In this interview in the Punch, a chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, says the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokespersons have not been sincere in their communication of the President’s health status. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the President’s indefinite postponement of his return to Nigeria?
I wish him well and pray for his quick recovery.
Do you think the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and Femi Adesina are saying the truth about the President’s health status?
I was listening to Lai Mohammed last night. He said the President is hale and hearty. Using the phrase “hale and hearty” for the President who went to the UK on a 10-day leave and had to extend it, shows something is not right.
First, Nigerians were told that Buhari was going on vacation and that he would do checkup. At the end of the 10 days, we were told his doctor asked him to wait to obtain the result of some medical tests, and he comes out again to tell us he is hale and hearty. From their evidence, both Lai Mohammed and the Femi Adesina are talking nonsense. One said the President is sick. Mohammed said he is hale and hearty. Yet when the time came for him to resume, he didn’t.
Are you saying they are lying?
We should ask: does one do medical tests for somebody who is hale and hearty? That is their language. I am only criticising them based on the evidence they provided. They (Mohammed and Adesina) are inconsistent, incoherent and they do not show sincerity (in their communication of the president’s health status). I am not a fool. Nigerians are not fools.
They are being economical with the truth. Adesina and Mohammed are talking balderdash. They are taking us for a ride. My own experience is that when somebody is sick and you can’t say what is wrong with him, doctors would ask such a fellow to do a series of test. And yet you tell us the man is hale and hearty.
Nobody wants Buhari dead but they are not telling us the truth. Human beings can fall sick, which is natural. What is wrong in saying this man has an ailment? It is now left for people to pray for speedy recovery. Yet, our hopes were raised that there is nothing wrong with the man and yet he cannot resume. They forget that all of us have a stake in his health. They are insulting our intelligence.
Some have been clamouring for a law to stop public office-holders from seeking medical treatment abroad. Is this reasonable?
A law like that may infringe on individual’s rights. We can only say if any public office-holder wants medical treatment abroad, it should not be at the expense of the country. If a public office-holder feels that the medical service he desires cannot be obtained here, he can go abroad but not at public’s expense.
What is your comment on Buhari’s refusal to use the Aso Rock clinic despite the huge budget voted for it?
It is a fundamental issue for us in this country to equip our hospitals so that nobody would have to go abroad for medical treatment. This is one of the things we want the government to change and proffer solutions to. We have the expertise but we lack the equipment.
What is the difference between the secrecy surrounding the late Umar Yar’Adua’s health and that of President Buhari? Have any lessons been learnt?
The present President wrote to the National Assembly that he was travelling abroad on vacation. He also handed over to the Vice-President. So, there is really no problem about that since he followed the constitutional provision. But in the case of Yar’Adua, the late president didn’t write to the National Assembly and he did not hand over to the vice-president.
Do you think Buhari should address Nigerians from the UK and disclose his health status?
We should understand that the President, by the virtue of his position, no longer has any privacy. Nigerians are entitled to know every progress about his health. Those who are demonstrating in the UK were doing the legitimate thing because the citizens over there are well-informed about the medical status of their leaders. Why should our own be different? The same obtains in the United States. When things are not going well, we attribute it to Nigerian factor. Good governance has a standard. When we don’t follow democratic norms and principles, that is when people will keep protesting.
Did the APC make a good decision fielding Buhari as its presidential candidate based on his health?
I have no comment about that. They picked him so who am I to condemn their decision? It is for them now to decide. If they had known, they should be blaming themselves now. Anybody can fall sick.
The Federal Government has been assuring Nigerians that things would change. With two years to the end of this administration, do you really think there is light at the end of the tunnel?
Let us not deceive ourselves. From the outset, I was one of those who said it was too early to criticise Buhari. But going to two years now, things are going worse, that is the evidence. Yet, they (FG) continue to blame the previous government. That is not right. The All Progressives Congress said it would do better which was why it was voted into power. Now, they are saying something else. There is no light at the end of the tunnel because the instruments responsible for their non-performance have not been changed. You can’t achieve change when the right method is not in place.
It took Buhari six months to form his cabinet. Up till now, there is no economic programme. I don’t buy any jargon or propaganda that there is hope. They are preparing a solution that by the time it comes to fruition, everybody would be in the grave. That is what is happening now. Everybody is complaining. Even the middle class finds it difficult to go to the market. And the government keeps telling us to be patient. Some people are committing suicide. So, by the time your programmes are achieved, who will enjoy it?
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the Igbo should have a go at the Presidency. Do you agree?
Why do you people give credence to Obasanjo? Obasanjo is a troublemaker. Seventy per cent of the problems we have in this country were caused by Obasanjo. He has never been consistent. He said (former President Goodluck) Jonathan didn’t do well and changed the tone later. Is that the type of man you want me to rely on? He likes to cause confusion and problems. If he says something today, tomorrow he will say that was not what he meant. I don’t give any regard to his statement.