The Implications Of Buhari’s Vacation

By Carl Umegboro
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari officially embarked at first instance on a ten-day official leave and on expiration, sought for extension on medical grounds. According to information from the presidency, Buhari sought for extension to enable him complete series of tests and medications as prescribed by his United Kingdom based physicians. Since then, all manner of ugly insinuations and assumptions have trailed the development with a good number calling for Buhari to address the nation to rebut sundry allegations.
Even in the United Kingdom, a group of Nigerians besieged the Nigerian’s High Commission for reasons known to them seeking to know the health status of the President. Even after the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina tried to douse tension by assuring of President’s good health standing, it sounded as if water was poured on a stone. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) who stands to personally benefit more if the President is permanently incapacitated as alleged, as provided in Section 146 of 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria testified with self-confidence that Buhari is hale and hearty; his explanations were like reciting orchestrated scripts of the Hollywood.
Some claimed that as the President of the country; by implication, a public officer that his whereabouts and health condition must always be of public knowledge. Incidentally, the President formally took some days from statutory annual vacation as stipulated by the laws of the country. To start with, official leave implies a temporary disengagement from official duties and position. It therefore connotes that President Buhari is at the moment officially not the head of government by virtue of his letter to the National Assembly for temporary disengagement from duty as the President.  The sovereignty of the nation is therefore on Osinbajo until further notice.  As a matter of fact, by virtue of Section 145 CFRN, Buhari lacks the legitimacy to sign any valid documents as the President of the country until he retransmits to the National Assembly his willingness and readiness to take back power. This is all about sovereignty and clearly indicative that Buhari is not accountable to anyone over his whereabouts or health condition until after his vacation. With Osinbajo temporarily at the helm of affairs, it is symptomatic there is no vacuum in the presidency.  Without a doubt, from Buhari’s request for extension of leave, non specification of the duration logically tells it will aggregately end on or prior to the end his statutory period of annual vacation.
Interestingly, by his transmission to the National Assembly, automatically, the Vice President, Osinbajo stepped into the shoes of the president which required no ceremony, thus no vacancy or lacuna of any sort. As it stands, all decisions taken by Osinbajo as the acting President are as valid as if Buhari took them while on seat. The President albeit is a person but more of an office. Democracy is not commonsensical instead a constitutional institution and therefore, as long as the provisions of the constitution are adhered to, no blunder is committed anywhere. The polity would have been sensibly heated up if Buhari adopted ex-President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s style and left the shores of the country without following the conventional procedures of official temporary handover. Obasanjo due to the cat-and-mouse relationship with his Vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar then embarked on vacation but left office for his political appointees instead of the Vice President ostensibly targeted for settling political scores and supremacy battle.   
As a matter of fact, Buhari’s whereabouts as the President would only become serious issues after exhausting his annual vacation. At that point, the National Assembly which exercises oversight functions would have justifications to demand his whereabouts or state of health. At the moment, nobody has powers to disturb his rest as Section 37 CFRN which provides for right to Privacy for all citizens which is a fundamental human right, is available and applicable to Muhammadu Buhari too. Even if he faces health challenges, he is entitled to privacy until his annual vacation which was approved by the National Assembly is over. It is unjustifiable, impious, iniquitous, and inhuman for citizens to add more stress on him. If after his official leave, he remains unavailable, certainly, questions must be asked but for now, he deserves to enjoy his vacation without stress. As a conventional norm, even in the private sector for instance, a staff after exhausting official leave but didn’t report to duty will certainly become vulnerable to query and sanctions. Thus, to tirelessly demand for someone on leave to show his face or give his voice is the height of naivety. An official on leave irrespective of the office occupied is not accountable to anyone on official matters except Buhari’s official leave is distinct from other citizens’ annual leave. Several even erroneously compared Buhari’s case with the deceased former President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua who then already exhausted his statutory annual leave but remained offshore with no clear directions of his whereabouts. Admitted, Buhari could be ill; fortunately, the Constitution never frowned on ill health except terminal illness which shall be tantamount to certified permanent incapacitation.
Overall, the most outstanding attributes of democracy are electoral franchise and time limit; no one rules forever. By implication, if Buhari’s government and party fail to meet the expectations of the citizenry, fight back at the next poll with your votes. It successfully happened on Goodluck Jonathan and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I believe that’s the greatest record Jonathan set in Nigeria that an incumbent that failed to meet the targets of the people must pack his load. It is no longer unprecedented to remove an incumbent from power. It has happened in Ghana too. Hence, appraisals if poor shouldn’t degenerate to odium or show of aggression.

Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and publisher (07057101974 sms only)

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