After a 50-day extended medical vacation in the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria yesterday ,saying he could not recollect being this sick in his 74 years on earth.
He had originally planned to be away for 18 days but ended up spending 36 days more, undergoing tests, receiving treatment and resting.
“I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including the military with its ups and downs,” Buhari told ministers and state governors at a reception for him in Abuja moments after his arrival via Kaduna.
He did not reveal the ailment he was treated for, but confirmed that he got blood transfusion during the vacation. He hinted that he would be returning abroad “within some weeks” for further follow up.
Buhari said that the poor state of the economy occupied his thoughts even in his sick bed.
“I am very conscious of the economy. I have rested as much as humanly possible, I have received, I think, the best of treatment I could receive,” he said as he shared his experience in the UK with the audience, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“I found out that technology is going so fast that if you have a lot of confidence you better keep it because you need it. Blood transfusions, going to the laboratories, and so on and so forth, but I am very pleased that we, when I say we, I mean the government and the people all over are trying to keep with technology.
“I couldn’t recall when last I had blood transfusion; I couldn’t recall, honestly I can say in my 70 years. I couldn’t remember this drug that Nigerians take so much, very common.
“I think one of our terrible things is self drug administration. We have to trust our doctors more and trust ourselves more because over there they only take drugs when it is absolutely necessary. They don’t just swallow everything.
“Having said that, I am pleased that I am back. I am pleased that the Vice President enjoyed this break and he has to do much more this time around. “Youth and intellect is squarely behind him; age and purely military experience is behind me.
“Continue to do the work. Nigeria will continue whether we are here or not and my single most important advice is: take the education of everybody under your responsibility very seriously. Your children, our relatives, our constituencies. Education,education,education. We must do more on education.
Osinbajo: it’s been interesting going around in borrowed robes
“I deliberately came back towards the weekend, so that the Vice President will continue and I will continue to rest.”
The President thanked all Nigerians of all faiths who have prayed and continued to pray for his good health.
“This is a testimony that in spite of the hardship being experienced, Nigerians support the government in its efforts to tackle our country’s challenges,” he said.
“The best way for me to pay you all is to rededicate myself to serving you, protecting your interest and keeping your trust. I thank you very much. I feel much better now. All I will need is to do further follow ups within some weeks.”
He appealed for more prayers by Nigerians especially for the country’s unity, progress and prosperity. He threw light on how he worked out his vacation with Vice President Osinbajo.
“When it was getting to Christmas, I told the Vice President, I knew he had a church programme therefore he had to go home, I said ‘ok, let us do it turn by turn. You go for Christmas and the New Year and when you come back I will go’. He said yes.
“I suspected he didn’t go home. When he came back, I said ‘ok it will be my turn in some months time’. This time around I said we better do the same, I didn’t know he had the same principles, but for me I feel that I was a little more tired than I probably was in last 18 months.
“Whatever the case, I am very grateful that Nigerians are appreciative of what all of us are doing as a group. I am very pleased with them.”
Speaking on behalf of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Vice President said: “We are very grateful to God that you are back home hale and hearty.
“Mr.President, I must say that personally, this has been a very interesting few days for me. First I must say that I want to thank you very much for the confidence reposed in me by handing over the realm of government to me in the capacity of acting president.
“I think more important is that you demonstrated the belief in our system which is even more important than anything else.
“The constitution which we all swore to is important because it outlines the code of conduct. I want to say not only am I, but I am sure the entire nation, is grateful to you.
“For me, I must say that it has been an interesting period going around the nation in borrowed robes. I must say I had a very interesting and challenging time but above all, the President gave us the good support.”
First Lady Aisha, children, relations in happy mood
After the reception,the President moved to his official quarters where his wife, Aisha, their children and relations had converged to set eyes on him.
Photographs emerged of the President surrounded by Aisha, the children and relations ,beaming with smiles. The wife of the Vice President,Dolapo, was also there.
A Presidential jet -5N-FGN- conveying Buhari, his Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Lawal Abubakar; Chief Security Officer Bashir Bindawa; Chief Police Security Officer (CPSO), Abdulkareem Dauda;and Personal Assistant one Mohammed Sabihu landed at the Nigerian Air Force Base ,Kaduna at about 7.40am yesterday.
The plane could not land in Abuja because of the on-going repairs at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport. Buhari clad in a black caftan with a black cap to match walked down the plane.
On hand to welcome him back were Kaduna State Deputy Governor Barnabas Yusuf Bala and other top government officials and military officers.
After the airport reception, he moved into a waiting helicopter that took him to Abuja. The helicopter touched down at the Presidential Villa helipad at 8.42 a.m.
He was greeted by Osinbajo and other top officials including Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State; Chief of Staff Abba Kyari; Department of State Services Director-General Lawal Daura; National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno; Defense Minister Mansur Dan-Ali, Service Chiefs and Permanent Secretary State House, Jalal Arabi,
From the helipad, the President was driven t to the First Lady Conference Hall for the meeting with the ministers and governors.
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), John Odigie-Oyegun, Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Gamduje and Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello were already in the hall with the cabinet members waiting for the President.
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed described yesterday as a day of joy. The President’s return, according to the minister, was a vindication of government’s position that Buhari was alive.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin on behalf of the service chiefs and the armed forces also thanked God for bringing the President back. Yari welcomed the President on behalf of the 36 state governors.
Buhari to inform NASS of his return on Monday
Buhari is expected to transmit a letter to the National Assembly on Monday informing the legislature of his return to the country.
The President in seeking the extension of his vacation in February, did not disclose when he would return to the country.
His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity,Mr. Femi Adesina, said yesterday on his Twitter handle that : “PMB will Monday transmit letter to N’ Assembly on his return to the country. That makes his return to work formal, and constitutional.”