Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, citing his recent appearances at campaign rallies as a testament to his vitality, reportedly insisted this week that he is physically fit to rule Nigeria for another four years despite concerns that his health is deteriorating.
During a town hall organized by a reporter from the state-run Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), President Buhari listed everything his government has allegedly done to improve the country and pointed out that he was able to travel to several states to campaign in recent weeks, taking questions from voters, Premium Times revealed.
Buhari’s health has been a factor in the 2019 elections for months, ultimately becoming a primary campaign tool for his critics, especially the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which strongly contends that the president might spend more time receiving treatments than doing his job if he is elected again during the scheduled.
The PDP and some Nigerians on social media have been applying pressure on Buhari to disclose that state of his health, particularly after the leader announced he is seeking re-election.
“We need full disclosure about the president’s health. He needs to be honest with Nigerians to say he his unwell. He can’t travel for an official meeting to the US and sneak into London to see his doctor, then tell Nigerians it was a technical stopover due to flight issues,” Kola Ologbodiyan, a spokesman for the PDP, told CNN.
Garba Shehu, a spokesman for the president told CNN Nigeria’s constitution does not obligate Buhari to make his medical records public.
“Buhari is the first Nigerian president to make public his need to see a doctor,” Shehu explained.
“The constitution does not say the president must disclose his health status, it only says he should make his medical vacation public to the House of Assembly,” he added. “Let’s check the records, no other president in this country has made public their medical trips abroad.”
Shehu noted that some visits have only been follow-ups, unrelated to any new illnesses.
In May 2018, the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) pointed out:
The New York Times calculates that the president, presuming he returns to Nigeria on May 12 (which he may not), will have been in London on medical leave for more than 170 days since he was inaugurated president in 2015. In other words, out of just over one thousand days in office, he will have spent around 15 percent of his time receiving medical treatment abroad.
Despite calls for him not to run because of his health, Buhari announced that he would seek reelection in the in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2019.
“Concerns about President Muhammadu Buhari’s health have remained an issue in the campaign, even though the president has not embarked on a lengthy medical vacation in recent months,” Premium Times noted.
In addition to his health problems, Buhari is facing criticism for the way he handles the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Boko Haram jihadi group, which continues to terrorize northeastern Nigeria despite the president falsely claiming to have defeated the group on several occasions.
Critics have also accused President Buhari, who shares his ethnicity with Muslim Fulani herders, of downplaying and even condoning the massacre of settled predominantly Christian farmers from the Berom ethnic group at the hands of the herdsmen who follow Islam.