Buhari’s foreign medical holidays and national security
If President Muhammadu Buhari periodically goes on a foreign medical holidays, specifically to the United Kingdom (UK) to keep appointment with his doctors who have been treating him over the years, as one of his aides suggested, then there is a very poor understanding by himself and his government of current status as the embodiment of sovereignty of the Nigerian State and the grave danger, such under-appreciation poses to our national security.
The prospect of the Nigerian president, an embodiment of the nation’s sovereignty and the repository of her most guarded state secrets lying helplessly in a foreign hospital at the mercy of a foreign doctor, who is obviously a mole or accessory to a mole of foreign intelligence service is scary and harrowing, especially with the probability that any listening device even mind-control or behaviour modification micro-chips could easily be inserted in the body of the Nigerian leader as part of routine medical checks.
Intelligence services and the espionage communities do not have the ethical restraints or the constitutional and democratic draw-backs of normal civil authorities even in the most advanced western democracies. They are the dark room and nerve centre of the state, far beyond the normal civil authorities and they constitute the deep state on which the normal governments rely.
To guarantee the survival of the state and advance its interests beyond the routines of the normal government is the core duty of the intelligence services and in the pursuit of this duty, they are not often mindful of the niceties of constitutionalism or morality.
In the ruthless world of intelligence services, every act is fair in the preservation and advancement of the interest of the state. No intelligence service, worth its salt, even of those of banana republics, let alone of an advanced western country, would watch a head of state of an important country, walk in and out of its domain for routine medical check-ups or holidays, without setting up apparatus to gain advantage in information and leverage on it to advance its own national interest.
From the time former U.S. President, Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, his favorite barber in his home state, Chicago was always ferried to Washington for the hair-cut of the then president, under the watchful eyes of the U.S. intelligence and this is within the same country, not to imagine the prospect of the U.S. president travelling to another country to indulge himself in the pleasure of a hair-cut.
If the example of a U.S. president is far-fetched, think of this: no single Asian leader has travelled out of his country for a holiday or medical check-up. In the intelligence community, friends, allies and even enemies have little value. Edward Snowden, the U.S. intelligence contractor, blew the lid on how the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, CIA routinely spies on the U.S. European allies, causing particular distress to the German and French political leaders, who claimed publicly to be hurt by the friendly fire, but would secretly blame their intelligence services for not building sufficient deterrent capacity.
In transmitting his letter to the Senate and the transfer of his powers temporarily to the vice president to act, on his behalf, Buhari and his handlers are reveling in their adherence to constitutional provision but seemed totally oblivious of grave security implications, of care-free foreign medical holidays.
Buhari cannot determine exclusively by himself the choice of his doctor and if the Nigerian intelligence services allow him to do that, and a choice of foreign one for that matter and to further decide exclusively when to jet out, then the rest of 180 million Nigerians are naked in a hostile market place.
To assassinate foreign leaders, topple foreign governments and steal other states secrets are not discussed in cabinet meetings of any government and totally outside the framework of any constitution, but completely within realm of the intelligence services, which foreswear greater fidelity to the state than any normal government could ever do.
The practice of Nigerian leaders and some of their counterparts in Africa, of cheaply offering themselves to foreign intelligence services is a blatant affront to our status as sovereign states.
Nigeria and Africa deserves a lot more than the leadership currently offers. The state as it is now is the definitive expression of the sovereign will of any political community engaged in the formal intercourse of global relation. While the equality of all states in the global legal framework is well known, the actual status of a state in the international forum and in its engagements with others, is largely determined by its own internal aggregates to which its leadership and their behaviours constitute an essential part. To be engaged in normal diplomatic relations with other countries is different from being taken seriously by them. The claim to Nigerian statehood and her sovereignty will continue to ring hollow, until leaders understand that state sovereignty is beyond being in charge of any existing government.
Because of the incessant expose to ridicule of our status as a sovereign state, the National Assembly should take steps to enact necessary constitutional measures that no seating Nigeria head of state and commander in chief of its armed forces should seek medical treatment abroad or holiday throughout his or her tenure. Anyone whose health cannot subsist on our medical facilities and who is not prepared to improve it to a world class level can excuse himself or herself from seeking the highest office in the land. Should a need arise for any foreign expert to help in the treatment of the state leader, such expert should be brought to the country, under the watchful eyes of our intelligence community.
For the avoidance of doubt, Buhari should as a matter of national emergency end his current medical holiday in the United Kingdom.
Onunaiju is a journalist based in Abuja.