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President Buhari’s Health Challenge ― By Olusegun Adeniyi


I remember that Segun, as SA media to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, passed through a path which I also passed through recently and I learnt a lot from those who worked with him, and who are still working with me in the same office. 

When President Yar’Adua had that medical challenge, I was the editor of Daily Sun newspaper at the time. I remember that nobody could reach Segun. He just went underground. His secretary then, who is my secretary now, pointed my attention to the sofa in my office. 

She said Segun would put off his phones and sleep on that sofa. So I learnt a lesson from that. I met the publisher of THISDAY newspaper a few days after President Buhari went on vacation which eventually became a medical vacation. 

He told me that ‘it will be a mistake to go underground, it will be a mistake to be unreachable, it will be a mistake to be incommunicado’. I said ‘but that was what Segun did’. He replied, ‘No, don’t do it’.


When Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, explained why he has not followed my footsteps at the public presentation of my book, ‘Against The Run of Play’, last Friday in Lagos, I had a feeling that he might be speaking too soon. 

Going by feelers from Aso Rock, the real drama of the health challenge of President Buhari may have just started. 

And I feel very sorry for Mr Adesina because there is no manual for managing the media for a sick president; especially under the political climate in which we operate with all the mix of religion and ethnicity.

Tomorrow marks exactly seven years that President Yar’Adua died and, as it has been a tradition since May 2011, I usually coordinate a memorial advert for those of us who were his principal officers in remembrance of him. It is also a period when we reflect on what might have been.

Against the background that President Buhari, for the third week in a row, skipped the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, the rumour mill is already on overdrive while parallels are already being drawn to the Yar’Adua saga.

On Monday, Chief Bisi Akande, former Osun State Governor and founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), issued a loaded statement. 

“The health of the leader is intricately intertwined with the health of the nation. It is more so in a delicately fragile Union of Nations called Nigeria” wrote Akande who claimed to have wept when he couldn’t see President Buhari at the wedding of his grandson in Kaduna last Saturday.

Although Chief Akande attributed the health challenge to “corruption fighting back”, whatever that may mean, the point is that President Buhari’s capacity to govern has been severely diminished and the agitation for him to either take another medical vacation or resign would be more strident in the coming days and weeks, especially if he does not resume work. 

That then explains why the idea of a second term that some people within the administration are now canvassing, is not only silly, it is very provocative. But it is also understandable.

In a piece I did when President Buhari went on his elastic vacation in February, I borrowed from the embedded lessons in the book, “When Illness Strikes The Leaders: Dilemma of The Captive King” to examine the implications of what is happening in Nigeria right now. 

According to Jerrold Post and Robert Robins, “the ailing or aging leader and his close advisers can become locked in a fatal embrace, each dependent upon the other for survival: a captive king and his captive court.

“In the absence of clear rules for determining when a leader is disabled and should be replaced and how a successor will be chosen, illness in high office can be highly destabilizing”.

I consider it very sad that Nigeria would be going through another traumatic season like this on account of the health of the president. But we have to take Mrs Aisha Buhari’s word that her husband is not in any immediate danger. 

While we will come back to this issue another day, it is comforting that the handlers of President Buhari have managed the Aso Rock end of the situation very well thus far, given what I hear these days. I hope it stays that way.


My web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com is loaded today. From the transcript of what President Buhari’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina said at my book presentation to that of his immediate predecessor, Dr Reuben Abati, there are revealing insights for readers. 

I thank both of them for attending the book presentation. On the web portal, there is also the speech by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who, as chair of the occasion, arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled time of 10am to meet Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Mr Remi Makanjuola and several other members of their generation who were more disciplined and had to be kept waiting for almost an hour before we started the event. 

On the website also is the book review by Dr Okey Ikechukwu. It also contains the addresses of the bookshops/places where the books can be purchased.

Meanwhile, I have been overwhelmed by the kind words and messages of solidarity, following the hacking and free distribution of my book, ‘Against The Run of Play’. 

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