The ailing president confirmed at the weekend that he is not yet sure when he would leave his London hospital, and that, his return was still dependent on his doctors’ advice.
Buhari, a 74 year -old retired general, has been under pressure to disclose the nature of his ailment, following a series of trips abroad for medical attention.
In January, Buhari embarked on a similar medical trip to London, where he spent 49 days before returning to Nigeria, as his officials tried to convince Nigerians that he was ‘hale and hearty’.
On his return in March, the President admitted that he had ‘never been this sick in his life, not even when he was much younger’. He also hinted that he would be returning to the United Kingdom for follow up medical treatment, and actually left the country two months later, on May 7 after receiving the 82 released Chibok School girls in his residence.
But as Nigerians mark 100 days of his absence today, there have been calls for him to either resume or resign, on the premise that his absence was creating some form of economic instability, even though he duly handed over powers to Acting President Osinbajo.
“Even though he has been asked to officially function as the President, there are some things which the Acting President cannot do, recognising that he still has a principal who is expected back some day,” said an Abuja political economist who would not like his name in print.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) describes President Buhari as the first among his African equals in terms of time spent abroad getting medical help.
“In many cases, they are leaving behind poorly funded health services, which most of their citizens have to rely on,”the BBC noted in a recent report.
For the past three weeks, staff in the Presidency have been reportedly put on alert for the return of the President, even though some now insist that it was a ruse.
Last week, protesters, led by the popular musician and actor, Charles Oputa (AKA Charlie Boy), took to the streets in Lagos and Abuja, demanding that the President should either return to work or resign as the sitting president.
Since Buhari’s medical trip, three different delegations – regaling Nigerians with stories of the President being in good shape and high spirit – have travelled to London to visit him, including state governors, family members and lately, his media team, all at the expense of the bleeding economy.
“I feel I could go home, but the doctors are in charge. I’ve now learnt to obey orders, rather than be obeyed.
“I’ve learnt to obey my doctor’s orders, rather than be the one issuing the orders. Here, the doctor is absolutely in charge” a statement released by the Presidential Spokesman, on return from visiting the President in London quoted him as saying, and which also heightened indications that the President may not be back home any day soon.
Emigration of the Nigerian healthcare workforce, particularly medical doctors has been a lingering problem in the country.
NOI Polls recently reported that over 8 out of every 10 (88 percent) medical doctors in Nigeria are currently seeking work opportunities abroad.
Statistics indicate that Nigeria has about 72,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, but only 35,000 practice in the country, with an overwhelming 180million population.
But since coming to power in May 2015, this is the fourth time Osinbajo would be acting on behalf of the president.
Within the last 100 days, Osinbajo, who in his capacity as Vice President is the coordinator of the economy, has made major moves to rescue the economy from a biting recession. Osinbajo, in May signed three executive orders to fast track the Ease of Doing Business in the country.
He also signed an executive order to back the government’s Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme, with which government hopes to generate more money from taxes. Osinbajo also led negotiations with the Niger Delta militants which brought peace in the regions and has helped increase the country’s oil output to about 1.8 million barrels per day.
On his return, President Buhari, however, is still expected to attend to some pressing issues that seem to be taking too long to sort out, even with an Acting President.
Recently, the country has seen renewed calls for restructuring and true federalism, a bold decision which many believe can only be taken by Buhari.
A report by a committee set up by the President in April this year, to probe the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ayo Oke, is awaiting his final decision. The duo remain suspended and their offices occupied by the most senior civil servants, pending the President’s return.
There is still the completion of appointments into boards of different agencies of government, which are still trickling in two years after. Some other appointments have been made but without confirmation from the Senate because of an unresolved squabble between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
A major unresolved tussle is that of the nomination of the Acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, who the Senate rejected twice. The Upper Chamber of the Legislature has since insisted it will not treat nominations by the President except as listed in the constitution.
There have also been wide speculations of a reshuffle of the Buhari cabinet. Two new ministers sworn in two weeks ago are yet to be designated to any particular ministry, as the wait for the President to return and carry out a reshuffle lingers.
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