For the first time since he returned to London in May on medical vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday spoke on his health.
He said he was “making good progress” and would soon “return to my duties”.
His message is contained in a letter to Guinean President Alpha Conde. In the letter, Buhari thanked Conde for last week’s nationwide prayers held in Guinea for his recovery and good health.
The July 24 letter, which was given to reporters in Abuja yesterday by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, is a follow-up to President Buhari’s phone call to Conde, who is the Chairman of the Assemblies of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).
The President wrote: “I thank you for your kind and thoughtful action in organising nationwide prayers for my good health. It is a gesture that I will forever cherish and treasure.
“Your Excellency will be pleased to hear that I am making good progress and as soon as doctors advise, I shall return to my duties and continue serving the Nigerian people who elected me and are daily praying for my recovery.”
In an earlier letter, President Buhari accepted his nomination as leader of the “2018 AU Theme on the Fight Against Corruption”. He was nominated by the African leaders at the 29th Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 4.
Thanking Conde for his kind words and the nomination, the President wrote: “I wish to express my readiness to accept this new important role and to reiterate my commitment to contribute towards our collective efforts to strengthen good governance and development on the continent. I, therefore, look forward to working closely with you in the realisation of this objective.”
Also yesterday, Adesina and the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, explained why another set of governors will meet with the President in London today. With them at the briefing was the SSA on Media and Publicity to the Acting President, Mr Laolu Akande.
A delegation of party leaders and governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met with the President at the Nigerian House in London on Sunday.
Adesina said: ”You know that on Sunday there was a major development about the health of Mr. President in which we had pictures from London and details from one of those who saw him, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha.”
Shehu said the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) Chairman and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari is the leader of the governors’ delegation.
”In the delegation are Governors Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Kassim Shettima (Borno), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo).
“They will leave by tonight (last night) and arrive in the United Kingdom (UK) early tomorrow (today). They will have a 3pm meeting tomorrow (today) with the president,” he said.
He said Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, who has been vocal on the issue, was not part of the delegation becauase ”the selection was made by the governors’ forum and you will see that the delegation is headed by Governor Yari, who is chairman of that forum. So that question should go to the forum.”
On the need for another delegation after the APC delegation said the president was recuperating fast and would soon return home, Adesina said: “It should be the other way. Instead of being curious it should be the right time for the visit. When somebody has recovered or something or the other happened, it is in our culture for us to visit such a person.
“So, this is the right time because the news is that he is recovering and recovering well. I’m sure you are aware of the letter he just wrote to the African Union Chairman when he told him that he is making very good progress. So, this is the proper time for him to receive delegations rather than when he was indisposed,” he said.
He said ministers-designate would soon be sworn in.
Adesina insisted that he could not give a timeline on the President’s return. “The information at our disposal is that the President will return as soon as his doctors give him the go ahead.
“In terms of whether there will be a cabinet shake-up, the President is the head of the government and it is his prerogative, so nobody can speak for him on that.”
Asked why the President didn’t make a broadcast to Nigerians, Adesina said: “It is a question of what he prefers and this is what he prefers for now. He would rather receive that delegation and that is what is happening. If the President opts for address option, he will do it”.
Shehu added: “The visit is a goodwill visit and there is nothing more than that. I believe Nigerians in various positions have been yearning to go and meet the President at some point, this obviously was not permitted.
“But given the change in circumstances, you can see that is coming from London itself and from the President. As a cultural people, we visit people leaving hospital and I’m sure the President himself will be delighted to see people from the six geo-political zones coming to convey the goodwill of Nigerians”.
On why the President’s media team was not part of the delegation, Shehu said presidential cameraman Bayo Omoboriwo was on the trip “which is more important than me being there.
“They say a picture conveys more than a thousand words, Bayo will be there and I think it will be more beneficial to Nigerians than if the Special Adviser was on that trip without a cameraman,” he said, adding, “as to who is sponsoring, I don’t have any information on that.”