The leader of Nigeria’s Senate has said that President Muhammadu Buhari was well after visiting him in London, trying to dispel rumours about the state of his health.
Bukola Saraki on Wednesday travelled to the British capital with the majority leader in the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, and the speaker of the lower House of Representatives, Yakub Dogara.
It was the latest political delegation to visit 74-year-old Buhari at Nigeria’s official diplomatic residence, where he has been staying for nearly a month.
Saraki said in a statement on his Facebook page that Buhari was “healthy” and there was “no cause for alarm”.
The head of state was “cheerful and in good spirits”, he added.
In a separate series of Tweets, he added there was “no vacuum in government” and “all organs of government (are) fulfilling their mandate”.
A tweet on Buhari’s own Twitter account late on Wednesday said he appreciated the visit and thanked “Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health”.
Unlike some heads of state and government, Buhari does not initial tweets he writes himself.
Photographs showed him meeting the politicians looking apparently relaxed.
Buhari’s health has been the subject of increasing concern in Nigeria since he extended his stay in London earlier this month, just as he was scheduled to return to Abuja.
The presidency has repeatedly insisted he is not seriously unwell but was awaiting the results of medical tests.
The former army general, who headed a military regime in the 1980s, received treatment for what his office said was a persistent inner ear infection in London in June last year.
The health of Nigeria’s president is a sensitive issue given the death in 2010 of president Musa Umaru Yar’Adua from a long-standing, but previously undisclosed, kidney complaint.
His initial illness and treatment in hospital abroad triggered months of political uncertainty.
His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, took over on Yar’Adua’s death.
Buhari’s number two, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, is deputising during his absence.
The Nigerian stock exchange, already hit by recession, has fallen to a nine-month low on the uncertainty over Buhari.
But officials are keen to avoid the mistakes of the past and drive home the message that government work will continue whatever happens.
Before Buhari left home almost a month ago to be treated in Britain for an undisclosed illness, he appointed Osinbajo, as acting president.
“The nation came to a political standstill because of the failure of Yar’Adua to submit a letter transferring power to Vice-President Jonathan,” a government official said, asking not to be named.
“In this present scenario, this is not the case. No vacuum was left because President Buhari sent a letter to the National Assembly,” he said.
Osinbajo has thrown himself into his work, holding cabinet meetings and travelling to the Niger Delta in an attempt to end militant attacks on oil facilities which cost up to $100bn in lost revenues in 2016.
Investors welcome the fact that the government will not postpone a long-awaited reform plan intended to stimulate an economy hit by low oil prices.
“Obviously the fact that the president is away creates uncertainty, but we believe Vice-President Osinbajo is capable of running things in the meantime,” said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa’s NKC African Economics.
Officials refuse to disclose what is ailing Buhari, saying only that he has been having tests and is not in a serious condition.
In contrast to Yar’Adua, whom officials cut off from the world on his sickbed in Saudi Arabia, the presidency publishes almost daily pictures of Buhari receiving visitors in his London drawing room.
He took a phone call from US President Donald Trump on Monday, both administrations say.
Some Nigerians have been getting worried.
“Nigerians are supposed to know the health condition of the president, just like the head of the family is sick and the doctor is holding back the health condition from his family,” said Olugbolahan, an engineer from Lagos.
The arrangement with Osinbajo ensures the day-to-day running of government business.
But the long-term risk is that the Muslim north, where Buhari hails from, might not accept Osinbajo as a permanent solution if the president became incapacitated at some point.
Osinbajo is a Christian lawyer from the commercial capital Lagos in the south.
Traditionally in Nigeria, the leadership rotates between north and south to ensure a balance in a country evenly split between Muslims and Christians.
The capital, Abuja, is placed right in the centre as symbol of unity.
Jonathan, a Christian from the south, upset many northerners by refusing to give way to a northern candidate.
Northerners felt there should have been another northern presidential term after Yar’Adua’s death.
Hundreds were killed in riots after Jonathan’s election in 2011.
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