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ASO ROCK WATCH: In desperate defence of Buhari’s medical trip. Two other talking points



President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, was all out, last week, defending his trip to the United Kingdom (UK)for routine medical check-up.

His defence was not unconnected with the wide criticisms that trailed the President’s medical trip, especially at a time the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), are on strike.

The presidency was also abuzz with other stories that commanded national attention past week.

Garba’s desperate defence

On March 30, Shehu insisted that President Buhari should not be branded a medical tourist for embarking on a medical trip to the UK.

While featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, the Presidential Spokesman said: “I think that, unfortunately, there is the misconception the President’s trip, seen in the context of medical tourism. President Buhari is not a medical tourist…

“Would you, given this position, be changing your doctors every other year, because there is a chance that the distance will be shortened? I think that the President is wise and quite correct in his decision that he retains consistently the set of doctors who have ensured good health for himself.”

Could Garba be twisting issues just to distance Buhari from being tagged a medical tourist? Perhaps, yes. Though he could be pardoned for holding on strongly to his view points, and merely discharging his responsibilities, his defence would hit a critical observer as a familiar note, largely insensitive or condescending.

What becomes very worrisome is Buhari’s inability to fix the poor healthcare system in the country. It even gives many the jumps to learn that the Aso Rock Clinic, built to address the health needs of the presidency, is still ill-equipped after over N10 billion budgetary allocation had been given to it in the last 5 years.

READ ALSO: Wailing won’t stop Buhari’s medical trips to London —Presidential aide

Garba, perhaps, has forgotten that the President had promised to end medical tourism, if elected into office, during his 2015 presidential campaigns. In fact, with experts saying that the country could be losing more than N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly to medical tourism, should Mr President have been reminded of the need to match his words with action.

Two other talking points

Talking tough again

President Buhari, on March 30, ordered the nation’s security agencies to identify bandits, kidnappers and their sponsors with a view to bringing them to their knees.

Briefing journalists after an emergency meeting with intelligence chiefs, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), said: “Mr. President has made it clear to both the intelligence and operational elements that the first assignment will be to identify the leaders of these bandits, kidnappers and take them out to restore confidence in those areas.

“…They must be brought down with the ruthlessness that is required and whoever is working in collaboration with them will be brought to book.”

This is not the first Buhari would indicate how ruthless his government would be in dealing with criminal elements. Ironically, his administration has, on several occasions, been accused of treating criminals with levity, making them to escape justice.

Rather unimpressive this time is the directive to identify and fish out bandit leaders when the media are awash with videos and stories of their open meetings with some influential Nigerians such as Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.

Critics argue, and many agree, that the latest of the President’s directives was merely designed for the optics, only intended to show an active leadership when, indeed, the central issue of insecurity is festering and receiving kids-glove treatment.

Preaching unity

On March 29, President Buhari preached on the need for Nigeria to remain an indivisible entity despite its diversity, stressing that it will make it a better and stronger nation.

Delivering his speech at a colloquium in Kano to mark the 69th birthday anniversary of the acclaimed National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Buhari said, among others:

“Despite occasional inter-ethnic tensions in our national history, it seems to me that we have all agreed on one point that, notwithstanding our diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion. Nigerians are better together, even stronger together.”

While Buhari’s preachments are acceptable, it would, however, be productive for the President to do more in the area of practical demonstration of his desires, and the intention of the government, which he leads, to unite the country.

Undeniable are accusations that he has, through some lopsided appointments and handling of herdsmen/farmers conflicts, been seen to have breached constitutional provisions for the unity of the nation.

As it stands, Nigeria fault lines have never been so pronounced.

By John Chukwu

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