Two issues trailed the road show — led by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun — to market Nigeria’s US$1 billion Eurobond to the UK and US, according to sources familiar with the situation (see Nigeria Politics & Security - 06.02.17).
The first issue concerned President Muhammadu Buhari’s state of health while the second was over the naira to US$ exchange rate. The Nigerian delegation gave no clear answers to both issues.
President Buhari’s state of health has become the subject of speculation — both locally and internationally — despite the reassurances from presidential spokesmen insisting that the president is ‘hale and healthy.’
These reassurances have raised further questions from Nigerians who ask why a ‘hale and healthy’ 74-year-old man prefers London’s cold weather to the warmth of Abuja?
A letter sent to the Senate on 5 February seeking an indefinite extension of Buhari’s leave has, however, shed light on his state of health.
In the letter, the president explained that during his routine examination by his UK doctors, certain test results indicated the need for a course of medications in addition to further appointments scheduled for ‘next week.’
‘I am therefore notifying the distinguished Senate that I am extending my leave until the doctors are satisfied that certain factors are ruled out.
‘In the circumstances, the vice president will continue to act on my behalf’, Buhari explained.
The tests should have been completed last week and there was speculation that the president was returning on the evening of 11 February.
But that was not to be the case. Instead, it was his wife, First Lady Aisha Buhari, who returned via a visit to Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to the local media on her return, she thanked Nigerians for their ‘goodwill’ towards her husband but made no further comment on when he would return.
It is also unclear why she decided to leave her husband, and whether her return is an indication that Buhari will come back soon.
Even though no official details of President Buhari’s medical condition have been released, sources have told Nigeria Politics & Security that it may be related to the ear infection for which he was treated in London in June 2016.
Before that medical trip he had only partial hearing in the left ear which affected his balance.
Consequently, his aides kept him out of the public domain which led to the cancellation of scheduled appointments to Lagos and the Niger Delta, where he had planned to launch an ambitious project to clean up the pollutants.
This had led to further speculation that Buhari may be suffering from Ménière’s disease – an ailment of the ear caused by excess fluid in the inner ear.
This speculation remains unconfirmed. Experts claim that Ménière’s disease can be healed through lifestyle changes.
The suspicion is that the president is staying in London to implement such lifestyle changes in a medically controlled environment.
If this is the case, he will return and resume work once he has implemented these changes.
The fact that Buhari did not return on 11 February — after the completion of his tests — indicates that whatever the illness, he requires more intensive treatment.
Earlier media speculation suggested that the president could be in UK for a further four months (see Nigeria Politics & Security - 06.02.17).
IS OSINBAJO REALLY IN CHARGE OF GOVERNANCE?
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been statutorily empowered by Buhari to act as president during his absence.
But sources in Aso Rock — the presidential palace and political stronghold — have told Nigeria Politics & Security that Osinbajo is not in complete control of the country.
Buhari’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ — led by Chief of Staff Abba Kyari and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal — are effectively in charge of governance and decision making, while claiming to be acting on the instructions of the president.
Notably, Kyari has been convening top level meetings in the name of the Presidency.
Kyari held a meeting with the country’s heads of anti-corruption and security on 10 February, prior to Osinbajo having a meeting with the same group the same day.
Earlier, on 26 January, Kyari also met petroleum marketers, senior government ministers, and the governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after which he ordered that the N150 billion (US$476.6 million) debt owed to the latter be paid.
No indication of Osinbajo’s approval for these meetings appears to have been given.