At 74, President Muhammadu Buhari should be more interested in the way posterity will remember him. The last time an American president said something about him, he was referred to as a man of ‘’integrity and honesty’’, who was merely passing through difficult times.
With the concealment of his real health status, Buhari’s “integrity and honesty’’ might be questioned in history books.
Today, the president’s public appearances and official meetings are now reported as breaking stories by some media organizations. Buhari’s last Friday’s public appearance might not douse the brewing political tension, even though many want it to do so.
The markets and economy hate political tensions and uncertainty. After all, Bisi Akande argued that the health of the leader is intertwined with the health of the country.
Maybe, the sudden loss seen in the stock exchange, last Friday, is related to the different international interpretations of the president’s appearance.
It will not be out of place to speculate that foreign intelligence agencies and institutional investors have their own information. Take the UK, where the president has been taking treatments. The Investigatory Power Act 2016, which went into force on December 30 2016 in the UK, legalizes hacking by security agents into computers and phones and allows them access to information stored on computers [health records, inclusive] even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrong doing.
And on the other side of the Atlantic, under the US Patriot Act and HIPAA, American intelligence agencies could also have access to a person’s medical records.
With these laws, foreign intelligence services may have a good picture of the president’s condition. And if it is not what some who sincerely love the president might want to hear, such information could affect how the country is ranked in terms of political risks, and even investment.
Transparency reduces political risks. And Africa needs transparent leaders. This class of leaders are lacking in the continent. (President Buhari should show the continent what it means to be a truly transparent and honest leader.)
For example, in 2012, after former President Atta Mills returned from treatment in the US, he jogged round the airport to show how healthy he was, in order to dispel rumours that he had terminal ailments. Unfortunately, one month after, he died.
The case of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria is even more interesting. Bouteflika suffered a massive stroke in 2013 and was rearly seen in public. In fact, anytime he appeared in public, Algerian media reported it as an exclusive. Surprisingly, he went on to win a disputed election in 2014 by a wide margin, despite the fact that he hardly uttered a word in public. Sick presidents can actually win re-elections in Africa
There are endless stories of how the media machines of leaders arranged photos and videos to show that a sick president was well and healthy.
Granted, the president might not be as sick as reported, as the wife tweeted. But this tweet and the argument that the president meets regularly with the vice president will not douse the political tension in a country where everything is politics. The president can stop these political permutations by having a candid conversation with Nigerians.
To be fair to the president, despite some of his shortcomings, he has made great achievements in security and agriculture. But if he doesn’t manage the politics of his health as a man of “integrity and honesty’’ would, his memoirs might not be interesting. The history book might not remember the folks giving him all kinds of advice that could rubbish the integrity that he is known for.