• Tony Igele

Much Ado about Buhari’s Health

I guess the trauma of being Nigerians have taken the better of us. We are now a country of conspiracy theorists. Everybody has a story to tell on every national issue with most people claiming to have the most authentic story from the the very centre of power.

Ever since the President’ s situation was made public following his trip to the UK for his vacation and his recent extension, some say indefinitely, we have been inundated with so much stories that one is even tempted to start penning down a worthy tribute for this ‘fallen’ soldier.

A cursory look back in history and you would understand just a little bit more the reason for this mass, almost hypnotic paranoia. Nigerians, just a few years ago were saddled with a bed ridden President who, despite his worsening condition still stubbornly held on to power, not allowing the then Vice President who was acting the free hand to rule the nation. All mechanisms and mischievous strategies were put in place to ensure that the status quo was kept despite the physical inability of the President to carry out his functions.

This is why you may appreciate why there is so much fuss in the land following the extended vacation that the President has taken. Nigerians are seeing a parallel and all sort of rumors have taken wings and have flown to the skies proclaiming that it is ‘prostrate cancer’. I have heard so much that I now try to list the ailments while keeping count. So far all kinds of illness except may be Ebola have been ascribed to our President and not even the statement from the Vice President who is also acting that he has spoken to the President has been able to douse these fears.

So why are Nigerians so afraid especially when the democratic mechanism seems to be working so well with the apparent handing over albeit temporarily to the Vice President and the continuos smooth flow in governance? Is it that we do not believe that the democratic institutions are now strong enough to handle whatever this situation has thrown up. Why the lack of confidence in our system by almost all Nigerians.

You will understand perfectly well just why there is a palpable apprehension from the people in case the President unfortunately passes while he is on this vacation. Our system did not hold forth during Yar’Adua’s time. It was very clear that the powers that be refused or even circumvented the constitution in handling the Yar’Adua situation. There was so much suspense and horseplay that a former President and other powerful ‘owners’ of our country had to step in to ensure a smooth transition.

This time around, I want to personally believe that the situation is very far from that mentioned above. The government is daily throwing out statements and even pictures of a President but the people are refusing to buy it. The skepticism of the masses is so strong that even when the President lands in Abuja some may have to subject him to DNA test before we begin to believe that he is truly who he says he is.

But the essence of this write up is not to join in the debate over the President’s mortality or otherwise, but to look at the democratic structures and institutions to see if they have been well set up to handle a situation that would see a sitting President passing on without descending into lawless chaos.

Today, we have an acting President sitting perfectly as prescribed by the constitution. The President has done noble by writing to the National Assembly stating his desire to go on vacation and he has also done perfectly by informing them of the need to tend his stay for whatever reasons. The acting President has in effect been acting in his stead, hosting the Federal Executive council meetings and taking some very far reaching steps like submitting the acting Chief Justices name to the Senate for confirmation. I think he is doing a perfect job especially with his response to the ill-fated Tuface protest march, where he had com out to say, ‘we listen to you, loud and clear’.

The constitution prescribes very clearly the steps to take in the unfortunate incident of the demise of a sitting president. This itself should kill all the conspiracy theory and the great fear that a shadowy mafia would take over and force the acting Presidnet to resign his appointment. We should believe in the sanctity of our constitution and its ability to guide a peaceful transition devoid of violence and mayhem if we are ready to deal.

The last incident in The Gambia also lends credence to my position. The international community will no longer allow tyrants or a group of tyrants hide under the cloak of sovereignty to maim people. ECOWAS led a sub regional coalition to insist on a hand over despite the incumbent’s stubbornness. Same treatment would also be meted out to those who would seize the opportunity to trample on the wishes of the people.

So, in conclusion, can the conspiracy theorists seize peddling their unfounded stories and, even if they were true, we still have strong democratic structures that would ensure an orderly and legal handing over power to the prescribed custodian. So there will be no need for all these stories.

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