When President Muhammadu Buhari delegated his industrious vice president Yemi Osinbajo to represent Nigeria this week at the 8th Summit of Heads of States of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States in Papua New Guinea, it felt out of character. The Buhari Nigerians have come to know in the past one year does not miss travel opportunities like that. If other world leaders were going to be there, then expect the Nigerian president. But not this time. So off Osinbajo went to Papua New Guinea.
Two weeks ago, a scheduled visit to Lagos by Buhari was cancelled and Osinbajo was delegated to stand in his stead. Aso Rock said the cancellation of the May 23 Lagos trip at the last minute was due to “scheduling difficulties”.
And then today, Nigerians were expecting President Buhari to visit Ogoniland in Rivers state to flag off the cleanup of Bodo, a community in the state which suffered massive degradation as a result of oil spills. It was supposed to be a big day for the administration and the president.
At a time when Nigerians were protesting over the fact that not many of the promises of this government has been kept, this was one promise the president was going to keep. At a time when militants were wreaking havoc in the Niger Delta, this was the president’s time to show his face in the region, doing work and winning hearts over personally. At a time when the president is being seen as clannish, this was supposed to be his response.
It was official, but it was also personal.
But Buhari did not show up. Osinbajo, who only returned to the country this morning, was instead delegated once again to represent the president. And once again, no concrete official response has been given for this about-face.
But that is unacceptable. Nigerians should know why the president is seemingly unable to leave Abuja, why official engagements are cancelled after wide publicity has been given and advanced teams dispatched and why Buhari missed the golden opportunity that today’s exercise presented.
The president is 73 years old, falling ill is not an offence. The exertions of the past one year may be taking their toll on his aged bones. If that is the case, Nigerians should know what’s going on. Reading “sources” on newspapers claiming it’s an ear infection is simply not good enough. Now that it seems it has began to affect his ability to perform some of his functions, Nigerians deserve to know what is going on. It’s only fair.