Buhari: A president with Plan B - Punch Newspapers

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8/1/2021 4:20:00 AM

Buhari: A president with Plan B - Punch Newspapers

The most widely read newspaper in Nigeria

1 August 2021TOBI AWORINDE examines the reliance of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on foreign healthcare and education for himself and his family, while critical institutions at home continue to suffer under his leadershipWith an air of braggadocio, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, appeared on national television on Wednesday in defence of his principal, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), jetting off to the United Kingdom for his eighth foreign medical trip on the record in six years of his presidency.

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Addressing the outrage that arose from Buhari’s refusal to be treated in Nigeria, Adesina toldChannels Television, “President Buhari has been with the same doctors and medical team for upward of 40 years. It is advisable that he continues with that who knows his medical history and that is why he comes to London to see them. He has used the same medical team for over 40 years. Once you can afford it, then stay with the team that has your history.”

To the vast majority of Nigerians, such is the exclusive preserve of the high and mighty. After all, the means to hop on a plane on a whim for the sake of getting one’s preferred medical care is not a privilege many Nigerians enjoy.This is evident in the country’s 40.1 per cent poverty rate, according to 2020 figures provided by the National Bureau of Statistics. headtopics.com

Commenting on Buhari’s foreign medical travels, a former presidential candidate of KOWA Party, Prof Remi Sonaiya, toldSunday PUNCHthat the situation smacked of mismanagement of available resources.Asked if the President’s frequent medical trips had implications, she said, “Of course, there are implications! For one, it doesn’t speak well of a nation to have its leader go elsewhere for his personal treatment, if we just limit it to medical treatment now.

“It happens with African leaders, yet Nigeria has the resources that could help us have good hospitals here in the country. It’s a question of ‘what kind of leadership do we have?’ Is leadership supposed to confer on the leader advantages which the people being led cannot ever dream of enjoying? That is the basic question.

“That is not good leadership. You should not put yourself at such an advantage as leaders, because many of our leaders go abroad for treatment, especially when it is state money that is being used to fund these trips. It is my personal belief that it is not right.”

Notwithstanding the public outcry, Buhari’s medical trips have remained anything but a rarity. Six years and two months into his regime, the President has spent a total of 201 days on foreign medical trips to date, according to information made public by the Presidency. headtopics.com

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Buhari left for the UK on June 6, 2016 for his first medical vacation, following reports that he had an ear infection. He returned on June 19.On January 19, 2017, the President again travelled to the UK on medical leave and returned on March 10 after spending 51 days.

Barely 40 days after, Buhari travelled again to the UK for medical attention on May 8, 2017 and remained there till August 19, 2017, spending 104 consecutive days, a record which surpassed that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.After attending the 72nd UN General Assembly, on September 21, 2017, he travelled from the United States of America to the UK for medical purposes and returned to Abuja on September 25, 2017.

On May 8, 2018, four days after arriving in Nigeria, Buhari revisited the UK for medical reasons and he returned on May 11.The President again travelled to London on a working leave on August 3, 2018 and returned on the 18th, spending a total of 16 days. His handlers said during interviews that “he may just see his doctors briefly during the visit.”

On April 25, 2019, Buhari arrived in the UK on a 10-day “private visit,” returning on May 5, though information was not provided on the purpose of the trip.Again, on November 2, 2019, he proceeded on a 15-day “private visit” to London, following bilateral talks in Saudi Arabia. He returned to the country on November 17. headtopics.com

In 2020, the President did not leave the country for a single medical trip, presumably due to travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.But on March 30, 2021, he resumed his medical visits with a two-week trip to London.On June 24, the President postponed another planned medical trip to the UK. He, however, departed the country for London last Monday to attend an education summit and have a check-up. He is expected to return in the second week of August.

Similarly, Buhari’s family has not shied away from enjoying medical care overseas, even though the former military head of state’s 2015 presidential campaign portrayed him as the epitome of frugality.Early August 2020, the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, travelled out of the country due to a “severe neck pain.” She returned from Dubai, United Arab Emirates aboard a presidential jet on August 22, 2020.

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The President’s wife, while drumming support for Nigeria’s health care sector, called on private health personnel to take advantage of the N100bn fund being disbursed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to help revive the health sector and reduce medical tourism.

Interestingly, in October 2017, Mrs Buhari tackled then Chief Medical Director of the State House Medical Centre, Dr Husain Munir, over the alleged poor state of the health facility of the clinic established to take care of the President, Vice President, their families and members of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

She admitted that the country had been unstable in the past six months largely due to the President’s ill-health for several months, expressing concern over the average Nigerian if Buhari could spend several months outside Nigeria for health reasons.The First Lady, three years before her Dubai medical trip, recalled that she had recently fallen ill and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic.

