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Nigeria’s President Has Disappeared Again, and Nigerians Demand to Know Why

Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari. Creative Commons photo by e Tasnim News Agency.

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.

Then, the following Friday, the president failed to attend the Friday Jumat prayers in Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

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?”

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:

Some Twitter users, like the one below, have expressed specific dissatisfaction with the claim that Buhari is merely “working from home.”

Others have called for a national protest:

Twitter user Tmak reminded the ruling party of its stance during the illness of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua:

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 “cabalspread 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:

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.

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