“He’s just come here to rest. He’s just here to have a rest, at least a few days rest before he goes back to business.” Those were the words of Hajia Aishat, the wife of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, in which she denied insinuations that her husband is in the United Kingdom to attend to a grave illness.
There was widespread controversy at the weekend that the UK trip of Gen. Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was on health grounds although his campaign organization said it was for political business.
The health of 72-year-old Gen. Buhari has been an issue in the country’s presidential campaign, with a group expressing fears that he may be unable to perform optimally if he emerges president. Buhari has, however, consistently pooh-poohed the claim that he is physically unfit.
A photograph of Buhari, said to have been taken with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as well as Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Bukola Saraki, purportedly to confirm the claim that he was in the UK for political business, stirred further controversy.
While the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, argued that the photograph was a trick and a lie, others doubted its authenticity on the ground that Amosun was on a campaign train in Sagamu, Ogun State, on the day he was said to have taken the picture with the team. Blair was also said to have been somewhere else in Europe, not the UK, that day.
In an interview with the Daily Times, the spokesman of the Buhari campaign organization, Alhaji Garba Shehu, asked the doubters to also fault the fact that the presidential candidate was received by a prominent Ogun State monarch, and granted a television interview.
However, Fayose insisted at the weekend that information about the APC presidential candidate is being hidden from Nigerians. The Ekiti Governor specifically challenged Buhari to swear by the Holy Quran that he (Buhari) did not visit a UK hospital on arrival in London last week.
Buhari’s wife debunked rumours that Buhari is gravely sick and undergoing medical treatment in London. Mrs Buhari allayed the fears of Nigerians and APC supporters after emerging from a two-hour interactive drinks reception she and the wife of her husband’s running-mate, Mrs Osinbajo, held for Nigerians in the diaspora on Saturday night at the Westminster Plaza Hotel, in Waterloo.
“He’s home, well and sound,” Hajia Buhari said, as she fielded media questions after emerging from the oversubscribed interactive session. When asked if her husband was in hospital, she smiled warmly and turning to the reporter, said, “I’m hearing it for the first time.” Gen. Buhari, meanwhile, was said to have attended Friday prayers at a Mosque near Baker Street.
“He attended prayers on Friday, he was seen around the mosque near Baker street,” the source revealed, before Hajia Buhari’s disclosure . When pressed further on if her husband was in London for a medical check-up, Hajia Buhari smiled and said: “No, he’s just come here to rest. He’s just here to have a rest. At least a few days rest before he goes back to business.”
Buhari is expected to deliver a speech at the Chatham House on Thursday this week. “He’s speaking at Chatham House on Thursday, they will soon put it up on their website,” a member of the UK chapter of the APC disclosed to the Daily Times during Saturday’s event.
The source also revealed that the Party’s Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, is due in London on Monday (today), and that Buhari’s running-mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will be guest speaker at another event holding at the House of Commons next week Thursday, March 5. On her part, the wife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, during Saturday’s event, warned Nigerians against setting their expectations too high if the APC wins the March 28 presidential elections.
Accusing the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of “leaving a legacy of unemployment,” she said to the attendees: “General Buhari is not a magician, “ adding: “He will not find you a job if you do not go out there and help yourself.”
Mrs Amosun told “armchair critics” that to build Nigeria goes beyond sitting at a remote location and criticising on the social media. “We need to improve our literacy levels in order to tackle mortality rates and boost education, among others,” she said, adding: “It is beyond writing on social media,” to do this.
But the event was marred by the number of angry Nigerians who had thronged the venue to hear what the duo of Mrs Buhari and Mrs Osibajo had to say. Reacting to claims by some people that Buhari’s photograph with Blair, Saraki and Amosun was fake, Alhaji Garba asked: “Are they saying everyone is a liar, including Awujale who received GMB at home in London and the TV station that aired his studio interview?”
But the Ekiti State Governor, who issued a statement last week saying that Buhari was admitted at a hospital located at Cavendish Street, Cavendish Square, W2 London West End, London, challenged the APC presidential candidate to swear by the Holy Quran if he (Buhari) did not visit a UK hospital last week. Fayose said that the hope of Buhari’s party to seize power in Nigeria, using Buhari will be dashed at the end. He said: “Buhari will never be Nigeria’s president again.”
Speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said: “I wish they can see spiritually what I am talking about that Buhari, despite the hullabaloo, will never be president. I predicted my return as Ekiti State Governor and I am saying it again that Buhari will never rule Nigeria again.
“After President Goodluck Jonathan, there will be a young element in his late 50s from the North that will be Nigeria’s president. I want to liken this revelation to the story of Elijah and Elisha. I am the Elijah while my followers are Elisha.”
While maintaining that he was not wishing Buhari dead, Fayose said: “I owe it a duty to Nigeria and its people to expose the antics of the APC cabal whose only interest is to seize power to further their selfish interests.
“Without doubt, it is obvious that these cabal in the APC are trying so hard to deceive Nigerians on Buhari’s health status. That’s the reason they have been using photoshopped pictures to defend their lies on Buhari’s UK trip.
“First, they used a March 5, 2013 picture, claiming that Buhari was taking a walk in London on Thursday. Later they came up with another poorly cropped picture of Buhari with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
“The same people who lied in September 2012 that they received a gold card invitation to attend the Democratic National Convention in the United States of America are behind the robing of Buhari in the garment of lies and I challenge Buhari to swear by the Holy Quran that he did not visit hospital in the United Kingdom last week.
“However, I want to disappoint this selfish cabal. Buhari is only raising their hope and that hope will be dashed.”