Buhari has been away from Nigeria for 38 days now. Enough time to begin asking questions.
If it looks like you’ve read the paragraph above from this writer before, that’s because you probably have.
The word deja vu could very well have been coined with Nigeria in mind.
Buhari left Nigeria for London on May 7, 2017--his voice taking on the form of a shrill whimper, his stature frail and gaunt, his steps unsteady, his speech unclear and his skin becoming increasingly pale.
It's been 38 days since Buhari transmitted a letter to the national assembly in compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 constitution to say "the length of my stay will be determined by the doctors' advice. While I'm away, the Vice President will coordinate the activities of the government".
The last time Buhari returned from a medical trip abroad, he confessed that he's never been so ill in his lifetime.
Before his latest trip, the nation’s president missed consecutive federal executive council meetings and wasn’t seen in public for a while until it was time to welcome the 82 Chibok girls.
And unlike the last time out, no one has seen pictures of Nigeria’s president receiving guests in a London living room or watching ChannelsTV cross-legged; since May 7.
There have been no phone conversations featuring the president and some traditional ruler, the senate president or the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Even though former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and the president’s wife, Aisha, recently told us that Buhari is responding well to treatment and is in fine fettle after they paid him 'visits' in London, we can't possibly take their word for it.
There are also reports that Buhari hasn’t spoken to close aides and even acting president Yemi Osinbajo since he left Nigeria over a month ago.
In the absence of concrete, verifiable information from Aso Rock on the state of health of the Nigerian leader, rumours have become the order of the day.
There’s a remote if cogent possibility that should he not return any time soon, then section 144 (1) of the nation's constitution could be enforced.
That means lawmakers and ministers can deem the president “incapacitated” or unfit to continue discharging the responsibilities of his office.
Here’s how that section in the nation’s law book goes:
The President or Vice President shall cease to hold office if:
a) By a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the federation, it is declared that the President or Vice President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and
b) The declaration is verified, after such medical as may be necessary by a medical panel established under subsection 4 of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Section 144 (2) (3) states as follows:
2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion, the President or Vice President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.
3) The President or Vice President shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this constitution.
It may not come to this and Buhari may well be on his way back to Nigeria by the time you are done reading this.
However, the absence of information or verifiable communication from government talking heads on the state of health of the nation’s president hasn’t done anyone any favours. It continues to leave members of the administration on the defensive.
Can Buhari still govern at this rate? Is it time to allow Osinbajo complete the four-year term of the administration in an acting capacity for the good and stability of the polity?
Is there a cabal working behind the scenes to ensure this president stays on in office in spite of his apparently failing health?
Unfortunately, for as long as the president doesn’t return home; for as long as he doesn’t look as fit as a fiddle in public, these questions will continue to arise and no one should be blamed for asking them. The president is no private citizen. He's the servant of the people who are demanding answers to their questions.
Will the real Nigeria president, please stand up!