By Levinus Nwabughiogu
“President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to return to the country tomorrow, Friday March 10, 2017.”With the above lines, heset the country agog that Thursday night. But there is a guess that he was very careful in choosing the word and the lines to avoid controversy .For many Nigerians, the word “expect”, was a lazy verb. The stronger phrase needed was “is coming”.
But it really didn’t matter what words Mr. Femi Adesina, the Presidential Media Adviser employed in his statement that late night to announce the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari from London, United Kingdom.
President Muhammadu Buhari
What mattered was that Adesina succeeded in animating the country that night. Hopes were, indeed, rekindled and faces lifted again.
But even with the announcement, there were still a litany of doubts in some quarters that Buhari wouldn’t be coming back as “expected”. To these people, Adesina’s statement was one of those gimmicks of government to either divert attention or get some sympathy from the people.
The President had been away in London for a vacation and “routine” medical check-ups and in his absence, so much politics was played about his health. Strong rumours emerged that he was dead and so, with the unhealthy development, many Nigerians became skeptical about further move of the government.
But this time, Adesina was not bluffing. He meant it and as early as 6:am, the Presidential Villa, Abuja was alive with people.
Of course, the sudden influx of government officials at the helipad, Aso Villa, an usual place for convergence at the early hours of Friday was one signal of a great expectation.
Just then, words filtered that Buhari’s Air Force One had touched ground in Kaduna enroute to Abuja. Then, emotions took the air.
This was so because, the President had been way for 51 whole days. He left the shores of the country on January 19, promising, in a letter to the National Assembly, to return and resume work on February 6. But that never happened as he wrote another letter to the National Assembly, extending his vacation.
Back home, speculations were rife that Buhari was dead. But by 8:42am, the military helicopter carrying the president landed at the Villa. This was Buhari in flesh and blood. Joy erupted the air and faces smiled.
The President later exchanged pleasantries with the officials whose roll call included the Vice President,Yemi Osinbajo,Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,Femi Adesina,Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,Garba Shehu, Minister of Federal Capital Territory,Mohammed Bello,National Security Adviser,Maj-Gen Babagana Mongunu(Rtd),Inspector General of Police,Idris Abubakar.
The list also included the Service Chiefs,namely Chief of Air Staff,AVM Sadique Abubakar,Chief of Naval Staff,Real Admiral,Ibok-Ete Ekwe Iba,Chief of Defence Staff,Maj-Gen Abayomi Olonisakin,Chief of Army Staff,Maj-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Zamfara State Governor,Abdullaziz Yari,Minister of Transport,Rotimi Amaechi,Minister of Information,Lai Muhammed, among others.
Buhari was later driven to the First Lady’s Conference room where he had a brief meeting with the officials, sharing his experience of his 51 days sojourn in London.
Jokes and smiles were also not far from his lips and face occasionally as he spoke. His vocal chord was still strong even though he looked emaciated.
His remarks about the wonders of technology and the importance of education were significant probably because he got help through the application of advanced medical tools.
Buhari, the retired military General would not change from being who he is in terms principles and policies. While thanking Nigerians for their fervent prayers and care, he said that his return on a weekend was deliberate to get some rest, meaning that he wouldn’t want too many visitors.
Buhari also pricked those planning to send a delegation to visit him in London to return to Nigeria.
Above all, the President said the only way to pay Nigerians back for their prayers and great wishes was to rededicate himself for service to the people.
He said: “I am deeply grateful to all Nigerians, Muslims and Christians alike who have prayed and continue to pray for my good health.
“This is a testimony that inspite of the hardship being experienced, Nigerians support the government in its efforts to tackle our country’s challenges.
“The best way for me to pay you all is to rededicate myself to serving you, protecting your interest and keeping your trust. I thank you very much.
“I feel much better now. All I will need is to do further follow ups within some weeks.
“Rather than sending delegations to Abuja to welcome me, may I appeal to our people to continue to pray for the country’s unity, progress and prosperity. I thank you very much and may God bless our country.
“For me I feel that I was a little more tired than I probably was in the last eighteen months. Whatever the case , I am very grateful that Nigerians are appreciative of what all of us are doing as a group. I am very pleased with them.
“I was also cost conscious and I think the Vice President knows about the expenditure. So please if you are clever enough re-route your way, on your official duties either from US back to Nigeria.
“I am very conscious of the economy. I have rested as much as humanly possible, I have received the best of treatment anyone ilI could receive. I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including the military with its ups and downs.
“I found out that technology is going so fast that if you have a lot of confidence you better keep it because you need it.
“There were also blood transfusions, going to the laboratories, and so on and so forth, but I am very pleased that we, when I say we, I mean the government and the people all over are trying to keep up with technology.
I couldn’t recall when last I had blood transfusion, I couldn’t recall honestly I can say in my seventy years.
“I cannot remember this drug that Nigerians take so much, a very common drug, all the same I think one of our terrible thing is self medication. We have to trust our doctors more and trust ourselves more, I realised they only take drugs when it is absolutely necessary. They don’t just swallow anything
“Having said all these, I am pleased that I am back, I am pleased that the Vice President enjoyed this break and he has to do much more this time around. Youth and intellect is squarely behind him, age and purely military experience is behind me.
“Continue to do the work, Nigeria will continue whether we are here or not and my single most important advise is take education of everybody under your responsibility very seriously, your children our relatives, our constituencies. We must do more on education.
“I deliberately came back towards the weekend, so that the Vice President will continue and I will continue to rest. Thank you very much”.
Osinbajo’s Acting Presidency ends
Buhari’s return would be formally communicated to the National Assembly tomorrow and when this is done, it would end the Acting Presidency of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who had so far steered the ship of governance in Buhari’s absence. This will also end the Vanguard Acting Presidency series that had in the last seven weeks closely followed Osinbajo’s activities.