In this report, Dapo Olufade takes a look at what happened while the President was on medical leave.
RUMOUR. Controversy. Threats. Countermands. Emotion. Fury. Theatrics.
None was in short supply in the country in the 103 days President Muhammadu Buhari spent in London, attending to his health.
Dutifully dispensing them at measured intervals were the politicians, political jobbers and mischief makers.
Once a controversy appeared to have served its course and began to wear out, another would suddenly pop-up, sending the populace into a fresh frenzy.
First was the storm over his Eid el Fitri message on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on June 25.
How dare he address Nigerians in Hausa, many charged, after demanding that he should say something, just anything, to assure the nation that what they were hearing about him was not true.
The Sallah message broadcast was preceded by a statement issued by his media team.
The presidency only released the audio in an apparent response to distrustful Nigerians who had not heard from Buhari for nearly two months.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State categorically declared the audio message a fraud.
Buhari, according to him, could not have spoken the words contained in the tape because he had it “on good authority” that the President had been “on life support since June 6.”
He told reporters at a so called ‘world press conference’ in Ado Ekiti that he had in his possession 11 photographs of the President on life support in a London hospital, and would release them to the public ‘soon’.
He said: “The audio message does not represent the truth as our President does not only have voice impairment; he has been on life support since June 6, 2017 at a West-End, London Hospital.
“Of a fact, our First Lady, Mrs. Aisah Buhari was not allowed to see her husband during her last visit to the United Kingdom if only she will be courageous enough to admit.
“Only three Nigerians who are of the President’s cabal are allowed access to the President. I will keep their identities for now.”
As if taking a cue from Fayose, an online publication ran its own account of Buhari’s “bad condition.”
He was not allowed to see “his wife (Aisha) during her recent visit to the United Kingdom,” it said quoting presidency sources.
It also said Buhari had “not spoken to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo for several weeks following his departure from Abuja for a second round of medical treatment.
“The sources gave the example of Wednesday last week when members of Buhari’s cabal called the Acting President and asked him to await a call from the ailing President, pointing out that no such call was received except one that was just a few seconds of hellos before the person hung up the phone.”
In a follow up story on Osinbajo’s visit to Buhari in London in early July, the online publication reported that the meeting “lasted for five minutes only according to Presidency officials in the know of what transpired between the two leaders at the Abuja House in London.”
It also said Buhari “has a major difficulty speaking audibly as his treatment continues.”
A few days later, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and Governors Umaru Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), and Yahaya Bello (Kogi), visited Buhari in London in a bid to put a lie to speculations about the President’s health.
Former Aviation minister and PDP member, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode refused to be persuaded by the photographs of the meeting that went into circulation.
Like Fayose before him, he said they were manipulated.
His ‘sources’, he claimed had told him that the photographs were old ones, taken when Buhari was breaking the fast with the people seen in the photographs.
He had another evidence of the ‘deception’: drinks on the dining table were Nigerian products.
He said: “I have been reliably informed that the picture was taken in Abuja some time back and not yesterday in London.
“Quite apart from that, even though the picture was meant to have been taken in London curiously all the drinks on the table are Nigerian products and Nigerian-made.
“Did the Governors take all those drinks along with them to London when they went to see the President?
“What was the purpose and point of this fake photo-shoot and this strange breakfast meeting? What was the purpose and objective of this monumental fraud and deceit?
“Whatever the answers may be to these questions the curtain must be brought down on what can only be described as a puerile and nauseating conspiracy.
“For those who still believe that the meeting actually took place there are some nagging questions that need to be answered.
“For example why were the Nigerian and foreign media not allowed to cover the proceedings and participate in this celebrated photo-shoot and merry London feast?
“Why did the Villa press corps not take one of their own camera men to London and make a short video of the event?
“Why was the whole event shrouded in so much secrecy? Why is it that only one picture was taken? Why were more pictures not taken? Why was Buhari not put on audio tape and recorded talking to his guests?”
The answer soon came when a delegation of APC and PDP governors left for London to visit Buhari.
Others, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, members of Buhari’s Media team, Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the General Overseer Worldwide of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Adejare Adeboye took turns to bid Buhari get well soon.
In early July, the Senate sparked a controversy of its own when some members moved to make Senate President Bukola Saraki Acting President of the country.
The Red Chamber had, on resumption from a three week recess, received a letter from Osinbajo seeking the confirmation of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, as Director General of National Lottery Regulatory Commission.
Incidentally, Osinbajo was briefly out of the country that day, prompting Senator Eyinanya Abaribe (Abia South), to say the country had no President or Acting President at that moment.
Saraki appeared to have read the mood of the majority of senators and of the nation and tactically ruled him out of order before the situation could degenerate
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and some Northern youths would not allow the politicians monopolize the limelight.
Kanu, in utter violation of his bail conditions, addressed rally after rally in the South East, insisting that he and the Igbo must get out of Nigeria.
He shut down major towns in the South East on May 30 to mark Biafra day and vowed to stop the November 18 governorship election in Anambra, unless there is a referendum on the future of ‘Biafra’.
In early June, 16 northern youth groups emerging from a joint meeting in Kaduna gave Igbo residing in North up to October 1, 2017 to vacate the region.
In no time, fresh agitation for Nigeria’s restructuring swept through the country.
Even, the North which many Nigerians see as being afraid of restructuring told everyone who cared to listen that it is ready for it.
The Governors of the Northern states and the traditional rulers met in Kaduna and resolved to set up a committee to harmonize the views of the people for action at the appropriate time.
But the hatred sparked by the quit notice has been a little difficult to suppress.
Acting President Osinbajo met with leaders from the North and the South to douse the tension, only for some hate songs to emerge in parts of the country.
There was also a threat by Niger Delta militants to resume hostilities by the end of September if the federal government failed to fulfil its promises to the region.
A similar threat by Niger Delta elders to pull out of further talks with government prompted a peace meeting in Abuja with Osinbajo leading the government delegation.
Agreements were reached, compromises made, and peace returned.
For now, the sticking point in the social sector is the ASUU strike launched last week.
Government has admitted responsibility for failing to meet its part of the agreement earlier reached with the lecturers and now hopes that the teachers will return to the classrooms this week when all the issues in contention will have been sorted out.