Civil society organisations and some lawyers have issued an ultimatum asking the Presidency to publicly disclose the true state of health of President Muhammadu Buhari on or before May 29, to put a rest to speculations that the government has been hijacked by a cabal.
These groups and individuals have threatened to hold protests throughout the country against the alleged cabal in the presidency should the uncertainty over the President’s health status continue beyond his administration’s second anniversary in office, which is May 29.
They expressed disappointment with the way information surrounding the President’s health status is being managed by his handlers and warned against a repeat of Nigerians’ experience during the government of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Some of them also called on the President to resign from office if he is unfit to fully commit himself to the task of tackling the various problems of the country.
Yar’Adua’s time as President, in its twilight, was marred by allegations that a cabal had hijacked the Presidency following an ailment.
Speaking on the secrecy surrounding the health of President Buhari, the President, Campaign for Democracy, Mr. Bako Usman, threatened that the group would protest if the Presidency failed to declare Buhari’s health status within two weeks or at most by May 29.
He said it was high time “some cabal members” stopped holding Nigerians hostage by hiding the health condition of the President.
He said, “A cabal cannot be holding over 170 million Nigerians hostage because they are enjoying some sort of benefits to the detriment of us all.
“We are going to be a part of the struggle. We are protesting against the hiding of the President’s health status. History will not judge us right if we keep silent over the issue.
“We voted him into power, but his performance has been below expectations. Hiding his health status has not been helpful. There is nowhere in the constitution where the President’s health status should be treated as classified information. The secrecy is uncalled for.”
Usman said the group is giving the Presidency a two-week ultimatum for it to declare Buhari’s health status.
He said, “We have been in this struggle for long and we are not going to retire. So, if Buhari fails to address the citizens or fail to appear at the next Federal Executive Council meeting and the one following it, we will start our protests.”
Likewise, the spokesperson for Free Nigeria Coalition, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said his group was giving “May 29 ultimatum to the presidency for full disclosure of Buhari’s health status”.
He said, “It is the irreducible minimum we’re demanding from the Presidency and President Buhari himself. We can’t continue in this occult-like political wilderness that a few persons – influence peddlers and money monger cabals- are trying to foist on us.
“We must resist this wickedness in totality because Nigeria is bigger than any individual. Before our eyes another dark episode is unfolding similar to what happened in 2010/2011. It will be a disservice to this nation and Mr. President himself if we don’t collectively act to rescue him from a set of wicked cabals.”
He said in the days to come, the group would organise a rally and even reach out to Nigerians to protest against the handling of Buhari’s health.
“If it requires us to occupy Abuja, we are ready to partner like-minded Nigerians to achieve this.
“It has reached that level now for us to hit the streets and demand to know the health status of Mr. President. It is a price we must pay and we must be ready to salvage our nation,” he said.
Also, Publicity Secretary, Youth Arise for Nigeria, Liborous Oshoma, said it would be in order for the “President and the cabal to do the right thing on or before the administration’s second anniversary in office”.
Oshoma described the call as necessary since constitutionally, the only people who can declare the President incapacitated are the ministers appointed by him.
He said, “Can Nigerians, in all honesty, declare the person that appointed them incapacitated because it will mean they may also be packing their bags? We employed him. He came to us to seek employment and he campaigned. Then we employed him with our votes collectively. So he is answerable to us as his employers. So if he is resting, we need to know why he is resting.
“May 29 2017 would be an opportunity to draw a scorecard to say ‘this is where we are and we would have been here if not for the health of Mr. President and his state of health is this or that. This is his state of health; he can still function well and end his tenure’.
“Nigerians want to know what is wrong with him and if he can pull through. I believe Nigerians should join hands, not with sentiments, and say Mr. President, in the spirit of transparency, come out and say this is what is wrong with you. We can say with that kind of ailment, let us not mount pressure on him. We can say, Mr. President, take six months off to rest and let your vice act in your stead.”
A lawyer and human rights activist, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, said a recent statement by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the President was resting until he was fit to resume work, should be seen as a confession that Nigeria’s leader was unfit.
He said, “We do not accept that a cabal or some unelected persons should take over the role of the President.
“I believe Nigerians should rise up, close down all sectors of our economy and let us all stay at home until the President agrees to resign and let the wheel of progress of our nation continue to move forward rather than continue in this situation when people are afraid to invest because there is no clear government policy.”
Adegboruwa, who also gave May 29 ultimatum to the alleged cabal, described the situation as “unacceptable.”
“By May 29, all of these issues should be sorted out,” he said.
Earlier on a social messaging service, WhatsApp, the lawyer had called for mass action to force out the alleged cabal in the Presidency, asking “the good people of Nigeria across the land to rise up to challenge the cabal that is holding Nigeria to ransom, in the face of the apparent incapacity of the President to direct the affairs of Nigeria, on account of his ill health.”
In the same vein, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the President became public property the moment he was elected into office in 2015.
He said, “I support fully a May 29 ultimatum. He is President of Nigeria and for all Nigerians. This hush-hush situation of his true state of health does the country no good and blows our economy no respite. It creates unnecessary tension, anxiety, rumours, worries and conspiracy theories.
“I will join the protest, anywhere, anytime, any day. The President is constitutionally a servant of the people. The cabal, cannot, for their selfish reasons, continue to hold him down, incognito, incommunicado, rather than allowing him go for the much needed medical treatment.”
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, popularly called Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi, said, “We are in total support of May 29 ultimatum because it is obvious that some people are bent on holding the country to ransom and they are bent on achieving it because of money.
“They steal and pillage and quest for power, they have refused to let go. I think it is a ripe time to force them to free the country that has been in their wicked bondage.”
Meanwhile, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr. Chinonso Obasi, warned that if a cabal continues to keep secrets as regards the President’s health, the group would have no option but to protest.
Obasi said since Buhari is a “father” to all Nigerians, there was no need for anyone to refuse to disclose his health status.
He said, “We will join any progressive movement and protest to ensure the declaration of the President’s health. It should be disclosed. He is a father to all Nigerians, not to a cabal and a child has the right to know the health condition of his father.
“Whatever affects him affects everybody and since he’s a father of all, every Nigerian has the right to know the true nature of things. No cabal should be behaving as if they love the President more than everyone else. Courtesy demands that the health status of our President should be disclosed.”
The Ondo State Trade Union Congress described those keeping the health condition of the President secret as not doing the country any good.
The state chairman of the TUC, Mr. Soladoye Ekundayo, said Nigerians have the right to know the state of health of their President and that “if there is no other option to settle the matter, then Nigerians can go to the streets to express their views.”
The National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said he failed to understand why Buhari’s health status was being shrouded in mystery by his ministers and handlers since falling ill is never anyone’s fault.
Odumakin warned that should information on the President’s state of health continue to be mismanaged, it could lead to a scenario worse than the experience of Nigerians during Yar’Adua’s government.
He said, “I will support protests against the cabal and not against Buhari because when he returned from his medical vacation in London, he was honest with Nigerians and he exposed all the lies of his handlers who had been saying that he was hale and hearty.”
The President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, who described the situation as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” even as Nigerians continue to pray for Buhari’s full recovery, said Section 144 of the Nigerian Constitution clearly stipulates the way out of the current issue.
He said, “Our disposition to take a position, canvass that position, and protest is never in dispute. We have a long history of that, so our disposition and capacity to protest is never in dispute and has never been in doubt. And our protest is not only on the street, we also go to court.”
The Trade Union Congress Chairman, Akwa Ibom State chapter, Mr. Akamba Awah, also said the group would join any protest against the secrecy surrounding Buhari’s health.