The Calls Cease As Buhari Returns

By Ikenga Chronicles March 15, 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari’s annual vacation in the United Kingdom, which he is also used to undergo routine medical checks, was not only been trailed by controversies over contradictory explanations on his health status by his lieutenants back home, but was equally dramatic.

The drama started with pictures of family members and associates visiting the President at the Abuja House in London being celebrated on the various media platforms.

Among the visitors were the President’s wife, Aisha; National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was accompanied by former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande; Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

Saraki after his visit with Dogara, told Nigerian that “the president I saw today is healthy, witty and himself, there is no cause for alarm!” However, the visits later made way for phone calls by the President to members of his team, associates and some eminent Nigerians.

Buhari left for London on January 19 and was initially billed to spend 10 days, but he ended up spending 51 days. His arrival date was supposed to be February 6, but was extended indefinitely. Expectedly, this raised tension over his state of health.

The anxiety furthered heightened when the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, issued a statement that his principal had communicated to the two arms of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) that he has been advised to complete his rounds of medical tests before proceeding home.

The statement read in part: “President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly today, February 5, informing of his desire to extend his leave in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.

The President had planned to return to Abuja this evening, but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning. “The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives. Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes.”

Among those who made the President’s call list, while he was away include Adesina; Saraki; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung; Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu; Emir of Katsina,Alhaji Abdulmumini Usman; Kano State governor, Umar Ganduje; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and former Ekiti State governor, Niyi Adebayo.

World leaders were equally not left out as the likes of United States President Donald Trump; King Mohammed VI of Morocco, President Alpha Conde of Guinea also spoke with him during the period.

Solomon Dalung

The Minister of Youth and Sports is perhaps the first person President Buhari called from London, when he commiserated with him on January 31, over the death of his wife, Briskila.

Dalung had announced his wife’s death via his official Facebook page on January 29, and the President was reported to have reached him on phone from London, praying that God will grant her soul eternal rest.

Buhari was also said to have prayed to God to give the family she left behind the fortitude to bear the loss as well as promised to support the Dalung family in their moment of grief.

Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is holding forth for his principal in acting capacity, was next on the line after Dalung. The President spoke with him on February 6. Osinbajo told State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters in Vice President’s Office, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Hon. Abike Dabire at the Presidential Villa that he had a long telephone conversation with the President earlier that day and that he (Buhari) is well and alive.

He added that he briefed the President on the state of the nation including the on-going mass protests in the country, while using the opportunity to dispel speculation that he was under pressure to resign. His words: “The President is hale and hearty.

I spoke to the President just this afternoon and we had a long conversation. He was interested in knowing about the budget process and how far we have gone and the meeting today with the private sector and the economic recovery growth plan and I informed him about the protest march and feedback about what people are saying about the economy. He is in good shape.

“Just like he said in his letter to the National Assembly, he needs to go for a cycle of tests and once he sees the test results and gets medical advice, we expect him very soon. I think that the health status of Mr. President is an issue that only Mr. President would discuss at the appropriate time.

Again, he is running test and all of that, before you will be able to determine your health status, you must be able to say this is my health status, do the test my doctors have advised me to do and will wait for the outcome of the tests and know my status.”

Bukola Saraki

The Senate president told the nation that he spoke with Buhari on February 9, and that the President is healthy and in high spirit. Saraki, who took to his tweeter handle @bukolasaraki to give the confirmation, wrote: “Happy to have spoken with President Buhari tonight. He was in good spirits and joked about my working late into the night, as usual.”

Donald Trump

President Buhari had a telephone conversation with his United States (US) counterpart at the request of the latter on February 13. The Nigerian Presidency said the conversation was cordial with Buhari congratulating Trump on his election as the president of the US.

The two leaders were also said to have discussed ways to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism through provision of necessary equipment.

Adesina, who confirmed the conversation in a series of tweets on the official twitter handle of the Nigerian presidency @NGRPresidency, said Trump assured Buhari of US readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism.

The US leader was also said to have commended Buhari for the efforts he made in rescuing 24 of the Chibok girls and the strides being taken by the Nigerian Army in combating Boko Haram, while inviting him (Buhari) to Washington at a mutually convenient date. The White House later published details of the phone conversation in a Readout.

It stated: “President Donald J. Trump spoke this week with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria to discuss the strong cooperation between the United States and Nigeria, including on shared security, economic, and governance priorities.

“President Trump underscored the importance the United States places on its relationship with Nigeria, and he expressed interest in working with President Buhari to expand the strong partnership.

The leaders agreed to continue close coordination and cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and worldwide. President Trump expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram.

President Trump thanked President Buhari for the leadership he has exercised in the region and emphasized the importance of a strong, secure, and prosperous Nigeria that continues to lead in the region and in international forums.”

Abdullahi Ganduje

The President reportedly called the Kano State State governor on February 22, at about 6:30pm during a prayer session at the Government House, Kano, for his speedy recovery. Ganduje had barely started his remarks at the prayer session, when one of his aides handed over a phone to him with those present expressing surprise to hear the voice of the President.

