Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a former political adviser to ex-President Shehu Shagari, in this interview with TED ODOGWU, defends the Presidency’s decision not to publish details of President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical status during his vacation abroad
What is your reaction to the indefinite postponement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to Nigeria?
Initially, the President indicated that he would be away on vacation and carry out a checkup. Also, he had said he planned to come back and resume work (last week) on Monday, February 6. However, he later wrote to the National Assembly that he would not be able to come back as he earlier planned. Technically, he is saying the Vice-President should continue to act but did not specify any time. He cannot therefore, on his own ,determine for how long he would be away because he has to rely on the doctor’s advice, So, I am not surprised and I think it is normal.
What is your comment on Buhari’s refusal to use the Aso Rock clinic despite the huge budget voted for it?
I don’t think this question should arise because if Aso Rock Clinic is equipped enough to take care of his ailment, he wouldn’t have bothered to travel out. Nigerians travel out only when they cannot be treated in Nigeria. Our problem is that both the public and private health institutions in the country have been unable to provide adequate medical care for the citizenry.
The health care facilities in our country cannot take care of severe ailments; that would require people to travel outside the country in search of a cure for their ailments. Until we are able to provide sufficient health care facilities, with modern facilities and well-trained experts, with competent experts, we will continue to fly out in search of medical care for us to get well.
What is the difference between the way the late President Umaru Yar’Adua related with Nigerians on his health and that of Buhari? Have any lessons been learnt?
Well, the nation has already taken care of the lessons learnt. You remember the constitution was amended to specify the time that either the President or Governor must notify the legislature about his intention to travel for medical care abroad. A time frame is given during which if he should be able to do that in writing, the Vice-President will automatically assume the position of the Acting President. So, we have taken care of this scenario by the amendment carried out by the National Assembly, following the experience of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Do you think Buhari should address Nigerians from the UK and disclose his health status?
No! I do not think so.
Some Nigerians have been clamouring for a law to stop public office-holders from seeking medical attention abroad. Is this reasonable?
That law would be unconstitutional and illegal because human rights is entrenched in our constitution, guaranteeing to every citizen that he should be able to take care of his welfare, including his health, either within or outside the country. And to do what you are suggesting, we need to amend the constitution to restrict the rights of citizens, as to how they seek medical attention for their ailment. As long as that is not done, a law cannot be passed to restrict the liberty of Nigerians to seek medical attention in Nigeria or outside Nigeria.
Are you satisfied with the way the Acting President has been managing the affairs of government and what are the implications of Buhari’s absence on the economy and other sectors?
I am satisfied with the way the Vice-President is running the affairs of the country since he was appointed the Acting President. However, the absence of the President from the country necessarily leads to speculations. With that kind of situation, investors, either local or foreign, would want to watch the situation before they would venture into investing their money in any new project in Nigeria until the coast about the president’s health is clear.
Are you concerned about the silence on the part of the Presidency?
In fairness to the Presidency, they are not silent. I saw the Special Adviser on Media to the President (Mr. Femi Adesina) last week on television, explaining the situation about the condition of the President and the letter the President wrote to the National Assembly. I think they have done what they ought to do. To the best of my understanding, there is no silence on their part. They have spoken, explaining what the people need to know. I think that should be enough.
Do you think the war to ensure the country’s security will succeed, with Buhari away from the country?
I always believe that whoever is the President, what he needs to do in the fight against insurgency and any security challenge is to arm members of the security forces, with the necessary equipment that will enable them to effectively fight security challenges threatening the peace and unity of the country. Even when members of the public were raising the alarm that Sambo Dasuki had squandered money meant for arms procurement, I felt the allegations were not completely correct because till today, most of the weapons that are being used by our Armed Forces and other security forces were the ones imported during President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure. (Punchng.com)