by Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, congratulations on the arrival of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari from a prolonged medical vacation. Let’s all raise our voices and thank God for performing what the President himself described as a miracle. “I’ve never been this sick,” the President had repeatedly told well-wishers. Before his sudden departure from Abuja House, the official residence of Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, events were getting rough and embarrassing as some aggrieved Nigerians had started making a willow cabin at his gate, raking and ranting about the President’s decision to seek medical succour abroad while the state of healthcare back home remains pitiably scandalous.
It was a great relief to most Nigerians when news came from the Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, that his boss was finally on his way home. To some, it sounded too good to be true. Such tales had turned into disappointment on several occasions in the past. Something unusual happened on the eve of the President’s departure from England. President Buhari was seen sitting with the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, and had apparently received a gift of some Christian literature. It seemed the General Overseer had come to sanctify the President’s journey and it was good to see this symbolic gesture of religious tolerance.
The arrival of President Buhari in Abuja was triumphant! The giddiness on display by family, friends, associates and fans was remarkable. Everybody was excited, joyous and relieved to have him back at home after what seemed an eternity.
It had been announced that the President would make a national broadcast two days after his return. This generated a lot of interest and expectation and elicited speculations ranging from the sublime to the mundane. Many expected the President to give an American style, State of the Nation, address while others thought he was going to take a bow by resigning and retiring to his home town of Daura, Katsina State, after handing the baton to his Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. That latter permutation was far from reality and dead on arrival for one major reason. Whilst the President and his Vice President may have formed a perfect synergy and a reasonable bond exists between them, members of the President’s inner cabinet do not subscribe to this unity of purpose and it reflects clearly in their body language.
We debated these wild speculations in our editorial meeting at Arise News last Sunday. By the way, please find time to watch us on DSTV 416, every Sunday from 6-7pm. Our team of Reuben Abati, Wale Olaleye, Prisca Ndu, Yemi Adamolekun and yours truly was carefully assembled by the Chairman of Leaders & Company, Nduka Obaigbena. We are always ready to take you through the labyrinth of political and economic affairs globally. Our take was that President Buhari would seize the occasion of that broadcast to make monumental pronouncements about his reform plans for our long-suffering country. We hoped he would lay bare his plans for moving Nigeria forward positively. We slept only after setting our alarms to wake us up just before 7am to monitor the Presidential broadcast. What did we get eventually? The speech was scanty and short on concrete plans. In fact, it would be right to call it an anti-climax. Many people were disappointed that they woke up early to watch a badly packaged broadcast. The President’s speech-writers could have done much better with a short but crisp message to Nigerians. Instead, they prepared a mumbo-jumbo. I was not impressed. But, I didn’t know who to blame. Who supplied the content and who manufactured the script that President Buhari read? The content and the art-form should have blended well but this was not the case.
I thought the President should have exposed it all. At his age, there is nothing more to fear or hide. He should have told his captive audience everything about his unfortunate ill-health. The main reason most Nigerians were upset or angry was the fact that the President did not think it fit to tell Nigerians what was wrong with him and the treatment he was receiving from UK Doctors which, necessitated his endless sojourn in the Queen’s land.
As if this was not bad enough, we were informed by the Villa that the President was going to be operating from home in the meantime. Fair enough. I never expected someone who has been that sick to return to work instantly. It would be tantamount to callousness for anyone to shove the President back to office without proper recuperation. But it seemed some people were desperately anxious to do just that. As early as 9am, a letter was transmitted to the National Assembly announcing the President’s return to Nigeria and his immediate resumption of full Presidential duties. Fine. If the President felt strong enough and ready to take on the herculean task of running one of the largest and most complicated nations in Africa, so be it.
But it wasn’t going to be that simple! Before I went to bed that fateful night, news reached me in Ghana of a press release offering a spurious explanation for the President working from home, a totally unnecessary thing to do. At this day and age, anyone has the freedom to work from anywhere, home or abroad. Technology has changed the way we do things. A lot is now done and achieved at the touch of a button. The President did not need to dignify the busybodies who were prying into his affairs with any response. The bazooka released by a key member of his media team was a total faux pas. Lord have mercy, the statement that rodents sacked the President from his office is the worst public relations nightmarish blunder I have ever witnessed. As a foreign friend told me, “even if it was true that such happened, it was not in the place of any Presidential aide to disclose such so brazenly.” Anyway. It happened, life must move on even though we now have to live with the attendant jokes.
