President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria on Saturday, August 19th after more than a 100 days away from the country he was elected to lead in 2015.
Excited about the news of his return, some citizens took to the streets to welcome their president, as his motorcade drove from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
Later on Monday, Buhari addressed his countrymen in a nationwide broadcast. He began by expressing his delight to be back home and thanking Nigerians for their prayers.
He also condemned the activities of the Biafra separatist movement and urged his security chiefs to intensify efforts at tackling the resurgence of the Boko Haram terror group in the northeast of the country.
The President then finished his 8-minute address by calling on citizens to forget their differences and work together for the country’s collective interest and reinstating that “Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable”
President Buhari however chose to remain uncomfortably silent about his illness, which has kept him away from the country for the better part of 2017.
In the second week of January, President Buhari departed Nigeria for the UK, in what would be the first of two lengthy stays at a London hospital.
Ahead of his departure, Buhari’s media aides issued a statement telling Nigerians the president would be away from the country for few days on a brief “medical vacation”.
On his return, Buhari, 74, admitted that he had been seriously sick, but gave no further details about his health condition.
In May, Buhari again travelled to London to receive “further medical checks”, this time, he was away for 3 months until his return last weekend.
The exact nature of President Buhari’s illness and his ability to continue in his capacity as president is a hot topic for many Nigerians and the subject of much speculation.
There have been repeated calls on him to take the high road and resign if he can no longer cope with the physical and mental rigor of leading Africa’s most populous country.
Indeed, Buhari’s return on Saturday came in the wake of a series of protests and sit-ins by civil society groups demanding his immediate return or resignation.
It must however be said that due to the patronage that comes with the office of the president and the unique nature of Nigerian politics, which is framed by religion and ethnicity, there is a zero percent chance of Mr. Buhari ever handing in his resignation and every Nigerian knows this for a fact.
Even so, it would have cost Buhari nothing to use the occasion of his first address to the nation, after a three-month absence to open up to Nigerians about the true state of his health.
To many Nigerians, Buhari’s address was without doubt condescending and dismissive of their rights to know the true state of health of a democratically elected president.
Oby Ezekwesili, the convener of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and an erstwhile supporter of Mr. Buhari’s government, best summed up the mood of the nation when she described the speech as a case of a missed opportunity.