Last month, this website reported that President Buhariof Nigeria was missing in London, presumed very ill or perhaps even no longer medically alive. We did this because we were provided with information by an inside source that the true condition of the president was being concealed in order to enable jockeying for position to go on behind the scenes. The Nigerian media reported many government sources and some private individuals rubbishing the notion.
After a while, ‘presidency’ sources said Mr Buhari would be ‘home on 11 June’. Now, over the weekend,the same papers reported the same sources saying the president would not, after all, be home.
So far, in spite of the tripe put about by the presidency and the unquestioning Nigerian media, there has been no sight nor sound of the president for a very long time. There have been a few images apparently of him recuperating, but many have suggested that these images are not verifiable – they contain no reference to when they were taken. Some look cut-and-pasted; others are taken from odd angles where he is not properly visible; in others he is clearly attending a military event back in Nigeria. It feels like a con-trick.
Meanwhile, although newspaper reports refers to doctors, no doctors have been prepared to speak directly to the media or people to explain what the president’s condition is. And of course the presidency refuses to divulge any details at all. Generally speaking, people expect to hear important health information from a doctor – not just a PR guy with a good haircut and a superficial line on every policy position.
Nigeria has an extremely capable acting president, of course, but if Mr Buhari is declared dead or permanently incapacitated then it will be the second time in succession that a Northern Muslim president has died and been replaced by his Southern Christian deputy. This is a challenge in a country whose democracy is based upon a complex balance of different regional and religious interests. However, it is a challenge Nigeria is most certainly up to given the great success which was the peaceful handing over of power after the last election.
And so, a top tip for Nigerians. Insist that, like most democracies, it is a strict requirement of being president that your people know exactly what your physical condition is at all times. This practice is not historically confined to democracies, of course. Kings of old were routinely watched in their bedchambers; Queens were watched as they gave birth to heirs. This was all to ensure that things were as they seemed. Requiring a president to show he is capable of running his country, and is definitely not dead, is a simple and practical extension of this.
For now, with no sight nor sound of the president and no proof even of life for some time, it seems that in a bid to manage the succession the presidency may be lying to the public about the presidents health or even life, and making Nigeria’s democratic status a mockery into the bargain.
The Nigerian media seems to be unconcerned about all of this; unconcerned that he may be dead; unconcerned that if he is alive then he may be too ill to carry on. In the absence of serious newspaper and TV media, then, it is left to social media to do the job. So here we are.
We recommend that every Nigerian check their own wardrobes for Mr Buhari, and perhaps ask their children if they have any ideas. If you do this, you will have looked harder for him than the Nigerian media.
Postscript: Reading between the lines of one or two braver news outlets this evening (and to be fair, many Nigerian outlets have reported this website’s comments) it’s looking a lot like the president is indeed incapacitated and his his chief of staff, 79 year old Abba Kyari, is now in charge. It seems clear, in any case, that there’s a gap opening up between two camps within the presidential staff. Maybe the clue is in the fact that even the president’s wife was reportedly not allowed to see him when she visited last. It looks like the moment of truth is coming closer…..