When the former President, Umaru Yar’Adua, fell sick in 2009, and left the country for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, President Muhammadu Buhari, then a Presidential candidate, said Yar’Adua should be declared incapacitated and unfit to rule the country, and further called for the late President’s resignation or impeachment.
Now that Buhari has found himself in a situation similar to Yar’Adua’s, Nigerians are wondering if he will resign.
A Zimbabwean proverb from the Shona tribe says: “The axe forgets, but the tree remembers”. This proverb has over the years been translated to mean that a person who hurts another person by their words or actions might forget, but that the person who was hurt by those words or actions will always remember. That being the case, philosophers have often used this proverb to advise people to choose their words carefully as they may never know when they’re going to be used to judge them.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari became ill and was flown abroad for treatment, several calls had been made that he should resign as he was no longer fit to perform his job efficiently.
Apart from the Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, who has repeatedly called for the president’s resignation or impeachment, another person who called for Buhari’s resignation was a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
On March 31, 2017 — a day after he questioned the president’s “inaction” following a prolonged face-off between the legislature and the executive and hours after the presidency announced that he [Buhari] would be travelling abroad for further medical treatment — the embattled lawmaker had asked Buhari to resign on health grounds.
In a series of posts via his Twitter handle, @AbdulAbmJ, Jibrin had written, “At President Buhari’s age, working actively for over 50 years, even without his present health condition, his capacity will be greatly challenged.
“The more PMB appears on camera, the more the narrative of his health situation takes the centre stage and the uncertainty it creates.
“Life and health belong to God, but the more I see pictures of Mr. President, the more I am convinced (that) he needs to go and rest. He needs it!”
A week later, however, the lawmaker apologised to Buhari for asking him to resign, an action which suggested to many Nigerians that he [Jibrin] did so for political reasons.
Be that as it may, some people believe that asking Buhari to resign or be impeached amounts to paying back the President in his own coin because of what he also “sowed” during the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration.
Yar’Adua had left the country on November 23, 2009, and was reported to be receiving treatment for pericarditis [an inflammation of the pericardium, the membrane enclosing the heart] at a clinic in Saudi Arabia.
He was not seen in public again until February 24, 2010, when he returned to Abuja during the dark. His state of health was undisclosed, but there were speculations that he was still on a life support machine when he got back to the country.
He eventually died on May 5, 2010, and was buried in his Katsina hometown a day later.
Meanwhile, on March 10, 2010, during his period of sickness and non-appearance in the public, Buhari was one of those who called for Yar’Adua’s resignation or impeachment.
Then, Buhari had called on the National Assembly to start an impeachment process against the “ailing” Yar’Adua.
While addressing members of the National Unity Forum who visited him in Kaduna, he had further said if Yar’Adua didn’t want to be impeached, he could save himself from ridicule by “honourably” resigning from office.
Buhari had further said the Federal Executive Council owed the country a “sacred duty” by ensuring that Yar’Adua was declared “incapacitated” so as to pave the way for his removal from office through impeachment.
On January 4, 2010, during the same period of Yar’Adua’s illness, the Action Congress of Nigeria, which later merged with Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change and others, equally demanded a “visual” proof that an ailing President Yar’Adua was fit enough to govern the country after weeks in the hospital overseas.
The party, in a statement by its then-National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had specifically demanded a “concrete” evidence of Yar’Adua’s physical condition, suggesting a dated video recording of the former president in his Saudi Arabia hospital room.
“It is necessary for President Yar’Adua, if indeed he is recovering as Nigerians have been praying he does, to move fast to reassure his compatriots that the rumours surrounding his ill health are unfounded,” said Mohammed at that time.
On why the video recording was necessary, Mohammed had recalled that when former Cuban President, Fidel Castro [1926-2016], was recovering from the illness that eventually ended his long presidency [1976-2008], he appeared in a video recording to show that he was still alive, contrary to rumours making the rounds at the time.
Mohammed had further said, “Daily, we are bombarded with scary rumours of the president’s health continuing to deteriorate in Saudi Arabia, even as his aides assure us that he is indeed recovering.
“Since the president left these shores over 40 days ago, we do not know who has really seen him or who has not. Information on the state of health of the president should not be left in the hands of unscrupulous spin doctors, the Aondoakaas and the PDPs [Peoples Democratic Party] of this world, who have been muddling the waters just to serve their own selfish purposes.”
Apart from all these, in 2009 during Yar’Adua’s illness, the ACN had also demanded a daily briefing on the former president’s health from the then-Minister of Information, late Mrs. Dora Akunyili.
On December 21, 2009, Mohammed had said amidst “uncoordinated” reports on Yar’Adua’s health status, “The current situation whereby ministers and aides of the president give out uncoordinated information on his health is doing more harm than good.
“It is clear to discerning Nigerians that those pretending to speak authoritatively on the President’s health are deceiving the public since they are neither well informed on the issue nor competent to speak on it.
