© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
FLASHBACK: Buhari, El-Rufai … six Nigerians who asked Yar’Adua to resign due to ill-health
Only five days after his return from the United States ― and London where he had a ‘technical stop-over’ ― President Muhammadu Buhari announced he will be travelling to see his UK doctor for another health-related problem.
This is the fourth of such trips since he assumed office in May 29, 2015 ― one bound to bring the number of days spent abroad for medical reasons to 172.
But this is not the first time a Nigerian leader would suffer poor health condition or spend several months abroad for treatment. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Nigeria’s president between 2007 and 2010, also spent more than 100 days on medical tourism.
Ironically, key individuals who had called for Yar’Adua’s resignation when he was president have done the exact opposite to Buhari who also battles with ill-health as he holds tight to power .
Back in 2009, during Yar’Adua’s prolonged visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for medical treatment, fifty-five prominent Nigerians released a press statement asking for his resignation. They cited, as justification, the former president’s ill-health and inability “to attend to crucial affairs of the state”.
Quite a long list of signatories endorsed the statement. But many of the critics are now keeping quiet despite the fact the incumbent president continues to struggle with illness he is yet to disclose.No one has called for either his resignation or impeachment. On the contrary, some of them have in fact endorsed him for another term in office.
These individuals include Itse Sagay, John Odigie-Oyegun, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, Aminu Bello Masari. Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, was also named among other Nigerians who endorsed the press statement.
Back in 2009 when the statement was made, Sagay was a notable constitutional lawyer and former dean of law at the University of Benin, Odigie-Oyegun was chairman of the Technical Working Committee of CODER, El-Rufai was former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Masari was former speaker of the House of Representatives.
Today, Sagay is the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Odigie-Oyegun is the national chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai is the governor of Kaduna state under the flagship of the APC, and Masari is the governor of Katsina state under the same party umbrella.
Buhari, then a major contender in the election that brought in Yar’dua was also critical of the former president. In March 2010, he had urged the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) to declare Yar’Adua incapacitated and have him impeached as a result of his inability to execute his official duties.
Likewise, shortly after his election as president, he declared that the federal government would not be funding the overseas medical treatment of any government official unless the case cannot be handled in Nigeria.
During this same period when late president Yar’Adua was hospitalised, Tolu Ogunlesi, now Special Assistant on Digital/New Media to the President, tweeted that Nigerian presidents should be forced, through a constitutional amendment, to receive treatment at home and not abroad.
I'm busy. Writing a new constitution for Nigeria.Henceforth all sick presidents must stay home and receive native treatment!No more abroad!
— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) February 9, 2010
Also, Femi Adesina, another presidential spokesman, once criticised through a 2013 article how Yar’Adua ended up as the preferred candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, despite not being physically fit for the position. “Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was handpicked, when it was crystal clear that he didn’t have the physical requirements in terms of health, to be president,” he had written.
Five years after, however, in another article, Adesina has stated he “will vote Buhari again and again”. When asked during an interview if Buhari’s health will not pose any challenge to his continued presidency, he said: “what his doctor says is between him and his doctor. Unless you know it, it doesn’t have to bother you.”