On December 26, 2017, Buhari’s son reportedly sustained a head injury and a broken limb in a motorbike accident in Abuja.He had a preliminary surgery in an Abuja hospital before he was flown abroad for further medical attention. On March 1, 2018, he returned via Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, with then Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, in tow.

The National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in an interview withSunday PUNCH, decried that the unavailability of health facilities meant that the average Nigerian did not have access to the best health care, like Buhari.He noted that the President was not the only one to blame, adding that all elected officials, including members of the state houses of assembly, the National Assembly and governors, had a part to play in the improvement of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.

Okhuaihesuyi said, “We gave an ultimatum in May concerning our strike notice. We are currently in Umuahia (Abia State) to reappraise and reassess the MoU signed with the government. As it stands, I hope it’s not going to be a coincidence if NARD will be on strike.

“On infrastructure, you and I know that global best practices dictate that our healthcare systems must have a better budget. We should have a standard hospital in all the six (geopolitical) zones in the country. We should have the basic things that a hospital needs to function properly.

“But there is no hospital in Nigeria presently that I can say adopts global best practices. The ones that are close to adopting best practices are those owned by private individuals, not the government. If the government pays more attention to the health system in Nigeria, it would go a long way in ensuring that one can stay in one’s country and get the best health care any person deserves as a human being.”

A viral video, in May, depicted the Senior Pastor of the House on the Rock Church, Paul Adefarasin, advising members of his church to plan their exit from Nigeria, in the light of the insecurity in the country.“Get yourself a Plan B. I know you have faith, I have faith too but I have a Plan B. With technology, I can speak to you from anywhere in the world.

“Whether that’s anokada(commercial motorcycle) to Cameroon or a flying boat to Seme Border, a hole in the ground, or a bunker as we call it, just get yourself a Plan B because these people are crazy. They are nutters, the whole bunch of them. And watch the signs because it can happen, just like this,” he said with a snap of his fingers.

But Sonaiya pointed out that most Nigerians could not afford a back-up plan to escape the harsh realities of the country.She said, “What is the percentage that can have a Plan B? How many Nigerians can have a Plan B? He (Adefarasin) obviously was talking to a group of well-to-do people. The majority of our people are not rich enough to have a Plan B. This is it for them! So, it is only those who are rich that can afford to have a Plan B. That doesn’t apply to all Nigerians at all.”

But the President’s access to better infrastructure is not limited to healthcare. It extends to education for his children.According to a book titled ‘Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria’ written by an American professor, John Paden, all of Buhari’s children have had extensive education.

Fatima, born March 7, 1975, attended Business Academy, Stratford, UK for a postgraduate degree. Nana-Hadiza, born June 23, 1981, went to Cobham Hall, Kent, UK and University of Buckingham. Safinatu, born October 13, 1983, was also a student of Cobham Hall; University of Plymouth, UK; and Arden University, UK.

Halima, born October 8, 1990, attended British School of Lome; Bellerby’s College, Brighton, UK; and University of Leicester, UK. Yusuf went to British School of Lome; Bellerby’s College; and University of Surrey, UK. Zahra, born December 18, 1994, went to British School of Lome; Bellerby’s College; and University of Surrey.

In December 2019, one of the President’s daughters, Aisha Jr, graduated from university with a first class.Though the First Lady did not disclose the name of the school or the course in which her daughter earned the first class, photos shared by her Twitter account indicated that it was a foreign institution.

A former Minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran, told our correspondent that the development was not encouraging to people who believed that Nigerians should patronise what the country had to offer.Adeniran added that Nigeria should be attracting foreign students for studies, rather than just have its citizens seeking knowledge in other countries.

“It used to be so in the past, which was when we had highly rated institutions. That was the time when people would leave the university and go straight to postgraduate or doctoral studies without having to go through a midway thing.“I believe that if we could do more for the education sector, it would be attractive enough that people will make it a first choice before thinking of going abroad.

“There are people in public office whose children are attending these facilities that we have in the country and I believe that there is a need to encourage our institutions by keeping them (students) and by making sure that they retain the very best among the brains out of our system,” he said.

Adeiniran decried that many Nigerian students had to be subjected to further preparations once they left the institutions at home before they could begin studies overseas. According to him, that is not encouraging enough.“I believe there is a need to encourage our institutions, lecturers, professors and students, so that we know that Nigeria can really provide what they require to actualise their potential in the academic world,” the former minister noted.

Though it is difficult for the majority of Nigerians to have a Plan B as advised by Adefarasin, the President, who rode to power on the promise of ‘change,’ has done little to fulfil his promise in the area of health care.Buhari has always had a Plan B, at least when it comes to medical care, but he pretends otherwise, analysts opined.

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