Ganduje said during the conversation: “Your Excellency, you are calling at the right time, when we have gathered here praying to Almighty Allah for your quick recovery. All the participants said they are extending their heart-felt greetings to you.” Buhari was overheard thanking those, who attended the prayer session.

“We are very grateful for all the efforts Nigerians are putting in praying for my quick and successful recovery. May Almighty Allah reward you abundantly.

My sincere regards to all,” he was quoted to have said. Shortly after the telephone conversation, Ganduje said there was nothing more to pray for as Buhari’s call was a reflection that Allah had answered their prayers.

“We are very happy that Allah has showed us that He answers prayers because the voice of the person we have gathered to pray for shows that he is recuperating quickly and happily,” he said.

Femi Adesina

It was the turn of the president’s spokesman on February 25. Adesina said of the call: “At exactly 2.43 pm today, Saturday, February 25, 2017, my phone rang. Who was at the other end? Tunde Sabiu, personal assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Hold on for Mr. President, Tunde said. And in a matter of seconds, the very familiar voice came: ‘Femi, how are you?’ (He calls me Adesina most times, but today, he opted for Femi). “I screamed, Mr. President, I have missed you.

How are you sir? He first laughed. That familiar laugh. Then he said, ‘I am still resting. Thank you for holding out against mischief-makers. “I said it was my duty, the very least I could do, adding how happy I was to speak with him.

“How is your family? I said we were fine, and he asked me to extend his greetings to them. I hope to call you again,’ Mr President said, and I bade him farewell, adding: “Best wishes, sir.” “It was a defining moment for me.

For more than a month, I had always spoken with aides who are with the president in London. “Not once did I ask them to take the phone to him, deliberately so, because I didn’t need to speak with him to validate the fact that he was alive. And since he was on vacation, he had a right to his privacy.

“Of his own volition, President Buhari spoke with me. It made my day. Even if he hadn’t done so, he would have remained my president, my leader, and my man, any day.”

Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture also claimed that he spoke with the President on February 25. He revealed this on February 27, in Umuahia, Abia State at the second town hall meeting for the South-East and the launch of national reorientation campaign, “Change Begins With Me.” Asked to tell the country about the health condition of the President and whether there was need for a regular briefing on his health, Mohammed said there was no reason for such briefings.

He disclosed that the president spoke with him two days earlier (Saturday, February 25) and there was no reason for Nigerians to be worried. His words: “I can say here very boldly and confidently that there is absolutely no cause for alarm.

Mr. President called me at 2.43 p.m. on Saturday and we spoke. “If Mr. President is in the hospital or is critically ill, as Minister of Information, I will give daily bulletin on his health. Mr. President is neither critically ill nor in the hospital and there is nothing life threatening about the checks he is going through.”

Abdulmumini Usman

President Buhari placed a call to the Emir of Katsina on February 26 over the death of his mother, which occurred same day. He condoled with the monarch, urging him to take solace in the fact that his mother lived a good life, devoted to serving Allah and humanity. “Please be comforted. May Allah accept her soul,” the President was quoted to have told the royal father.

King Mohammed VI The Moroccan king on March 2, had a telephone conversation with President Buhari. A statement by Adesina, said the monarch initiated the call. He added that the Moroccan leader asked after the President’s health and expressed satisfaction at his rate of improvement.

According to the president’s spokesman, the two leaders also discussed the current stage of the Morocco-Nigeria Atlantic crude oil pipeline project. He also noted that the king thanked Buhari for Nigeria’s support in returning Morocco to the African Union and notified him of Morocco’s request to join the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).

Alpha Conde

President Alpha Conde of Guinea, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), called President Buhari on March 3. Conde, who called on behalf of leaders of member countries of the AU, wished the Nigerian president good health and speedy recovery. He also assured Buhari that he has the support of all African leaders, who are praying for him.

The interaction between both leaders was was disclosed in a statement by Adesina. It added that Buhari, in his response, thanked Conde for the call and used the opportunity to congratulate him on his recent election as AU Chairperson during the 28th Ordinary Summit of the continental body in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Yahaya Bello

Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, joined the growing list on Sunday March 5. A government house statement issued in Lokoja said Buhari, who made the call in the evening, interacted with the governor for a couple of minutes.

The Director General of Media and Strategy to the governor, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, who signed the statement, said Bello received the call in Lagos on his way back from Abeokuta, where he attended the inauguration of former President Obasanjo’s Library.

“The President thanked the governor for his support and his leadership qualities. He told the governor that he was observing rest and will return very soon to continue his assignment of providing purposeful leadership to the nation,” Fanwo said.

He added that Bello received the call in the presence of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Ahmed Imam, some members of the House, commissioners and top government functionaries.

Olusegun Obasanjo

President Buhari also called and felicitated with former President Obasanjo on the occasion of his 80th birthday on Sunday. The President’s spokesperson, Adesina, who confirmed the call, said Buhari told Obasanjo that his birthday provides opportunity to reflect on his invaluable roles and contributions to the unity and cohesion of Nigeria, the brotherhood of all Africans as well as peace and amity over the globe. He added that Buhari described the former president as “a true citizen of the world.”

