Presidency Offers Truce to President Buhari’s Critics

The Presidency says it has forgiven those who made unpleasant remarks about the health of President Muhammadu Buhari while he was away in London on a medical vacation.

Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Voice of Nigeria shortly after the return of President Buhari on Saturday.

Shehu called on such people to join hands with government in order to take the country to the next level.

“We don’t want say that they should feel ashamed of themselves. We don’t want to drag this thing. The fact that they had made predictions that have now turned out not to be true, spreading falsehood in the process, we still forgive them, they are Nigerians like ourselves. Let them join the train and lets continue the journey. This country does not need bickering and bitterness over such issues, so we look forward to their joining hands with the government so that whatever objectives we have set for the country would be realized,” he said.

Garba Shehu said things still went well even in the absence of the President because the Acting President did very well.

“The situation where the President is not on his seat is not normal. We haven’t had him for quite some time now but things went very well for the country because the Acting President, ministers and heads of agencies he left behind, all did their job very well,” the Presidential Spokesperson said.

He said he was extremely happy at the return of the President and wished him well as he continues to direct the affairs of the nation.


Buhari’s Return Will Boost War Against B’Haram

The governor of Borno State, Gov. Kashim Shettima has congratulated resident of North Eastern Nigeria, stating that the return of President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to Nigeria, after a medical vacation will be a big boost toward ending the Boko Haram terrorism in the troubled region.

Shettima said “The people of the North-East should be congratulated as the major beneficiaries of Buhari’s return because of his open love, empathy and keen interest in addressing the security challenges in the sub-region.

“Before the coming of Buhari in 2015, the North- East was the most marginalised in everything that had to do with the Federal Government,from the presence of Federal projects to representation at national levels.

“But he changed that soon after he assumed the mantle of leadership and made the region the bride of his administration, in terms of national representation. For this and other reasons, Buhari occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of all true sons and daughters of the six states that make up the North-East geo-political zone.

“We are grateful to God for returning him in good health.

“We pray that his health continues to grow from strength to strength, to enable him complete his noble mission to fully restore Nigeria to the path of recovery, sustainable progress and development.

“On behalf of the government and the good people of Borno, we are indeed most grateful to all good Nigerians for standing by Buhari.’’

I’ve Been to London to See the King, By Femi Adesina

Not a few tongues had wagged over the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was outside the country on medical vacation for weeks on end, and no member of his media team was with him. Many times, we had been confronted by journalists on why we were sitting pretty in Nigeria, while our principal was confronted by severe health challenges in London.

How did I feel about the situation? I had always told the media, and others who cared to listen, that whoever is on a presidential entourage at any time is the prerogative of the President. In the first 20 months of this administration, the President had made scores of trips, both locally and internationally. There was none, and I repeat, none, in which the media team was excluded. We were always there to keep the world abreast with what the President was doing.

When President Buhari first needed to travel for holiday and medical attention in January this year, it was deemed a private trip, in which the media was not needed. On such journey, you naturally would need security details, your personal physician, protocol and domestic aides, and those were the ones that went. Media? It depended on the principal. What was essential was that the channels of communication be kept open.

When the fuss came that the media handlers of the President were transmitting at best, third hand information to the public, it did not bother me as much as it did some people, particularly, journalists. The discretion to have anyone with him at a given time was that of the President, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. I was in direct contact with those who were around him, and that was the best in the circumstances.

When the rumour mill went into overdrive sometime in January that the President had passed on, the first person I called was his personal physician. He laughed, saying nothing of such happened. I was thus confident enough to debunk the malicious information.

Before he returned on March 10, in what turned out to be the first leg of his medical treatment, President Buhari had spoken with me personally on phone, the details of which I made available to the public. It was sufficient for me.

The President left again on May 7. I was with him at home till he left for the airport. Information dissemination followed the same pattern as on the first trip. The aides on hand told me whatever was necessary, and I communicated same, never for once making it appear that the information was firsthand. It was the best and the honest thing to do. You work for a straightforward man, it would be a disservice to him for you to begin to spin and bend information. Never!

Not once did I agitate to visit London to see the President. I trusted enough to receive whatever information was passed to me, knowing the kind of man we serve. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.

A lot of people were using paracetamol for what they considered my headache. They continued to fret that I was not in London, but it didn’t bother me a bit. Ask my wife and children, they would tell you that I am never in unnecessary hurry. I don’t push things, but the lines always fall for me in pleasant places. I have learnt to take all things in my strides, and let the divine powers work out the rest. Some people will erroneously call it a laid back approach, but those who are discerning would see that I had always excelled in whatever I did, physical, professional, spiritual, domestic etc. No need to sing my own praises. Not unto us, but unto Him, be all the glory and praises.

