There was consternation in several quarters in Abuja and beyond over the weekend as rumours circulated that President Muhammadu Buhari had passed on at a London hospital where he was said to be receiving treatment.
As the day wore on, the rumours gained ground after a news website published a story that the President was dead. The rumour soon spread like wild fire in different parts of the country with many Nigerians making frantic phone calls to ascertain the story’s accuracy.
The presidency however said on Saturday that there was no truth in the news.
Buhari had on Thursday travelled to London, United Kingdom, after writing to the National Assembly that he would be proceeding on a vacation and that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would be performing the duties of the President while he was away.
“The report is hogwash,” the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, simply said when our correspondent contacted him.
Adesina also denied the report on his Twitter handle, praying for those behind it to repent.
“Best wishes to all who wish PMB well. As for those who carry evil rumours, may they receive grace to repent,” he said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, also took to his Twitter handle to deny the report.
Shehu wrote, “He is alive and well. President Buhari is not magical. He cannot be holidaying in the UK and be in Germany, dead or alive at the same time.
“He is unlike a past president, who was at Ota with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and attending the Trump inauguration in DC, being in two places at the same time.”
Shortly after the rumor began to spread on Saturday, our correspondent observed that the President’s family members were unperturbed in Aso Rock.
A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Saidu Sani-Fago, who represents Daura/Mai’Adua/Sandamu Federal Constituency of Katsina State also dismissed worries over Buhari’s health status, saying that the President was fit.”
The lawmaker spoke further, “Mr. President is fit and sound. He is taking a 10-day vacation and he wants to seize the opportunity to see his doctors.
“This is normal. He did it last year.”
Similarly, pan-northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, said President Buhari is a mortal like every other Nigerian and liable to fall ill.
According to the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Muhammadu Ibrahim, there is nothing wrong if the President falls ill.
The ACF spokesman said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is human. He has taken his annual leave and travelled to the United Kingdom for medical check up. ACF wishes him well. ACF calls on Nigerians to support the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.”
In the same vein, the Muslim Rights Concern has advised Nigerians not to panic. Responding to an inquiry by SUNDAY PUNCH, the MURIC Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, stated it was natural to feel concerned about the President’s health.
“But that is nothing to worry about. Many at his age cannot even walk properly, speak clearly or see very well. Every man’s life is in the hands of Allah, including those of presidents, governors, ministers and ordinary citizens. Allah knows those who will die soon and those who will live long.”
“So, how do we know when it is someone’s turn? Only Allah knows that. People are expressing fear about the President’s health because they have little faith. They know very little about the ways of Almighty Allah,” he said.
Akintola, who pointed out that sudden death among the young and healthy in the country was common, said, “Don’t we have Nigerians who have been sick for the past 40 years but are still alive and working? It is about management and one’s turn. It is about faith. Let’s stop the pessimism. Healthy people drop dead without explanations while people who are sick keep hanging on although we are expecting the worst.”
According to him, Buhari can only die at his apportioned time.
“He won’t live one minute longer than Allah gave him. But, mind you, neither will he die one minute earlier. No matter how many death wishes and death wish advertisements,” the Muslim scholar said.
He noted further that the President had lived a fulfilled life.