“Therefore, a daily briefing by the Minister of Information, based on authentic details provided by the president’s doctors, should start forthwith. As we have said many times, the health of the president, as a public figure, can no longer be of interest only to his family and friends. Nigerians have a right to know.”
Fast forward to 2017, President Buhari is now being judged by almost every of his words and actions against former President Yar’Adua because of a similar situation in which he has found himself.
Barely a year into his administration, on February 5, 2016, the president had fallen ill and taken a six-day vacation to London, United Kingdom, to see his doctors.
Then, on June 6, 2016, four months after he returned from his first trip, he had taken another 10-day vacation to London to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.
Two days after this trip, the presidency confirmed that Buhari was suffering from a “persistent” ear infection and needed to go to London for health assessment.
On January 19, 2017, he again jetted out of the country to London for medical treatment; he had been expected back in the country on February 6, but he didn’t return until March 10, 2017, after spending 49 days in London.
When he finally returned, he said that he had never been that ill in his life, adding that he would again embark on another medical trip in the future.
Then on May 7, 2017, two months after his 49-day London medical trip, he returned there again and has been there for the past 63 days.
In all of these, the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress, have failed to do exactly what they asked the late Yar’Adua and his party, the PDP, to do when the former president was ill.
For instance, when Fayose called for Buhari’s resignation on May 30, 2017, just like the president called for Yar’Adua’s in 2010, his adviser on political matters, Babafemi Ojudu, described the governor’s comments as “disrespectful of a man old enough to be his [Fayose’s] father.”
Ojudu asked why Fayose would call for Buhari’s resignation at a time when all Nigerians were praying for him.
“He has always been insulting the president and disparaging a man old enough to be his father,” Ojudu had said.
Also, despite several requests that Nigerians should be given a daily update on Buhari’s health just as Mohammed asked of Yar’Adua’s in 2009, the presidency has yet to provide any.
On May 13, 2017, a top government source said the Federal Government wouldn’t provide any daily briefing, with an excuse that Buhari, unlike Yar’Adua, handed over to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to be the acting president.
Many Nigerians have also called for the presidency to do a video recording of President Buhari to assure Nigerians that he is okay in London just like the opposition asked for Yar’Adua’s in 2010, but up till now, no video recording of the president has been done — not even pictures of him have been shown.
An audio recording of the president in Hausa to felicitate with the Muslims during their recent Eid-el Fitr celebration, rather than appeal to Nigerians, further disgusted them.
Furthermore, in April 2016, President Buhari — at the 56th Annual General Conference and delegates meeting of the Nigerian Medical Association held in Sokoto — said the Federal Government would not provide funds to any government official [himself included] to travel abroad for medical treatment unless the case couldn’t be handled in Nigeria.
Speaking through the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Buhari had added that his government would not encourage medical tourism with the country’s hard-earned resources, especially when Nigeria had the expertise.
However, despite the fact that the country has more than 250 Ear, Nose and Throat specialists, as well as a National Ear Centre, he had on June 6, 2016, taken a 10-day vacation to London to see an ENT specialist.
Speaking a Warri, Delta State-based political analyst, Mrs. Jumoke Olosunde-Okeoghene, said if Buhari had taken it “slowly” with the late Yar’Adua when he was sick, probably Nigerians would have taken it slowly with him also.
She said, “There is a Bible passage that says with the same measure that you judge people so shall you be judged. What is happening to our president is unfortunate, but remember, he sowed the seed.
“In 2009 and 2010 when Yar’Adua was sick, he [Buhari] attacked the then-president; he told Yar’Adua to resign and even called for his impeachment because of the man’s illness. I think he is reaping exactly the same thing now.
“Perhaps if he had weighed his words and actions carefully then, Nigerians would have taken it gently with him, too. That’s one lesson about life: You might never know when your words and actions would also haunt you.”
An Abuja lawyer and political analyst, Mr. Musa Usman, said since Buhari called for Yar’Adua’s resignation in 2010, he too should also resign because of his health.
Saying that the President had spent a “major” part of his presidency on the sick bed, he should also resign “honourably” as he could no longer perform his job effectively.
He said, “Here is a man who threw us into economic recession because of his archaic economic policies. Now, he is not here to fix things and take responsibility for his actions.
“The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, would have been performing well, but everyone knows he is being slowed down by a presidency cabal. Why should a president be taking 180 million people hostage? Let him resign and go and rest so that the country can move forward. No individual is bigger than the country, he himself should know that.”
Similarly, a Lagos-based lawyer and activist, Sumbo Alabi, opined that criticisms of and calls for the resignation of President Buhari might not have been made if he had not made similar comments on Yar’Adua.
He said, “My belief is that a man sows what he reaps. Buhari sowed what he’s reaping today. He called the shots and today shots are being fired at him. But sincerely, Buhari ought to have resigned, particularly because of his health.
“He should be able to call the bluff of those who want him to stay in power whether he is dead or alive. Perhaps he might be thinking about how he’s going to fulfil his dreams for Nigeria, he can pass on the dreams and vision to Osinbajo, whom I believe can get the job done very well.”