The President was also said to have used the opportunity to recall the days they spent in the military, saying: “Those of us who served under you in various capacities recall a man with boundless energy, with razor sharp mind, and one who does not suffer fools gladly.

Working with you was a school in itself, and the lessons learnt are worth their weight in gold.” Adesina added: “Chief Obasanjo wished President Buhari good health, saying he stands together with him in prayers, so that he can return soon to continue the good work he is doing for the country.”

Yakubu Gowon

President Buhari also spoke with former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon on telephone to commiserate with him over the death of his younger sister, Kande Martha Audu on Sunday (March 5).

A statement signed by Adesina quoted the President as expressing his “deepest condolences to General Gowon and his family.” It also said that Buhari urged the bereaved family to take solace in the fact that Mrs. Audu lived a worthy and exemplary life.

“Death is an inevitable end that must come to all mortals, and we must keep praying and working to ensure that we live a life that pleases our Creator and benefits humanity,” Buhari was quoted to have told Gowon, while praying that God will comfort the grieving family and grant rest to the soul of Mrs. Audu.

The statement further said that Gowon thanked the President for the commiserations, assured him that he will not relent in praying for the unity and progress of the country, adding that Nigerians are also “praying for the President’s quick recovery.”

Yemi Osinbajo

A telephone call from President Muhammadu Buhari to Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo on March 6, disrupted a stakeholders’ meeting in Benin, the Edo State capital.

While the stakeholders’ meeting conveyed by Osinbajo was going on, a sudden telephone call by Buhari disrupted proceedings before speakers, drawn from the oil bearing communities, local government areas, traditional institutions and civil society organisations (CSOs) could continue with their presentations. Although details of the call between Buhari and Osinbajo were not made public, it disrupted the meeting for about 35 minutes that it lasted.

Niyi Adebayo

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 8, called the eldest son of former Military Governor of the Defunct Western Region and President of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Major General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), Niyi over his father’s death.

The younger Adebayo, who served as governor of Ekiti State between 1999 and 2003, disclosed his interaction with the President to journalists at his father’s residence at 48 Ladipo Bateye Street in Ikeja GRA, Lagos.

He said Buhari called to condole with the family on the passage of their patriarch. A statement issued by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity (Adesina), said Buhari lamented that “Nigeria will surely miss the uncommon patriotism and nationalism which General Adebayo typified.”

It further stated that the President also commiserated with the people of Ekiti State and the entire Yoruba race, noting that the late octogenarian stood firmly for the unity of the country also fought for the interest of his people as YCE president, while praying that Almighty God would console the Adebayo family and grant the soul of the departed elder statesman eternal rest.

Garba Shehu

The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity said he missed his principal’s phone call on February 25, the day Buhari spoke with Mohammed, and Adesina. Narrating how he missed the call, Shehu wrote on his Facebook page that the President originated a call to him from London after he had spoken with some members of the presidential media team.

But he missed the call. He, however, revealed that he received a text message from the President. “A day for the presidential media team. We are thankful to the President, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), for sparing the time to make calls to the media team.

“The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and the Special Adviser, Femi Adesina, responded to the calls, exchanged greetings and thanked him for calling.

“I had an SMS from him thereafter because I missed my call! I humbly join them to say thank you, Baba Buhari!! We are together with other Nigerians of all faiths, in praying for his safe return,” he wrote.

Fayose reacts

No doubt, the decision to make Buhari’s conversations public was to dispel rumours that he was critically ill, but some members of the main opposition political party – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the respective telephone calls were not enough to claim that the President is hale and hearty. They insisted that the President must speak to the generality of Nigerians.

Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is a known critic of the President, taunted the presidency, saying he could help in convincing Nigerians that Buhari is well.

Fayose, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, said: “If their problem is that they are looking for a credible person, who can help them convince Nigerians that all is well with our president, I’m their best bet.”

“Let the President speak with me. If I tell Nigerians that the President spoke with me, Nigerians will believe. Since they are eager for the President to speak to people; believing in this way to convince Nigerians that their president is hale and hearty, let President Buhari talk to me. I can be reached on 08035024994. I am credible and Nigerians will believe me.

“They said he spoke to President Donald Trump; despite the hype, Nigerians were skeptical. Then they said he spoke to the king of Morocco; again, Nigerians were suspicious.

Before we recovered from that, it is now the AU president that they said President Buhari spoke to. “A President that can speak with outsiders should be able to whisper or wave to his own people.

The people gave him the very important platform of President on which he stands today and, therefore, Presidential aides should stop giving the unhelpful impression that Buhari has no respect for the Nigerian electorate.” While President Buhari return has calmed frayed nerves over his health status, it is unarguable that a majority of Nigerians cannot afford to miss him for such a long time again given the rousing reception that greeted his arrival on Friday.


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