Buhari to return soon, says Osinbajo
• President is critically ill, Fayose insists
• Threatens to release current pictures
Recuperating President Muhammadu Buhari will soon return to the country when he is cleared by his United Kingdom doctors, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday.
Buhari travelled to London 65 days ago over an undisclosed medical follow-up consultation at the instance of his doctors in that country, with the date of his return unknown. The development has continued to heighten the political tension in Nigeria.
Osinbajo who fielded questions from State House correspondents shortly before the commencement of yesterday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting did not reveal when Buhari would return home.
The acting president on Tuesday sneaked into London where he met with the ailing Buhari. He quickly returned to Nigeria in the early hours of yesterday to preside over the FEC meeting which began at 11:00 a.m in the Presidential Villa.
Details of Osinbajo’s unannounced trip were not made known by officials of the presidency. The venue of the two leaders’ meeting was not also disclosed, but a tweet by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, on his handle last night indicated that Osinbajo met with Buhari in London and held fruitful discussions.
Addressing reporters on the status of President Buhari’s health yesterday, Osinbajo said: “He is doing well and recuperating fast, expect him back very shortly.”
The following conversation ensued during the brief encounter with the newsmen:
Reporter: You just got back from seeing the president, what did you discuss with him?
Osinbajo: Well, first as you know I went to see him, I went to check on him, find out how he was doing. I had, of course, been speaking on the phone and I thought it would be a good thing to go and see him and also to brief him on developments back at home. We had a very good time, we had a very good conversation on wide-ranging issues and he was in very good spirit. He is recuperating very quickly and he is doing very well.
Reporter: What is the state of the health of the president?
Osinbajo: As I have said, he is in very high spirit, he is recuperating very well and we had a very long conversation. We spoke for well over an hour and his humour was all there. He is doing well and he is recuperating fast.
Reporter: When is he due back?
Osinbajo: I think very shortly. I think we should really expect him back very shortly.
The acting president was also not forthcoming on whether the report on the investigation of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke formed part of their discussions. “We held wide- ranging issues. I really can’t go into specifics of all of the discussions we had.”
Kogi and Gombe states may not have representation in the Buhari-led administration anytime soon as Osinbajo declared that the issue did not form the crux of discussion during his meeting with the President in London.
Osinbajo is yet to swear in the two new ministers-designate, Mr. Stephen Ocheni (Kogi) and Suleiman Zanna Hassan (Gombe), recently screened and confirmed by the Senate.
Ministers are usually sworn in and assigned portfolios a week after their confirmation by the upper legislative chamber. The swearing-in of the new ministers has not been scheduled on the acting president’s weekly programme since he assumed his current role in the Villa.
On the issue, this discussion ensued:
Reporter: Was the swearing-in of the two new ministers part of the discussion?
Osinbajo: No. We didn’t discuss swearing-in or anything like that. We didn’t discuss when they will be sworn in.
Reporter: When will they be sworn in?
Osinbajo: Well, I’m not in a position to say exactly, I don’t have a date in mind but I’m sure very soon we will do that.
But Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Ayodele Fayose, flayed Osinbajo’s claims on Buhari and threatened to release 11 current pictures of the president if the acting president, failed to tell Nigerians the truth about the ailing leader’s health status.
Fayose’s threat came a few hours after Osinbajo told journalists that Buhari was recuperating and would return soon.
Outraged at Osinbajo’s claim, Fayose swiftly called a press conference at his Abuja private residence and expressed disappointment about the acting president’s version of the story.
He insisted that Buhari was critically sick and that the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had continued to hide the true health status of the president.
“If they go further and try to continue to deceive Nigerians, I will release about 11 damaging pictures anytime from now on the president’s health,” he declared.
Asked to show proof of his allegation, Fayose said: “I’m not going to prove that to Nigerians. It is him (Osinbajo) who said he saw the president that needs to prove to Nigerians. I have made the allegations and I have said it expressly that we are in the age of technology.
“So we have an acting president of a nation that has visited his boss that cannot show evidence of the meeting. The pictures they are posting on social media are pictures taken a long time ago. The acting president visiting the president that has left this country for about 60 days or more cannot show evidence of the meeting. It shows the president is in a critical condition.”
When further questions were asked regarding the source of his information, the Ekiti State governor said: “Again, if they are not careful, I will release some pictures.
This will, in turn, create so many serious problems for this country. And I’m telling you again that I don’t need to prove anything to Nigerians because they are saying the president is well, hale and hearty. But he has refused to come home in about 70 days. The office of the president and office of the government are offices that encourage the office holders to perform. For a president to have spent so much time outside the country in a year shows clearly that his sickness is a major one.”
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Communication and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Fayose said what Nigerians desired was a live video of President Buhari addressing them, not a visit in which no photograph or video was made available to the public.
When the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became terminally ill, his close aides attempted to keep the details of his health secret.
The shenanigans of Yar’Adua’s men angered the likes of the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, who was then the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Action Congress.
In a statement issued on behalf of his party, Mohammed said the health of the president as a public figure could no longer be of interest only to his family and friends. He demanded that a daily briefing based on authentic details be provided by the president’s doctors.
The request was brushed aside just as the request for information about the health of President Buhari is being currently ignored.
Osinbajo, on his return from London, had the opportunity to clear all doubts about the president’s health status, but he chose to keep Nigerians in doubt.