I promised some friends I will try to write the speech I thought the President should have read in case of similar future recurrence. It is also our responsibility to teach our leaders about modern ways of governance instead of lamenting without showing the way. We can’t blame them if we think they don’t know, keeping mute, instead of acting and transferring our own experience and exposure to them. I now produce my speech had I been in President Buhari’s shoes. Let me warn that the speech is fictional and only a figment of my imagination. Any similarity or resemblance to any real life situation is merely coincidental:
“Fellow Nigerians, good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be alive to address you again. What I went through in the past few months was so terrible that I thought I would die but your kind prayers brought me back alive. I sincerely thank God Almighty for giving me a new lease of life and another chance to serve you better. I unreservedly offer my sincere apologies for my long absences but I’m sure you will agree that it was due to circumstances beyond my control.
I must explain my sad predicament once and for all. There is a Yoruba proverb which says, “a man cannot hide his body from those who will bury him.” As your President, I’m your leader and also your servant at the same time. A true leader must see himself as a servant of the people. It is therefore incumbent on me to let you know and appreciate the health challenges I have suffered lately. Trouble started years back when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although deeply troubled initially, I was soon reassured by my doctors that mine had been detected early and was not malignant. I tried to follow the prescribed medical regime with rigid discipline I am reputed for, and this has kept me going since then.
My fellow Nigerians, permit me to say that when it rains, it pours. I did not bargain for what unfolded after I miraculously won the Presidential election of 2015. I was fully ready to work full blast knowing the extent of havoc the previous PDP government had wreaked on our country. However, what I met was far worse than what I ever imagined. Nigeria was in a bigger mess and the job required total strength, physical and psychological. Unfortunately, I soon relapsed into another bout of ill-health which deprived me of my full stamina to tackle the menace and scourge foisted on our country by previous administrations. I was quite alarmed when my doctors said that my sugar level had risen due to my abysmal diabetic history and now needed to be managed and controlled very delicately. I was told there were few experts in the world to deal with my virulent type of diabetes and I had no choice but to bow to the wish of God.
As you may recollect, I had problems with my ears after suffering an infection which badly affected my hearing. This was quickly corrected by specialists but I was constrained to wear hearing aids. However, that turned out to be the simplest of my problems. My battle with hypotension was soon to almost consume me. Unlike most people with hypertension, I had issues with low blood pressure, not high. Combining diabetes with hypotension can be very deadly. Simply put, that was my case. You now know what I was dealing with and why I’ve been away. It was never a fancy trip but a serious war to stay alive. I’m grateful to God that I’m alive to tell the story. Those who specialise in spreading rumours have concocted their own fake stories but this is the whole truth!
My dear Brothers and Sisters, it is heart-warming to be back home after crossing the valley of the shadow of death. Whilst away, I followed events at home very closely. I must thank my able Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and our entire team for their sense of dedication and acts of loyalty. I’m gladdened that they kept the country together despite threats from different sections and segments of our society. I was deeply troubled to see how some people tried to cause disaffection and set our nation ablaze when dialogue, meaningful dialogue, can resolve most of our differences. I intend to engage every part of Nigeria in dialogue and will encourage everyone to join hands with me in the process of reconciling every one of our people. We stand to gain more in unity than in strife.
Permit me to reveal a secret I had kept for a long time. The former leader of Biafra, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, visited me once in Daura to discuss the unity of Nigeria. He was clearly troubled and remorseful that Nigeria had to go through one of the deadliest internecine wars in Africa at his behest. We both prayed at the end of our meeting that such tragedy will never befall our country again. Some of those beating the drums of war and fanning the embers of disunity may not have been born at that time or they were too young to comprehend the devastation suffered by innocent people, usually the poor of the earth, during wars. My government will do everything possible to appease the aggrieved and make sure we all continue to live in harmony.
The clamour for restructuring has reached an all-time high. I agree that the time has come to do something about it. With the co-operation of the National Assembly, I will soon set the machinery in motion to deal with this all-important national issue. We can no longer afford to pretend that our present structures are perfectly in order. No Nigerian should feel like an alien in his own country. It is natural for people to get angry and violent when they feel marginalised. This anomalous situation must be addressed and corrected.
I will work closely with my Vice President in the days ahead to fine-tune our economy. Without a strong economy, we cannot get out of the doldrums. We have challenges on several fronts but they are all surmountable. As a retired army General, it is my wish to secure lives and properties by empowering and inspiring our men and women of the security forces. Our robust plans in this regard will be unfolded soon.
May God bless Nigeria…”
Hmmm, seems my imagination ran riot for a bit!!!
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu