Buhari’s Health Challenge and Foreign Media Hypocrisy, By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

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By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has been out of the country for
the past 100 days, attending to his health issues in London, United
Kingdom.

Before he becomes president, London is where Mr Buhari receives
medical treatment due poor management of Nigeria’s health system. His
doctors have been the same for decades, they have his medical history
and it would be unwise to change his health manager’s now, considering
his old age. This is a reality no one can ignore.

Mr Buhari is a sincere President, with high level of integrity. Upon
departure from Nigeria to attend to his health, he told his country
men and women about his health complications and appropriately
transferred power to his vibrant Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who has since been
acting with full authority in Buhari’s absence. This is a very
commendable act and something unrivaled in Nigeria’s recent history.

However, since Buhari’s departure from the country, the opposition
elements have been mocking the President and his health, raising all
sorts of spurious claims to instigate citizens against the President.
Some said he his dead already, while others claim he his on life
support. But majority of Nigerians are still behind the man many
consider a special breed among politicians in 21st century.

Recently, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the United
States television medium, Cable News Network (CNN) mocked President
Buhari over his continued absence due to illness. Similarly, a group
known as ‘’OurMumuDonDo’’ led by Charlie Boy, a veteran comic artist
started a protest in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital to demand that the
President should ‘’ResumeOrResign’’. Majority of Nigerians condemned
the protest, including the Nigerian senate, which stated that the
president has done all that is required of him by law.

However, the protest against President Buhari’s Health situation
resonated with some people, especially Nigerians in diaspora, who
maintain that a President shouldn’t remain in office if found to be
ill. Some even boasted that such situation can never happen in
civilized nations because of what they described as ‘’working
institutions’’, but this argument is unfounded. It is not based on any
known fact.

The numerous examples in U.S and Europe clearly tell us that no
president resign over ill health in those part of the world, no matter
how severe their conditions are, except if the situation has gone out
of hand and irredeemable.

Republic records show that, former Presidents who are so ill to the
extent that they couldn’t speak, stand, sit or even see in U.S, France
and U.K at different times never resigned from office. Some even went
ahead to contest for second term despite their illnesses and they
still served their tenure. This is why I find the BBC and CNN mockery
of Nigeria because of President Buhari’s health as uncharitable.

Woodrow Wilson for example is a former U.S President, who in the midst
of a campaign to promote the Treaty of Versailles across the US in
1919 suffered a severe stroke that left him incapacitated until the
end of his presidency. Records show that, despite his bad health,
Wilson remained in office until the end of his term in 1921. This was
said to be made possible by his second wife Edith, who acted as a
mediator between the largely immobilized president and his cabinet.

What about former U.S President, Franklin Roosevelt who was diagnosed
with polio in 1921? Record have it that, despite the disease leaving
him unable to stand or walk without support, he went on to serve 12
consecutive years as US president.
Again, we have another former U.S President Dwight Eisenhower, who
lived through three major medical crises while in office. In September
1955 he suffered a heart attack that resulted in several weeks of
hospitalization. Less than a year later, he underwent urgent surgery
to treat Crohn’s disease, and in late 1957 he suffered a light stroke
that left him temporarily unable to speak. But he went ahead to
contest for second term despite poor health, he won and still served
out his tenure.

Even the famous JF Kennedy suffers ill health while in office as U.S
President. Details of Kennedy’s ill health were largely said to be
unknown during his presidency, but only emerged after his
assassination in 1963. According to Dallek, John F. Kennedy was
hospitalized 9 times during his 2 ½-year presidency, a fact kept
secret until his demise.
The people mentioned above are not the only former U.S Presidents who
suffered ill health while in office, one of the pioneers of United
Nations Ronald Reagan also underwent several surgeries that raised
questions as to whether he was medically fit for office. In 1985, he
temporarily transferred presidential authority to his vice-president,
George H.W. Bush, yet still served out his tenure.

Even Mr Bush senior himself fell ill in office. In 1992, Mr Bush
vomited and then fainted in front of television cameras at a banquet
hosted by the prime minister of Japan, Kiichi Miyazawa. He still
continued in office, managing his health until he finishes his tenure.
Let it be known that i am not trying to dive into the morality of
holding unto power in the face of illness, but I make bold to say
that, if any moral question will arise from this Buhari’s incident,
many great leaders that the world celebrate today are guilty of this.
But despite that, some of them still achieve great things in face of
severe health challenge and we can’t take that away from them.