And then, on Wednesday last week, ‘come came to become’ (apologies K.O Mbadiwe). I received a communication to proceed to London to see the President, along with other members of the presidential media team. To lead the delegation was Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, while others included myself, Mallam Garba Shehu, Lauretta Onochie, Bayo Omoboriowo, and the Nigerian Television Authority team of Adamu Sambo and Emmanuel Arinhi. Senior Special Assistant on International and Diaspora Matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was in London on another official matter, eventually joined us to see the President on Saturday.

Leaving the country through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Friday morning, one was as conspicuous as a tiger in a teashop. All that knew me, and saw that I was headed for London, naturally said: “Please give our greetings to Baba o.” They just took it for granted that I was going to London to see the King, and not the Queen this time, as made popular by the pussycat in the nursery rhyme.

The trip aboard the British Airways Boeing 777-200/300 was pleasant and pleasurable. It was like a whole city in the sky. The Nigerians who saw me and my colleague, Mallam Garba Shehu, onboard, also jumped to the same right conclusion as those at the airport: “Please greet Baba for us o.”

On Saturday afternoon, we were ferried from our hotels at the appointed time. At Zero Hour, we were at the Abuja House, Nigerian High Commission, London.

As we strode into the living room, I saw with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission. Standing tall and ramrod straight was President Muhammadu Buhari, with that ubiquitous smile in place. He was looking a lot better than he had ever looked in the past eight months. My heart leapt for joy, and sang praises to God. Was this not the man they said was on life support machine? Didn’t they say he could neither walk nor talk? But he was welcoming Alhaji Lai Muhammed, and calling him by name. I was next. I shook the hands of the man I had admired since his days as a military head of state, a man I am not ashamed to call my leader and President today, and any day.

Seated, the President had words for each member of the team, which showed that he had been following events back home very keenly. He commended the Minister of Information and Culture, saying, “Lai, you are all over the place. I see you virtually every day. You have been working very hard.” Pointing to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, he said, “She is here in her constituency. But me, I am here reluctantly.” We all laughed, and Dabiri-Erewa jocularly issued what you could call a quit notice, saying she didn’t want the President in her constituency again.

How are you, Mr President?

“I am okay now. I feel I could go home, but doctors are in charge here, and I’ve learnt to obey my doctors. I’ve learnt to obey orders, rather than be the one giving the orders.”

If you have met the President personally, he is usually full of wisecracks, and this day was not different. He told us he had enough time to watch television, and commended the NTA particularly, and Nigerian media generally, for bringing him up to speed with what was happening back home.

He said he had been watching the protests by people who wanted him to return home post-haste, or resign. He mentioned one of the leaders of the protest by name, and laughed. I did not discern any malice in the laughter.

President Buhari told us he seldom got sick, something he had told Nigerians on March 10, at his first return. When we told him millions of people were praying for him at home, in Africa, and even beyond, I saw the glow in his eyes, and he said :”May God reward them,” after noting that what Nigeria did in The Gambia in January, which forced a sit-tight Yahya Jammeh to quit office, “fetched us a lot of goodwill and latitude.”

We talked about many issues, some of which are not due for public consumption yet. The President was obviously enjoying our company. Then the State Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, popped up (as he always does) and indicated that the allotted time was over.

“Oh dear,” the President exclaimed, reluctant to see us go.

It was time for photographs, and we walked into the garden. The President was spry, as he joined us. Bayo Omoboriowo clicked away, and those were the pictures you have seen. The President even almost sprinted, while going back inside. Omoboriowo captured that rare moment.

And to the dining room we proceeded. We sat at that famous table, laden with different kinds of fruits; banana, apple, pear, water melon, and many others. It was a setting which a man blinded by bile, and suffused with hatred, had described as a previous fast breaking session at Aso Villa during a Ramadan season. Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he says.

We ate, heartily. Our appetites had been stimulated by the state in which we met our principal. Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, was at hand to attend to us, urging us to eat as much as we wanted. Halima, daughter of the President, as well as Yusuf, his son, were also there.

It was a pleasure meeting all the presidential aides once again, and we greeted one another warmly: Yau and Lawal (trusted security details), Sunday (the personal cook of many decades), the ADC, SCOP, CSO, CPSO, the personal physician, Tunde Sabiu, Sarki Abbah, and many others. It was a grand re-union.

Lunch over, the President bade each person goodbye, with a handshake. We said to him, “See you soon, sir.” But when Dabiri-Erewa uttered the same, the President laughed, and declared: “No, we will leave you here, as this is your constituency.”

