Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the country Friday, after a controversial seven-week medical vacation in London.
President Buhari, 74, departed Abuja for London on January 19th for what his close aides referred to as a “medical vacation,” but what had initially been planned as a 10-day vacation was later extended indefinitely after his doctors advised him to rest and conduct a series of tests.
State television showed footage of President Buhari, unaided, disembarking from his plane after it landed at a military base in Kaduna, about a 100 kilometres north of the capital Abuja. A visibly emaciated Buhari was then conveyed by helicopter to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
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While speaking to top government officials at the statehouse, Mr. Buhari said he has never before felt “so sick” as he did following his recent illness, according to the BBC.
He did not reveal the details of his condition, though, telling his listeners instead that he was “feeling much better now.”
The exact nature of President Buhari’s illness and his ability to continue in his capacity as elected president was a hot topic in Nigeria during his absence. While he followed the laid down constitutional law to hand over power to his deputy, it did little to stop speculation about how his absence could possibly worsen Nigeria’s current economic woes even as the country struggles to climb out of its worst recession in decades.
— We ASOcial (@DigiCommsNG) March 10, 2017
If President Buhari made Nigerians uneasy by his disappearance, his 9-minute speech at the statehouse probably left them even more unsettled.
President Buhari began by thanking his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, and other top government officials for holding down the forte on his behalf, before mentioning that he would be due for fresh medical check-ups in a couple of weeks.
He then went on to make a statement that his aides have now dismissed as a mere “joke,” saying he timed his arrival to coincide with the weekend so that his deputy can continue to govern in his stead while he continues to rest.
Watch part of President Buhari’s message to his nation here:
My message to you: I’m glad to be back home, & grateful for your prayers. The best way to repay you is to rededicate myself to serving you. pic.twitter.com/vy03y6Nap1
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) March 10, 2017