With Uche Nnadozie
The test is simple, would you rather have an Nnamdi Kanu, Asari Dokubo, Ganiyu Adams, Abubakar Shekau or the Arewa “Youth” kind of protesters? I think our people must realise that protest is a common denominator in a democracy. Sometimes, the protester may look stupid, sound crazy and behave in psychic manner, all the same, the right to protest in a peaceful, planned manner is guaranteed in a proper democracy. Surely, ours is a proper democracy. It does not mean we are there yet, it simply means the journey has begin. Not just in terms of symbolism but the fact that we have rotated and transited seamlessly in spite of tensions that arise occasionally largely because of ethnic and religious champions who feast on discordance in the political firmament to advance their ambitions.
Last week, police clashed with protesters in Abuja. Charlie Boy leading a handful of other Nigerians voiced their preference for President Muhammadu Buhari to either resign or return to Aso Rock presidential villa to govern the country. This week, it will be 100 days since the president went abroad for medical leave. Prior to that time, he had spent 49 days in the same London for treatment albeit for undisclosed ailment. To be fair, I’m one of those who clamoured for the president to go anywhere in the world to seek medical attention. This was sequel to frequent absence by President Buhari from official duties. In fact, at some point this year, he was not seen for nearly two weeks, although he was holed up in his official residence. Even when he managed to appear, he did not only look frail and even gaunt, he spent scanty time on his desk.
I warned then that what we saw was capable of handing presidential powers on those who never canvassed for votes. Because it seemed like different personalities were falling over themselves transmitting presidential directives without anyone seeing the president. It was akin to the President Yar’Adua saga. The saga taught the country lessons. Yar’Adua had failed to notify the National Assembly of his medical trip abroad. He left the country to attend lesser Hajj but was not seen again for a very long time. This caused serious opprobrium in the country. There were many outstanding issues that required presidential attention. The president at the time never handed over to his deputy. To make matters worse, the vice president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, was at sea as regards the true state of affairs. He was never allowed to interact with Yar’Adua nor get briefings from him. He was just there. This created bad blood in the polity and led to protests across the country and the world.
In the midst of the confusion, what the National Assembly termed “doctrine of necessity” was born. This abnormality became legitimate in order to pull the country from the brink. It was exactly that situation which made the country go on without a definitive leadership for months that prompted people like Dora Akunyili, who was Information minister at the time to blurt out against her principal. As expected, this earned her high praises and low condemnation around the country. Bottomline, things changed as soon as Jonathan was proclaimed Acting President and the country began to unlock the shackles of discomfort that held her up. In the Buhari instance, it is not the same. Buhari willingly handed power to his deputy without any pressure. And it must be stated that this is the first president to so do in Nigeria. it is a virtue of which we must be grateful although that is in fulfillment of the provisions of the grund norm. It is when folks do not understand the import of Ag. President Osinbajo that they can go about to protest Buhari’s absence. Truth is the old soldier has done what is required of him.
Therefore, asking him to abandon his treatment halfway just to satisfy the curiosity or even mischief of some Nigerians is terribly unfair. It is an overkill. I have never met the president before, regardless of the fact that he appears to like the position he occupies in our country and all the trappings of the presidency, I still maintain that if at anytime he is told that his health can no longer carry the rigors of his work, President Buhari will willingly resign. He has shown that he trusts his deputy. This is one thing that is lacking in our country. Governors don’t go on leave in Nigeria. They do not want to spend any second outside the trappings of power. Even on a surgical theater, Nigerian governors are not known to cede power to their deputies,much less the president. Of course it is ridiculous to ask anyone to resign his election simply on account of ill health. At least we have seen the president hold meetings with politicians and even take a walk on the lawn. This is a president that has spent most of his stay in London in Abuja House and not a hospital. There is real hope for his full recovery. Resigning now is presumptuous even though no one is immortal. Even a seemingly healthy person can drop dead now.
While the protesters have the right to protest, they should also situate their anger properly. The Ag. President and the leadership of the National Assembly have piloted the affairs of state brilliantly so far in the absence of Mr. President. It is equally ironic that it is all those who asked the president to go away to take care of his health and who praised Osinbajo, are the same people calling on the president to resume and saying that the country is being held hostage. Double standard! On the other hand, sharing Charlie Boy’s “publicity stunt” photographs, including the nudes is a low call. Its stupid. Instead of such blackmail, why not organise solidarity rally for the president?