Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been ill lately and he's missed several public functions. In March, Buhari returned from the United Kingdom after seven weeks of medical leave, but questions about the health of the leader of Africa's most populous nation resurfaced when he skipped a federal executive meeting on April 12.
According to the newspaper ThisDay, Buhari's “conspicuous absence” even raised concerns that he'd been flown abroad again, though the government denied these rumors.
Speculation continued, however, when Buhari missed a cabinet meeting, the following week. His information minister, Lai Mohammed, tried to calm the public, saying that the president was “working from home.”
The explanation only led to more questions about Buhari's location and health.
— Ferox (@Feroxmentis) April 26, 2017
Buhari hasn't been at Friday prayers today – which I think it's fair to say suggests he is quite ill.
— Stephanie Hegarty (@stephhegarty) April 28, 2017
As the absences piled up, so did public demands for honest information about Buhari's status. Professor Wole Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, asked, “Why is the president hiding his state of health?”
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) April 28, 2017
Next, Chief Bisi Akande, former chairman of Buhari's party, warned that some government officials were “feasting” on the president's health situation, saying his disappearance from public “could drag the entire country into avoidable doom,” and admonishing “those who wish to harvest political gains out of the health of the president.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian Internet users have been using the hashtag #WhereisBuhari, demanding to see their president:
A national embarrassment for Nigerians to be trending hashtags just to see their President or have information about him.
— Yomi | #OtodoGbame (@akintonmide) May 2, 2017
It is May 2017, we don't have a budget, we are not normal people..
we are also looking for our President..
— Khaleesi!!! (@AbangMercy) May 2, 2017
— Obinna Chukwuezie (@obinnachukwuzie) May 2, 2017
“Nigerians should know the state of health of Buhari,his age and health cannot stand the rigours of office”- Ayo Fayose(Jan 15,2015).
— . (@Tomyboiz) May 2, 2017
Some Twitter users, like the one below, have expressed specific dissatisfaction with the claim that Buhari is merely “working from home.”
Nigeria is not an online company that you can run from home #WhereIsBuhari
— ©$Iπ∆, CON (@EZENAIGBUZOR) May 2, 2017
Others have called for a national protest:
— Ohimai Godwin Amaize (@MrFixNigeria) May 1, 2017
You marched when Yar'Adua was sick, railed at Hero, but your man doesn't have to chair FEC? Or appear in public? #WhereIsBuhari
— Editi Effiòng (@EditiEffiong) May 1, 2017
Twitter user Tmak reminded the ruling party of its stance during the illness of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua:
— Tmak (@tmacbond) April 26, 2017
All our political saints have refused to speak the truth about the president's health. But were marching on Yar'Adua's head ?
— Editi Effiòng (@EditiEffiong) May 1, 2017
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died in 2010 after battling a heart condition for months. The secrecy surrounding his illness led to a power vacuum and a subsequent political crisis. Despite constitutional provisions for the transfer of power when the president becomes incapacitated, Yar'Adua's advisors prevented him from stepping down. Instead, the “cabal” spread disinformation about his health.
The then opposition party through its spokesman, Lai Mohammed, asked the government to produce “concrete evidence” through a video recording of the sick Mr Yar'Adua from his hospital bed. Mr Lai Mohammed, who is now the government spokesman seems to have forgotten the solution he advanced in similar circumstances seven years ago.
Of course, some Twitter users are finding the humor in the disappearance of Nigeria's latest leader:
when you tell Nigerians that Buhari is hale and hearty
— Tobi Dave (@mhiztadave) May 2, 2017
— Beats by Maxxie (@BeatsByMaxxie) May 2, 2017
Blogging on Medium, Nigerian writer Tunde Leye warned that catastrophic consequences could result from further obfuscation about the president's health, saying that some Muslim clergy are already blaming Christians for “poisoning” Buhari. “A policeman was even reported to publicly declare that he would kill 200 people if President Buhari dies,” Leye wrote.