The federal government has rejected comparisons between the circumstances of medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari with that of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who died in office in 2010.
Minister of Information and Communication, Lai Mohammed, while briefing State House corespondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, recalled that while there was no handover of power from Yar’Adua to then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari has fulfilled the constitutional requirement of transferring power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
According to him, comparing the two circumstances was like comparing apple with oranges.
He reassured that President Buhari was hale and healthy, otherwise, the ministers would not have been able to continue with their work the way they are doing today.
Asked whether the issue of the president’s health came up for discussion during the meeting presided over by Osinbajo, he said: “I think I can say without any equivocation that he (Buhari) is well, he is hale and he is hearty, no question about that.
“You see, on a lighter note, do you think Mr. President will be ill and we will be here and go about our business like this? He (minister sitting with him) was in Anambra two three days ago, I was in Ilorin on Monday, all our ministers are busy. But I was to assure you that Mr. President is well and he is absolutely in no danger.”
Mohammed noted the trending story on his position in 2010 as the spokesman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (AC) when he called for an hourly update on the health of the ailing President Yar’Adua, saying that there cannot be an hourly update on Buhari’s health because the president is not sick.
He said: “I think it was one of the newspapers that said when I was the spokesman of AC, I demanded for hourly bulletin of Yar’Adua’s health and that I ought to be giving hourly bulletin as minister of information on the health of the president.
“And I said, you are comparing apple and oranges. Mr. President is not ill, he is not in hospital, there will be no need to give anybody hourly bulletin about his health. Pure and simple.
“Mr. President, like I said elsewhere, is a victim of his own transparency.
“He was going on leave, he did what the constitution said he should do. He transmitted letter to the National Assembly and an acting president was out in place and he said while ‘I am on leave, I am going to conduct some medical tests’ which all of do without announcing it.
“And of course, less than six hours after he got there, he was pronounced dead by some people.
“Even those who saw him climb the aircraft in Abuja said he was flown by air ambulance.
“I can assure you that Mr. President is well, is hale and hearty and no cause for concern. The Acting President speaks to him every day and he told you so.”
The minister said while he would not blame the media over speculations around the president, Buhari too should not be blamed.
Mohammed added: “I won’t blame Mr. President too because this is the third time you are declaring him dead.”
Asked whether it was appropriate for the president to go on leave while the nation’s economy is in recession, he responded: “Absolutely yes. Our constitution guarantees that. Did Obama not go on leave? Do other presidents not go on leave?
“Mr. President will go on vacation when he has to go on vacation. Do you know how many ministers have gone on vacation this year? To say Mr. President cannot go on vacation, that is ridiculous.”