Contrary to prevailing views about President Muhammadu Buhari’s health, he is making ‘steady and significant recovery’, according to reports on Thisday Newspaper.
This conclusion is partly hinged on the increased pace of activities at the seat of government in recent weeks, as shared by some of his aides who spoke anonymously with Thisday.
According to one of them, since his return from medical vacation last month, the President has been taking his time, but has improved steadily in recent days.
They say he has received many friends and officials in audience, made several phone calls to friends, families and supporters and generally cheered up, working for longer hours, going through official correspondence in detail, and giving approvals where necessary.
This is evident in the series of appointments he has made and key decisions taken in the last few days, during which he has dissolved and reconstituted boards, removing and appointing heads of several parastatals, while nominating two ministers for the confirmation of the senate.
Just last week, the President suspended the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Lawal Babachir, over allegations of violations of law and due process in the award of contracts as the Chairman, the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE); and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke, over funds recovered in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos.
He also set up a panel chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to look into the two issues.
Close aides say though Buhari is not even thinking of the 2019 presidential race at the moment, those who rule him out are doing so at their own peril.
He is not even bothered about them, he doesn’t even bother about 2019 one way or the other right now. All he has said to people (his appointees) is to do their work and focus on delivering on their promises, particularly in infrastructure and agriculture.
He is particularly focused on covering grounds that were lost due to the recession that slowed down the pace of work in the early part of his administration.
The thinking is that even if Buhari chooses to run, he will run on his record of delivery and not on the basis of promises. “So his job right now is to work to improve his record of performance,” the aides said.
Thisday reports that in recent months, the president and his team have been so pleased with the progress made in agriculture and infrastructure revival, as seen in many communities, particularly in the North, where the availability of fertilizer coupled with its reduced price, breaking the monopoly and corruption of the past, have resulted in bumper harvest.
The ease of transporting farm outputs following the revival of some railway lines after years of rot in that transport subsector has further enhanced agriculture in the North, with many farmers and communities transporting fertilizer and farm products by rail.
This significant development in rail transport is so much appreciated by the people that many farmers and communities are even buying their own coaches to transport their goods, especially in Kano and parts of Jigawa, Katsina and other areas, where they are trying to make hay while the sun shines with local production of rice and other produce
– PMB Aide
They added, “These are the kinds of issues that keep him up at night especially since he had to negotiate directly with the King of Morocco to improve the fertilizer process in Nigeria”.
Aides also said the President had just sent a high-powered team to China “so that they could come and quickly restart Mambilla and other projects, because he wants to build Mambilla and resolve the power issue quickly.”
The aides therefore noted that Buhari’s focus right now over the next year is not on election but on delivering infrastructure and restoring his health to status quo ante.
Even though most of the criticism regarding his performance have been from the South, where two of the zones – South-east and South-south – voted for his opponent in the 2015 presidential election, his support base, especially in the North, where the poor love him, has not waned and his ailment has made him even mystical among some of his followers.
According to medical doctors whom Thisday say they spoke to, when a patient undergoes full blood transfusion, such as the one the president confirmed he had, it could take up to six months to fully recover, but when the patient recovers, with the bone marrow kicking in, it is a full recovery. The president has so far not disclosed the exact nature of his illness.
Should Buhari make a full recovery and he chooses not to run in 2019, that will be his choice and would not be because of health or age considerations, his aides said.
They, however, said that the kind of candidates, many of whom are pretenders that are already dancing in the public square ahead of 2019 will not go very far.
President Buhari recently returned from a 50-day medical vacation during which several political alignments and re-alignments continued among leading politicians of the two political parties and throwing open the race for the presidency in 2019.