Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The Presidency, on Tuesday, said President Muhammadu Buhari had initially barred politicians and other individuals from visiting him in London, the United Kingdom, where he has been receiving medical attention since May 7.
It attributed the President’s change of mind to what it called “the change in circumstances.”
It said this was the proper time for him to receive delegations rather than when he was indisposed.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina; and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, disclosed this to State House correspondents at a press conference at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
They addressed journalists alongside the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande.
They had confirmed The PUNCH’s Tuesday lead story that some state governors, drawn from both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, would visit Buhari in London.
When asked specifically to give the mission of the state governors, who will be meeting with Buhari on Wednesday (today), Shehu said, “The visit is a goodwill visit and there is nothing more than that.
“I believe Nigerians in various positions have yearned to go and meet the President and at some point, this obviously has not been permitted.
“But given the change in circumstances, you can see that it is coming from London itself and the President is welcoming it.
“It is a goodwill visit. As a cultural people, we visit people leaving the hospital and I am sure the President himself will be delighted to see people coming from the six geopolitical zones to convey the goodwill of Nigerians.”
Shehu said the visiting team would be led by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulazeez Yari.
He listed other members of the delegation to include Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); Umar Ganduje (Kano); Kashim Shettima (Borno); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo).
The presidential spokesman said the delegation would leave Nigeria on Tuesday night, arrive in London early on Wednesday (today) and meet the President by 3 pm.
When asked why the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, a strong critic of Buhari, was not included in the delegation, Adesina said the question should be directed to the NGF that did the selection.
When also asked why the President preferred such visits to broadcasting a message to Nigerians, Adesina said that was Buhari’s choice.
“It is a question of what he (the President) prefers and this is what he prefers for now. He would rather receive that delegation and that is what is happening. If the President opts for address, he will do it,” he said.
When asked why members of the President’s Media team were not part of the delegation, Shehu said the President’s Personal Photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo, would be part of the delegation.
“They say a picture conveys more than a thousand words. Bayo will be there and I think it will be more beneficial to Nigerians than if the Special Adviser was on that trip without a cameraman,” he stated.
When again asked why this delegation will be going when those who met with the President on Sunday were state governors, Shehu said, “You will notice that those that went at the weekend are members of the All Progressives Congress.
“So, those who are going now are on a broader platform, which is the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. As to who is sponsoring, I don’t have any information on that,” he said.
Adesina also justified the visits at a time when the President is said to be recuperating.
He said, “It is the right time for the visit like Mallam Garba said earlier. When somebody has recovered or something or the other happened, it is in our culture for us to visit such a person.
“So, this is the right time because the news is that he is recovering and recovering well.”
When again asked the specific time Buhari would return and if there would be cabinet reshuffle on his return, Adesina said, “That (the President’s date) already is in public domain. He will come back when the doctors certify.
“It is in the letter he wrote to the AU chairman which was made public this afternoon. He said he was just waiting for his doctors to tell him all is well and then he will return home.
“In terms of whether there will be a shake-up of government or not, the President is the head of the government and is his prerogative; so nobody can speak for him on that.”
I’m making good progress, says Buhari
Meanwhile, Buhari has said he is making good progress in London, where he is currently receiving medical attention.
According to a statement on Tuesday by Adesina, the President made the disclosure in a “thank you” letter he wrote to the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, for the nationwide prayers held last week by Guineans for his recovery and good health.
Adesina said the President had earlier made a telephone call to Conde, who is the current Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
Buhari’s letter to Conde dated July 24, 2017, read, “I thank you for your kind and thoughtful action in organising nationwide prayers for my good health.
“Your Excellency will be pleased to hear that I am making good progress, and as soon as doctors advise, I shall return to my duties and continue serving the Nigerian people, who elected me and are daily praying for my recovery.”
In an earlier letter, Buhari was said to have also accepted his nomination as leader of the ‘2018 AU Theme on the Fight Against Corruption’, which came from African leaders at the 29th Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 4, 2017. (Punchng.com)