the country, particularly, in the Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The rising apprehension compelled the media team of the President to request Nigerians to pray for the President.
Subsequently, there was invalidated report speculating the death of the number one citizen at the week end which was immediately refuted by the Presidency to dowse tension in the land.
However, there seem to be mild wind of uncertainty within the ruling party and among the political elite culminating into some kinds of covert political calculations on the power equation of the country.
Apparently, there are emerging indications that leaders of the ruling APC are beginning to develop phobia over the party’s journey to 2019 and beyond as the President has in the past one a half years been embarking on repeated medical vacation overseas.
While President Muhammadu is away in the UK undergoing medical treatment for the third time in 20 months, it is not unlikely heavyweights in the APC are beginning to realign or negotiate stronger internal alignment for the control of the party structures as they mull over the burden of the president’s ill health.
The president’s handlers, including his personal physician, Dr. Sanusi Rafindadi, have not declared any particular sickness eating their boss in spite of the N20 million they claim was expended on treating Buhari’s ear infection the last time he went on medical vacation.
But his medical history the bite-size Aso Rock makes public on occasions like this since he became president more or less confirms he has a health issue he contends with, especially as he advances in age.
The current medical trip appears so urgent the president had to hand off issues like the southern Kaduna crisis where over 200 were killed, and the Gambia transition logjam ECOWAS asked him to handle.
Before the ear infection for which he travelled to the U.K in 2016 to meet an E.N.T expert, Buhari had showed once a while he’d gone past his salad days.
He took a fall during a campaign rally in Cross Rivers in 2014. Many believed the 72 year-old candidate was worn down by campaign rigour. The APC, however, blamed his long flowing garment for the wobble.
Then came the ear infection which allegedly resulted from an Aso Rock female doctor that probably over scrubbed Buhari’s left inner ear after he complained he was a bit hard of hearing last year.
But medical experts in Nigeria believed age may be a factor. And Meniere or vertigo may be in the mix. Meniere is among the syndrome of ear problem which presents certain symptoms, including loss of hearing and balance, making the victim unable to walk or stand unsupported.
There are other health conditions the president is watching out for. In his last year’s trip, Buhari, according to Sahara Reporters, also underwent a surgical procedure in which some polyps, benign growths blocking his nostrils, were removed after the ear infection.
“The blockage caused pain in the president’s ear that prevented him from carrying out a few official functions before he went to the UK where he was properly diagnosed and treated,” the online news portal wrote.
Added to the problem of general well-being of is his bone-breaking work schedule. Sources within the villa say Buhari, at 74, runs his day like a work horse.
“The President works from the early hours of the day till 1am and 2am,” said his media aide Garba Shehu. “In fact, there was a time the team around him had a meeting and expressed worries that the President was having only three hours of sleep.”
According to Shehu, the villa staff, at a point, had to redesign Buhari’s schedule by cancelling any appointment by 9.00pm. “The new policy did not last more than one week.
After that, the president worked till 1 am,” Shehu added, citing his boss’ military training as the reason.
Even if that is a factor, ageing, too, is another one. Buhari once regretted he got another opportunity to govern Nigeria when he is no longer a spring chicken. And carrying on his aged shoulders the nation’s loads of problems inflation at 18 percent, negative GDP at 2.1 per cent, unemployment rate at 13.3 percent can be nerve-wrecking, too.
But all that’s on the governance side. Politically, anxiety hangs heavy in the ruling party. It’s common knowledge, though readily denied by the presidency, that a number of his associates, all of them northerners, surrounding him indirectly decide his policy direction.
And, critics say, all of their decisions work at cross purposes to the party’s change agenda.
His feeble hold on the party has, therefore, allowed power thirsty party men hoping that the chip fall where it may to now take position.
According to analysts, there is a bloc, among many within the party, that are loyal to ex-V.P Atiku Abubakar whose preparation for the 2019 presidential election is hotting up. This alliance allegedly comprises Sen. President Bukola Saraki and other bigwigs within the party. The south-western bloc filing behind the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu, are more worried the way the presidency, especially; the kitchen cabinet, has made Buhari side-line the Lagos former governor who many believe masterminded the APC victory in 2015.
Political observers say all these have far-reaching effects on the party preparation for 2019, considering the moves of certain young and ambitious members of the party up north.
The fear Buhari may not be able to go the whole hog till 2023 not only creates this frenzy, but also brings to memory the political impasse of 2010.
A sickly President Umar Yar’ Adua eventually died in office, after his aides did their best to conceal his deteriorating health condition. The abrupt end, in addition to the doctrine of necessity invoked by the National Assembly, caused a shift in power to the south-south where his vice president then Goodluck Jonathan comes from.
The development, however, didn’t go down well with the north, which had hoped to cling to power till 2015. Leaders of thought in the north are worried the southwest might ride on this to power againin case Buhari can’t go all the way.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is currently acting as president for the second time20 days in allbetween 2016 and Jan 2017. Section 145(1) of the Constitution makes the president transfer power to his vice president on such occasion.
Section 143, however, states that the V.P can become president if the president is so damaged he can no longer perform his functions.
But President Buhari has been able to carry on since 2015 except for those 10 days he takes out annually for medical check-ups in the U.K.