The continued absence of Nigeria’s No. 1 citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari, is causing apprehension in the country. It has also given room for speculations about the condition of his heath.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects the Federal Government’s grandstanding on the issue. We equally denounce the diabolical speculations and death wishes flying around the length and breadth of the country. It is all much ado about nothing. It is an act of bad faith.‎

We refuse to accept the Federal Government’s (FG) claim that the president is hale and hearty. That sounds more like tales by moonlight. Neither shall we give credit to advocatus diaboli who wish him dead or enemies of peace who claim that Buhari had died.‎

As for those who assume that the president was poisoned, they are simply playing a game of chance. We will not jump to conclusions until we see palpable proof. To what end is the whole furore anyway? What is the big deal if a president is sick? Haven’t presidents of other countries been sick before? Are presidents not human beings? We can cite examples from the world’s biggest democracy.

US presidents have been sick while in office.Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) suffered a severe stroke that left him incapacitated throughout his presidency. Yet He remained in office till the end of his term in 1921.Diagnosed with polio in 1921 at the age of 39, Franklin D Roosevelt (1933-1945) still served for twelve good years though he could not stand or walk without support.  Using a wheelchair in private, he never disclosed the full extent of his health condition.

Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) suffered heart attack in 1955 as a result of which he was hospitalized for several weeks. He also did a surgery some months later to treat Crohn’s disease and in late 1957 suffered another stroke that made him temporarily unable to speak. Yet he went ahead to win a second term after that.

John F Kennedy (1961 – 1963) had a chronic bone disease and was hospitalized nine times in his short two and a half year presidency but this was never revealed to the American public. George Bush (1989 – 1993) vomited and then fainted in front of cameras in 1992 while on a visit in Japan and heaven did not fall in America.‎

Now if about five of American presidents have been sick in office, what is wrong if Nigeria’s current president is also sick? Is he made of iron? We are also tempted to ask, if Buhari dies, will it be the first time that a president will die? Yaradua died here in Nigeria. Murtala Muhammad died. Tafawa Balewa died.‎

Eight American presidents have died in office. Fourdied of natural causes: William Henry Harrison (1841), Zachary Taylor (1850), Warren Harding (1923) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945). Four others were assassinated: Abraham Lincoln (1865), James A. Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901) and John F. Kennedy (1963).‎

The truth is that if Buhari dies today, his name will be written in letters of gold. It is the death of a hero primus inter pareil and the death of a reformer nulli secundus. Buhari is a dogged corruption fighter who came to rescue Nigerians from yam thieves. If he dies today he will leave an indellible record, an achievement difficult to match by his successor and a standard that is bound to create a yawning lacuna.‎

As for the fear that his death may lead to ethnic or religious war and over which some religious leaders are allegedly inciting their followership, I think it is due to wrong perception. Some people ask curious questions. They want to know why is it that only Muslim presidents die while in office: Tafawa Balewa (15thJanuary,1966), Muritala Muhammad (13th February, 1976) , General Sani Abacha (9th June, 1998) and Umaru Yaradua (5thMay, 2010).‎

But there is a historical inexactitude in this thinking because it has left out one Christian leader, General Aguiyi Ironsi, who died while in office on 29th July, 1966. So it is not only Muslim leaders who have died while in office. ‎

We also do not want to join issues with authors of conspiracy theories, particularly those who assume that Buhari had been poisoned. It is sheer guess work and I think we should leave that to the security agencies and medical experts handling Buhari’s medical tests. Those who did death-wish advertorials during the 2015 electioneering campaigns may also have questions to answer concerning the conspiracy theory. They may want to explain to Nigerians how much walk they gave their talk.‎

What should Nigerians do in the present circumstance? Nigerians need to relax on this whole issue. We also need to widen our horizon of knowledge. We need to know that what is happening to Buhari now has happened to many leaders in other countries before and it did not lead to any crisis. Buhari handed over properly and constitutionally before leaving the country and the Acting president is doing well. So there is no cause for alarm. Unless there is malice, the National Assembly has no choice but to key into the arrangement. ‎

Nigerians also need to show sympathy and understanding as their president battles with a poor health condition. They should not allow people whose hearts are filled with hate to brainwash and indoctrinate them.‎

For the avoidance of doubts, we declare that MURIC stands with Buhari not because he is a Muslim. Abacha was a Muslim yet we rose in rebellion against him for the actualization of June 12. Babangida is a Muslim but we mobilized activists against him to debilitate military dictatorship. Obasanjo is a Christian yet we supported his war against corruption. The records are there for all to see.‎

By extension, we are today supporting the Osinbajo presidency even though he is not a Muslim as long as he keeps up the pressure on looters and remains incorruptible like his boss. The issue should be good governance, not religion, not ethnicity.‎

MURIC stands with Buhari because he is rescuing poor Nigerians from the claws of a tiny cabal which has unjustly enriched itself from the sweat of the poor masses. This is the same tiny cabal which sentenced Nigerians to an epileptic power supply, sudden and painful deaths due to bad roads and poor public heath system, all occasioned by reckless corruption.

The same cabal subjected millions of Nigerians to a life of ignorance and illiteracy due to corruption-driven neglect of the education sector. Millions of Nigerians are starving today because the same cabal has arrogated our common wealth to itself. So why should any sensible Nigerian join this heartless class of people when the only man who had the liver to challenge them has a health problem?‎

To round up, we regard those who are comparing Osinbajo’s performance to that of Buhari as sheer idle gossipers and professional rumour mongers. Buhari knew the stuff Osinbajo was made of and that was why he picked him as his running mate in the first place. The presidency is a joint ticket and we wonder why anybody should be interested in disparaging and unreasonable comparisons. In any case, could there have been an Osinbajo without a Buhari?

Professor Ishaq Akintola,


Muslim Rights Campaign

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