He is back: Nigeria’s Buhari returned home after sick leave in the UK

West Africa–– Nigeria’s politically controversial president Muhammadu Buhari returned home on Saturday, August 19, 2017 from a prolonged medical leave in Britain where he has been since May 7, a presidential spokesman said.

The Nigerian leader is expected to speak to his country men and women in a broadcast on Monday, the president’s spokesman Femi Adesina added in an emailed release issued on Saturday.

Despite his prolong medical stay abroad, the Nigerian presidency has not divulged the precise nature of Buhari’s ailment.

Meanwhile, the president’s long absence from the country, especially after 100 days, caused millions of Nigerians to fume about the ailing leader.

Buhari’s prolonged stay stoked tensions in the country, as calls grew for him to either return or resign.

The Nigerian leader, a northern Muslim, has been in London since May 7 to receive treatment for an undisclosed ailment. Before his departure, the president appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a southern Christian, to act on his behalf.

While Buhari was away, series of rallies were held in Abuja from August 7 over the long absence of the 74-year-old retired general who led a military regime in the 1980s.

The president’s health issues have created tribal and regional tension in the African nation of 190 million people, with many in the northern Hausa community fiercely protective of their president’s medical absence while many southern people are openly critical of their absentee leader.

The apparent division between the majority Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south that characterizes Nigeria and highlights the country’s restless politics.

When the president was away, some commentators even speculated that he had died during his convalescence in London, a fact they believe is being covered up by the authorities.

Also, on social media #ReturnOrResign littered debates about the future of the country.

Sixteen bus-loads of tightly controlled young Muslim men from northern Kano state fanned out around the dry Unity Fountain on Monday, wielding placards with slogans defending the president.

“The constitution allows Mr President to go out and seek medical attention,” said 36-year-old Adeshina Luckman of the Conference of Patriotic Nigerians. “As far as we are concerned, there’s no vacuum.”

Amaka Anthony, 43, a teacher, said the president’s absence had “not made much difference”.

“There are those who represent him who should be able to handle it,” she said.

While away, Buhari published a photo of himself with top aides at the Nigerian diplomatic residence in London receiving an oversized get-well card.

“I feel I could go home,” he said in a statement. “But the doctors are in charge. I’ve now learnt to obey orders, rather than be obeyed,” He said.

Despite the photo up some Nigerians remain skeptical about the president’s behavior.

“Back in 2010 when our former president, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was sick… Buhari was among those who clamored for him to resign,” said Samuel, a 25-year-old business consultant based in Lagos.

“That’s hypocrisy if you ask me,” Samuel continued.

While the president was away, the acting president’s held peace talks with armed fighters in the Niger delta. The talks have helped halt attacks on oil infrastructure, lifting output and boosting government coffers.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.
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