Controversies now surround the May 29 inauguration as growing concern over the whereabouts of Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s president-elect, takes centre stage.
Tinubu was said to have been jetted out of the country to Europe to seek medical care after the March 18 governorship election.
Some sources say Tinubu fell ill after the “hectic” electioneering that led to his emergence and the heated tension that characterised the governorship election in Lagos.
Meanwhile, his party, the All Progressives Congress or APC, has come out to say that the former Lagos State governor had travelled to Paris and London to rest and plan his transition programme.
“After a very exhaustive campaign and election season, president-elect, Asíwájú Bola Tinubu, has travelled abroad to rest and plan his transition programme ahead of May 29, 2023 inauguration. Tinubu would also observe the lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia,” said his spokesperson, Tunde Rahman, in a statement.
Tinubu is only following a pattern of health-related secrecy often sustained by Nigeria’s upper government echelon, even when their health becomes a significant concern for the country.
The dark clouds over the illness the leaders suffer always lead to rumours and speculations, including that the leader is dead if he stays away longer than necessary.
For instance, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s illness was covered up even when he was airlifted out of Nigeria to be treated for a fatal condition in November 2009.
Nigerians would later learn through speculations that he had a terrible kidney problem. And when he died at a Saudi Arabian hospital in 2010, his death was hidden from Nigerian for days.
A similar but differently-ending case was that of current President Muhammadu Buhari. On February 5, 2016, eight months after being sworn in, he took his first medical trip to London, spending six days. And that was the beginning of many London trips for medical reasons.
By the end of 2017, Buhari had spent about 237 days away from Nigeria for medical reasons on taxpayers’ money (about N1.1 to 5.4 billion). And all the while, his condition was not revealed. While it officially remains a secret, speculations say he had ear, nose, and throat-related infections.
While Tinubu and his image managers constantly deny that he is ill, it remains clear that all might not be well with him. During the presidential campaigns, videos and photos of him being aided as he walked or stood circulated across Nigeria’s social media space, fueling tension and reactions over his health status.