A good number of Nigerians are becoming uncomfortable with President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent foreign trips, especially now that the economy and security situation in the country is nose-diving. In this piece, DOZIE EMMANUEL writes that the president’s sudden vacation has also elicited more reactions.
Reactions have continued to trail the President short vacation barely eight months in the mantle of leadership. While the sudden news came to some as a surprise, others are of the opinion that Muhammadu Buhari deserves the right to take his leave any time he deems fit as guaranteed by the constitution.
Last week Friday, the presidency announced that Buhari has begun a short vacation and will be on break from his official functions from February 5 to February 10, 2016 and during his absence, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will perform the functions of the president.
According to the statement, “In compliance with Section 145 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, President Buhari has dispatched a formal notice of his vacation to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
Not satisfied with the sketchy explanation, some eminent Nigerians have argued that Nigerians deserve to know the detailed truth concerning the President’s whereabouts.
One of such people is Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state, who recently said that the statement issued by the presidency on President Muhammadu Buhari’s sudden vacation was vague. The governor, who said he was aware of the high-wire plot to use the Supreme Court to upturn his electoral victory, insisted that nothing will stop him from speaking the truth concerning issues in the country.
According to Fayose, “Nigerians deserve to know where exactly their president is spending his vacation. Nigerians deserve to know the truth about their president because the president is an open book that every Nigerians should be free to read.
“It was suspicious that a president, who told Nigerians that he was embarking on official visit to France and Britain, would suddenly commence a five-day vacation while still in the United Kingdom”.
But real details have, however, emerged as to why the president decided to embark on the vacation. An online report has it that it was due to health concerns, which was concealed by his close associates, was the real reason behind the leave. The report revealed that during his visit to the United Kingdom, President Buhari will undertake a visit to medical doctors in a London hospital.
The report went further to say that a presidency source said President Buhari agreed to participate in a Syrian solidarity meeting because it provides a perfect cover for the medical visit. The source further said there has been a debate within the presidency about the medical visit, with some of his handlers, arguing that the Syria meeting provides a perfect alibi as the president should not be seen to be sick less than one year after taking power.
The online report further recalled that following the six-week postponement of the presidential election, Mr. Buhari spent a prolonged period in London, reportedly to rest. He subsequently spent another nine days in London to meet with his doctors, returning only one day before his inauguration.
Political analysts have expressed worry that the president is fond of making strong statements while outside the country and thus wondered what would have prompted the sudden vacation that he has to dispatch the notice while on official tour.
Of course, the president is entitled to leave, be it on medical grounds or otherwise. But what is more disturbing is perhaps the timing of his short, but sudden vacation. Unless on a serious health grounds, the president’s vacation at this trying time was quite unnecessary giving the security and economic situation in the country.
Since he came on board, Buhari has been junketing from one country to another, honouring all foreign invitations, both important and less important. Perhaps, this is why a good number of Nigerians have expressed disappointment on the number of foreign trips the president has embarked upon thus far. Unfortunately, each foreign trip the president embarks on cost the country huge amount of money.
Shortly after he assumed office, the president made a firm promised and commitment to curtail unnecessary foreign trips as a way of saving money for the country. He even instructed other government officials to reduce their official trips. Surprisingly, he has not kept to the promise.
There are agitations in some quarters that eight months down the line, the president has yet to fulfil any of his campaign promise to Nigerian. These people argued that it is quite imperative for him to curtail some of his foreign trips and get down to work.
But conversely, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has insisted that the president’s foreign trips have started yielding results in terms of direct foreign investment into the country in the range of billions of dollars and securing global support for the administration’s anti-corruption fight.
The minister explained that most of the president’s trips – to Nigeria’s neighbouring countries of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, as well as to Germany, the US, France and the UN – were devoted to rallying regional and global support for the war against terrorism.
According to him, “He was in Germany at the invitation of the G7 to solicit support from the industrialised nations for the war against terrorism. No one who has witnessed the killings and maiming in the past seven years by Boko Haram will call such trips frivolous. After all, the security and welfare of the citizens are the reason for the existence of any government.
”The President’s visit to South Africa was to attend the regular summit of the African Union; the trip to Ghana was aimed at fostering better relations with a brotherly country; the trip to India was for the India-Africa summit that provided the opportunity to explore ways of enhancing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from Indian investors, while the trip to Iran was to attend the forum of Gas Exporting Countries, a veritable platform for discussing how to better harness Nigeria’s abundant gas resources for industrial/domestic consumption and export, at a time of dwindling oil prices.
”The president also travelled to Malta to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, from where he travelled to Paris for the UN Conference on Climate Change. The President’s second trip to South Africa since assuming office is for the China-Africa forum. On the few occasions that the president has embarked on a state visit, he has tied that to an agenda that will further the quest for support for the war against terror and the efforts to enhance FDIs, thus stimulating economic growth and creating jobs”.
The president should realise the enormous work ahead of him and quickly get down to business. Nigerians are anxious to see vibrant economy and improved economy and not frequent and sometimes frivolous trips.