The first sighting of Nigeria’s sickly president in three months does little to ease concerns

Not hale and hearty.
Not hale and hearty.
Image: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
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Nigeria’s presidency released a photo of president Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday (July 23) for the first time in nearly three months.

Buhari, who has been away in London since May on his second medical vacation in 2017, met with leaders from his party, All Progressives Congress, after which the presidency tweeted an image of the ailing president.

Despite the photo op, an obvious attempt to assuage growing concerns about the president’s well-being, there is still no definite date for his return. The presidency says Buhari “will be back to Nigeria as soon as his doctors give the go-ahead.” Buhari’s ailment also remains undisclosed.

Unlike his first trip when  images of Buhari meeting with several leaders were often released, sightings of the president have been rare in the past few weeks increasing speculation about the severity of his health status. To mark the Eid el-Fitr holidays in June, Buhari released an audio message  which did little to boost citizens’ confidence given how faint and sickly he sounded. In all, despite the positive rhetoric from APC leaders about the president’s recovery, it is unlikely that a solitary image will ease concerns about Buhari’s health.

This is because Nigerians have been here before. Back in 2010, former president Umaru Yar’adua passed away in office after spending months seeking treatment in Saudi Arabia. Months before his demise, the presidency continued to insist that Yar’Adua was recuperating and was close to resuming office. But unlike Yar’Adua, Buhari properly handed over power to his deputy before leaving for treatment, thus averting a repeat of the political and constitutional crisis Nigerians witnessed in 2010.