The above explanation is to inform those, who claimed the health
status of Mr President should automatically make him resign, even
after legally transferring power to his vice. This is unheard of in
any part of the world and all those blackmailing Nigeria, include some
UN-informed Diasporas, BBC and CNN should henceforth desist from doing
so.
Furthermore, if anyone is questioning the U.S examples as articulated
above, maybe we should take them to Europe, where François Mitterrand,
former French president died of prostate cancer in 1996, a year after
the end of his two-term presidency. It was reported that during those
long years in the Élysée Palace, he and his doctors concealed his
condition from the French public. David Owen, in his book ‘’ Sickness
in Power, reveals the lengths they went to conceal Mr Francois
condition.

Owen explained that, the illness was so severe that, the President
couldn’t live without daily routine of drips before he could speak in
public. When Mitterrand may have been power crazy, the president’s
personal physician “hung the intravenous drip on a picture hook or a
coat hanger so as not to have to hammer a nail into the wall of an
embassy or another government’s guest house”.

Additionally, Harold Wilson is another example of note. During the
British prime minister’s second term of office from 1974-76, he
suffered symptoms that were later diagnosed as colon cancer. He may
also have suffered from Alzheimer’s while in office (like Reagan). But
Harold is not the only UK prime minister who served his tenure with
severe illness; even the famous Winston Churchill combated different
illnesses all through his tenure as UK Prime minister. Apart from
depression and mental over strain experienced by Churchill over a long
period of time, he also suffered a heart attack at the White House in
1941 and contracted pneumonia a few years later. It was explained
that, during his second term as prime minister from 1951 to 1955,
Churchill was, in the words of his biographer Roy Jenkins, “gloriously
unfit for office”. Ageing and increasingly unwell, he often conducted
business from his bedside. He had suffered a stroke while on holiday
in 1949 and, while in office in 1953, suffered another.

Despite being paralyzed down one side and doctors fearing he might not
survive the weekend, he conducted a cabinet meeting without; it is
claimed, anyone noticing his indisposition. News of this stroke was
kept from parliament and the public, who were told that he was
suffering merely from exhaustion.

With the above, we can all see that all over the world, leaders get
sick in office. Some hide their illnesses from the public, while
others don’t. Nigeria is blessed with a leader who is so open about
his health issues, not leaving us to continue guess endlessly. It
would not be appropriate to use President Buhari’s sincerity against
him.

If global practice is anything to go by as seen in the above list,
then, we can say that it is not a practice for most leaders to resign
from office simple because of illness and we should not demonize our
President for his own choice.

President Muhammadu Buhari has proven to be among the rare few who are
truthful and courageous enough to inform the people about their
condition. Even when his aides were busy trying to conceal his health
situation, the President openly explained his condition to Nigerians
and sorts our support during this trying period. Let us support him as
much as we can; this is the least we can do.

Legendary Senegalese born U.S singer Akon, had said in one of his
business interaction with young people in Africa. “Hip hop singers in
U.S are very rich. The only problem is that, immediately the video
shoot is over, they call uber driver to take them home, continuing
their life off camera and without any Bentley as shown in the video.
In Nigeria however, The Olamide’s, Wizkid’s and Davido’s all use
Bentley, Benz and others, but in this case, they really own those
cars’’. The irony of it, according to the U.S music star is that, many
believe it is the American rappers that are rich and the Nigerians are
not, but in reality, the reverse is the case. Akon opined that, this
is all about branding and we must tell our story how it should be
told, not allowing others twist it for us.

The same situation is playing out in the case of President Muhammadu
Buhari. While many foreign leaders in U.K, France and U.S often
conceal their illnesses, the Nigerian leader informed the public and
even transfer power to his Vice in compliance with the constitution,
yet foreign media, whose leader are less open and sincere want us to
think less of our President for daring to do what their leaders
couldn’t do. This shouldn’t happen and our media have a major role to
play in this regard.

It is my sincere hope that President Buhari will return home soon and
achieve great things for Nigeria.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is the Executive Director of Foundation for Peace
Professionals and can be reached on [email protected]

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of NewsRescue
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