The health status of our President, as earlier attested to by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, during his visit, was a testimony to the healing powers of God. This was a man gravely ill, but restored miraculously. It can only be God. In spite of what haters, wailers, and filthy dreamers imagine, and which they spew out, God remains merciful and immutable. He has the final say. If I were a hater, I would repent now, in sackcloth and ashes.

Yes, I’ve been to London to see the King – The Lion King. But unlike the pussycat in the nursery rhyme, I didn’t frighten any mouse under the chair.

Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity

N’Assembly Leaders Would Visit Buhari if Invited

If invited by the presidency, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, are ready to visit President Muhammadu Buhari, a national newpaper has reported.

According to the report, it was gathered that some top leaders of the National Assembly had tried to visit the President, but it was unsuccessful.

Some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, including the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and three state governors, Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), and Yahaya Bello (Kogi), had visited the President in the British capital last Sunday.

This was followed by a visit by another entourage which included selected PDP governors. The governors, who were led by their forum’s chairman, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, included Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo).

When our correspondent sought to know on Saturday if leaders of the National Assembly would also be allowed to visit the President in London, a Presidency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “there is nothing to prove.”

The Presidency earlier this week suggested that the spate of visits by politicians to the ailing president was due to a change in “circumstances’ as President Buhari had initially banned anyone from visiting him in London while on his medical leave.

Civil Society Leaders Urge Buhari to Take Medical Leave

Nigeria’s ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, who had nearly two month’s medical treatment in Britain earlier this year, should take medical leave immediately, civil society leaders have said in an open letter.

The 74-year-old president returned home in March and said he would need more rest and health tests. Details of his medical condition were not disclosed.

In a letter titled “President Buhari should take medical leave immediately”, a group of political activists noted his absence from the last two weekly cabinet meetings and speculation about his ability to run Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy.

“We are compelled to advise him to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay,” they said in the letter dated May 1.

The letter was signed by 13 civil society leaders including human rights lawyer Femi Falana and Jibrin Ibrahim, an academic at a think-tank based in the capital Abuja.

Femi Adesina, one of Buhari’s spokesmen, declined to comment on the letter. Garba Shehu, another presidency spokesman, last week said Buhari received daily briefings on activities of government and met his vice president regularly.

He also said Buhari was spending most of his time in his private residence, which is equipped as an office, adding that he had gone through the worst period of his recovery in London.


Do Nigerians go on Holiday, by Sola Odunfa

Wherever the idea of formal holidays may have come from, it was definitely not Nigeria.
A holiday is a period when people completely take time off from work and relax to relieve themselves of stress – both physical and mental.
It is meant to be a time to recharge one’s batteries.
It can also be a time to indulge in travel – to see new places and cultures for pleasure.
It is usually taken annually and may last from a few days to a few weeks.
But for the average Nigerian, the business of living is too serious to afford such a luxury.
And for those who can splash out, soaking up culture is not often on the agenda.
I have taken so-called holidays several times. I would pack one or two changes of clothes at the bottom of the suitcase, and then fill the rest with the tools of my trade – sound recorders and cassettes, microphones and notebooks.
For I would work afresh both to cover the travel cost and personal expenses and to indulge my family’s ever-expanding wardrobes, for which one or two extra suitcases would be purchase.
Of course when abroad, there is the daily round of Nigerian restaurants and pubs to visit and compare with the fare at home.
And then there are the shops.
I have holidayed in the UK several times but, please, don’t ask me about the Tower of London or the British Museum – I would have not visited them unless they stocked shoes or lace.
Every airliner out of Nigeria is fully booked during summer and in the months leading up to Christmas.
That is when those Nigerians that do “holiday” take their leave.
All the passengers travel light and they carry fat cheques.
Like me, I assure you they are not travelling to see Buckingham Palace or the Eifel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
They are going shopping – and it is usually serious cash-backed shopping.
Our idea of a good holiday is when we return, to be able to deck your wife’s or girlfriend’s neck in new jewellery, wear new shoes and dresses and stock your living room with new electronic gadgets.
We may then take a few days off to rest from our shopping spree.
Two months ago, Nigerians could understand when President Muhammadu Buhari announced that he was going to London on vacation.
That was good for his relatives and friends.
But he lost us completely when he qualified his vacation with the word “medical”.
He may have wanted to have rest away from the constant calls on his time as head of state – a chance to properly recuperate.
But to us Nigerians, his spokesmen were being too clever by half. Who travels for rest?
For us the man was travelling abroad to seek medical treatment. Period.