PMB’s questionable private visit


President Muhammadu Buhari has left Saudi Arabia for the United
Kingdom where he is to undertake about ten-day private visit. This is
the second time he will proceed on this kind of break and
disappearance since he became head of state in 2015. This coinage is
strange in modern presidential system or indeed any system at all. How
does a publicly elected state official decide to proceed to a foreign
country on a “private visit” when citizens can’t tell whether it is a
holiday or leave? Presidents can afford to take a short holiday not
necessarily leave. The holiday can be a clinical one or not.
But there is also another dimension to this. Did the president’s
handlers coin the phrase in order not to be held to account following
obvious non transmission of a letter of leave so that the vice
president can act? It thus appears, if this is true that there may be
some push backs against Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The bush back appears to
be orchestrated in a manner that renders the Veepee comatose. This may
have happened following decisions he took while he acted in the past
including the sacking of the former Director General of the Department
of State Service, DSS.
Back to the private visit! President Buhari cannot in good conscience
embark on a private visit while he did not transmit a letter to the
National Assembly. You cannot use public funds and assets to embark on
a private visit. It speaks of selfishness that should not be condoned
by anyone including the National Assembly. In the United Kingdom,
President Buhari will be fed, maintained, probably see his doctors and
secured with tax payers money. While we are not against his holiday or
visit, we are concerned about integrity and precedence. The president
has the right to embark on holidays or visits but he can’t be on a
private visit and at the same time take decisions for Nigeria from his
privacy in a far-flung land.
That he pulled it off before does not make it right. It is still not
right. The rightful organ that should call attention to this is the
legislature. Or we may have to test the appropriateness of a private
visit with public fund in court. More critically to test the legality
of not transmitting a letter to the legislature over this kind of
holiday. Were they trying to hide something by calling a holiday by
another phrase? The legislature should be able to unravel that. If the
majority All Progressives Congress (APC), do not want such
investigation, the minority parties in either of the chambers should
bring the matter up during plenary.
President Buhari has tried to project an image of probity, credibility
and integrity. He has on a number of occasions handed power to his
deputy. He has gone on elongated health related leaves. During those
times, the vice president admirably held forth with dignity. It is
almost impossible for power centres within the presidency to not feel
intimidated by the genial looking veepee. It is understandable. But it
is too minor to warrant assaulting the spirit of our constitution in
this manner. It appears therefore that satisfying narrow power elites
is more important to the president than leaving a legacy of total
detachment from the gluttony of presidential power. The good he has
shown before which had become a standard for measuring other persons
including governors who never hand over to their deputies is about to
be tarnished by this new “private visits.”
If the new phrase has nothing to do with speculations around Osinbajo,
it will be nice then for the president to stop couching his holidays
in such a strange manner. Another president will come and coin a new
thing, then go away to frolic in pleasure.  We need to move away from
these types of ego trips and focus more on developmental issues.
Coming in the period of border restrictions for goods and services,
this also looks hypocritical. While the government wants the people to
be self reliant and productive, the head of the brand grow Nigeria,
eat Nigeria is in another country on a visit to unnamed persons. It is
not fair. Even if it is for health challenges, four years on is enough
to have transferred the means and the form of medicine and personnel
to Nigeria. We need to practice what we preach.

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