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Buhari and the limits of endurance

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When President Muhammadu Buhari entered the presidential race in 2015, he might not have appreciated, as a matter of fact, that he was taking his luck too far, given his age and his health status. Recall that he had unsuccessfully run for the position of President in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Following his defeat in 2011, he had, amid lachrymal emotion, announced that he would not contest again.

But, the opposition forces, which had done their political calculations, realised that the he was the only person who could passionately galvanise popular support in the north.  Little wonder, they made available all the resources needed for his presidential enterprise while he only made himself available.

Those opposed to a possible Buhari presidency panicked because of the cult-like following that he enjoyed in the north.  Added to the votes from the South-West that would be mobilised under the formidable leadership of Senator Bola Tinubu, the opposition was confident that it would most likely upturn the applecart of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Therefore, many strategies were introduced into the campaign mix.  For instance, Jonathan’s handlers made so much noise about Buhari’s failing health. But his supporters and Nigerians, who wanted anybody but Jonathan, discountenanced the public service announcement by casting their votes for Buhari and his promised change.

Buhari was confident to sweep into power on the wings of the All Progressives Congress. The issue that probably preoccupied his mind was his health. Would it be able to withstand the strain and rigour of governance?  Perhaps, if he had been lucky in 2003 or 2007, even in 2011, to become president, the narrative might have been different, given the fact that he would have been younger, stronger and healthier in office than he now is.

Today, Buhari is sick and unable to attend to governance. Recent events have convincingly indicated that what ails the President appears to be very serious, although the nature of his sickness has not been officially confirmed.  When he returned from his first major medical voyage to the United Kingdom recently, he said that he had not been this sick in his life. He even confessed that he had blood transfusion.

His inability, in recent time, to rise to the challenges of governance, such that on three consecutive occasions he could not attend the weekly meetings of the Federal Executive Council, in addition to staying away from other public functions, has been confirmatory of a health condition that is degenerating.

What should then happen in this circumstance?  What should Buhari do, knowing full well that his presidency is a long distance race – up to 2019 and, by reason of strength, good health and life, through the intervening years to 2023 on a second term basis? But, does he have the endurance to go the whole hog?  This is the pertinent question that only Buhari can answer and relate to.

Between 2009 and 2010, this was the situation that confronted the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, who was terminally ill, before he died in office on May 5, 2010.  By the time Yar’Adua was debilitated by ill health and became vegetative, he could not answer that question.  The cabal or the hawks around him, who were enamoured by presidential power and were afraid to lose their privileged positions and access to the nation’s commonwealth, did everything possible to sustain Yar’Adua in office.  The only thing they could not do was to mummify and prop him up after death on his seat as if he were still alive.

Should history be allowed to repeat itself as a farce with Buhari’s ill health?  The Punch in its editorial of May 4, 2017,titled: ‘Deepening uncertainty over Buhari’s health’, brilliantly dissected the circumstance in all its ramifications and surmised that the President should immediately declare his health status to put an end to the speculations surrounding it.  This has not been done.  Second, that he should not hesitate any further to embark on another medical vacation and transfer power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which he has now done.

The other outstanding call, which the newspaper editorial considered the most important, was for him to resign right away, discountenancing the advice by the power hawks around him who might want to advise to the contrary.  I concur with this advice.  But it will take nationalism, statesmanship and selflessness, which advance the interest of the nation and defer personal interest in a situation like this that beckons on the President to actuate the doctrine of necessity.

There is nothing wrong if Buhari decides to resign.  After all, there are no more points for him to prove.  He has done his best for the nation and for himself.  His health should be paramount to him now.  If he can no longer commit himself to governance due to ill health, it should be in his interest as a man of integrity and the nation whose people gave him their sacred mandate, to honestly make a historic declaration to that effect.

To be sure, history and posterity will not forget him as a leader who, for love of country, resigned from office when he became encumbered by ill health.  He will not be the first leader to make such a sacrifice in human history.

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